Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Prompts-Based Scaffolding for Online Inquiry: Design Intentions and Classroom Realities

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Prompts-Based Scaffolding for Online Inquiry: Design Intentions and Classroom Realities

Article excerpt


The rapid expansion of Web access and abundance of online resources provide unprecedented opportunities for classroom teaching and learning (Wells & Lewis, 2006). According to recent national surveys (DeBell & Chapman, 2006; Johnson, Levine, Smith, & Stone, 2010), the majority of middle school students, who are among the largest and fastest-growing Internet user groups, rely on Web resources, rather than libraries for their school work. However, prior research has shown that middle school students have great difficulty using online resources effectively (Kuiper, Volman, & Terwel, 2009; Wallace, Kupperman, Krajcik, & Soloway, 2000).

One of the challenges that students face is to evaluate online information for quality and credibility. Unlike traditional books, publishing content online is easy and instant. Anyone with Internet access can publish virtually any content on the Web immediately. Therefore, incomplete or inaccurate information on the Web is not uncommon, which requires students to be critical consumers of online information. Yet prior research has found that middle school students either rarely spontaneously evaluate online information (Britt & Aglinskas, 2002; Walraven, BrandGruwel, & Boshuizen, 2009), or use naive strategies to assess a site (Wallace, et al., 2000).

In addition, many middle school students read online resources in a superficial manner. They tend to look for quick, ready-made answers for their questions rather than developing meaningful content understanding (Wallace, et al., 2000). Many middle school students lack the reading strategies employed by skilled readers in online reading, such as reading with a clear purpose, monitoring reading comprehension, looking for evidence to support main ideas, or summarizing what they have learned after reading a website (Brozo & Simpson, 2002; Coiro & Dobler, 2007; Zhang & Duke, 2008).

Adding to the challenges is note-taking from online resources. Piolat, Olive, and Kellogg (2005) suggested that note- taking is more demanding than reading as students need to comprehend what they are reading, select important points, and record them. Typical problems in middle school students' note-taking from online resources include copying information verbatim with little thinking, manual recording on paper that is time-consuming and error-prone, and taking notes irrelevant to their research questions (Zhang & Quintana, 2012). Moreover, notes taken on paper are often disconnected to the original sources. When students forget to record the URL of a site in their notes, it is difficult to return to the original website.

Clearly, students need support to use the Web as an information source effectively. One of the scaffolding strategies often used in technology-enhanced learning environments is prompts. Prior research suggested that prompts can enhance metacognitive planning and reflection and improve content understanding (Davis, 2000, 2003; Quintana et al., 2004). Davis (2000, 2003) found that prompts embedded in a Web-based program called Knowledge Integration Environment helped students reflect on and synthesize science knowledge. Sandoval and Millwood (2005) integrated prompts in a software tool called Explanation Constructor to guide high school biology students' construction of explanation concerning natural selection. Li and Lim (2008) found written prompts effective in scaffolding middle school students in online historical inquiry tasks. Ge and Land (2003) found question prompts had positive effect on undergraduate students' performances in solving an ill-structured problem. In the study of Walton and Archer (2004), an evaluative checklist prompted university students to consider "Who, why, what, when, where, and for whom" when using online academic resources. In addition, Quintana et al. (2004) recommended prompts and reminders as a software-based scaffolding strategy to support ongoing articulation and reflection during scientific investigations. …

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