Proceedings of CSCL '97: The Second International Conference on Computer Support for Collaborative Learning, December 10-14, 1997, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

By Rogers Hall; Naomi Miyake et al. | Go to book overview
Individual-Focused
Response Category
Student ExamplePercent
(N = 176)
Promotes Individual
Thinking (general)
"You don't really learn what other people tell you. You mostly learn
what you have figured out for yourself."
13.1%
Promotes Individual
Learning (specific)
"I feel creating our own SenseMaker argument w/the evidence &
frames helped me learn more 'cause w/out it, I would learn anything
from the presentations. I need to first know my opinion before
being swayed by other people."
10.8%
Promotes Individual
Expression (no explicit
learning reference)
"This let my evidence be organized. It helped us to support our
theory by using our ideas with evidence to support these sub-ideas."
10.2%
Prefers Self-Understanding "I learn more from creating arguments myself because I know
exactly what I'm thinking and sometimes it's hard to understand
what people are trying to say. However, if someone explains
something very thoroughly and coherently then I might learn more
from them, so it varies."
3.4%
Prefers Active Creation "Because you learn more in the process of doing than by looking at
something that's already done."
2.3%

TABLE 2. Individual-focused uses for SenseMaker students reported as helping them learn the most during the debate project. Categories are listed from most to least frequent.

the most frequently cited individual-focused response describes how SenseMaker promoted more thinking about the topic in general terms. One student described this by saying:

Making your own [SenseMaker] is a hands-on experience and gives you a chance to really think about your opinion.

Beyond talk of it supporting general thinking, 11% of the students described how they learned from constructing their SenseMaker argument in specific terms. One student reflected on the process of categorizing evidence into frames:

You put a lot of thought into what fits in what category, and you need to analyze the evidence yourself before you create frames. So, I find that I learn more because I see all how one piece of evidence may fit in w/ two or more categories.

The final prominent response category that was individual-focused describes how SenseMaker allows individuals to express their own ideas:

I felt that I learned more creating my own because I put my past experience and knowledge into it. I know the author was a creditable [sic] source.

Note the difference between this last quote which stresses building off of one's prior knowledge compared to the student who talked about not being able to "learn anything from your own work." It is clear that students have very different preferences for their own learning and they most likely make use of SenseMaker in very different ways. It affords both individual and collaborative uses. These self-reports need to be corroborated with students' actual uses during the debate project, but we are encouraged by students' perceived uses for the SenseMaker software. The students' self-reports reflect many of the original design goals for the software.


Conclusions

Middle school students are capable of creating arguments with the SenseMaker software that are quite complex, personally relevant, and scientific. This paper describes how argument representations can make student thinking visible. Specific individual and collaborative uses of the SenseMaker argument representation are afforded by its design. At an individual level, features of the interface (e.g., evidence being placed within claim frames) allows for student self-expression of ideas and can promote individual reflection on prior knowledge. Student arguments also connect to their individual epistemological beliefs about the nature of science. At a collaborative level, SenseMaker representations can make student thinking visible during collaboration with peers and teachers. It was common for students to accept SenseMaker representations as an account of how other groups were thinking about the debate topic and evidence. Collaborative work around the argument representations can help students expand their repertoire of models and help them discriminate between these different perspectives.

There is also a balance to be struck between supporting individual- and collaboration-focused learning opportunities with software and curriculum. There were almost equal numbers of students who preferred using SenseMaker indi-

-18-

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