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

MOOSE Goes to School:
A Comparison of Three Classrooms Using a CSCL Environment

Amy Bruckman College of Computing Georgia Institute of Technology

Austina De Bonte Media Laboratory Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Abstract

MOOSE Crossing is a text-based virtual reality environment (or "MUD") designed to give children eight to thirteen years old a meaningful context for learning reading, writing, and computer programming. It is used from home, in after-school programs, and increasingly as an in-school activity. To date, it has been used in five classrooms. This paper compares its use in three of those classrooms, and analyzes factors that made use of MOOSE Crossing more and less successful in each of these contexts. Issues highlighted include access to computers, existence of peer experts, free-form versus structured activity, and school atmosphere.


Introduction

What factors make Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) ( Koschmann 1996) environments succeed in classroom use? What factors make them fail? The success of a CSCL environment depends not just on the software, but on the context in which that software is used. This paper compares the use of one CSCL environment, MOOSE Crossing, in three classrooms.

MOOSE Crossing's effectiveness as a learning environment is evaluated in ( Bruckman97). This paper highlights issues which have emerged from its classroom use.

At the time of this writing, MOOSE Crossing has been used as an organized activity in five classrooms in four schools, located in three states. We refer to these classes as California Public, Minnesota Private, Minnesota Public Advanced Work, Minnesota Public Title I, and Massachusetts Public. Participants were self-selected--the teachers of each of these classrooms heard about MOOSE Crossing (through friends, through parents, or on the net), and chose to try it with their classes. Too many factors vary among these classes to warrant a formal comparison. However, a case-study analysis reveals a number of educationally significant features.

For the purposes of this paper, we have chosen to focus on the three most similar classes. The other two classes, Minnesota Private and Minnesota Public Title I, fall into somewhat different categories. Students at Minnesota Private have not made significant progress with MOOSE Crossing, because they have extremely limited time to participate. The class meets for only half an hour once per week, during recess. Students in the Title I class at Minnesota Public have extreme difficulty with basic reading skills, and some have been diagnosed as learning disabled. It's difficult to compare their experiences to those of the other classes. The three remaining classes--California Public, Minnesota Public Advanced Work, and Massachusetts Public-- are more comparable.

While MOOSE Crossing is a network-based learning environment which facilitates collaboration within the online environment, the details of its implementation in a particular classroom are still of central significance to the activity's success. Face-to- face collaboration within a classroom and collaboration online are complementary ( Bruckman 1997). This paper will focus in particular on issues of access, existence of peer experts, free-form versus structured activity, and atmosphere.


Background: The MOOSE Crossing Project

MOOSE Crossing is a text-based virtual reality environment (or "MUD") designed to be a constructionist learning environment for children eight to thirteen. MOOSE Crossing is distinguished from other MUDs for kids in the new technology developed and the strength of its underlying educational philosophy. It includes a new

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