Amnon Shabo, Kris Nagel, Mark Guzdial, Janet Kolodner EduTech Institute, College of Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology
JavaCAP, a software tool for student authoring searching of case libraries, has been implemented in support of the Learning-by-Design curriculum development project at Georgia Tech's EduTech Institute. Its case-authoring component, when used as part of the LBD curriculum, asks students to reflect on a recent Learning-by-Design experience, summarize it, and present important aspects of it and what they've learned from it for other students to learn from. By focusing on this part of the tool, we are able to both put our focus on supporting reflection and collect a library of student-authored cases that we will later edit and publish as exemplary cases for other students to use as models and to learn from.
JavaCAP is meant to be used as a collaboration tool. Supporting collaboration in middle school requires supporting both group work around the computer (synchronous collaboration) and asynchronous editing of cases. We support asynchronous collaboration by allowing each student to write on the case and providing distinguishing formats for each so it is easy to see the changes made since last using the tool and identify whose changes they are.
Our two studies suggest that JavaCAP does have potential as a collaborative reflection tool. We've used the metaphor of scenes in a play to help students remember different aspects of the experience they are analyzing and summarizing. Our first pilot showed that we had indeed found a way to engage students in effective reflection. However, this pilot also revealed flaws in the underlying technology. We needed to support asynchronous collaboration better than we were doing; the easiest way to do this was to reimplement using what the world wide web and its development tools had to offer. Our second pilot, using a revised tool both better supported asynchronous student authoring and made it easy for students to add images to their presentations. This study pointed out the need to better support writing itself within the framework we've created and suggests other collaboration features that students need.
Keywords-- case-based reasoning, case-based learning, learning by design, LBD, scaffolding, middle school, science education, reflection, tools to support collaborative settings
The context for JavaCAP's development is the Learning-by-Design (LBD) curriculum, currently being developed by Georgia Tech's EduTech Institute ( Kolodner, 1996). LBD focuses on promoting better science learning among middle-grades students by having them learn science in the context of solving design problems. Students work in small groups to come up with ideas about how to address a problem, identify what they need to learn to solve it, and experiment, read, and explore to learn some of those things. They apply what they've learned as they solve the design problem. Building and testing their devices allows them to confront their conceptions head on. When a design fails, they recognize that there is some knowledge they are missing. Analysis of failure promotes identification of what they don't understand or misunderstand. The intent, then, though we cannot always make that happen, is that students will build and test their designs in order to gain immediate feedback about the physical laws they are trying to apply. Analyzing why something might not have worked as expected or might not have worked well enough and redesigning, rebuilding, and retesting are critical to LBD.
Students iteratively build, test, analyze, explain, and refine several times. Sometimes they build models of some aspect of what they are designing (e.g., when designing a model of artificial lung, they focused just on the pumping action ( Hmelo, Holton, Allen, and Kolodner, 1996)). Sometimes they build a full model as a solution (e.g., when studying how to control erosion on an Atlantic Ocean barrier island, they built full models used sand, rock, moving water, etc.). During all activities, they focus on decision