Web Annotations and Online Discourse in Science

Researchers, teachers, and curriculum experts continually seek ways to improve school science. This CRII project aims to bring school science into closer alignment with real-world science through deeper connections to public scientific discourse. The PI and his team will harness recent Open Web technologies to build a platform to transform scientific engagement in classrooms with the broader cyberspace. With various theory-driven supports provided by this platform, students will work collectively to build scientific understanding on the Open Web based upon a model of knowledge building. The project will produce design innovations that enable students to: navigate complex Web spaces and make sense of real-world problems collaboratively; deal with complex scientific idea landscapes beyond school walls; and, engage in sophisticated scientific practices not unlike those of real-world laboratories. This project will contribute to the goal of preparing a competent science workforce and a scientifically literate citizenry as emphasized in the NSF Strategic Plan 2014-2018. During the project, the PI will also contribute to teacher professional development activities, organize design and research workshops, and mentor emerging scholars from diverse backgrounds.

Following a design-based research approach, this project will develop a technology prototype, Progressive Discourse on the Open Web (ProDow), to bridge discourse in an existing knowledge-building environment and the Open Web through collaborative social annotations. This work is grounded in decades of research on progressive knowledge-building discourse, understanding of how students learn science, and the latest Web technologies. The research objectives include: (a) identifying design principles and software architecture for ProDow; (b) exploring student use of ProDow for progressive knowledge-building discourse in science; and (c) determining whether, and under what conditions ProDow can support science learning. Through design inquiry and empirical investigations in science classrooms, this project will contribute to cyberlearning research by providing new means to support collaborative learning. Through a series of participatory design workshops with teachers and researchers, design solutions and functioning prototypes will be developed. Empirical investigations will take place in science classrooms in a high school with an ethnically and economically diverse student body in Minneapolis. Classroom observations, interviews, and system logs will be collected to investigate how students leverage social annotations to sustain their scientific discourse. This project will lead to three major research outcomes: (a) design principles for integrating social annotations into group knowledge building in science classrooms; (b) empirical knowledge of high-school students’ use of social annotations in progressive scientific inquiry; and (c) the creation of a new technology prototype, ProDow, that embodies the design principles and empirical findings of this investigation.