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Icon for: Jianwei Zhang

JIANWEI ZHANG

University at Albany

Connecting Idea Threads Across Communities for Sustained Knowledge Building

NSF Awards: 1441479

2016 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades K-6

This project aims to enable student-directed, sustained knowledge building by which ideas are continually developed, built upon, and refined, giving rise to shared goals and structures to guide their deepening work. Current collaborative online environments support interactive discourse, but lack effective means to representing collective landscape and progress in long-term, distributed discourse. The lack of collective structural representations makes it difficult for students to monitor and deepen their collective work over time and share discourse progress with other communities.

This NSF Cyberlearning project created Idea Thread Mapper (ITM) to help students monitor what is going on in extended online discourse in order to share progress and formulate collective directions for deeper inquiry. Interoperating with Knowledge Forum and potentially other platforms, ITM profiles unfolding trajectories of discourse as “idea threads,” each of which includes a series of discourse entries that investigate a shared epistemic object (e.g. batteries).

Supported by automated topic modeling and discourse tagging tools, students create and map out their idea threads to reflect on what their community is investigating, with what progress and gaps. They further selectively share productive idea threads with other classrooms for idea sharing, build-on, and collaboration.

Research suggests that young students (Grades 3, 5 and 6) are able to use the ITM tool to formulate productive lines of inquiry for sustained knowledge building. Our undergoing research tests ITM-enabled designs for students to access and build on the productive idea threads of other communities, including those from the previous school years for sustained build-on.

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