Designing and building an on-line community: The struggle to support sociability in the inquiry learning forum

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Abstract

In this paper we describe the sociotechnical structures of the Inquiry Learning Forum (ILF), a Web-based professional development tool designed to support a community of inservice and preservice mathematics and science teachers creating, sharing, and improving inquiry-based pedagogical practices. Founded in our previous research and consistent with our pedagogical commitment, the technical structures of the ILF have been designed around a “visiting-the-classroom” metaphor. This decision was based on our belief that teachers need to be full participants in, and owners of, their virtual space for meaningful interaction to occur. The hallmark of this environment is that teachers with a broad range of experience and expertise can come together in an on-line environment to observe, discuss, and reflect on pedagogical theory and practice anchored to actual teaching vignettes. The goal of this paper is to share how we instantiated our pedagogical commitments and to describe the challenges we faced during the design, development, implementation, and analysis of the ILF. Toward this end, we walk the reader through our design and implementation process, highlighting our change in focus from usability to sociability issues, and movement from conceiving the ILF as an electronic structure to a sociotechnical interaction network.

The ILF Design Team consists of Brian Beatty, Tom Duffy, Geraldine Haas, Chris Keslin, Sun-Myung Lee, Justin Marquis, and Kirk Sluder