Educational Technology Research and Development

, Volume 62, Issue 1, pp 99–121 | Cite as

Construction, categorization, and consensus: student generated computational artifacts as a context for disciplinary reflection

  • Michelle Hoda Wilkerson-JerdeEmail author
Development Article


There are increasing calls to prepare K-12 students to use computational tools and principles when exploring scientific or mathematical phenomena. The purpose of this paper is to explore whether and how constructionist computer-supported collaborative environments can explicitly engage students in this practice. The Categorizer is a Javascript-based interactive gallery that allows members of a learning community to contribute computational artifacts they have constructed to a shared collection. Learners can then analyze the collection of artifacts, and sort them into user-defined categories. In a formative case study of the Categorizer for a fractal activity in three middle grade (ages 11–14) classrooms, there was evidence that participating students began to evaluate fractals based on structural and mathematical properties, and afterward could create algorithms that would generate fractals with particular area reduction rates. Further analysis revealed that students’ construction and categorization experiences could be better integrated by explicitly scaffolding discussion and negotiation of the categorization schemes they develop. This led to the development of a new module that enables teachers and students to explore points of agreement and disagreement across student categorization schemes. I conclude with a description of limitations of the study and environment, implications for the broader community, and future work.


Computational thinking Constructionism Collaborative environments Middle school Disciplinary practices Mathematics education 



Many thanks to the teachers, students, and school administrators who worked with me on this project. It would not have been possible without the help of Aditi Wagh, Nathan Holbert, Forrest Stonedahl, Susa Stonedahl, Christopher Macrander, and Uri Wilensky. I am also grateful for feedback on earlier versions of this manuscript provided by several anonymous reviewers, J. Michael Spector, Jenna Conversano, and Ben Shapiro.


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Copyright information

© Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Tufts UniversityMedfordUSA

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