Meaning Making in VMT
Meaning making is central to the interactions that take place in CSCL settings. The collaborative construction of shared meaning is a complex process that has not previously been analyzed in detail despite the fact that it is often acknowledged as being the distinguishing element in CSCL. Here, a three-minute excerpt from a discussion among three students is considered in some detail. The students are reflecting on their analysis of mathematical patterns in a synchronous online environment with text chat and a shared whiteboard. A complex network of references is identified from the chat postings to each other and to resources in the discourse situation. The group’s meaning making in the chat is a function of constructing this shared referential network. The analysis suggests a number of conditions and preconditions of such interaction. These are necessary for achieving the potential of CSCL as the accomplishment of high-order cognitive tasks by small groups of learners. An understanding of the conditions and preconditions of the small-group meaning-making process may aid in the design and analysis of CSCL activities, as well as in the development of a science of group cognition.