Criss-Crossing Idea Landscapes via Idea Networks in Knowledge Forum
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Knowledge Building pedagogy engages students directly in continual idea improvement through progressive inquiry, with the ultimate goal of creating knowledge of value to the community. Knowledge Forum technology serves as the community space for creative work with ideas, where students design views (i.e., idea landscapes) to explore ideas, refine ideas, and synthesize ideas, with supports in place for criss-crossing these idea landscapes with ease. This study explores next-generation designs for visualizing idea landscapes in Knowledge Forum. Whereas in a typical view, explicit idea connections via build-on notes are automatically displayed, implicit idea connections via keyword tagging are not immediately accessible to students. Semantic analyses were conducted on student notes in Knowledge Forum in order to identify ‘big ideas’ in the student discourse and compare word cloud visualizations with idea network visualizations of the community knowledge. Implications of these designs are discussed within the context of education for knowledge creation and innovation.
KeywordsKnowledge building Knowledge forum Knowledge creation Idea network Semantic analysis Network analysis Data visualization
The emergence and rapid proliferation of information communication technologies have drastically transformed the way in which we communicate, collaborate, and learn in our everyday lives, resulting in the rise of digital literacy as an educational priority for the 21st century (Voogt and Knezek 2008). Studies in the field of learning sciences consistently demonstrate that computer-supported collaborative learning environments facilitate students’ development of traditional learning skills and new digital literacies (see Stahl et al. 2006 for review). Of particular educational importance is new competences for knowledge creation, such as generating new ideas, searching for related ideas, identifying promising ideas, developing criteria to evaluate multiple sources, and creating coherence amongst diverse ideas, in order for students to engage in knowledge creation and innovation for public good (Goldman and Scardamalia 2013). In other words, education for knowledge creation must socialize students into a pervasive culture of productive work with ideas so that they may improve their own ideas for their own learning, as well as connect to and extend the ideas of others for knowledge creation.
2 Current Study
2.1 Knowledge Building Pedagogy and Technology
Knowledge Forum is a networked online learning environment optimized to support collaborative knowledge creation (Scardamalia 2004). In Knowledge Forum, students design idea landscapes, called views (see Fig. 1), so that their ideas have a place to live and grow. In a given view, students contribute ideas as notes, sketches, images, videos, and other multimedia, which then become objects of the community, so that other students can build on, cite, annotate, tag, and even synthesize ideas in the form of rise-above notes. Whereas in a typical view, explicit connections are made between ideas via build-ons, implicit connections, such as keyword tags, are not immediately accessible; therefore, embedding analytic tools can make such connections visible to students. Guided by the Knowledge Building principles of epistemic agency, idea diversity, and rise above (see Scardamalia 2002 for overview), this study aims to explore designs for visualizing idea landscapes in Knowledge Forum, so that students may discover hidden connections between ideas in the community knowledge and find new ways to create conceptual coherence across idea landscapes.
2.2 Knowledge Forum Next Generation Designs
When students are working in a view in Knowledge Forum, the view is synchronized in real-time as a dynamic community space. The Knowledge Building process can be visualized in real-time as the view changes when new ideas are added, existing ideas are edited, ideas are moved around and connected together, and so forth. Over time, the view can become a cluttered space, making it difficult to navigate and search for ideas. Figure 1 shows a view in Knowledge Forum for a grade 5/6 class studying the human body over the span of a week. Though it cannot be seen clearly in Fig. 1, several themes have already emerged in the student discourse, such as sleep and dreams, puberty and aging, food and digestion, cancer and illnesses, and evolutionary psychology. The word cloud visualization tool (as indicated in the pink box) was developed to help students get a general overview of the ‘big’ ideas in the view. The tool has automatically detected ‘brain’, ‘genes’, ‘cancer’, ‘body’, ‘food’, ‘sleep’, and ‘dream’ as the ‘big’ ideas in the student discourse. Recent work (Resendes et al. 2015) revealed that when students used word cloud visualizations as formative feedback for their Knowledge Building process, they benefited from identifying and refining ‘big’ ideas in their community knowledge, which in turn advanced their collective understanding.
One design challenge associated with the word cloud visualization, however, is that the most common words in the discourse do not necessarily represent the most important or relevant words for the topic of inquiry. For example, as the student discourse on Knowledge Forum grows over time, it can become saturated with common words, such as ‘if’, ‘the’, ‘think’, ‘just’, ‘maybe’ and ‘okay’, which do not reflect collective progress or understanding. Thus, as new and important ideas are entered into the discourse, it may become difficult for them to be picked up by the tool, ultimately limiting the possibility for students to find interesting ideas in their view. Another drawback of this tool is that the existing connections between ideas that are already in the view are lost in the word cloud visualization, which reduces the conceptual coherence that is already created in the view. Looking at the word cloud, it is difficult to see which ‘big’ ideas are connected to one another and which ones are not.
3 Design Implications
In this study, word cloud and idea network visualizations were designed to facilitate criss-crossing idea landscapes and connecting ideas in a view in Knowledge Forum. It is expected that “idea networks” will help students reach higher levels of explanatory coherence amongst diverse ideas in their community knowledge and support the role of serendipity in identifying promising ideas for their knowledge work – both of which are essential digital literacies for knowledge creation. Knowledge Building pedagogy and Knowledge Forum technology represent one avenue for schools to move from the periphery to the center of the Knowledge Society, preparing students to participate in the growing need to innovate and create knowledge for public good (OECD 2015).
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