Synchronous web-based communication using text as a means of enhancing discussion among school students.
Campus-Wide Information Systems
Purpose: To explore the use of asynchronous and synchronous text-based communication using the Internet as a means of promoting discussion among a knowledge-building community of school students carrying out a science investigation.
Methodology/approach: Activity theory is used to bring together the various theories associated with the study, both those framing the context and those concerned with data analysis. Logfiles from both asynchronous and synchronous discussion forums were analysed to identify critical incidents – sequences of interactions between students indicating significant discussions concerned with knowledge-building – which were then the subject of critical incident recall through group interviews with the students involved. This method of data analysis allows the subjects of the research to engage in the construction of meaning, giving access to aspects of the discussions that are otherwise not available from the transcripts of online discussions.
Findings: Although it was not expected that synchronous interactions would yield significantly rich interactions between students, logfile analysis shows this is not the case. Critical incidents from synchronous interactions can lead to a large amount of information about the social processes of knowledge-construction.
Practical implications: The significance of synchronous text-based interactions in this study suggests that an appropriate pedagogy may prove valuable for teachers employing this strategy, providing a way to reveal students’ tacit understandings as they engage in knowledge construction.
Originality/value: There is little comparable work involving school students undertaking knowledge-building in a synchronous, text-based environment.
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