Learning Science with a Child-Focused Resource:
A Case Study of Kids as Global Scientists
Project Number 13 – 1993
School of Education
Institute of Cognitive Science
University of Colorado at Boulder
Campus Box 249
Boulder, CO 80309-0249
Fax: (303) firstname.lastname@example.org
Other Individuals And Organizations Associated With The Project
The National Science Foundation, Applications of Advanced Technologies.
Klingenstein and Black (see below) are funded by NSF in a companion grant under Teacher Enhancement.
Total NSF support: over $600,000.
The Boulder Valley School District, The University of Colorado, Boulder–School of Education and Computer and Network Services (CNS), Ken Klingenstein (U.Colorado, CNS), Elizabeth Black (Boulder Valley Internet Project and the Boulder Valley School District), and many teachers and students in this district (currently 250 teachers and 800 students have individual Internet accounts). In addition, during the March ’93 Weather Exchange, our middle school students corresponded and collaborated with a wide assortment of 40 adults (primarily graduate students in meterology all over the country, as well as technology experts and teachers) and 200 students in as varied locations as: a Navajo Reservation in Kayenta, Arizona; a very low socio-economic status, 98% African American school in Tallahassee, Florida; two communities in Colorado including a rural mountain community; a school in the Bronx, NY and a school outside Melbourne, Australia.
This project investigates student learning within an innovative model of classroom learning: student-generated and maintained nodes of “expertise” along the Internet superhighway. Using Internet access as the backbone for classroom activities in the environmental and atmospheric sciences, the Kids as Global Scientists (KGS) project is contributing insights into: 1) how the technology can be used to promote middle school students’ construction of knowledge, 2) the nature of distributed expertise across child-developed and focused Internet nodes, and 3) the design of K-12 appropriate Internet interfaces. In particular, the KGS project recognizes that current Internet resources are not focused with a K-12 audience in mind. Therefore, a shift in focus from adult to child-focused Internet nodes was established. In addition, the development of communities of learners which support the exchange of information between diverse and geographically distinct learners is investigated. Results indicate that becoming student experts in particular areas of science that other students value, and being responsible resources for other students’ learning increases the “use value” of students’ knowledge and encourages the learning of real science from first hand sources.
We see our project as beginning to unravel issues and develop solutions that will undoubtedly be faced by many other groups in the very near future. Our major goals go beyond connectivity for students and teachers–we value the difficult issues associated with assessing student learning in complex and innovative learning environments which include telecommunications networks. This is not an easy task–the logistics of bringing telecommunications to schools are at present quite formidable, therefore getting beyond these logistics to develop meaningful learning is all the more challenging. Nevertheless, we feel our ideas of distributed expertise, extensive teacher support, and “student-focused” nodes on the Internet (as opposed to adult-focused reservoirs of information to which students only download, but do not contribute information) are key foci for a longitudinal study of innovative and meaningful learning with these promising, but yet realized, technologies.
Furthermore, our recent data support our hypotheses. In a “March Weather Exchange” where we compared student learning between an experimental classroom which utilized networks (including the Internet for correspondence with scientists and access to real-time data and imagery), and a control classroom which utilized traditional sources, we found significant differences in student learning–particularly in the areas of relevance of learning to new out-of-class situations and depth of understanding. Further analysis will help us to clarify and characterize the nature of these differences.
Macintosh with enough RAM to comfortably run Powerpoint and QuickTime movies. Monitor and VCR to show video clips from the classrooms.