1. Jianwei Zhang
  2. http://www.albany.edu/etap/Jianwei_Zhang.php
  3. Associate Professor and Department Chair
  4. Connecting Idea Threads across Communities for Sustained Knowledge Building
  5. http://tccl.rit.albany.edu/wpsite/?page_id=694
  6. State University of New York at Albany
  1. Guangji Yuan
  2. Doctoral student
  3. Connecting Idea Threads across Communities for Sustained Knowledge Building
  4. http://tccl.rit.albany.edu/wpsite/?page_id=694
  5. State University of New York at Albany
Public Discussion
  • Icon for: Jianwei Zhang

    Jianwei Zhang

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2017 | 09:26 p.m.

    Thanks for watching this video! In this NSF Cyberlearning research project, we explore a new possibility to support collaborative inquiry and dialogue across classrooms, so students could tap in and continually build on the inquiry work of other classrooms working on similar inquiry topics. We have wonderful teachers and students working with us to explore this new territory of education design. They are from: 

    • Dr. Jackman Institute of Child Study (JICS) Laboratory School in Toronto
    • Guilderland Elementary School (Guilderland Central School District)
    • Slingerlands Elementary School (Bethlehem Central School District)

    Our team has done a set of studies to test a multi-layer model of interaction: as students engages in deep inquiry and discourse within their own classroom, they review productive threads of ideas generated from their work and create “super notes” to share their progress with other classrooms. The writing of super notes focuses on sharing their journeys of inquiry using four scaffolds:

    • Our research topic and problem
    • We used to think…
    • now we understand…
    • we need deeper research…

    Students use the Super Notes from other classroom as a resource, including the Super Notes written by students in the previous school years. We designed Idea Thread Mapper to support the cross-classroom interaction. 

    Research analysis can be found in this CSCL 2017 paper:

    Zhang, J., Bogouslavsky, M., & Yuan, G. (2017). Cross-Community Interaction for Knowledge Building in Two Grade 5/6 Classrooms. In Proceedings of the International Conference on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL 2017). International Society of the Learning Sciences.

    If you have any question about this project, ideas about how to possibly connect this project with your work, please share below! 

  • Icon for: Jackie DeLisi

    Jackie DeLisi

    May 15, 2017 | 09:04 a.m.

    I love the idea of facilitating cross-classroom collaborations, encouraging students to consider the ideas of others. How did you work with teachers to prepare them to use these collaborations in their instruction? How do teachers embed the collaborations into their practice? 

    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Jianwei Zhang
  • Icon for: Jianwei Zhang

    Jianwei Zhang

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2017 | 09:32 a.m.

    Hi Jackie,

    Thanks for your comments and questions! We've been working with a team of teachers/students from three elementary schools located in Albany, NY and Toronto, Ontario on this multi-year design-based research. The teachers are co-designers with us (the researchers). We provide training about how to design their science teaching following a collaborative inquiry and knowledge building approach. On top of the inquiry-based work in each classroom, we have been exploring and co-designing interactions across the classrooms. Each classroom has a busy schedule, so the information sharing across classrooms has to be responsive to students' inquiry progress and needs, easily accessible, and flexible in scheduling. After two years of exploration, we've come to the refined design of interaction through "Super Notes."

    In terms of how the cross-classroom interaction is embedded in the inquiry process, the paper provided above has a section on the classroom processes implemented in two Grade 5/6 communities. "The two classrooms were taught by two teachers: Mr. B and Mr. M. ... The two classrooms studied human body systems with the support of Knowledge Forum over a 10-week period. On an ongoing basis, students in each classroom contributed and built on one another’s ideas in their own classroom’ Knowledge Forum views (workspaces). Cross-community interaction was supported through a “Super View” on Knowledge Forum where students accessed and posted idea thread syntheses. A visual was added to the “Super View” to facilitate the sharing process: two trees with a number of branches where Super Notes about various inquiry topics could be placed. Each classroom had its own “tree of knowledge,” and students could take a look at their peer classroom’s knowledge at any point of the knowledge building process for mutual learning and idea connection. Online posts to share idea thread syntheses in the Super View were called “Super Notes” by the teachers and students. Each Super Note was organized using the Journey of Thinking scaffolds of Idea Thread Mapper that interoperates with Knowledge Forum. Prior to this study, a set of classrooms from two schools had used Idea Thread Mapper to organize their knowledge building discourse about human body systems and created idea thread syntheses. Based on these syntheses, an initial set of Super Notes (idea thread syntheses) was posted to the Super View, each framed using the scaffolds: Our research topic and problems, We used to think…Now we understand…, We need deeper research. The teacher in each classroom first introduced the Super View in the third week of the inquiry when their students had generated their own questions and conducted initial research about the various topics related to the human body. Students read the Super Notes from the previous classes and reflected on what they could learn from the questions and ideas. With deeper research conducted in each classroom in the next two to three weeks, students working on various themes started to create Super Notes to summarize their progress for sharing with their own classmates as well as with the other Grade 5/6 classroom. Students from the two classrooms read each other’s Super Notes and discussed insights gained. An intensive whole class meeting was organized in each room for students to reflect on what they had learned from their peer classroom and the prior classes and planned for possible deeper research." 

    I hope this gives you a sense of overarching process. Let me know if you have any further question.


  • Small default profile

    Duan Niu

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 15, 2017 | 06:44 p.m.

    Stem for all may be another great dream after success for all, and inquiry across classrooms may be another great application of cooperative learning. Inquiry for all method stimulate intrinsic interact, connecting deep thinking among classes, intelligent effort recognized, and most important of all, students caring the real big questions of the world. That's why education exists. We need cultivate a responsible and engaged citizen. I see the promise in inquiry across classrooms of turning that education dream into reality. 

    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Jianwei Zhang
  • Icon for: Jianwei Zhang

    Jianwei Zhang

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2017 | 07:33 p.m.

    Hi Duan,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and enthusiasm. I believe that to engage students' authentic creative inquiry, we need to add a missing layer of interaction to education: idea flow across classrooms and school years/cohorts, as the larger authentic context of collaborative learning. This represents an important area of educational research, design, and technology innovation. We're still in an early phase of this exploration. The data analysis shows the promisingness of this direction. We're finishing the development of a new version of Idea Thread Mapper that includes a cross-classroom interaction space on top of the discourse space of each classrroom. 

  • Icon for: Martin Storksdieck

    Martin Storksdieck

    May 18, 2017 | 12:28 a.m.

    Thank you for introducing me to the concept of cross-classroom collaboration on inquiry. I can certainly see how this approach can be beneficial, and I have a lot of questions: one: how generic is the inquiry approach? I assume it is a concept that would work with any subject matter, but I was not sure.  Secondly, when is it appropriate to add this layer of complexity to the learning environment, and when would it not be advisable to do so? [what are the use scenarios?] And thirdly (and I may have missed that), are you attempting to measure change in collaborative problem-solving within and across classrooms over time?

    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Jianwei Zhang
  • Icon for: Jianwei Zhang

    Jianwei Zhang

    Lead Presenter
    May 18, 2017 | 09:52 a.m.

    Hi Martin,

    Thanks for your comments and excellent questions! I will try to answer your questions in separate posts:

    • how generic is the inquiry approach (inquiry across classrooms)? I assume it is a concept that would work with any subject matter, but I was not sure.

    I think that it is a domain-general need to add the missing layer of idea flow across classrooms (and years/cohorts) as the larger authentic context of collaborative inquiry and knowledge building. The specific design of the process and the "genre" of the Super Notes (boundary-crossing objects) may vary from one area to another.

    It's been a major problem for inquiry-based pedagogy across the domain areas: On one hand we say that we are engaging students in generative  practices authentic to the disciplinary areas (e.g. in math, science, ELA, social studies); yet on the other hand we discard (or "archive") their ideas and works generated when the inquiry is finished and reset the online collaboration space for each new cohort group of students who will study the same/related area. Authentic practices have to lead to something of a lasting authentic value, without which the authenticity of student inquiry would be substantially compromised. 

  • Icon for: Guangji Yuan

    Guangji Yuan

    May 18, 2017 | 09:11 p.m.

    Q: Are you attempting to measure change in collaborative problem-solving within and across classrooms over time?


    Hi Martin:


    Thank you for your question! At this early phase of our research, cross-classroom collaboration is one of our main research interests and focuses. But we are focusing more on how collaborations happen through Super Notes sharing (boundary-crossing objects) and how this process benefits students’ learning at this phase.

    On one aspect, we are analysing students’ cross-classroom collaboration from a social dynamic network perspective.  By tracing how the information shared among students from peer-classrooms and from previous years to current classrooms, the students Super Note reading interactions and discussions reveal how students from different topic areas and communities are connected, and how information is leveraged and exchanged as to reflect the process of collaboration among students. We also monitor and trace students’ use of Super Notes as learning resources integrated into their learning purpose. For example, a remaining Super Note research question, “Why do people get blind” from last year’s class in Toronto ignited students from this year's Albany students research interests, and they picked up the research question and continued this research topic and provided further explanation through Super Notes. I hope that answers your question.




  • Icon for: Jianwei Zhang

    Jianwei Zhang

    Lead Presenter
    May 18, 2017 | 09:47 p.m.

    Hi Martin,

    This is Jianwei again. Your question about the use scenario is a great one too! 

     "Secondly, when is it appropriate to add this layer of complexity to the learning environment, and when would it not be advisable to do so? [what are the use scenarios?]"

    As a general principle of learning design, we know that complex learning for deep and ill-structured knowledge tends to require complex learning environment. I think this principle applies to the design of cross-classroom collaboration. Memorization of standard basic facts will not be enhanced much through this design.

    Here're some specific features of our use scenarios:

    Content: In our design-based research, we purposefully select science areas that requires complex learning: complex system thinking (e.g. human body; ecology), non-linear progress, deep connected, and multiple perspectives of viewing.

    Context: Each classroom conducts inquiry over a relatively long period of time (several months), not just over a few lessons. The inquiry process is largely student-driven, with diverse ideas and multiple expertise developed. Sharing of ideas and perspectives would add to the richness of discourse and understanding.

    Users of design/participants: The teachers have developed the  capability to facilitate inquiry in their own classrooms, and are willing to incorporate the layer of cross-classroom connection.

     Thanks again for your great questions, which have pushed us to reflect and think...

  • Further posting is closed as the showcase has ended.