Dissertation Defense

Zydeco: Exploring How Mobile Technology Can Scaffold Student Multimedia Data Collection and Use for Science Inquiry

Alexander Christopher Kuhn

Authentic inquiry experiences are needed when students are learning to engage in scientific practices. Students should be able to act like scientists by collecting and annotating multimedia data outside the classroom and then analyzing and interpreting that data, along with peer collected data, to construct a scientific explanation in the classroom. However, completing these tasks while engaging in inquiry that takes place across classroom and out of classroom contexts is difficult for students as they are working in novel environments with less teacher support. There is a lack of systems and of guidelines on how to design software to support students as they perform these tasks.
This study explored how to design software scaffolds that mitigate the challenges students face surrounding the processes of collecting multimedia data outside the classroom and using large amounts of data (several hundred pieces) to construct scientific explanations. Drawing from the literature on learning, scaffolds were designed around using a tagging system as supportive features, the stepwise guidance of the complex process, and searching through and assessing data characteristics. These scaffolds were integrated into two tools: 1) Zydeco:CollectData, which uses a handheld device to scaffold students through engaging in multimedia data collection and annotation outside the classroom, and 2) Zydeco:UseData, which uses a tablet device to scaffold learners through using large amounts of personal and peer collected multimedia data to construct scientific explanations.
In order to evaluate the impact of the scaffolds, a field study was conducted with 54 students (27 pairs) aged 11-13. The results of the study demonstrate that the students were able to accurately collect, annotate, and use data to construct scientific explanations, thus indicating that the scaffolds provided by Zydeco were able to mitigate the challenges around the inquiry task.
This work contributes: 1) the design of two integrated tools that provide software scaffolding and reflect instructional practices, 2) an evaluation of how students used the scaffolds in the tools, and 3) design guidelines for other designers to use in developing scaffolds to assist learners performing similar activities.

Sponsored by

Elliot Soloway