w.o. mitchell

a different kind of memorial – my son attends an elementary school named after one of Canada’s most cherished authors – W.O. Mitchell. There’s a photo of Mitchell in the school, and it looks like he actually was able to visit the school before his death in 1998. It’s pretty cool to wander the halls and see photos, plaques, and other things tying the students to Mitchell and to writing and creativity in general. A fantastic legacy to have left.

I was at the school this evening for a School Council Meeting, and was early so had the chance to wander around a bit before the meeting. It’s a really incredible school, and the staff and administration are amazing. It’s a vibrant little community of active learners.

More info on W.O. Mitchell http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W.O._Mitchell

2010/05/31: It’s Memorial Day in the U.S. Make a photo that symbolizes today and what it means to you. #ds197

Notes: Kanuka & Anderson. Online Social Interchange, Discord, and Knowledge Construction

Kanuka, H. & Anderson, T. (1998). Online Social Interchange, Discord, and Knowledge Construction. Journal of Distance Education. 13 (1) pp. 57-74.

>This study presents the results of an exploratory multi- method evaluation study and transcript analysis of an online forum. The researchers used a constructivist interaction analysis model developed by Gunawardena, Lowe, and Anderson (1997)1

Gunawardena et al.’s phases:

1. Sharing/comparing of information
2. Discovery and exploration of dissonance or inconsistency among the ideas, concepts, or statements advanced by different participants.
3. Negotiation of meaning and/or co-construction of knowledge.
4. Testing and modification of proposed synthesis or co-construction.
5. Phrasing of agreement, statenient(s), and applications of the newly constructed meaning.


>The research study focused on the analysis of data obtained from participants in the online forum. We read postings, but did not participate in the forum. At the end of the two-week forum, an online survey was distributed to all participants and a transcript analysis was undertaken. Finally, a telephone survey was conducted with a stratified sample of participants.


> the forum was perceived by the participants as successful in providing opportunities for reflection and exposure to multiple perspectives on topics that were relevant to the participants. There seemed less agreement, however, with the notion that the forum provided opportunity for application of new knowledge and deeper understanding of the issues.

Transcript analysis:

>The unitizing process involved a coding operation that separated the participants’ online interactions (postings that fell in phases I through V) from other postings, such as the moderator’s summaries or other general announcements.

>The transcript analysis procedure consisted of reading each message and assigning it to one or more phases. A message that contained two or more distinct ideas or comments was coded in two or more phases (the messages were coded independently by both researchers). Discrepancies were discussed, and a single coding was determined from these discussions.

So many of the messages wound up being categorized as Level 1 (basic knowledge) that a grounded theory method was added to the study.

>Grounded theory provided a useful collection of strategies (such as constant comparison and analytic meaning) when little is known about a phenomenon—as was the case in this study where the focus was to investigate knowledge construction and social interaction in an online environment. Using grounded theory, we reassessed and then recategorized the postings.

*__DN:__ not sure what the addition of grounded theory does to the study. seems like they just threw up their hands, said “WTF?” and fell back on divining chicken entrails to get something out of the transcripts…*

>These two new categories were generated from the data: social interchange2 and social discord and knowledge construction3.

*__DN:__ the study turns out to not be directly applicable, but points to some things to watch for when coding – having too many things fall into the basic level or “other” category. How to design the coding to avoid having to fall back on grounded theory?*

  1. Gunawardena, L., Lowe, C, & Anderson, T. (1997). Interaction analysis of a global on-line debate and the development of a constructivist interaction analysis model for computer conferencing, Journal of Educational Computing Research, 17(4), 395-429. []
  2. basically, participants talking to each other. strange, that this would be observed in an online discussion board, designed to facilitate participants, well, talking to each other… []
  3. there were a few instances of interaction between the forum participants that involved inconsistencies or contradictions in information and/or ideas that resulted in a new or changed perspective. the effect of cognitive dissonance []

Notes: Guan et al. Content analysis of online discussion on a senior-high-school discussion forum of a virtual physics laboratory

Guan, Y.H., Tsai, C.C., & Hwang, F.K. (2006). [Content analysis of online discussion on a senior-high-school discussion forum of a virtual physics laboratory](http://www.springerlink.com/content/aj8u085378706178/). Instructional science. 34 (4) pp. 279-311

>In this study we content analyzed the online discussion of several senior-high-school groups on a forum of a virtual physics laboratory in Taiwan. The goal of our research was to investigate the nature of non-course-based online discussion and to find out some useful guidelines in developing such discussion forums for learning purposes.

*__DN:__ Studied extracurricular forum activity, not course-based. Results not applicable to what I need, but maybe some content analysis methodology could be useful…*

Researchers adopted Henri’s framework and models1 (like the previous Garrison study). As a result, used the same parameters:

>The content analysis was conducted in terms of participation rate, social cues, interaction types, and cognitive and metacognitive skills.

Why look at non-course-based discussion boards? Getting a self-direction and lifelong learning:

>The advantages of non-course-based online discussion lie in that the participants of the discussion are not limited to the members of a particular course, and the participation in the discussion is based on common interests shared by the participants. That is, the participation is totally voluntary and people may join or leave the discussion any time they want.

*__DN:__ How did they get ethical approval to gather data on minors in a public discussion board?*

>The discussion started with a message containing a question that could be posted by any participant. Whoever was interested in the topic could rely to it. The size of discussion groups ranged from 1 to 213 participants. The participation on the forum was voluntary.

>Two moderators supervised the discussion forum. A moderator was a physics professor in NTNU. The other one was a senior-high-school physics teacher.

These moderators filtered content, removing objectionable/rude words, correcting misleading concepts/statements.

>The content of a message was analyzed based on its idea(s). An idea expressed a complete thought, which might contain one or several sentences or even several paragraphs. A message might consist of more than one idea. The analysis was conducted according to five dimensions: the participation rate, social cues, interaction types, cognitive skills, and metacognitive skills.


>Altogether we analyzed 575 messages containing 634 ideas, which were posted by 349 participants.

>Overall, 19.72% of the ideas were not relevant to the subject under discussion. Only 11.49% of the ideas revealed metacognitive skills (i.e., those of ‘evaluation’, ‘planning’, ‘regulation’, and ‘self-awareness’), and 16.88% of the ideas did not reveal any cognitive or metacognitive components considered in the study.

There were 2 types of discussion board activities – NR where significant contribution was not required in order to participate, and R, where a significant and guided contribution was required in order to gain access to the board. Active participation in the Required group was low, even though number of participants was high (they needed to participate in order to gain access, but didn’t care about the board). The Non-Required board had much higher active participation (numbers of posts) although lower numbers of participants (because it was an optional discussion board).

Also, the Required board posts seemed to be lower, meta-cognitively, than the Non-Required board posts, although Required posts showed higher cognitive levels. *Not sure of the value of this distinction – non-required activities are ~more metacognitive, but required activities are ~more cognitive? so many variables. so many generalizations.*

>Overall, whether online discussion can help people to learn more deeply depends on the quality of discussion, which can be influenced by the features of participants and discussion topics, the interactions between the participants, the purpose, design and organization of the discussion forums, and not least the moderators coordinating the discussion.2

  1. Henri, F. (1992). Computer conferencing and content analysis. In A.R. Kaye, ed., Collaborative learning through computer conferencing: the Najaden papers, pp. 115–136. Springer: New York. []
  2. Duh. []