1997; Vye et al., 1998). Another way of using technology to support formative assessment is described in Box 9.4.
Classroom communication technologies, such as Classtalk, can promote more active learning in large lecture classes and, if used appropriately, highlight the reasoning processes that students use to solve problems (see Chapter 7). This technology allows an instructor to prepare and display problems that the class works on collaboratively. Students enter answers (individually or as a group) via palm-held input devices, and the technology collects, stores, and displays histograms (bar graphs of how many students preferred each problem solution) of the class responses. This kind of tool can provide useful feedback to students and the teacher on how well the students understand the concepts being covered and whether they can apply them in novel contexts (Mestre et al., 1997).
Like other technologies, however, Classtalk does not guarantee effective learning. The visual histograms are intended to promote two-way communication in large lecture classes: as a springboard for class discussions in which students justify the procedures they used to arrive at their answers, listen critically to the arguments of others, and refute them or offer other reasoning strategies. But the technology could be used in ways that have nothing to do with this goal. If, for example, a teacher used Classtalk merely as an efficient device to take attendance or administer conventional quizzes, it would not enhance two-way communication or make students’ reasoning more visible. With such a use, the opportunity to expose students to varying perspectives on problem solving and the various arguments for different problem solutions would be lost. Thus, effective use of technology involves many teacher decisions and direct forms of teacher involvement.
Peers can serve as excellent sources of feedback. Over the last decade, there have been some very successful and influential demonstrations of how computer networks can support groups of students actively engaged in learning and reflection. Computer-Supported Intentional Learning Environments (CSILE) provide opportunities for students to collaborate on learning activities by working through a communal database that has text and graphics capabilities (Scardamalia et al., 1989; Scardamalia and Bereiter, 1991, 1993; Scardamalia et al., 1994). Within this networked multimedia environment (now distributed as Knowledge Forum), students create “notes” that contain an idea or piece of information about the topic they are studying. These notes are labeled by categories, such as question or new learning, that other students can search and comment on; see Box 9.5. With support from the instructor, these processes engage students in dialogues that integrate information and contributions from various sources to produce knowledge. CSILE also includes guidelines for formulating and testing conjectures and prototheories. CSILE has been used in elementary, secondary, and postgraduate classrooms for science, history, and social studies. Students in