BOX 9.5 Slaminan Number System

An example of how technology-supported conversations can help students refine each other’s thinking comes from an urban elementary classroom. Students worked in small groups to design different aspects of a hypothetical culture of rain forest dwellers (Means et al., 1995).

The group that was charged with developing a number system for the hypothetical culture posted the following entry:

This is the slaminan’s number system. It is a base 10 number system too. It has a pattern to it. The number of lines increase up to five then it goes upside down all the way to 10.

Another student group in the same classroom reviewed this CSILE posting and displayed impressive analytic skills (as well as good social skills) in a response pointing out the need to extend the system:

We all like the number system but we want to know how the number 0 looks like, and you can do more numbers not just 10 like we have right now.

Many students in this classroom speak a language other than English in their homes. CSILE provides opportunities to express their ideas in English and to receive feedback from their peers.

CSILE classes do better on standardized tests and portfolio entries and show greater depth in their explanations than students in classes without CSILE (see, e.g., Scardamalia and Bereiter, 1993). Furthermore, students at all ability levels participate effectively: in fact, in classrooms using the technology in the most collaborative fashion, CSILE’s positive effects were particularly strong for lower- and middle-ability groups (Bryson and Scardamalia, 1991).

As one of its many uses to support learning, the Internet is increasingly being used as a forum for students to give feedback to each other. In the GLOBE Project (described above), students inspect each others’ data on the project web site and sometimes find readings they believe may be in error. Students use the electronic messaging system to query the schools that report suspicious data about the circumstances under which they made their measurement; for another kind of use, see Box 9.6.

An added advantage of networked technologies for communication is that they help make thinking visible. This core feature of the cognitive apprenticeship model of instruction (Collins, 1990) is exemplified in a broad range of instructional programs and has a technological manifestation, as

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