Students as design partners
From interviews with local area public high school students about their BioLogica experiences, we developed the notion of "students as design partners" (Christie & Buckley, in progress). We have compiled additional design specifications from these interview data. These specifications, now in review on the follow-on grant REC #0087579, fall into three broad categories: exploration, explanation, and evaluation. In short, student reflections indicate their desire to do more unstructured activity, yet to have guided support in the form of explanation and opportunities to self-evaluate.
Students expressed a desire to engage in more exploratory activities, particularly exploration driven by intrinsic interest in a domain, as in the human genome, or by their incremental understandings about content under study, as in the dragon genome.
Some students thought that the amount of structure was too little (e.g., "there could have been more questions"), whereas other students thought the existing degree of structure took away opportunities for exploration: "You should be able to think like ‘what do I do next’ but instead the computer tells you what to do. … You maybe see if the kids can figure out what they should do instead of the computer givin’ them every step – like tellin’ you – because they basically give the answers away by sayin’ do this do that."
Some of the more cognitively-challenging questions that were embedded in the activities were not always understood by students. "It could have been more told," one student describes.
Another student suggested a help button: "How ‘bout the help button? … like some people might not know what you’re sayin’ so have a little help button that pops up in the corner like you don’t have to read it, someone could say verbally but - just so like I didn’t know that if you went into a cell and you saw a plain blue one [chromosomes] that’s a female even if they didn’t tell you. They told you you know but if they didn’t tell you you could go in and say ‘Oh! That’s a female because it has a little blank cell I mean a blank chromosome and this other one’s a make because it has this other chromosome with this stuff on it – there’s no blank one in there.’ To me that’d be much easier because I didn’t know that when I went into the program. Or I didn’t know that the color made a difference. I just thought it’d be a color that was picked. So that’d make it better. I think."
Some students generally wanted more guidance in the form of explanation. One student suggested "notes on the side or something? Or give you a .. paragraph before you go into the exercise or something [about what you are going to do]. About what you’re gonna be doin’ ‘cause it didn’t really say nothin’. Like which ones to pick or whatever."
Student had different ideas about how to evaluate their work as they progressed through the activities. Some students suggested including additional reflective questions, whereas others suggested more traditional evaluative measures, such as the "pop quiz:"
Finally, one student suggested that we develop "some books to go along" with the computer-based activities: "Like you know like you could have – if you do the problem on the computer you could have a book to write your stuff down like what happened and like you know? You know what I mean? Like a book that has like spaces for us to write in and take notes from what you did on the computer. And then that book you can keep with you just in case you know you wanted to know – ‘cause what if you’re at night and you want to know something at home? You can’t come to school and go on the computer but you can take that book and look at it. … [the stuff in the book would be] Like stuff that has to do with what we’re doin’ on the computer. Like maybe questions … or .. diagram you know."
Christie, M.T. & Buckley, B.C., in progress. Students as design partners.