TaCCL: Technology-Augmented Co-Creativity Lab led by Dr. Jianwei Zhang

About the lab

Explore innovative models of learning with technology to engage students in collaborative and creative knowledge building across disciplinary areas. Our current work focuses on:

Pedagogical innovation to foster collaborative knowledge-building processes (e.g. knowledge-building discourse and metadiscourse, opportunistic collaboration) that are essential to real-world knowledge-creating communities;

Social and technological infrastructure (e.g. Idea Thread Mapper with cross-community knowledge spaces) to support sustained collaboration and creative work with ideas across communities;

Learning analytics and intelligent feedback to trace idea progress and enhance creative interaction;
Teachers’ engagement in principle-based design and innovation to enable sustained knowledge building.

Featured projects (2)

Classroom innovations to cultivate creative work need to engage students in sustained inquiry and progressive discourse by which ideas are continually developed and refined, giving rise to higher-level goals. Fostering sustained inquiry within each community requires a larger social infrastructure that connects the communities into a shared field. This project will test a multilevel design approach to fostering sustained discourse across a network of communities that co-advances a shared base of knowledge, supporting the deep inquiry work in each community. Technology Innovation Our previous NSF-sponsored project has created Idea Thread Mapper (ITM): a collective knowledge mapping tool to trace and visualize threads of ideas growing in extended online discussions. This project is upgrading ITM to (a) provide automated analysis for students to structure and review idea threads (lines of inquiry) emerged from their ongoing discourse; and (b) further provide a cross-community interaction space for collaborative knowledge building. Pedagogical Approach Instead of single-layer sharing of raw online discussions between different communities, this research will elaborate a multilevel emergence approach to cross-community knowledge building: Members of each community engage in focused inquiry and contribute to their community’s discourse space. As progress is made, they identify major threads of ideas addressing various focal problems, each involving a group of members that is pre-organized or opportunistically formed. Reviewing and clustering and re-conceptualizing the diverse idea threads, as a community, helps to define/redefine the community’s goals and diffuse knowledge advances. Productive idea threads are further published for cross-community sharing and sustained build-on of ideas. Analyses of the multilevel interactions will produce conceptual insights and design knowledge needed to sustain knowledge building across social levels.

Featured research (4)

This study draws on a learning ecologies framework to explore how the teachers and students in a Grade 5 knowledge building (KB) community co-constructed new learning spaces to sustain their science inquiry during COVID-19 school closures. Using an interactional ethnographic approach, we conducted detailed analysis of observation notes, videos of whole-class meetings, and students’ online discourse. Our analysis indicated students showed sustained engagement in KB discourse during the school closures, which took place in new learning spaces co-constructed by the teachers and students. The construction of learning spaces involved replacing some of the critical classroom-based elements with new options, accommodating the limitations they faced while drawing on new opportunities for students to conduct inquiry in the broader world. Student KB was sustained by a learning culture and activity system formed around the principles of KB and use of relational resources.
This study investigates using ongoing learning analytics to support two teachers' reflective noticing and responsive scaffolding in knowledge building communities. Students in four Grade 5 science classrooms collaborated to investigate the human body systems for four months using an online platform: Idea Thread Mapper (ITM). The teachers kept weekly reflective journals to attend to students' collaborative idea progress and interpret the noticed events in order to make responsive moves to facilitate student knowledge building. Their reflective efforts were supported by knowledge building analytics. Qualitative analyses of the teachers' reflective journals, classroom and online discourse, and interviews traced how the teachers engaged in and facilitated students' knowledge building over time. The teachers used the analytical feedback to enhance their reflective attention and sense-making focused on students' idea-growing efforts as individuals, groups, and a whole community, including discovering student inquiry moves, reforming collaborations, and intertwining analytical feedback into iterative noticing and scaffolding.
See print version at: Research on computer-supported collaborative learning faces the challenge of extending student collaboration to higher social levels and enabling cross-boundary interaction. This study investigated collaborative knowledge building among four Grade 5 classroom communities that studied human body systems with the support of Idea Thread Mapper (ITM). While students in each classroom collaborated in their local (home) discourse space to investigate various human body functions, they generated reflective syntheses-"super notes"-to share knowledge progress and challenges in a cross-community meta-space. As a cross-community collaboration, students from the four classrooms further used the Super Talk feature of ITM to investigate a common problem: how do people grow? Data sources included classroom observations and videos, online discourse within each community, students' super notes and records of Super Talk discussion shared across the classrooms, and student interviews. The results showed that the fifth-graders were able to generate high quality super notes to reflect on their inquiry progress for cross-classroom sharing. Detailed analysis of the cross-classroom Super Talk documented students' multifaceted understanding constructed to understand how people grow, which built on the diverse ideas from each classroom and further contributed to enriching student discourse within each individual classroom. The findings are discussed focusing on how to approach cross-community collaboration as an expansive and dynamic context for high-level inquiry and continual knowledge building with technology support.
FREE FULL TEXT access at As a hallmark of authentic science practices, students need to enact epistemic agency to shape/reshape the key aspects of their inquiry work as a collaborative community. This study elaborates an emergent temporal mechanism for engaging students' epistemic agency: "reflective structuration" by which members of a classroom community co-construct ever-evolving inquiry directions and group structures as their collective inquiry work proceeds. Using an interactional ethnography method, we examined how students (n = 22) in a Grade 5 classroom co-constructed shared inquiry directions and flexible group structures to guide their sustained inquiry about human body systems over seven months supported by a collaborative online environment. Rich data were collected to trace the work of the eye inquiry group as a telling case. With their teacher's support, students took agentic moves to construct an evolving set of wondering areas as a way to frame what their whole class needed to investigate. Flexible groups, such as the eye inquiry group, emerged and evolved in the various areas, leading to progressively deepening inquiry and extensive idea exchanges among students. Implications for research and practice are discussed.

Lab head

Jianwei Zhang
  • Department of Educational Theory and Practice
About Jianwei Zhang
  • Jianwei Zhang's research explores social and cognitive dynamics of collaborative knowledge building supported by new technology-based environments. Funded by National Science Foundation (NSF) and other sources, Dr. Zhang is leading an interdisciplinary team to create pedagogical and technological innovations for supporting student-driven knowledge building and collaboration, including cross-classroom /culture connections.

Members (8)

Hyejin Park
  • Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information (KISTI)
Guangji Yuan
  • Nanyang Technological University
Dan Tao
  • Beijing Normal University
Sarah Naqvi
  • University of Toronto
Jingping Chen
  • University at Albany, The State University of New York
Simona Pesaresi
  • University at Albany, The State University of New York
Yizhen Chen
  • University at Albany, The State University of New York
Thomas Underwood
  • University at Albany, The State University of New York
Yanqing Sun
Yanqing Sun
  • Not confirmed yet
Darlene Judson
Darlene Judson
  • Not confirmed yet
Yan Tian
Yan Tian
  • Not confirmed yet