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Reading for idea advancement in a Grade 4 knowledge building community

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Abstract

This study looks into the reading practice in a Grade 4 knowledge building community that involved 22 students and a veteran teacher. The students investigated light over a three-month period supported by Knowledge Forum, a networked collaborative knowledge-building environment. The classroom designs encouraged the students to take on high-level responsibility for advancing the community’s knowledge, as represented in their online discourse in Knowledge Forum. The tracing of student conversations in Knowledge Forum and content analysis of their portfolio notes demonstrate productive advancement of scientific understanding. Qualitative analyses of classroom videos, online discourse, and the teacher’s reflection journal characterize student reading practice along four themes: reading for the purpose of advancing community knowledge; as progressive problem solving; embedded in sustained knowledge-building discourse; and as dialogues between local understanding and knowledge in the larger world. These results contribute to elaborating the possibility and processes of integrating reading with creative knowledge work in content areas. Classroom strategies are identified and discussed in relation to the role of collaborative online technologies. KeywordsReading in content areas–Knowledge building community–Scientific inquiry–Collaborative learning–Reading to learn
To appear in Instructional Science
Running Head: Reading for Idea Advancement
Reading for Idea Advancement in a Grade 4 Knowledge Building Community
Jianwei Zhang
Yanqing Sun
University at Albany, State University of New York
Correspondence:
Jianwei Zhang
Department of Educational Theory and Practice
University at Albany
1400 Washington Ave, ED 115B
Albany, NY 12222 USA
Phone: (518) 442-4007; Fax: (518) 442-5008
Email: jzhang1@albany.edu
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Abstract
This study looks into the reading practice in a Grade 4 knowledge building community that
involved 22 students and a veteran teacher. The students investigated light over a three-
month period supported by Knowledge Forum, a networked collaborative knowledge-building
environment. The classroom designs encouraged the students to take on high-level
responsibility for advancing the community’s knowledge, as represented in their online
discourse in Knowledge Forum. The tracing of student conversations in Knowledge Forum
and content analysis of their portfolio notes demonstrate productive advancement of scientific
understanding. Qualitative analyses of classroom videos, online discourse, and the teacher’s
reflection journal characterize student reading practice along four themes: reading for the
purpose of advancing community knowledge; as progressive problem solving; embedded in
sustained knowledge-building discourse; and as dialogues between local understanding and
knowledge in the larger world. These results contribute to elaborating the possibility and
processes of integrating reading with creative knowledge work in content areas. Classroom
strategies are identified and discussed in relation to the role of collaborative online
technologies.
Keywords: Reading in content areas, Knowledge building community, Scientific inquiry,
Collaborative learning, Reading to learn.
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Reading for Idea Advancement in a Grade 4 Knowledge Building Community
Introduction
Education in a knowledge-based society needs to develop students’ creative knowledge
capabilities and high-level literacy. Existing literature suggests the possibility of achieving
these two educational goals through an integrated process that engages students in authentic
literacy practices as a part of their learning across subject areas (Applebee 1981; Bereiter &
Scardamalia 1987a; Cantoni-Harvey 1987; Connolly & Vilardi 1989; Guthrie, 2004; Sun,
Zhang, Scardamalia, 2010). Such integration entails an expanded and functional view of
language as a means to disciplinary thinking, discourse, and inquiry (Cervetti, Pearson, Bravo,
& Barberp, 2006; Phillips & Norris, 2009; Vitale & Romance, 2007). It further requires
research on the specific classroom processes and instructional support that can help students
deal with the broadly reported difficulties associated with deep processing of expository text
(Graesser, 2007; Phillips & Norris, 1999) and student-driven inquiry (Krajcik, Blumenfeld,
Marx, Bass, & Fredricks, 1998). Contributing to elaborating the possibility and processes of
integrating reading with creative knowledge work in content areas, the present study
investigates student reading practice in an elementary science classroom that implements the
knowledge building pedagogy and technology (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2006). It
characterizes reading as a deep and collaborative engagement integral to creative knowledge
work, with the specific analyses shedding light on the classroom processes and scaffolding
strategies.
Research on Reading in Content Areas
Cognitive research interprets reading as a constructive process. Reading is not simply to
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retrieve information from text; but a “process of constructing meaning through the dynamic
interaction among the reader’s existing knowledge, the information suggested by the written
language, and the context of the reading situation.” (Wixson & Peters, 1984, p. 5) Proficient
readers use effective strategies to actively interact with the text they are reading, connect the
text with their goals and prior knowledge, connect information across the text, monitor their
understanding and identify gaps and questions, and engage in inferential construction of
meaning and explanation (Anderson, 1984; Graesser, 2007; Wittrock, 1991). Recent
sociocognitive perspectives additionally underline dialogic interaction surrounding text and
joint exploration of ideas (Olson, 1997; Palincsar, 2003). Comprehension of difficult text can
be significantly enhanced through extended, open-ended, interactive conversations focused on
authentic problems related to the text, interconnecting reading, writing, discussion, and
inquiry (Applebee, Langer, Nystrand, & Gamoran, 2003; Beck, Mckeown, Hamilton, &
Kucan, 1997; Chinn, Anderson, & Waggoner, 2001; Nystrand, 1997).
In line with the advances of reading theories and learning research more broadly, research
on reading in content areas (e.g., science) has evolved from an individual to a sociocognitive
and sociocultural perspective. Earlier studies on reading to learn and learning from text
mostly focused on individual interaction with a single text to examine reading processes,
strategies, reader characteristics, and text features that lead to effective comprehension and
learning (e.g., Anderson & Armbruster, 1984; Collins, 1994; Denise, 1987; Goldman, 1997;
Kiewra, DuBois, Christensen, Kim, & Lindberg, 1989). Important connections and overlaps
were identified between cognitive and metacognitive strategies of reading and science process
skills (e.g., classifying, predicting, inferring, relating, evaluating, communicating), converging
at fostering independent readers and learners (Baker, 1991; Padilla, Muth, & Padilla, 1991).
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These earlier research on reading in science and other content areas was most conducted with
the use of contrived text, with little knowledge developed regarding reading in the context of
naturally occurring science learning (Palincsar & Magnusson, 2001).
Although investigating effective strategies to support individual processes of reading to
comprehend and learn continues to be an important research theme, recent studies give more
emphasis to social interactions surrounding the text that lead to appropriation of reading
strategies, group inquiry, and peer sharing and teaching of new knowledge. The interactive
and collaborative approaches involve individual comprehending and learning and further
situate it in social and authentic contexts to enable productive disciplinary knowledge
construction and literacy development.
Several research-based instructional programs have emerged to foster student reading and
use of text in the service of collaborative disciplinary inquiry. The most well-known is
perhaps Reciprocal Teaching, which engages a student group in dialogues to jointly construct
and monitor their understanding of the text. Reading strategies, such as questioning,
clarification, summary, and predicting, become integral elements of the group’s conversation
(Palincsar & Brown, 1984). Although originally designed to foster comprehension among
challenging readers, Reciprocal Teaching has been applied and extended to supporting
collaborative inquiry in subject areas, particularly under a fostering community of learners
framework (Brown & Campione, 1996). Members in a small group take turns to lead
discussions of articles or multimedia materials as a part of their inquiry. Different small
groups develop expertise related to different topics, then conduct cross-talks to teach each
other new information and provide mutual comprehension checks (Brown & Campione,
1996). The subsequent work of Palincsar and colleagues further elaborated the interplay
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between activity-based, firsthand and text-based, secondhand investigations in science
classrooms. This interplay is enhanced through a guided inquiry framework composed of
steps such as engaging (e.g., defining questions), investigating, explaining, and reporting.
Students are encouraged to construct and use a new genre of text modeled on a scientist’s
notebook (e.g., presenting purpose, questions, procedures, claims) to support their reasoning,
leading to positive outcomes (Palincsar & Magnusson, 2001).
Similar to fostering community of learners (Brown & Campione, 1996), Anderson and
colleagues (1997) created the WEE Science program that organizes an inquiry project as three
phases: Wondering, Exploring, and Explaining. Students work as special interest groups to
browse books about scientific topics and generate wonderment issues, which are further
refined into researchable questions. They then explore these questions through building
models, conducting observations and experiments, and further reading. In the last phase, they
summarize their insights and further wonderments and share their findings with peers through
presentations.
As another example, Concept-Oriented Reading Instruction (CORI) was developed to
integrate reading strategy instruction and inquiry science in a mutually supportive way
(Guthrie, 2004). CORI is based on the notion that “important, interesting conceptual themes
are a valuable context for teaching comprehension strategies and for sustaining the motivation
required for long-term reading development.” (Guthrie, 2004, p. 6) Focusing on a scientific
theme (e.g., birds around the world), students engage in several phases of reading and inquiry.
They first conduct field observations, generate personal questions, and decide on favorite
questions and sub-themes to focus on. Then, they gather information from text and other
media and conduct observations and experiments to answer their personal questions.
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Information from multiple sources is then integrated and summarized and further exchanged
in small groups. In the final phase, students write reports and make presentations to
communicate their findings and teach peers and other audiences (Perencevich, 2004).
Integrating insights gained from the above programs, Cervetti and colleagues (2006)
recently developed the Seeds of Science/Roots of ReadingTM program that capitalizes on
potential synergies between science and literacy. Their program particularly focuses on
developing key meaning-making strategies that are important for both scientific inquiry and
literacy, such as making prediction, posing questions, making explanations from evidence,
searching for information in text, engaging in discourse, summarizing, writing reflections, and
so forth.
Reading for Idea Advancement in a Creative Community
The above-reviewed research efforts to integrate literacy and disciplinary inquiry
(especially in science) have been largely driven by a vision to engage students in authentic
literacy and inquiry practices that mirror the practices of real-world knowledge communities,
such as those of scientists (Anderson et al., 1997; Cervetti et al., 2006; Palincsar &
Magnusson, 2001). Reading is a goal-directed (Graesser, 2007) and socially situated practice
(Olson, 1997; Palincsar, 2003). People in everyday life use literacy as a sense-making tool to
solve practical problems, cope with personal changes, and understand and gain control over
their environment (Barton & Hamilton, 1998). In the context of creative knowledge
communities, reading serves as an integral means to enabling intentional, sustained, and
collaborative idea advancement. This social context and the high-order goal of knowledge
creation have a deep impact on why, when, what, and how to read. Reading becomes an
inquiry process (Phillips & Norris, 2009) that serves the goal of collaborative knowledge
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advancement. As Yore and colleagues (2004) highlighted, “scientists rely on printed text for
ideas that inform their work before, during, and after the experimental inquiries.” (p. 348) In a
survey by Tenopir and King (2004), the participant scientists rated reading as essential to their
research and as a primary source of creative stimulation. They reported spending 553 hours
per year or 23% or their work time on reading, in addition to 35% of their work time on
writing, speaking, and other communicating activities. Scientists seldom read an article
section by section for complete comprehension like what students do in their reading classes
(Geisler, 1994). Instead, they identify and scan articles that are highly relevant to their
research and selectively focus on parts of the articles that may help them to gain new insights
and new methods of doing research. They contextualize and critically examine how the
reported research was designed and implemented (Geisler, 1994), and make connections and
analogies to the research conducted in their own labs to inform idea development (Dunbar,
1997). They also read important progress from outside their main disciplines in search of far
connections of ideas that can lead to creative advancement (Simonton, 2003). Information and
ideas obtained from readings further become objects of discourse in lab meetings, discussions,
and informal exchanges (Latour & Woolgar, 1979) and are further cited in academic writing
for accumulative knowledge advancement.
Such reading practices that are required by creative and collaborative knowledge work
are rarely the focus of current teaching practices in Language Arts and science classrooms.
Reading in science classrooms has been generally focusing on student understanding of
isolated technical terms and factual information (Phillips & Norris, 2009). In parallel, student
writing and oral discourse tend to lack idea-centered reasoning, explanation, and argument
(Ebbers & Rowell, 2002; Newton & Newton, 2000). Addressing this practice gap requires a
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better understanding of what it means and takes for students to engage in reading for
collaborative advancement of ideas in science and other content areas (c.f. Palincsar &
Magnusson, 2001). The above-reviewed programs (Anderson et al., 1997; Cervetti et al.,
2006; Guthrie, 2004; Palincsar & Magnusson, 2001) played a pioneer role in exploring how
reading for collaborative advancement of ideas can be enabled across content areas. However,
the designs of these programs at this point are often based upon a speculative understanding
of reading practice contributive to creative knowledge advancement, heightening the need of
empirical studies based on rich data collections in real classroom contexts (Cervetti et al.,
2006). Moreover, inquiry practices in these programs are sequenced as fixed stages such as
questioning, reading, experiment, and presentation, as pre-scripted by the designer or teacher.
Further research needs to examine reading and inquiry in more complex and open-ended
contexts where students take on high-level agency in managing the unfolding classroom flow.
Reading Practice in Knowledge Building Communities
The present study examines student reading and inquiry practice in a knowledge building
community (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2006). Knowledge building represents one of the few
sophisticated pedagogical models to engage students in collaborative and creative work with
knowledge and ideas and develop high-order competencies needed in the Knowledge Age.
The primary goal of a knowledge building community is to continually advance the state of
the community’s knowledge, as a social product (Bereiter, 2002), in line with knowledge
creation practices in innovative organizations that rely on sustained advancement of
knowledge and knowledge-based products to survive and grow (Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995;
Sawyer, 2007). This pursuit of community knowledge as a social product differentiates a
knowledge building community from many collaborative inquiry classrooms that focus on
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collaborative processes but individual learning outcomes, such as mental models and
cognitive strategies residing in individual minds (see also, Stahl, 2006). The programs to
integrate reading and disciplinary inquiry (Anderson et al., 1997; Cervetti et al., 2006;
Guthrie, 2004) share such a focus on collaborative processes but individual outcomes:
Students develop understanding about different aspects of an inquiry topic and then share with
peers through presentations to diffuse the knowledge to more individuals. The process of
knowledge building unfolds as continual idea improvement and progressive chains of problem
solving, with deeper challenges progressively identified and addressed as understanding
deepens (Bereiter, 2002; Hatano & Inagaki, 1986). This process differs from the procedures
adopted by many inquiry classrooms that are focused on finding answers to pre-designed
problems by searching and integrating information from multiple sources, following a stage-
based inquiry script (e.g., Perencevich, 2004). In a knowledge building community, students
contribute ideas to a community space, critically examine the diverse ideas, and engage in
sustained progressive discourse to revise, combine, reorganize, synthesize, and re-
conceptualize their ideas for increasing explanatory power, coherence, and utility. The
knowledge building process is further advanced through Knowledge Forum, a collaborative
online environment rooted in the research on writing, expertise, and knowledge building (see
Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2006). Lying at the heart of Knowledge Forum is a shared,
multimedia knowledge space that gives student ideas a public representation—as conceptual
objects—along with a set of interaction tools to support knowledge-building discourse.
Continually advancing and adding value to the knowledge of a community through
sustained idea improvement is essential to real-world knowledge building communities (e.g.,
a science community, a high-tech corporate) and the knowledge economy at large (Sawyer,
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2007). In such contexts of knowledge creation, high-level literacy—extended idea-centered
dialogues, knowledge-transforming writing, deep listening, productive reading, multiple
modes of idea representation—becomes a primary means to participating in communal
knowledge practices (Bereiter & Scardamalia, 2005; Latour & Woolgar, 1979; Sawyer, 2007;
Yore, Hand, & Prain, 2002). As noted previously, their reading practice is not merely for
comprehending the text or integrating information from multiple sources as the answers to
personal questions; but serves the need to understand and continually advance the state of
knowledge in a domain and leverage sustained discourse and idea development
(Csikszentmihalyi, 1999).
Investigating student literacy engagement in a knowledge building community represents
an important research opportunity to inform classroom processes for developing high-level
literacy that is contributive to creative knowledge work (c.f., Lankshear & Knobel, 2003;
Palincsar & Ladewski, 2006). Several studies have been conducted along this line, showing
that students in knowledge building classrooms exhibit significant gains in literacy
(Scardamalia, Bereiter, Brett, Burtis, Calhoun, & Smith-Lea, 1992) and take a more goal-
directed and constructive approach to using text (Scardamalia, Bereiter, Hewitt, & Webb,
1996). A recent study analyzed the online knowledge-building discourse of a class of students
over two years—Grades 3 and then 4—and demonstrated significant growth of productive
written vocabulary, including sophisticate academic words and technical words that are hard
to be appropriated at these grade levels. Constructive and extensive use of text—along with
sustained knowledge-building discourse, online and offline—was identified as an important
avenue of vocabulary appropriation and development, which further leverages collaborative
knowledge building (Sun, Zhang, Scardamalia, 2010).
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The present study further examines reading practice in a Grade 4 knowledge building
community facilitated by a veteran teacher. The research goal is twofold: (a) to characterize
and elaborate reading practices that are integral and contributive to sustained knowledge
building in a community, and (b) to identify major support strategies used by the teacher to
enable productive reading and knowledge building. Addressing these issues through rich data
collection helps to advance our understanding of reading integral to creative knowledge work
and inform classroom processes to foster it.
Method
Participants
The participants were a class of 22 fourth-graders (9-to-10-year-olds) at the Institute of
Child Study Laboratory School in Toronto. This study analyzes their inquiry of light
conducted over a three-month period, supported by Knowledge Forum. The students had been
using Knowledge Forum to conduct knowledge building since Grade 1. The teacher had
strong expertise in facilitating knowledge building, as indicated through a prior study that
analyzed his improvement of knowledge building designs over three years leading to
productive collaboration and sophisticated scientific understanding among his students
(Zhang et al., 2009).
Knowledge Building Design and Implementation
The optics inquiry was conducted in line with the principles of knowledge building
(Scardamalia, 2002). Particularly, the knowledge building design encouraged students’
epistemic agency in high-order decision-making related to knowledge goals, long-range
planning, and progress evaluation. Instead of having their teacher pre-specify the inquiry
goals, tasks/questions, procedures, timeline, and grouping, the students took on collective
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responsibility for co-constructing and refining problems of understanding, inquiry strategies,
participatory structures, and online discourse spaces. One of the knowledge building
principles highlights constructive use of authoritative sources for idea improvement. To
address their deepening problems related to light, the students found and used a large amount
of reading materials, many of which were written for students above Grade 4. To deal with
the difficult texts, they formed into temporary small groups to cooperatively understand the
texts, summarize new meanings and implications, and generate further ideas and questions.
Thus, the knowledge building unfolded as an emergent, dynamic process that involved
multiple forms of inquiry activities, online and offline. Students generated problems of
understanding, discussed diverse ideas and theories through face-to-face knowledge-building
discourse, conducted self-generated experiments and observations, searched libraries and the
Internet, and comprehended new resources through cooperative reading. They contributed
problems, ideas, data, and resources (generated through face-to-face discourse, reading,
experiments, etc.,) into Knowledge Forum for continual dialogues and improvement of ideas.
Knowledge Forum provided the public knowledge space in which student ideas and inquiry
work were recorded, in views (workspaces) corresponding to their focal goals. Figure 1 shows
student discourse in the Lenses and Sight view. By writing notes in these views, the students
contributed their ideas, data, and related information using text and graphics. Supportive
features for knowledge-building discourse allowed the students to co-author, build on, and
annotate notes; create reference links with citations to existing notes; add keywords; and
create rise-above notes to summarize, distil, and advance their discussions (Scardamalia,
2004). The students accessed Knowledge Forum through six desktop computers in the
classroom. Flexible arrangements were made so that they could write and read notes based on
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emergent needs, either individually or in small groups. Several whole class sessions were
arranged in a computer lab where each student worked on a computer to read and write notes.
___________
Insert Figure 1 about here
___________
The light inquiry began with a whole class conversation that reviewed the students’
online discussion about animal adaptation when they were in Grade 1 that had been archived
in Knowledge Forum. The issue of how white fur reflects and dark fur absorbs light
stimulated refreshed interest. Light was therefore identified as a focal area of study for the
current school year. A new view was created in Knowledge Forum, called “Grey Fur and
White Snow.” As the inquiry proceeded, questions related to new focal themes were
progressively identified, leading to the creation of six additional views in Knowledge Forum
(e.g., Lenses and Sight, Mirrors, Reflection and Absorption) in line with the emergent goals.
Data Sources and Analyses
To gauge the productivity of the students’ knowledge building, we analyzed their
collaborative discourse in Knowledge Forum (68 pages in print) and individual portfolio notes
(36 pages, single space). Focusing on the growth of the community’s knowledge space, we
traced student online discourse in the seven views to identify deepening questions and ideas
and, then, compared the questions and ideas against the curriculum guidelines. Individual
knowledge growth was further measured based on student portfolio notes. Each student
created three portfolio notes in Knowledge Forum that summarized their optical
understanding in the first, second, and third month of the inquiry, respectively. Following
content analysis (Chi, 1997), student writing related to each inquiry theme (e.g. how are
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rainbows created) was coded using two four-point scales that had been tested in our previous
studies (see Sun et al., 2010 for details): (a) scientific sophistication (1 - pre-scientific, 2 -
hybrid, 3 - basically scientific, and 4 - scientific) and (b) epistemic complexity (1 -
unelaborated facts, 2 – elaborated facts, 3 – unelaborated explanations, and 4 - elaborated
explanations). Epistemic complexity measures student effort to produce not only descriptions
of the material world but theoretical explanations of hidden mechanisms (Salmon, 1984). Two
raters independently coded 12 portfolio notes to assess inter-rater reliability: Cohen’s Kappa
= .83 for scientific sophistication, Cohen’s Kappa = .75 for epistemic complexity.
To characterize student reading practice and understand the teacher’s role, we used a
grounded theory approach (Strauss & Corbin, 1998) to analyze three interrelated sets of data:
(a) Videos of selected classroom sessions (about six hours) representing a wide range of
activities, including whole class conversations, small group reading, experiments, and
computer-based sessions; (d) Online discourse records in Knowledge Forum; and (c) The
teacher’s reflection journal (14 pages) that recorded his design ideas and plans, classroom
processes, and reflections. The above data were comprehensively analyzed to understand the
interactional processes that sustained the productive knowledge building in the community
(see Zhang & Messina, 2010). The analyses presented in this article focus on the central
phenomenon of reading.
Investigating reading practice in authentic social contexts entails a broader focus beyond
the moment when a reader is directly facing the text, so as to capture the readers’ thinking and
practices that lead to, co-occur with, and emerge from the immediate reading activities. With
this focus in mind, we analyzed the data to understand in what contexts the need to read
emerged, how the material met the readers, how personal inquiry foci and roles were
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negotiated, how the students interacted surrounding the text, as well as how the reading
information was used in the subsequent conversations and inquiry. Our analysis integrated
multiple levels and timescales (Lemke, 2000), shifting from higher to lower focal levels as we
moved towards more detailed analysis. Specifically, we first analyzed the three-month
inquiry, as a whole, to understand how it started and evolved, leading to an understanding of
the conceptual lines of inquiry and the related major episodes of classroom videos and online
discussions. We then analyzed each video episode to understand its context and storyline,
including the conceptual focus, activities, social structures, and progress of understanding. At
the lowest level, we identified and coded patterns of discourse moves in the video episodes
(e.g., introducing information from a reading, asking a challenging question, contributing an
idea addressing a peer’s question) through an emergent inductive process without applying a
predefined coding scheme (Sawyer, 2006). We additionally analyzed the online discourse
focusing on the nature of contribution made by each entry (i.e., note), as indicated through the
scaffold labels (think types) used in the notes such as: My theory, New information (from
reading), I need to understand, and so forth (see the opened note in Figure 1). For the purpose
of this study, all codes related to reading were pooled together in search of substantive
connections, leading to the inductive aggregation of the codes into fewer more encompassing
themes representing important facets of reading practice in the knowledge building
community. The initial themes were then refined, elaborated, and validated through theme to
theme, theme to data, data to data comparison.
Results
In the light inquiry, a total of 168 notes (excluding the 66 portfolio notes) were
contributed to the seven views in Knowledge Forum, with each student authoring 8.45 notes
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on average. In each view, the students identified deeper questions, contributed ideas, and
examined the ideas using data, leading to progress of understanding. Deeper challenges were
further identified by the students as the understanding deepened. For example, in the view of
“Colors of Light and Rainbows,” the students progressively examined how rainbows are
created, why the colors are always in the same order, primary and secondary colors, and how
we see colors. The student discourse addressed all the concepts expected for Grade 4 in the
Ontario Curriculum as well as many issues expected for Grades 6 and 8, such as light waves,
color vision, concave and convex lenses, the law of reflection, and so forth. Individual
knowledge advancement was assessed through the content analysis of student portfolio notes.
Repeated measures ANOVAs indicated significant growth of the students’ optical
understanding across the three months as rated based on epistemic complexity (F (2, 42) =
69.20, p < .001, partial η 2 = .77) and scientific sophistication (F (2, 42) = 70.60, p < .001,
partial η 2 = .77) (see detailed report in Zhang & Messina, 2010).
Analysis of the classroom videos, online discourse, and the teacher’s reflection journal
using a grounded theory approach helped to characterize student reading along four themes,
which are elaborated below.
Reading for the Purpose of Advancing Community Knowledge
In addition to using reading as a means to answering personal questions and addressing
individual learning needs, reading in the knowledge building community became a social and
community action to address collective knowledge goals. The students collaboratively defined
and evolved their specific knowledge goals related to understanding light, which were
represented using a list of questions (e.g., how shadows work, how lenses work, how are
rainbows created). New views were created in Knowledge Forum corresponding to the
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emergent knowledge goals. The students monitored progress and gaps in their communal
knowledge space. Identification of gaps and weak areas led to individual and collaborative
actions to advance understanding, with reading as an important means.
For instance, through a whole class conversation, the community identified major inquiry
goals and represented the goals using a list of focal problems. Among the problems was how
plants adapt to light. Two weeks later, a student searched the Knowledge Forum database
where the collective knowledge and work is represented, but found no contribution addressing
this problem. He mentioned this knowledge gap to the community and the teacher, leading to
the following conversation and further actions of reading and inquiry.
T (Teacher): … Now, what are the questions that people asked originally…? [One] was
“do plants adapt to light?” … But somebody did a search and he or she could not get any
notes about that. … Was that you [looking at a student]? See, this is from a Grade 9
book, something called “Plants React to Light.” It’s interesting, and this really nice
diagram [pointing to a page]. Would anyone be interested in doing a [cooperative
reading] around that?
S1: Oh, I would.
T: Who would like to join S1? … Remember we need titles, [keywords] for a paragraph,
and you underline [key information]… Quite interesting here, it talks about water and
oxygen and carbon dioxide and simple sugars food plants making…
S2: I’ll read that.
T: Would you be interested in doing that? OK, maybe the two of you could go together.
The two students volunteered to form into a temporary group to read the book about how
18
plants react to light. They engaged in discussions to make sense of the text and develop ideas
to address the aforementioned knowledge gap. They then co-authored a note in Knowledge
Forum to share the key ideas with the community (Figure 2).
______________
Insert Figure 2 about here
______________
In the above example, the teacher highlighted a knowledge gap of the community that had
been originally identified by a student (i.e., no note addressing how plants adapt to light). To
enable further inquiry addressing this gap, he found and brought in relevant reading material,
connected the material to existing student work and ideas, and highlighted key points of the
material as an advanced organizer (“Quite interesting here, it talks about…”). He, then,
invited students to form into a cooperative group to co-understand the difficult text, and
reminded and modeled reading strategies they might use (e.g., keywords, underlining). New
information obtained through the reading was synthesized and contributed to the Knowledge
Forum database for continual discussion and idea development, helping to bridge reading,
writing, and face-to-face and online discussions.
The teacher explicitly designed his class in light the principle of collective responsibility
for knowledge advancement (Scardamalia, 2002; Zhang et al., 2009). He engaged his students
in metacognitive discussions about how they could advance the knowledge of the community
instead of only individual learning. The students found and read materials that could address
the community’s needs and might not directly relate to the questions they were personally
researching. As the teacher said in the beginning of a whole class conversation:
T: … Normally students would go and ask for a reading or get a reading to answer a
19
question that that student was researching. On Friday you didn’t do that. On Friday, we
just sort of said: Yeah, I’d like to read about that or I’d like to read about that, maybe not
even answering your specific question but answering someone else’s question that we got
from the [Knowledge Forum] database. [inaudible] getting new information and not even
realizing that the new information was gonna be helpful to you specifically, but you
knew it might be helpful to someone in our community here. So that was great.
Reading as Progressive Problem Solving
The reading practice integrated in knowledge building went far beyond comprehending
what was presented in the text to involve sustained chains of progressive problem solving,
with deeper challenges and problems identified as their understanding advanced (Bereiter,
2002). This process of progressive problem solving led to deeper interpretation and analysis
of the text, student-generated experiments and observations, and extended dialogues.
For instance, in a video episode, two girls and a boy worked as a small group to read a
book chapter about refraction of light. They designed an experiment based on what they had
read: They used a glass jar half filled with water, put a rod in the jar and adjusted its position,
observed the rod from different angles, and talked about their observations. They frequently
went back to the book to revisit related information. Each student had a notebook on the desk
and frequently took notes in it. Their observation confirmed the scientific principle presented
in the book about light refraction and also led them to identifying a puzzling issue to be better
understood: The rod looked bent when observed from aside, but did not look so bent when
observed from above. The book did not tell anything about such difference, which caused live
discussions in this small group. One of the students called the teacher, who was working with
20
another group, to join them. The teacher was fascinated by the students’ problem of
understanding, about which he did not have a ready answer. He quickly browsed what the
students had read and observed the rod from different angles and, then, co-analyzed the
experiment with the students.
T [holding up the water jar, observing while talking]: It also happens in here. It also
seems to be happening in here, look. Does it look bent? Well, we’re trying to read why
that happens… Let’s offer some theories before we read this… Why do we think it looks
bent when we look at it in the water?
[Students gave a few ideas]
T: Look what it [the book] says here. [Reading the text] “This is a glass rod… It seems to
be made of separate parts.” [Pointing to a figure in the book] Part 1, 2 and 3. [Continuing
reading the text] “This happens because light hits different parts of the rod.” So look at
this [sentence]. “Light from different parts of the rod passes through…[inaudible] the
combination.” [Pointing to different part of the rod in the figure] What is this passing
through? So what is the light that’s hitting that passing through?
S1: The glass.
T: Glass? Only glass here, here? And what? And from here? … So here it says: “Light
from different parts of the rod passes through different combinations of water, glass and
air. Each time it moves from one substance to another, it is bent.”
Students over talking: Oh, oh! …
The teacher and the students then co-analyzed what the light reflected from the rod passes
21
through when they observed from different angles to understand why the rod looked bent in
different ways. Their conversation further extended the principle of light refraction to
explaining why convex lenses concentrate light, followed by productive discourse in the
classroom and online in Knowledge Forum. The two seemingly different phenomena—rod
bending and lens concentrating—were connected up through the underlying principle.
In another example, the students were interested in how rainbows are made. Through
reading related texts and conducting experiments with prisms, they realized that rainbows in
the sky are created by raindrops acting like prisms that split white light into different colors. A
question was then asked: why are the colors in rainbows always in the same order? This
question led to extended discussions that resulted in further insight in the connection between
color order in rainbows and a seemingly different topic—wavelength of light—about which
several students had read a book chapter several weeks before.
As the literature suggests, when using books as sources in inquiry learning, students often
treat information from books as the authoritative answer. Productive knowledge building
requires students to view and use sources in the same way that scientists do: to identify useful
ideas that can be drawn upon and come up with unanswered questions and challenges
(Collins, 1998). In both examples shown above, the students did not simply find and
comprehend the text as the answer, but constantly monitored their new understanding and
identified what needed to be further understood. Such constructive processing of text went
beyond the classroom sessions when the students were directly interacting with the text and
was further embedded in the sustained chains of inquiry over multiple weeks or even months,
leading to increasingly elaborated and complicated understanding.
Reading Embedded in Knowledge-Building Discourse
22
The students’ productive use of text for progressive problem solving was often actualized
and augmented through their collaborative knowledge-building discourse: idea-centered
discourse that led to not only sharing of information but transformation of knowledge and
continual refinement of ideas. Such discourse occurred during small group reading, which
further triggered whole class conversations and extended discourse, online and offline. Ideas,
information, and terms from text were collaboratively processed and revisited and further
used as conceptual tools to leverage extended conversation and conceptual advancement,
woven into the unfolding intellectual history of the community.
The deepening inquiry of light led the students to finding and reading many materials,
including those written for students of higher grade levels. Small-group cooperative reading
was used as a strategy to help students comprehend difficult text. The aforementioned group
reading and experiment on light bending provides a specific example. Members in a group co-
read a text, discussed problems that the text might address, underlined and summarized key
information, and figured out what it meant to their work in relation to the problems and ideas
the community had been working on. To deepen and examine their understanding, they often
co-designed and conducted experiments and observations side by side with their reading/re-
reading of the text.
New thoughts developed through individual and group reading often led to
improvisational whole-class conversations. New ideas were shared and further examined,
interpreted, and refined, with deeper challenges identified informing further inquiry. For
example, on a morning in the classroom, the students were working in several spontaneous
groups to read materials and conduct self-generated experiments. Three girls were reading a
book chapter about light reflection and color vision. They discussed their understanding and
23
each occasionally wrote down key information and related thoughts in a notebook. Then, they
approached their teacher to share their findings and questions. The teacher was very excited
and called the whole class for a conversation—“Knowledge Building Talk” as the teacher and
his students called it.
T: Could we all get together for a KB [Knowledge Building] Talk? S1 just said
something that I thought was so amazing. So go ahead.
S1: Well S2 and I had a problem, ‘cause we were reading about how white light shines
only the true color of the object it bounces off. Well she had a problem. She said: “Well,
how does the light know which color to bounce off?” And I thought well maybe we can’t
see color, maybe we can only see color when light shines on it and bounces off.
S3: Did she write a note about that [in Knowledge Forum]?
T: Not yet. Not yet. But what do you think about that, her theory, that we don’t see… So
this green board can only appear green if there is light bouncing off. Do you agree with
S1?
S4: Yeah, we can only…[several other students talking simultaneously]
[S4 turns off the classroom light.]
S4: Look! Look! You can still see it. [Students observe the green board.]
T: If we covered up, blacked out this room completely.
S4: It would be grey, black and white. I mean…
S5: Yeah, because no light can get in here and you can’t see anything.
S4: Yeah, because you need light to see. Yeah, it would be grey and black.
T: So do we need light to see? And what about to see color?
S1: Yeah, you need light to see, except for black.
24
T: That’s really interesting.
In the above episode, the teacher listened to student ideas and captured promising ideas
as objects of emergent knowledge-building discourse. He invited student input (e.g., what do
you think about…her theory?), asked thought-provoking questions to facilitate student
reasoning (e.g., do we need light to see? And what about to see color?), and expressed
intellectual enthusiasm and interest (e.g., that’s really interesting). The students recommended
this important idea to be recorded in Knowledge Forum, which gives ideas an objectified
public representation. They conducted improvisational on-site experiments (e.g., turn off the
classroom light and observe the green board) to test the idea and collaboratively interpreted
the results, leading to important insights in the connections among a number of concepts:
reflection and absorption, colors of light, vision, and color vision. The above inquiry event
further triggered subsequent discussions and investigations.
Beyond the discourse occurring during and right after the reading of a material, the
students engaged in sustained, progressive discourse—online and offline—in which concepts,
ideas, and language obtained from reading materials were continually revisited and used to
advance their understanding. In the discourse in Knowledge Forum, the students wrote a total
of 168 notes (in addition to the 66 individual portfolio notes), among which the scaffold “New
information,” for labeling new information from reading, was used by 20 of the 22 students
for a total of 63 times. In the notes involving “New information,” the authors identified the
focal problems the new information addressed and further reasoned out new ideas (often
labeled as “My theory”) and questions (often labeled as “I need to understand”) in light of the
new information. There were 12 notes explicitly combining the scaffold “New information”
with “I need to understand” and 8 combining “New information” with “My theory.” These
25
results show that the students’ writing was not simply telling and sharing what they had
learned from the readings, but transforming their knowledge for deeper explanations and
understanding (Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1987; Sun et al., 2010). Information and ideas
contributed in Knowledge Forum were constantly referred to and built upon by peers in the
subsequent online and face-to-face discourse. As a specific example, in the Knowledge
Forum view called “Where Light Goes and How,” a conceptual thread of discourse focused
on how light travels through certain materials, extended over three weeks (see Figure 3 for
selective entries).
__________________
Insert Figure 3 about here
__________________
The discourse on how light travels through certain materials began with CF’s note about
an incidental observation indicating that light can go through some materials but not others,
attempting to understand how these materials are different, and why. Among the follow-up
contributions, SG introduced new information from a reading and explicitly identified the two
types of materials as “transparent” and “opaque.” RP’s note, also involving “New
information” from reading, further elaborated transparent and opaque materials and
additionally introduced translucent materials, followed by GM’s note that gave an explicit
definition of each. Thus, these concepts were not merely treated as definitions for the students
to comprehend and share, but became language tools and thinking devices (Wertsch, 1998)
that the students could use to explicate and formalize their thinking and leverage deepening
discourse. Chains of progressive problems were raised and discussed connecting up related
knowledge themes, such as: Why can light go through thick glass but not thin tin foil? How
26
do colors of materials affect whether light can go through? Why does transparent water reflect
light since light can go through it? The above online discussions extended into further
classroom discussions and experiments.
To foster productive use of reading for sustained knowledge-building discourse, the
teacher encouraged his students to generate problems of understanding and contribute ideas
early on before they engaged in reading. He engaged his students in epistemic discussions
about proper attitudes toward books, avoiding seeing books as the end answers. When
introducing reading materials and co-reading with the students, he modeled connecting
reading to students' questions and ideas that had emerged from the classroom work and online
discussions (e.g., I’m interested in what X said earlier about…). In classroom discussions and
inquiry activities, he made connections to what the students had read earlier to promote
transfer and conceptual advancement, with the students constantly making similar
connections.
Reading as Dialogues between Local Understanding and Knowledge Out in the World
Student engagement in thinking and discoursing with reading further enabled reflective
dialogues between the local understanding of the student community and knowledge in the
larger world, such as that produced by the scientist communities and by peer classrooms with
which the students had a chance to interact. Before the Grade 4 light inquiry, a class of Grade
5/6 students at the same school had investigated seasons using Knowledge Forum. Their work
on seasons involved observing and analyzing changes of shadows in relation to the position of
the sun. With the consent of the Grade 5/6 students, the Grade 4 students in this study read
their discussions in Knowledge Forum and built on their work to investigate how shadows are
made and why shadows change in size. As the students read prior work of peer classrooms
27
and professional text about research and concepts in optics, they reflected on their own ideas
and understanding and monitored conceptual consistency and tensions. Consistent theories
and observations from the outside communities were summarized and used by the students to
support and extend their ideas. Inconsistencies were identified stimulating the need of further
idea development. For example, the light inquiry led the students to the understanding of
white light being a mixture of different colors. Then, they wondered why human eyes cannot
see the colors “hidden” in white light. A student came up with a theory that caught her peers’
interest, hypothesizing that this is because light travels too fast so that the colors can only be
seen when the light is slowed down somehow. She then read Newton’s work in optics, which
partially supports the above idea but also poses a conceptual challenge, as she indicated in the
following note (Figure 4). Conceptual dialogues as such created productive opportunities for
deep understanding and continual idea advancement.
___________________
Insert Figure 4 about here
___________________
Discussion
The present study investigates reading practice in an elementary science classroom that
implements the knowledge building pedagogy and technology (Scardamalia & Bereiter,
2006). The tracing of student conversations in Knowledge Forum and the content analysis of
their individual portfolio notes demonstrated productive knowledge advancement achieved by
the community. Among other classroom processes enabling the collaborative productivity
(see Zhang & Messina, 2010 for the compressive analyses), the students’ deep engagement in
28
reading became an essential means to sustained and collaborative idea advancement. The
qualitative analysis of the classroom videos, discourse records, and teacher reflections helped
to characterize the reading practice along four dimensions that appear to be inextricably
connected: reading for the purpose of advancing community knowledge; as progressive
problem solving; embedded in sustained knowledge-building discourse; and as dialogues
between local understanding and knowledge in the larger world. Drawing on the data analysis,
the discussion section elaborates the classroom processes of reading for collaborative idea
advancement along with the teacher’s role in these processes.
Elaborating the Practice of Reading in a Knowledge Building Community
Earlier studies on reading in content areas primarily focused on reading for
comprehending and interpreting information from text and other media. The latest literature
additionally highlights peer interaction surrounding text to construct and share knowledge
(Cervetti et al., 2006; Guthrie, 2004; Palincsar & Magnusson, 2001) and engaging students in
inquiry-oriented reading in line with how reading is approached in real world knowledge
communities (Phillips & Norris, 2009). This study contributes to elaborating reading for
collaborative idea advancement in an elementary knowledge building community drawing on
rich and extended data collection. Different from many programs to integrate reading with
disciplinary inquiry (e.g., Perencevich, 2004), the knowledge building community framework
engages students in collaborative efforts to advance community knowledge beyond individual
learning. Students take on high-level responsibility for goal setting, long-term planning, and
improvisational process control instead of following through predefined scripts for searching
and integrating information. Reading for collaborative idea advancement in this context
involves constructive comprehension of text and peer sharing and further requires deeper
29
epistemic and social engagement. Comprehending, integrating, and sharing information from
text is neither the beginning nor the end of inquiry, but integral to sustained creative practices
that are centered on collective and continual advancement of knowledge.
In a knowledge building community, reading is not only a means to enriching individual
knowledge and answering personal questions, but becomes a community action to address
gaps and challenges in the community’s knowledge space (Scardamalia et al., 1994) that
represents the shared, evolving history of ideas. Taking collective responsibility for advancing
the community’s knowledge requires a much deeper epistemic engagement of students than
being an independent, self-regulated reader, which represents a common pursuit of most
recent reading programs (Palincsar, 2003). In addition to monitoring and regulating their
comprehension of the text, students need to reflect on how the information from the text may
contribute to addressing their collective knowledge goals, in what ways the information
supports or challenges existing ideas in their community space, what pieces of information are
still missing and what deeper problems and challenges lie ahead, for themselves and for the
community as a whole.
Reading, thus, becomes a sustained process of progressive problem solving. This
process is consistent with the perspective of reading as active reasoning, problem solving, and
inquiry in general (Anderson, 1984; Thorndike, 1917; Phillips & Norris, 2009); but it involves
much deeper and more transformative operations at both the individual and community levels.
The learners in this study not only detected and addressed information gaps and problems
directly hindering their comprehension of the text (e.g., understanding unfamiliar words); they
continually drew upon what they had understood to identify deeper problems of
understanding that required conceptual inquiry beyond the text per se (e.g., why does the rod
30
only look bent when observed from a certain angle? why are rainbow colors always in the
same order?). To address such problems, the students spontaneously designed, conducted, and
discussed experiments often side by side with their re-reading of text, enabling the interplay
between firsthand and text-based investigations (Palincsar & Magnusson, 2001). As Kuipers
(1994) said: “Both commonsense and expert knowledge are always incomplete. No one
understands down to the last detail how any mechanism actually works.” (p. 1) Textbooks and
other materials only present partial knowledge. Students as knowledge builders need to
engage in progressive problem finding and solving to identify important information that is
missing and engage in sustained deepening understanding drawing on the text. Such efforts of
problem solving and knowledge extrapolation have been identified as indicators of
constructive learning from text at an individual level through thinking protocol analysis
(Chan, Burtis, Scardamalia, & Bereiter, 1992). The current study further elaborates such
constructive processes in an authentic classroom context of collaborative and sustained
knowledge building that extended over multiple months. The students endorsed progressive
problem solving and knowledge extrapolation as a collaborative and continuous effort, which
helped them to better understand and re-contextualize what the text presented (e.g., the light
bending example), co-construct cross-theme connections beyond the text, and identify and
work on increasingly sophisticated ideas and problems. Student ideas and sustained idea
advancement, not the text or other authoritative sources, came to the center of the stage.
Progressive problem solving lies at the heart of creative and adaptive expertise (Bereiter,
2002; Hatano & Inagaki, 1986). Engaging in progressive problem solving with text helps
students to develop such expertise and learn how to make creative contributions to an ever-
advancing knowledge enterprise.
31
This process of progressive inquiry and idea improvement further gives rise to and gains
support from sustained knowledge-building discourse, both in the classroom and online.
Students engage in cooperative reading to co-analyze and understand difficult text and
connect the new information to the focal problems and ongoing inquiry work of the
community. Important reading information and ideas generated are then shared and further
examined, interpreted, re-conceptualized, and built upon to enable further idea development.
Deeper issues are collectively identified and discussed leading to the formulation of deeper
inquiry goals. Key concepts and terms obtained from readings are constantly referred to in
the subsequent discourse and used by students as tools to formalize, clarify, expand, and
advance their understanding.
Reading professional text and knowledge building work from peer classrooms further
enables reflective dialogues between local understanding and knowledge out in the world.
Such dialogues help to connect students to the larger networks of knowledge communities
that may provide intellectual resources, stimulation, and discourse and inscription tools in a
specific domain area. Consistent ideas and information are utilized to support, enrich, and
extend student current understanding; conceptual inconsistencies are reflected upon informing
deeper examination and exploration of ideas.
Pedagogical Design and the Teacher’s Role
The pedagogical designs implemented in this study focused on enhancing students’
epistemic agency to formulate deepening inquiry and collective responsibility for sustained
advancement of community knowledge (Scardamalia, 2002). To this end, an opportunistic
collaboration and participatory structure was adopted to encourage co-planning and co-
adjustment of knowledge building processes (Zhang et al., 2009), supported by the adjustable
32
and interconnected online knowledge spaces and interaction tools in Knowledge Forum. The
teacher engaged in the process as a co-knowledge builder to leverage and catalyze community
interactions (e.g. building-on, challenging, connecting, reviewing of ideas) by which the
community could sustain itself for productive knowledge building (see Zhang & Messina,
2010 for comprehensive analysis of the teacher’s role). He engaged in deep listening to and
reading of student ideas, highlighted important historical connections of ideas in the
community, co-formulated deepening knowledge goals and deeper inquiries with his students.
Specifically pertaining to reading, he introduced new readings by reviewing student-identified
challenges, questions, and related ideas; provoked student initial questions, ideas, and
discussions before they read the material; consulted student interest to formulate spontaneous
reading groups; participated in the small groups to co-analyze and highlight key information
from text, model various reading strategies and help students who were challenging readers.
In all contexts, such as experiments and discussions, he helped the students to realize
connections between their current work and what they had read earlier, so as to enable
productive use of text as thinking device (Wertsch, 1998).
Knowledge Forum integral to the above pedagogical designs played a critical role in
enabling productive reading along with the collaborative knowledge building practice, as a
whole. It provided a communal online knowledge space that gave student ideas—and, thus,
their community knowledge—a public and objectified representation, transcending the
boundaries of time (e.g., grades 1 to 4), grouping structures (different small groups,
classrooms), and activity contexts (e.g., reading, experiment, discussion). The online
interaction tools (e.g., build-on, rise-above) and scaffolds (e.g., My theory, New information,
I need to understand) further encouraged progressive examination, refinement, and re-
33
conceptualization of ideas as explicit objects of community discourse. The students recorded
their ideas, problems of understanding, key information from reading, and empirical works in
Knowledge Forum as discourse entries. They did so in much the same way as how students
created notebook entries in the study of Palincsar and Magnusson (2001), but in a public form
in a shared and accumulative database. As a result, the entries were instantly shared with
peers and further built upon and referred to in the subsequent inquiry and discussions,
enabling sustained investigation and accumulative advancement of ideas. With the students’
contributions and advancements evident in the evolving online knowledge space, the need to
organize presentations and teach/share with peers as a culminating task—a common design
used in the reading and inquiry programs reviewed in the beginning of this article—was
minimized.
Conclusions
Reading for collaborative advancement of ideas represents an important competency
that is needed for engaging in creative knowledge practices in the 21st century. The present
study contributes to elaborating classroom processes and instructional support by which
students can engage in such reading practice as a part of their disciplinary knowledge
building. Along with our previous work (Sun et al., 2010), this study suggests that high-level
literacy—productive reading and writing, sophisticated vocabulary, visual representation of
ideas—integral to creative and collaborative knowledge practices can be developed as early as
from primary grades, co-advancing with basic literacy skills and disciplinary learning.
Reading in science and other content areas tends to focus on understanding isolated
terms and factual information and often lacks idea-centered reasoning and discourse (Phillips
& Norris, 2009). In enhanced programs and high-performing science classrooms, we may see
34
certain signs of the four aspects of reading elaborated in this study such as contributive
interpretation and discussion of text. Examining the knowledge building community
supported by Knowledge Forum provided a unique opportunity to observe such reading
practice in depth through extensive data collection. The four facets of reading for idea
advancement characterize reading integral to the unfolding intellectual history of a
community in support of its continuous effort for deepening understanding and advancing
knowledge in a domain area. Reading in the moment of the reader interacting with the text
involve active inquiry and processing; The epistemic level and scope of such inquiry is
substantially increased when student reading is embedded in a dynamic social context of
student-driven knowledge building and creation, stimulated by and contributing to students'
continual idea advancement over multiple weeks, months, or even years. The four interrelated
facets of reading elaborated in this article can be used to guide classroom designs to enable
student productive use of text and other sources for knowledge building in science and
potentially other content areas, employing the specific teacher support strategies elaborated in
the results. To enabled productive reading for idea advancement, emerging programs to build
connections between literacy and disciplinary inquiry needs to engage students in advancing
communal, collective knowledge through sustained problem solving and discourse and move
beyond a pre-scripted, simplistic model of inquiry. Electronic knowledge spaces and
interaction tools designed in light of principles of collaborative learning and knowledge
building may provide strong support for both content inquiry and literacy practice.
Although the content analysis of the students’ portfolio notes indicated individual
progress in content understanding, the analysis of reading focused on the classroom processes
as a whole and did not trace individual performance and change. Fortunately, our recent
35
longitudinal study (Sun et al., 2010) focusing on a previous student cohort taught by the same
teacher provided this sort of data. The analyses revealed the growing use and diffusion of
sophisticated vocabulary and concepts in student online discourse, which was positively
correlated with the individuals’ literacy tests and scientific understanding. Future work needs
to further elaborate reading for idea advancement among students of different grade levels and
in various content areas; and investigate specific pedagogical design issues (e.g., textbook,
technological support, assessment) to engage students in productive reading and writing in
support of disciplinary knowledge building.
Acknowledgements
The reported work was supported by the Faculty Research Award Program of the
University at Albany. We owe special thanks to the teacher, Richard Messina, and his
students at the Institute of Child Study of the University of Toronto for their fascinating work
enabling this research. We also extend our thanks to Jane Wilde for her assistance in data
analysis and to the anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions.
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Figures
Figure 1. Student discourse in the Lenses and Sight view in Knowledge Forum. Each square
icon represents a note; a line between two notes indicates a build-on. The opened note, by RP,
contributed new information from a reading explaining how we see colors, labeled with the
scaffold of “New information.”
45
Light and plants
by: LL, CF Last modified: May 16
Problem: How do plant[s] adapt to light?
<New information Green plants capture energy from the sun and use it to make their own
food. And use this food to grow. [P]hotosynthesis energy from sunlight is capture by the
chlorophy[ll] in plant cells. Energy is then [used] to make food energy from carbon
dioxide and water. A plant uses the sugars and oxygen it has made to give it energy to
s[u]rvive. A plant produces more food then it uses. This excess food is stored in the
plants roots, stems, and leaves. When other living things eat plants, they are able to obtain
this excess food. >
Figure 2. A note co-authored by two students contributing new information from what they
had read. “<New information>” is a scaffold in Knowledge Forum, under the scaffold set for
theory development.
46
Two types of materials for light
by: CF Last modified: Apr 28
Problem: How does light travel through certain materials?
<My theory: I noticed something happen when CN left his flashlight on the table. The
light went through a plastic bin and hit a wooden container. I think that light travels
through certain materials like light-colored plastic and thin paper but not stuff like tin foil
or thick book covers. Light will not go through: wood, dark colored plastic, whole books.
Light does go through paper, paper back book covers. I think there are two groups of
materials when it comes to light: stuff that light can go through and stuff that light can't.
>
<I need to understand: why light can go through certain materials even thick ones but
not through other materials? >
Why Light can't Travel Through Tinfoil
by: JR Last modified: May 20
Problem: How does light travel through certain materials?
<My theory: I think light can't go through tinfoil because tinfoil is a reflective
material. The light reflects off of the tinfoil like a mirror. >
Opaque and transparent
by: SG Last modified: May 6
Problem: How does light travel through certain materials?
"I agree with JR light bounces off shiny materials like tin foil. Tin foil acts
like a mirror. Tin foil is solid and so that means light can't travel through
it. " (quoting AR’s note) <New information: Light travels in a straight
47
line until it hits an object if the object is opaque like wood , the light is
interrupted . If the object is transparent like a piece of glass then it passes
through. > <I need to understand: is there 2 different kinds of opaque
one that light bounces off and one that it just stops. >
Three types
by: RP Last modified: May 9
Problem: How does light travel through certain materials?
<New information: CF, there are tree types of materials in light. Transparent,
Translucent and Opaque. Transparent is something like glass, Translucent is
something like frosted glass and opaque is something like wood. >
it has to do with the color too
by: TS Last modified: May 12
Problem: How does light travel through certain materials?
<My theory: it may but it all so has to do with the color[.] Like if you have a
black shirt light would not be able to go through[,] but if the shirt were a lighter
color like white[,] it would. >
Transparent, Translucent, Opaque
by: GM Last modified: May 16
Problem: How does light travel through certain materials?
<New information: Transparent things are things that light can go through.
Translucent things are things that light can go through but not that much.
Opaq[u]e objects are objects that light can’t go through. >
(untitled)
by: SR Last modified: May 22
Problem: what is transparent, translucent and opaq[u]e?
48
<Putting our knowledge together: I think water is transparent because light does go
through[.] But how does reflection happen? >...
Figure 3. A conceptual thread of online discussion focused on how light interact with different
materials. Italic words are scaffold labels in Knowledge Forum. An indented note was a build-
on note responding to the preceding note.
49
LIGHT IS WHITE BECAUSE IT TRAVELS TOO FAST TO SEE
by: GJ Last modified: May 09
Problem: Why light changes colors when it goes through a prism?
< New information Newton discovered that when you shine light through a
prism, the light
changes colors. >
<My theory is that light travels too fast to see the colors so it looks white to us
but when it goes
through a prism, the prism slows down the light and we are able to see the
colors. >
<New information Newton also discovered that if you put another prism after
the first prism, the
colored light would become white light again. >
<I need to understand why would the colored light become white again in the
second prism? If
light is white when it travels fast and if a prism slows down light, then two
prisms should not
make white light? Do you have a theory to explain this? >
Figure 4. A student’s note in Knowledge Forum involving a dialogue between her theory and
the work of Newton. Italic words are scaffold labels in Knowledge Forum.
50
... Knowledge Building (KB) is an established theory in the learning sciences that has gained prominence among researchers for supporting collaborative learning in science classrooms (Chen 2017;Hong and Lin 2019;Chan 2018a, 2018b;Tao and Zhang 2018;Zhang and Sun 2011;Zhang et al. 2009Zhang et al. , 2018. A central tenet of KB is the notion of collective idea improvement, which has been shown to benefit young students in elementary science classrooms. ...
... A central tenet of KB is the notion of collective idea improvement, which has been shown to benefit young students in elementary science classrooms. For example, Zhang and Sun (2011) documented that grade 4 (year 4) students demonstrated productive advancement (improvement) of scientific understanding on the topic of light when engaged in a KB environment. Similarly, Tao and Zhang (2018) showed that a community of grade 5 students learnt to co-construct shared structures of inquiry about human body systems and improved in science understanding when engaged in ongoing discussions and reflections in Knowledge Forum (KF). ...
Article
This case study explores how a science teacher adopted knowledge building and learning analytics to support a class of primary five students to collaboratively inquire and learn about electricity. Specifically, we aim to understand how the teacher implemented a lesson design guided by knowledge building principles of idea improvement and community knowledge and how he used visualisations from an analytics tool to facilitate students in collaborative inquiry in science. We collected student notes from their online discourse in Knowledge Forum, video-recorded a total of 11 lesson videos and conducted interviews with the teacher and students. We found that students’ online discussion reflected explanation-seeking questions to sustain the inquiry on the topic and explanations to deepen and improve their ideas on concepts of electricity. We also found that the visualisations from our analytics tool supported (i) teacher-facilitated whole-class discussions on curriculum keywords and student ideas to develop conceptual understanding and idea-building, and (ii) students in exploring science ideas they were interested in. The findings from our study contribute to the understanding of teachers’ enactment of inquiry-supported pedagogies in primary science classrooms.
... Some studies have been conducted in elementary schools to identify the type of scaffolding used by teachers in controlled situations (Bustos, Montenegro, Tapia, & Calfual, 2017;Lutz, Guthrie, & Davis, 2006;Zhang & Sun, 2011). Bustos et al. (2017) observed nine third, fifth, and seventh grade teachers (classified as outstanding, competent, and basic according to the Chilean performance evaluation) reading academic texts with their students in the areas of language, history, and natural science. ...
... The study carried out by Zhang and Sun (2011) characterises the ways in which knowledge is constructed and describes the strategies used by teachers experienced in reading narrative texts in virtual and face-to-face encounters with 22 fourth grade students. The students' constrution was analysed by means of collaborative discourse in the knowledge forum and notes from the individual activities' portfolio. ...
Presentation
El seminario tuvo como objetivo reflexionar sobre las posibilidades y desafíos al abordar la lectura y su comprensión como herramienta epistémica en la enseñanza y aprendizaje de áreas científicas en el sistema escolar y universitario asimismo difundir resultados de investigación sobre estas temáticas y preocupaciones. El video completo de la actividad puede descargarlo en: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDOS1cF2q34
... In an extensive review of Knowledge Building (KB) research in the past 30 years , there have been only limited empirical studies conducted within non-Asian learning contexts that were broadly related to reading literacy (e.g., see Pelletier, Reeve, & Halewood, 2006;Sun, Zhang, & Scardamalia, 2008;Sun, Zhang, & Scardamalia, 2010a, 2010bZhang & Sun, 2011). These studies indicate that elementary school students' reading, writing, and related activities on KF are positively related with vocabulary growth (Chen, Ma, Matsuzawa, & Scardamalia, 2015;Sun et al., 2010aSun et al., , 2010b, reading skills (Zhang & Sun, 2011) and essay writing (Lin, Hong, & Ma, 2019). ...
... In an extensive review of Knowledge Building (KB) research in the past 30 years , there have been only limited empirical studies conducted within non-Asian learning contexts that were broadly related to reading literacy (e.g., see Pelletier, Reeve, & Halewood, 2006;Sun, Zhang, & Scardamalia, 2008;Sun, Zhang, & Scardamalia, 2010a, 2010bZhang & Sun, 2011). These studies indicate that elementary school students' reading, writing, and related activities on KF are positively related with vocabulary growth (Chen, Ma, Matsuzawa, & Scardamalia, 2015;Sun et al., 2010aSun et al., , 2010b, reading skills (Zhang & Sun, 2011) and essay writing (Lin, Hong, & Ma, 2019). When it comes to developing higher-level reading comprehension skills, it remains to be explored whether young students, particularly third-grade students, would benefit more from direct instruction or sustained Knowledge Building discussions supported by KF technology. ...
Article
In the digital age, reading literacy, and particularly, higher-level reading comprehension involved in making sense of information from multiple sources online is an important educational challenge. This study explores designs for teaching reading to third graders in Taiwan. Over the course of a semester, the experimental group engaged in an innovative technology-supported approach called Knowledge Building (KB), while the comparison group engaged in the traditional approach of direct instruction. Statistical analyses reveal that students in the KB class outperformed their counterparts on the PIRLS reading assessment at the end of the semester. Additional quantitative and qualitative analyses indicate that the use of Knowledge Forum technology in the KB class supported the development of higher-level reading comprehension skills through sustaining creative, collaborative work with ideas. Implications for teaching new literacies and digital competencies in computer-supported collaborative learning environments are discussed.
... Seitamaa-Hakkarainen et al. (2010) also used Knowledge Forum affordances to orchestrate learner's inquiry practices for designing new artifacts. Likewise, Zhang and Sun (2011) used this platform as a space for supporting reading practices in science where students could contribute with their own ideas, examine their peers' , as well as revise, combine, synthesize, and build up new ideas. In both studies, Knowledge Forum provided an on-line space of permanent dialogue and streamlined insights through sustained knowledge-building discourse and management of group flow. ...
... Interactive digital platforms have been the most frequent devices in the studies analyzed when performing this kind of activity (see Figure 3) probably to facilitate ease of sharing, building and reflecting on ideas in a visual way. For instance, Zhang and Sun (2011) use Knowledge Forum to ask students to create new knowledge collaboratively on a science topic through reading key scientific papers. Students posed as scientists producing new knowledge through a deep understanding and interpretation of different sources. ...
Book
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Educational inequalities have strongly impacted disadvantaged and underserved populations such us indigenous, Roma, migrant children, students with disabilities, and those affected by poverty. A wide array of research has contributed to explaining the mechanisms and effects of inequalities in the achievement patterns, dropout rates, disengagement in the school experiences of children and youth traditionally excluded. Research also suggests the negative consequences for child development – including cognitive, language, and social–emotional functioning – of poverty and lack of quality education in the early years. Consequently, the current unequal access to optimal learning environments for every single child to succeed in education and to have a better life perpetuates the exclusion and neglects the right to education for those minorities. This Research Topic aims at moving beyond causes and shed light upon effective solutions by providing successful pathways for integration and inclusion of the learners most heavily affected. Scholars worldwide are looking for successful actions with children, youth, and communities of learners historically underserved to overcome educational and social exclusion. These transformative approaches go beyond the deficit thinking and are grounded in theories, empirical evidence, and multidisciplinary interventions oriented towards achieving social impact, which refers to the extent to which those actions have contributed to improve a societal challenge. The international network of “Schools as Learning Communities” is advancing knowledge on deepening and expanding the impact of what has been defined as Successful Educational Actions (SEAs); that is, those interventions that improve students’ achievement and social cohesion and inclusion in many diverse contexts, regardless the socioeconomic, national, and cultural environment of schools. Drawing on the evidence generated by this network of researchers to address the global challenge of inequality by studying educational actions oriented towards achieving social impact and potentially transferrable to other contexts, this Research Topic aims at deepening on this approach. In short, our purpose is that the contributions included in this Research Topic contribute to reduce educational and social inequalities and especially benefit those populations most in need.
... However, one concept that remains time-tested is that "no matter which learning theory the teacher/designer ascribes to, communities can provide opportunities for learning" (Hoadley and Kilner 2005, 32). There are various frameworks for building community and specifically for online courses; our teaching team draws from online knowledge-building communities (Scardamalia and Bereiter 2006;Mylläri, Åhlberg, and Dillon 2010;Zhang and Sun 2011), Interaction Models (Moore 1989), and the CoI framework (Anderson and Garrison 1998;Garrison, Anderson, and Archer 1999). We chose CoI for this review because it supports the context that via the concept of presence, 1) the teacher designs and facilitates the learning environment with high levels of learning engagement, and 2) that students interact and collaborate within the classroom community, in addition to cognitively engaging in their course (Kim and Gurvitch 2020). ...
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Though there has been debate regarding the effectiveness of online teaching and learning as compared to face-to-face or in-person modalities, the online experience has gained credence and momentum (Brenneman and Karpman 2020). The COVID-19 pandemic and its resultant global lockdown warranted the closing of schools and the adoption of online teaching and learning (Zhao 2020). Online learning has become a critical option for continuous education; however, many teachers and students were unprepared for the abrupt shift from in-person teaching and learning to a fully digital and online environment, and this shift resulted in many challenges. Challenges indicated by the literature for online learning include lack of access to technology tools and skills (Beaunoyer, Dupéré, and Guitton 2020; Brenneman and Karpman 2020), creating accessible content that meets the learning needs of all students (Coombs 2010; Bagoly‐Simó, Hartmann, and Reinke 2020), feelings of isolation and low morale (Baker and Watson 2014; Chametzky 2021; Elliott 2020; Schultz and DeMers 2020), and building an online community (Ferri, Grifoni, and Guzzo 2020; Vesely, Bloom, and Sherlock 2007).
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Reading motivation can greatly impact reading comprehension, but it tends to diminish in and beyond elementary school. This study employs knowledge building pedagogy to advance reading motivation and comprehension in an elementary Chinese language arts class. Participants were twenty‐four third graders who spent one class period (ie, 40 minutes) for 18 weeks in Knowledge Forum to study 10 lessons in a reading textbook. Data mainly came from: a reading motivation questionnaire, online interaction logs, online discourse and PILRS reading comprehension assessments. It was found that knowledge building enhanced children's reading motivation (particularly in terms of reading competence) and reading comprehension (especially at the higher levels). Most students demonstrated spontaneous engagement in advanced online activities demanding high‐level agency. A correlation was also identified between children's motivation to read and more advanced online discourse behaviours requiring higher agency, leading to a deeper understanding of reading. Implications for fostering a motivated reading community that values collective knowledge advancement are discussed. What is already known about this topic Innovating classroom‐based instruction for enhancing learners' reading motivation and comprehension has been an important challenge in reading education. Reading motivation is positively associated with reading comprehension but tends to diminish in and beyond elementary school. Technology‐supported reading and learning are further enhanced by interactive online discussions among learners. Engaging learners in collective knowledge building activities can facilitate their reading comprehension. What this paper adds Learner engagement in knowledge building activities, particularly advanced online activities, is associated with higher reading motivation (especially intrinsic reading competence). The process analysis shows that learners' online discourses focus more on higher‐level reading comprehension with extended use of knowledge building pedagogy. Learners exhibit better reading comprehension across all levels of reading comprehension with the implementation of knowledge building pedagogy. Implications for practice and/or policy Knowledge building pedagogy, featuring assuming agency, working with ideas, and fostering community practices, can be a viable approach to reading motivation and comprehension. The design of digital platforms should aim not just to foster knowledge‐acquiring and ‐sharing from reading but also to extend reading into knowledge building activities that highlight idea improvement.
Article
Full-text available
With the development of technologies for reading and the rise of social reading which considers readers the core in learning and emphasizes sharing and interaction, traditional theoretical reading models are facing challenges. Social reading is a type of interactive reading activity that can activate readers’ reading and discussions, promote expressions of multiple ideas, and facilitate collaborative inquiry and knowledge building. While previous researchers proposed theories or frameworks in reading or literacy research, no specific model has been developed especially for social reading and socially shared regulation. Integrating the socially shared regulation theory into social reading and expanding the theoretical perspective of problem-solving on reading can be beneficial for constructing a new social reading model. In this study, we propose a theoretical framework, Social Reading Based on Shared Regulation (SRBSR), which can account for the details and procedures of readers’ collaborative learning and shared regulatory behaviors during social reading activities. This framework can help improve the theory of purposeful reading in the new media environment and provide future instructors and researchers an operable model for designing and developing social reading courses.
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This paper examines the alignment of education with the needs for knowledge creation in the digital age using the Knowledge Building model and Knowledge Forum® technology. Knowledge Building is akin to knowledge creation as practiced in research laboratories and other frontier-advancing organizations, with added focus on value to the individual, community, and society. Knowledge Forum has evolved with theory and pedagogy over the years, and makes knowledge-creation processes available to school-aged students. Despite reform efforts, misalignments for educational innovation continue to prevail in schooling, and changes often create more disruptions. Without a coherent framework and sustained progressive change, innovations may fail to make their way into policy and practice, creating an endless catching-up game and fragmentation at different levels. This paper draws from the Knowledge Building model and research to discuss alignments for knowledge creation in seven areas: (1) views of knowledge; (2) 21st-century educational competencies; (3) education and equity; (4) pedagogy and technology integration; (5) assessment, learning and collaboration; (6) teacher learning; and (7) student learning outcomes. Through decades of sustained design implementation research, using a systemic approach involving school-university-government alliances and globally distributed hubs of innovation, Knowledge Building teams have engaged in the reconstruction of educational practices to establish self-improving systems for continual alignments in knowledge creation. The mobilization of educational stakeholders worldwide, such as the EduSummIT, provides opportunities for bridging research and practice and educational improvements. Implications of Knowledge Building for developing self-improving systems and communities that leverage technology for realigning education in knowledge creation are discussed.
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Knowledge building occurs when students work together and participate in idea-centred discussions where they share information and create knowledge collectively. This research explores whether knowledge building in knowledge forums using English as the lingua franca can facilitate in foreign language learning. An analysis was done on how Catalan students in secondary schools worked together on collaborative writing tasks in such forums using appropriate scaffolding to organize their thoughts and facilitate the discussion. The students were participating in the Knowledge Building International Project (KBIP), which is based on the concept that students can learn while working together in computer-assisted learning environments. This study applied methods using data triangulation and method triangulation where the students were observed throughout the knowledge building process, and both qualitative and quantitative data were collected and analysed for evidence of foreign language learning. The quantitative data was collected through a pre-test and a post-test, while the qualitative data was collected through observation and a digital questionnaire. The results show an increase overall in the performance of the foreign language. In particular, the analysis determined that the comprehension of the subject matter and writing abilities in the L2 showed an increase at high confidence levels.
Article
Full-text available
M. Nystrand. (1997). Opening Dialogue: Understanding the Dynamics of Language and Learning in the English Classroom. New York: Teachers College Press.
Book
Communication Patterns of Engineers brings together, summarizes, and analyzes the research on how engineers communicate, presenting benchmark data and identifying gaps in the existing research. Written by two renowned experts in this area, the text: •Compares engineering communication patterns with those of science and medicine •Offers information on improving engineering communication skills, including the use of communication tools to address engineering departments’ concerns about the inadequacies of communication by engineers •Provides strong conclusions to address what lessons engineering educators, librarians, and communication professionals can learn from the research presented. © 2004 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. All rights reserved.
Chapter
Although written texts have always found a favoured place in educational practice, the ways in which they have been regarded, consulted, interpreted and constructed have changed importantly in this century. Texts and text books were traditionally regarded as secular Scripture, the archived treasure of the culture’s most valued knowledge. And education was defined more or less as expertise with those archival resources (Geisler, 1994). In more recent “Post-Modern” times, writing and written texts have come to be seen as merely one medium of communication among others, often in competition with television, film, computers and the internet. Correspondingly, the respect for written texts has waned along with an emphasis on competence in constructing and interpreting such texts, the skill we have traditionally defined and valued as literacy. This review is concerned with understanding what is gained and what is lost in the changing perceptions of the written word.
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Local Literacies is a unique study of everyday reading and writing. By concentrating on a selection of people in a particular community in Britain, the authors analyze how they use literacy in their day-to-day lives.This exploration provides a description of literacy at one point in time, and also reveals the nature and significance of communication to people, households and communities.Local Literacies, the first in-depth study of literacy, includes: * appendices of raw data * notes for teachers and students on how to use the book * guidance for carrying out individual researchLocal Literacies is both a theoretical work, and a practical book. It provides stimulating and informative reading for anyone interested in the nature of literacy today, particularly students, teachers and researchers.
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Local Literacies is a unique detailed study of the role of reading and writing in people’s everyday lives. By concentrating on a selection of people in a particular community in Lancaster, England, the authors analyse how they use literacy in their day-to-day lives. It follows four people in detail examining how they use local media, their participation in public life, the role of literacy in family activities and in leisure pursuits. Links are made between everyday learning and education. The study is based on an ethnographic approach to studying everyday activities and is framed in the theory of literacy as a social practice.