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Information Behavior of Collaborative Online Small Groups Engaged in Problem Solving - A doctoral dissertation proposal


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Title: Information Behavior of Collaborative Online Small Groups Engaged in Problem Solving - A doctoral dissertation proposal

Information Behavior of Collaborative Online
Small Groups Engaged in Problem Solving- A
doctoral dissertation proposal
  • Nan Zhou
  • The VMT Project
  • College of Information Science Technology
  • Drexel University

An online collaborative world for information
behavior study
  • Immediately available digital resources
  • Collaborative group as resources
  • Geographically distributed participants
  • Ways of communication shaped by the computer
  • Task structures
  • Goals of the group

Traditional settings for studies in information
  • Individual
  • Structured task
  • Focus on information seeking
  • Usually conducted on observing/recording how
    individuals as users interact with information

Question emerged
  • How will what constitutes information behavior in
    collaborative small groups be different from
    traditional settings?

Setting of this research the VMT (Virtual Math
Teams) project
  • An NSF-funded research program with collaboration
    between College of IST and the Math Forum at
  • Investigates the innovative use of online
    collaborative environments to support effective
    K-12 math discourse
  • Students work collaboratively on math problems in
    small groups within a synchronized software

How do participants do problem solving in VMT
  • Discuss and build a shared understanding of the
  • Negotiate and formulate the needs for information
  • Use different resources to obtain information
  • Ask group members
  • Recall or associate with prior experiences
  • Search external information resources
  • Make use of the environment to share and
    construct meaning of the discovered information

106 SUP is there a formula for a 60/60/60? 82904
107 AVR I have no idea 82912
108 AVR I think once we find the formula it should be pretty easy 82920
109 AVR I don't think there's a formula, though 82924
110 PIN search google 82927
111 AVR I think we find it some other way 82929
112 AVR that's what I'm doing 82931
113 SUP what does itmeans by edglengths? 82941
114 SUP jone of the 3 sides? 83023
115 AVR edgelength means length of a side 83042
116 SUP ok 83046
363 Quicksilver and i was thinking of like 9 bricks on the bottom and 4 in the middle and 1 on top 07.15.30
364 Aznx So, how should we approach this? 07.16.45
365 Aznx What can we use that we already know? 07.16.54
366 Quicksilver Layer by layer shown in a chart? 07.16.57
367 bwang8 well we can divide it into a front and a back 07.17.01
368 Aznx I'd suggest yesterday's problem. 07.17.02
369 bwang8 yeah 07.17.10
370 bwang8 using the formula from yesterday's problem 07.17.22
371 bwang8 we can figure the front and back easily 07.17.32
372 Quicksilver this 07.17.36
373 bwang8 we just need to find the center 07.17.43
374 Quicksilver Oh!! Wait...Your thinking of the kind of pyramid that is flat on one whole edge 07.18.13
375 Quicksilver I mean like a real pyramid that each layer is completely centered 07.18.32
376 Aznx Draw it. 07.18.44
377 Quicksilver i'll try 07.18.57
378 bwang8 use the rectangle tool, it's easier 07.19.24
379 Aznx Yeah. 07.19.32
380 Quicksilver k 07.19.33
381 bwang8 o ic 07.19.44
382 Quicksilver top view 07.19.49
383 Quicksilver something like that 07.20.16
384 bwang8 i c what you mean 07.20.19
385 Quicksilver do u aznx? 07.20.27
386 Aznx Since we're both in Spanish class, are you saying something what the Aztecs made? 07.20.30
Issues emerged from VMT chat practice
  • Provided the dual interactional spaces, how do
    participants manage to achieve co-construction of
    information needs, information sharing, and
    making meaning of information?
  • How do they reconcile the differences in the use
    of math terms or terms that are made relevant in
    the math context?
  • As users of the Math Forum, do they make use of
    the digital library provided by MF? How
    successful are their experiences?
  • How do they use wiki as a community resource to
    build on each others ideas to solve problem?

Research Questions
  • 1. Do small collaboration groups in a synchronous
    computer-supported environment exhibit
    distinctive patterns in their information
    behavior as compared to individual actors?
  • 2. How is the groups information behavior
    interwoven in its problem-solving and
    knowledge-construction process?
  • 3. How can access to information facilitate
    co-construction of knowledge in an online math
  • 4. How can the collaboration environment and
    information resources be designed to help
    students to learn mathematics collaboratively?

Related work on information behavior
  • Large body of literature, mainly on information
    seeking (Belkin, Bates, Kuhlthau, Dervin Nilan,
    Chatman, Agosto, etc) take this off
  • Collaborative IB has been investigated in library
    context, academic settings, professional
    settings, everyday life context (Hertzum, Fidel,
    Bruce, Sonnenwald Pierce, Prekop, Hyldegard,
  • Not much work in how information behavior is
    performed collectively in a synchronous setting
    individuals are still the unit of analysis tend
    to assign factors (e.g. gener, social-economic)
    to account for differences use predefined

Theoretical orientations
  • Meta-theoretical positions in information science
    studies from sender/receiver model to cognitive
    constructivism to collectivism to constructionism
  • Paradigm shift in conception of information and
    what constitutes learning
  • Call for a paradigm of research in information
    behavior (Talja and Hansen, 2006)
  • Observe collaborative activities in authentic
    settings focusing on what people actually do
  • Apply naturalistic and work practice-driven data
    collection methods and analysis in order to
    inform the design of systems for supporting
    knowledge sharing and collaborative information
    seeking and retrieval. (p 117)

Theoretical framework and methodology
  • Theory of Group Cognition (Stahl 2006) and
  • Group as the unit of analysis
  • Exploratory, design-based, case-based, and
    micro-analysis of small group interaction and

Bring in information resource
How to use information in problem situation seems
to be an obstacle
Use whiteboard to help construct the application
of information tree diagrams
Expected contributions
  • Build a model that describes information behavior
    of online small groups engaged in problem solving
  • Contribute on understanding meaning
    co-construction, collaboration and problem
  • Inform the design of computer-supported
    collaborative learning environments to support
    effective collaborative learning