The Third International Conference on the Learning Sciences (ICLS-98)
December 16-19, 1998
Georgia Tech, Atlanta

Special Sessions

Opening Plenary: "Lifelong Kindergarten"

Mitchel Resnick is one of the most innovative and forward-thinking researchers in Learning Sciences. He is interested in students' developing the powerful ideas that enable them to make sense of a changing world. These powerful ideas include the gray line between the physical and virtual worlds and the self-organizing abilities of decentralized systems. He was one of the developers of Lego Programmable Bricks, the marriage between Logo programming and Lego blocks. His dissertation work was on StarLogo -- Logo with literally thousands of turtles. His current work combines these themes, by allowing students to learn through constructing intelligent devices that interact in a group.

Symposium: Compute @ Home: Expanded Environments for Learning Mathematics, Science, and Programming

This symposium presents four projects that each study the role of educational technology in a learning environment that is not well understood: the family home. To date, the major emphasis among researchers in the learning sciences has been on the development and implementation of educational technologies within school settings or other formal learning environments. An impressive array of different technologies has been developed and considerable information has been collected on how to implement technologies within classrooms and schools.

The focus we will take in this symposium is on the special affordances, and limitations that learning in the home entails. Can the home be a social learning environment when the student might be physically alone? What strategies work for getting parents involved in learning? Are there technologies that are especially well suited to the home? How can issues of equity and access be resolved in the home? These are just some of the questions to be addressed by the presenters in this symposium.

Panel: Administrative and Curricular Infrastructure Needed for Educational Technology Based Reforms to Succeed

Sound learning research and effective, well-designed technology is not enough for a school reform effort to succeed. The issues of making a reform effort fit a local context, working with administrators, and tuning curriculum to mesh with the research and technology are absolutely critical. It's interesting to note, however, that we talk relatively little about these issues in our work. How do we do research in infrastructure issues? How do we write about them in a way that is useful for others? In this panel, some of the leaders in the community will address how they are struggling with these issues.

Panel: Perspectives on the Relationship between Culture and the Design, Implementation, and Evaluation of Computer-Based Learning Environments

As our society becomes more diverse and computers become as common a tool in classrooms as a book, the community of educational technology researchers, designer, evaluators and teachers will have to engage in conversations about how to develop computer-based learning environments that build upon the diversity of cultures students bring inside classroom doors. The pedagogical philosophies that serve as the basis for the design of some learning environments, for example, cognitive apprenticeship, anchored instruction and goal based scenarios, each speak to the importance of grounding instruction in contextually meaningful activities. We hope this panel begins to expand what counts as contextually meaningful activities by providing examples of how the ethnicity and language diversity of minority students can be used as scaffolds for the development and implementation of learning environments.

Interactive Presentation: Learning By Design

In 1996, we reported on a new approach to creating a constructivist learning environment that addressed both cognitive and social aspects of learning, that was based on a combination of good theory and a compatible model of practice, and that incorporated the best of several other approaches. Case-based reasoning's cognitive model provided a conceptual framework for envisioning a classroom and curriculum where learning happens as a result of a series of design experiences, problem-based learning told us how to enact exemplary practices in the classroom, and case-based reasoning and its relatives (e.g., analogical reasoning, cognitive flexibility theory) provided specific guidelines for implementing practices. What was needed, we said, was experience in the classroom that we would use to debug the model we had set up.

Learning by Design (LBD) is based on those guidelines. Middle-school students learn science content and skills in the context of an interesting design challenge. The challenge motivates the need to inquire and learn science and provides opportunities to carry out inquiry, design, communication, and collaboration skills, to apply the concepts and skills that are being learned, and to confront, recognize, and revise their conceptions. To make the approach work in traditional 45-minute periods, in a way that insures a timely end to projects, and in a way that insures learning, we've developed a system of classroom rituals and pedagogical tools and practices for accomplishing LBD's goals. Our recent pilots also suggest several key values that must be bought into and practiced by teachers as a necessary condition for successful LBD implementation.

Participants in this session will experience LBD, and its objectives, practices, rituals, and practices will be presented in the context of the units we've developed and what we've learned from our field tests.

The Georgia Tech Show

Since ICLS'98 is being hosted by Georgia Tech, we thought that the participants might appreciate a tour of the Learning Science research going on locally. Many of these projects will also be presented during the demo sessions.

Demo: Digital Manipulatives: New Tools for Lifelong Kindergarten

Ever since Friedrich Froebel created a collection of "gift" to help students learn in his original kindergarten 150 years ago, manipulative materials have played an important role in kindergarten and early-elementary classrooms (Brosterman, 1997: Montessori, 1912). These materials (such as Cuisenair Rods and Pattern Blocks) enable children to explore mathematical and scientific concepts (such as number, shape, and size) through direct manipulation of physical objects. But as children grow older, and learn more advance concepts, the educational focus shifts away from direct manipulation to more abstract formal methods.

For this special session, we propose to demonstrate and discuss a new generation of manipulative materials that embed computational capabilities inside physical objects, in an effort to expand the range of concepts that children (and adults) can explore through direct manipulation. These new manipulatives, which we call "digital manipulatives," are designed to help children continue to learn with a "kindergarten approach" even as they grow older–while also helping young children to learn concepts (in particular, "systems concepts" such as feedback and emergence) that were previously considered "too advance" for them.

Presentation: Computer and Telecommunication Mediated Collaborative Creative Work and Learning in Elementary, Middle and High School

The session will describe and present research from teaching projects from the U.S. and Europe (Norway, France, Italy, Portugal) where computer and telecommunication mediated collaboration in creative work and learning among students, teachers, higher education, and working professionals has led to improved student performance and understanding in the arts and interaction with broader academic outcomes, including, mathematics.

Panel: Web-based Collaboration: What makes it so hard?

There seems to be a big push this days to make greater sense of the Internet and the World Wide Web with education, particularly at the university level. In many courses instructors are using conferencing software, discussion forums, MUDs, MOOs, and other types of applications to foster collaboration among students. This doesn't always work in a satisfactory fashion, however, and the purpose of this panel will be to explore some of the reasons why this might be the case.

The panel will consist of six individuals who have utilized the web as a medium for fostering collaboration in their own teaching and who have done research on the phenomenon of web-based collaboration. Each will give a brief position paper summarizing their experience with this type of technology and raising general issues for discussion. The remaining half of the allocated time will be devoted to an open discussion involving the panelists and attendees.

Issues for general discussion might include (but are by no means limited to): Why would one want to have web-based collaboration in the first place? Do the difficulties in initiating web-based collaboration implicate a learning process or some more fundamental feature(s) of the media? To what extent are the problems seen here just highlighting the fact that all collaboration is hard? When (and why) do we see spillover across different media (e.g., picking up a telephone when text-based communication fails)?

Symposium: Implementation and Evaluation of the GenScope Learning Environment: Issues, Solutions, and Results

The session will review a three year NSF-funded effort to implement and evaluate the GenScope software in 40 secondary science classrooms in Boston and Atlanta. Speakers will discuss (1) Project Overview and Software Design, (2) Implementation Design, (3) Assessment Design, (4) Learning Outcomes, and (5) Video-Based Assessment.

Our Favorite Curmudgeons Critique the Conference

Four leaders in the Learning Sciences community will critique the conference, and in effect, the current state of the field. What is really important for us to be studying? What are we missing?

CRLT Centers: Grounding the Research in Teachers' Concerns

The National Science Foundation has just established three Centers for research in Learning Technologies. The Centers' research agendas are broad and diverse. To help the Learning Sciences community understand better what the Centers are about, we have asked a representative from each Center to present their research in response to the concerns of two local Atlanta-area teachers. The teachers will describe their school, their classroom, and their concerns. The Center representatives will describe their research and how it will impact the teachers.

Presentation: Planning and Funding for an Increased Role of Research and Technology in Education

The presentation will discuss a series of activities being framed in response to the PCAST report of March, 1977, which called for a much expanded program of research in education in general, and in learning technologies in particular, to strengthen K-12 education. Underlying the PCAST recommendations is a concern about the disconnect between much of education research and most of education practice.

Participating agencies are committed to develop a programmatic framework that will bring together interdisciplinary teams of cognitive scientists and educational researchers with technologists, content area specialists, practitioners, and psychometricians to develop and study large-scale, research-based interventions that will ultimately help answer questions relevant to practice. Educational technology as a tool will be a central focus in the search for interventions that are effective, scaleable and whose impact is sustainable.

U.S. Department of Education and the National Science Foundation conducted the first two in a series of planned workshops to consider and expand a framework for a joint Educational Research Initiative (ERI). The workshops focused participant expertise in research, evaluation, and educational technology on the development of a strategy for a FY 1999 research in education practice. Their reports will be available at the time of the conference.