March 22-25, 2006
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Interactions: Description

Connecting Beyond The Field Trip: The On-line Wonder Wall

Norman Lownds, Michigan State University, USA
Carrie Heeter, Michigan State University, USA

Field trips to museums, science centers, children's gardens and other sites can be powerful learning experiences for students of all ages. They are, however, limited by the short time that students spend at the science site. Educators at the 4-H Children's Gardens wanted to change this limitation and design ways to maintain contact with students for much longer periods of time before and after their field trips. To accomplish this, the on-line Wonder Wall was created. Wonder Walls connect learners, teachers, off-site experts and students in real time and asynchronously to persistent, playful, moderated, spatial communication environments designed for collaborative learning. Participants compose or upload and position text or graphical "post-its" on the Wonder Wall. Wonder Walls are specialized environments which facilitate affect (a sense of mystery, fun, excitement, and importance) and cognition (reflection and formulating questions). Each Wonder Wall has a moderator who can attach answers to posts and stream real time audio. Wonder Walls are currently used by elementary school classes to connect the class with plant scientist "Dr. Norm" as a follow up for science field trips to the 4-H Children's Garden. Fourth graders consistently log into the Wonder Wall before and after school and throughout the weekend. Some students have maintained contact with Dr. Norm for more than 8 months after their field trip. When fourth graders posted questions to the Wonder Wall, nearly two-thirds of their questions were wonderment questions. Many of their questions were deep questions showing that the students had thought carefully about the topic and were attempting to put together pieces of different and sometimes conflicting information. Wonder Walls accommodate both task-driven and performance-driven learners. Task-driven students think hard about the specific content and what to wonder about. Performance-driven students are more motivated by knowing the class and teacher will see their posts. Based on our initial studies it appears that the Wonder Wall can be an effective tool to maintain contact with students and teachers. Through the Wonder Wall we are cultivating interested visitors for tomorrow.

Mini-Workshop: Wonder Wall [Education]

Keywords: field trips, wonder, curiosity, questions