April 11-14, 2007
San Francisco, California

Demonstrations: Description

Connecting to Your Audiences Through the On-line Wonder Wall

Norm Lownds, Michigan State University, USA

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. Moderators 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. K-12 kids dive into Wonder Walls with a sense of glee, crashing their lightning bolts into each other. They are excited to have scientists from afar "visit" their classrooms. When 4th graders consistently log into the Wonder Wall before and after school and throughout the weekend teachers and garden educators can only smile and enjoy the interest and connections that have been made and are continuing. In several instances, students have continued to access the Wonder Wall, asking plant questions for as long as 6 months after their field trip to the 4-H Children's Gardens!

Examination of questions fourth graders posted to the Wonder Wall showed that nearly two-thirds of their question 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. The Wonder Wall seems to appeal to all students in a class and is often used extensively by students that otherwise do not ask questions including students where English is not their native language.

Wonder Walls are also used in online and in person university classes. Students are encouraged to post things they wonder about each week and to respond to each other. The expert can also answer their questions by posting content and linking answers directly to questions.

On-line Wonder Walls enable an adult moderator (most often a museum curator, scientist or online teacher) to sensitively nurture, share and facilitate child, youth or adult learners' sense of curiosity and wonder. Wonder Walls transport wondering from private cognition to a collective, public, interactive social learning activity.

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 their posts will be seen by the class and teacher.

Try out the Wonder Wall and experience the fun and wonder of asking questions. Explore ways that you can effectively extend learning beyond your museum and cultivate interested visitors for years to come.

Demonstration: Demonstrations - 2 [Close-Up]

Keywords: Science, on-line, questions, wonder, curiosity, teachers