What is Computer Supported Collaborative Science? CSCS
is an effort to improve urban science instruction by helping teachers
take advantage of tools that they already have access to. Our
instructional model for teaching science takes
advantage of cutting edge collaborative web-based tools (aka cloud-based
computing). CSCS is based
on the idea of computer supported collaborative learning (CSCL) in which
the computer enables new types of collaboration among students (Stahl,
Koshman, & Suthers, 2006). A number of models for CSCL have emerged
including discussion boards, collaborative writing (wikis), virtual
jigsaws and the use of online learning spaces (Jeong, Hmelo-Silver,
2010). Our model of CSCS uses widely available tools to enable
collaboration for science labs (real and virtual). Students will use
cloud-computing tools such as Google Docs to share information and data
during the lab itself. This creates a shared digital workspace for the
analysis and interpretation of data. These tools can be used to
transform science labs into authentic exploration and student-centered
inquiry. Collaboration provides scaffolding for students as they do
scientific inquiry and interpret data and draw conclusions. Figure 1
describes how a classic laboratory exercise is enhanced by CSCS.
Who is involved in CSCS?
CSCS is a collaboration between faculty in the College of Science and Mathematics and the College of Education at CSUN.
We work primarily with Los Angles Unified School District (especially
Local Districts 1 & 2) as well as local charter schools and agencies with the goal of providing a 21st Century science education to all students.
In addition to the People in CSCS, we are supported by a number of organizations:
| Figure 1: Example of Computer Supported Collaborative Science (CSCS) in action:|
Mr. Arias's SAEP Hands-on Biology Class.
Students are exploring enzymes by performing a
classical hands-on lab using liver (which contains catalase) and
hydrogen peroxide. The lab is conducted before enzymes are fully
explained, providing an opportunity to explore the characteristics of
On the first day, students use laptops to
electronically post their ideas of what to vary in the reaction with
the catalase. Class members use instant online survey tools to rank the
suggestions and decide what variables to change (e.g. temperature,
pH, volume, etc.). As a group they engage in a discussion of the
best procedure for each measurement and the groups decide which three
variables to investigate. The procedures are posted to the class wiki
so each group can follow them. Lab teams enter their predictions
concerning the variables likely to effect enzyme activity on an online
survey form that the teacher has prepared. As they conduct the
experiment, each group records their data into an associated online
On the second day, each group examines their
findings in light of class results and posts questions and suggestions
on the wiki-based reports of their colleagues. Mr. Arias then plots
and displays class data using a collaborative web-based graphing tool
and leads a class discussion to examine outliers. The class speculates
about causes for variations in the class data and students record
their ideas in a threaded discussion. Following the discussion, each
lab team writes a lab report that explains their data with reference
to mean data from the class, and generates conclusions about enzyme
activity. Mr. Arias reminds the how scientific findings are driven by
evidence as he shows how their contributions on the class wiki have
allowed them to evaluate a larger data set.
The third day’s quiz (another online form) asks
students questions about the function of enzymes taken from their
reports. Mr. Arias then goes on to explain how enzymes work and
enhance his explanation with a few short video demonstrations of how
certain variables such as temperature affect the breakdown of
catabolites such as hydrogen peroxides. He directs students to an
online simulation of catalase activity to see how different variables
affect the reaction. In the following two days the class looks at the
action of specific enzymes such as Rubisco.
Clinical Teaching Reflection/Planning Meeting
Following a week of instruction, Mr. Arias
meets with other CSCS biology teachers and CSUN biologist Dr.
Vandergon to debrief and study videos of the lesson that are posted on
a secure website. The team reviews assessments, student work and a
video of the class. The team collaborates to plan the next day's
lesson, working simultaneously to create and edit a shared document on
the collaborative instructional website. Based on the discussion
Arias revises the lessons. He will have one more chance to teach the
lesson this summer before using it with his students in the fall.