About CSCS

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:

  California Science Project.
 HP Catalyst Initiative
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 3M Solutions
3M logo

 Google Faculty Institute
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 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 enzymes. 

            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 spreadsheet.
            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.

Subpages (2): CSCS files People