Carefully considering age and gender in elementary school
Carmen Zahn is a member of Kaleidoscope. Carmen talks about the interdisciplinary 'Forest' project. This has investigated science learning in elementary school and the effectiveness of learning through cycles of inquiry, writing and multimedia design. The project has been conducted in close cooperation between KMRC and the Französische Schule, Tuebingen.
"The 'Forest' project used an instructional program for collaborative multimedia design in elementary biology education. The program integrates assumptions on inquiry learning, learning by writing and multimedia design, and the application of our own previous research on knowledge acquisition by hypermedia design up to elementary school level. The goals of the program include the acquisition of content knowledge, as well as the active training of specific communication skills (scientific literacy) by collaborative inquiry, writing and design activities within the context of an authentic task."
Positive reactions, interesting revelations
"The first evaluation revealed that the young learners and their teacher appreciated the program. What was interesting is that it also demonstrated that the multimedia products of the students differed according to age, media and gender-related factors. For example, girls wrote significantly more than boys, but no differences could be found with respect to typing with a computer or with visual design activities. Furthermore, significant positive correlations indicated a strong relationship between the creation of mind-maps and overall performance in the multimedia design task for all students. We are currently discussing the implications of the results.
This research does demonstrate one very important area where researchers and practitioners could work together to explore the potential of advanced technologies that can be used in school-based education to improve self-determined learning. This, in turn, could contribute to both use-inspired educational research and instructional efficiency."
What would Carmen like to emphasise about this work to education policy makers?
"We already know that education standards in Germany must improve. Students need to be prepared for the challenges of the knowledge society. This aim, however, will not be met by teachers, students or politicians alone. Inter-disciplinary research projects like Forest, as well as extensive exchange between scientists, practitioners and politicians are essential if we want to improve science-based teaching and educational decision-making."
What can you say about this project in the simplest terms?
"Considered in the light of both the German PISA results and a publicly discussed 'uneasiness' with many school scenarios, we cannot deny the great importance of close co-operation between educational scientists and teachers. This might set the ground for raising the quality of education for today’s school students at all levels."
What have been the benefits for you, of being a Kaleidoscope member?
"The Kaleidoscope network has given me the opportunity to get in touch with other researchers from Europe and learn about their projects, thus broadening the perspectives of my own work."
What are your plans for the future?
"Further research on the topic of 'learning by multimedia design' in schools will be conducted, starting in the spring of 2007. This will be based on funding from the 'Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft' (DFG). The research will be embedded in the larger context of a DFG-research group ('Use inspired basic research on the orchestration of cognition, instruction and technology in the classroom')."