From Serendip

Inquiry, Interaction, and Technology

A program for students of education at Bryn Mawr College, Haverford College, Swarthmore College, University of Pennsylvania
(Supported by an AT&T Learning Network Teaching and Technology Grant)

  • Education in an inquiry-based, interactive, constructivist mode.

  • Information technology, computers, the Internet and the World Wide Web.

    What is the relationship between these two sets of activities?

    1. Are educational objectives threatened by the burgeoning information technology revolution?

    2. Can the products and tools of the information technology revolution at least be made use of to further educational objectives, and if so, how?

    3. Is it possible that the information technology revolution actually provides a distinctive, never before available, and uniquely appropriate set of tools to enhance education in an inquiry based, interactive, constructivist mode?

    This is the set of questions we will be exploring during the year in Inquiry, Interaction, and Technology. They are, of course, as yet unanswered questions, so the expectation is that students and faculty will work together, sharing perspectives, experiences, and ambitions, to collectively generate a set of tentative answers, ones which we will all explore further in our subsequent efforts and careers. An inquiry-based, interactive, and constructivist approach to these questions is particularly appropriate since the information technology revolution is so new and so clearly has such great potential impact on the educational enterprise, for better or for worse.

    Inquiry-based interactive constructivism is fundamental to the enterprises of science and mathematics, whatever one's experiences with them may have been in courses. And many of the current experiments in making use of information technology in education have roots in these enterprises. Among the earliest and most consistently developed of such experiments is the MathForum at Swarthmore College, which uses the web to, among other things, encourage and support a mentoring relationship between students and teachers. We will explore the Math Forum to get a first taste of the kinds of educational opportunities which information technology makes available, participating in the mentoring relationship in mathematics and imagining ways in which similar arrangements might be developed in other areas.

    Serendip, at Bryn Mawr College, is another long-standing and continually developing exploration of ways to make use of the web to advance inquiry-based, interactive education, with a broader treatment of science and the science/culture interface. Serendip makes available a number of interactive web "experiences", connecting science and mathematics to issues of more general human concern. We will explore the materials on Serendip, with students being encouraged to focus on one or another and generate a critique of it, together with a consideration of how the general approach exemplified might be made use of in some other area of particular individual interest.

    Based on their experiences with the Math Forum, Serendip, and Connecting Communities of Learners (CCL; requires password), at the University of Pennsylvania, which provides a supportive general environment for web-based curricula and education, students will create their own new web materials to themselves actively explore the potential uses of advancing information technology. The course is intended to not only illustrate but also to exemplify technology as a facilitator of inquiry and interaction in education. Your own education will of course be most effectively advanced by actively engaging with the course, including making your thoughts available to others as the course proceeds. In this way, you will also be contributing to the ongoing development of the existing sites with which you will be working, and to the education of educators elsewhere as well..