Exploring Patterns in Student Dialogue While Using a Digital Platform Designed to Support Online Inquiry

Murphy, Victoria L.; Coiro, Julie and Kiili, Carita (2019). Exploring Patterns in Student Dialogue While Using a Digital Platform Designed to Support Online Inquiry. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 2019(1) pp. 1–13.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.5334/jime.518


Online inquiry, or using the Internet to generate questions and then search for, analyse, and synthesise information about these questions, is an essential part of digital literacy. However, processes involved in online inquiry are substantially complex. Prior research suggests that digital platforms can scaffold online inquiry processes. Moreover, the value of scaffolding dialogue in collaborative activities has been shown to enhance critical thinking, an important part of online inquiry. This study investigates whether the use of digital platforms designed to scaffold online inquiry can support productive dialogue when used collaboratively. Data from four pairs of high school students was collected as they worked together using both the digital platform and multiple online sources outside the platform to complete an online inquiry task. Each pair’s interactions were analysed to investigate whether features of the digital platform prompted productive dialogue. In line with research suggesting the use of academic language influences content understanding, each pair’s use of certain academic terms related to the task and digital platform’s interface were also statistically examined. Results suggested that most productive dialogue occurred when using the digital platform. Additionally, two of the four academic terms investigated occurred more often in talk while interacting with the digital platform, compared to talk when on another website. A comparison of timelines associated with these terms offered examples of how initially they were said exclusively while on the tool, and then progressed towards independent use.

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