Observing the seen and unseen: computer and social mediation of a Complex biological system
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Working from a theoretical framework in which knowledge is socially constructed, this case study traces how computer and human interventions mediate one group of middle school students’ observations of an aquatic ecosystem. Data sources included videotaped classroom observations as well as student artifacts, including worksheets and models of an aquarium system. Analysis suggests that the combination of both human and computer mediation is synergistic. The kinds of questions teachers and students ask during computer-supported inquiry scaffold students’ observations of the computer simulations and support new connections between the seen (i.e., macro) and unseen (i.e., micro) levels of complex systems when students construct new models. These findings have implications for the design of computer-based tools and classroom instruction.