Science Online: Learning Through Collaborative Writing of an Open-Content Scientific Encyclopedia

Principal Investigator: 
Project Overview
Background & Purpose: 

In this research, we are investigating the potential for wiki software to support science and information literacy learning in high school classes. Does having an authentic audience for student work help students to become more meaningfully engaged with science learning? How do students reason about information production and consumption on the Internet when they become active contributors to an information resource?


Three iterations of studies occurred, all in the metropolitan Atlanta area: one in an undergraduate American government course at a public university, one in an advanced placement environmental science course at a public high school, and one in an honors biochemistry class at a private high school.

Research Design: 

This project uses design research, observational, and phenomenological methods of analysis of assessments of learning, personal observation, web logs, and face-to-face semi-structured interviews. In the pilot study, wiki artifacts were coded for dependencies between kinds of revisions and peer review comments. In the two following study iterations, pre- and post-tests were coded for evidence of critical sourcing. Interviews were recorded and transcribed. Grounded theory as described by Strauss and Corbin was used to develop explanations of students’ writing practices based primarily on interview data and supported by observations and other data.


Through iterative cycles of design and research in high school science classes, we found that writing on a public wiki supports learning in four ways. First, students use their publication experiences to reflect on characteristics of information sources they encounter and use. Second, citation takes on new meaning as students work to justify their claims to an external readership. Third, publication is an unfamiliar rhetorical situation that brought about opportunities for engagement with science content as students reflected on what their audience needed to know. Finally, wikis as collaborative technologies have features that support an incremental, transparent publishing model and this provides for the emergence of new collective writing practices by making the writing process visible.

Publications & Presentations: 

Forte, Andrea (2009). Learning in Public: Information Literacy and Participatory Media. PhD Dissertation, Georgia Institute of Technology.

Forte, Andrea and Amy Bruckman. Science Online: Learning by Constructing a Public Science Resource. Symposium on new technology supports for authentic science inquiry, practice, and assessment in the classroom. James Slotta, Organizer. American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, San Diego, CA, 2009.

Forte, Andrea and Amy Bruckman. (2008) “Learning information literacy in the age of Wikipedia” in Symposium on Learning and Research in the Web 2 Era: New Opportunities for Research (James Slotta, organizer) Proceedings of the International Conference of the Learning Sciences, Utrecht, NL.

Forte, Andrea and Amy Bruckman. (2007) “Constructing text: wiki as a toolkit for (collaborative?) learning.” Proceedings of International Symposium on Wikis (WikiSym), Montréal, Canada, pp 31-42.

Forte, Andrea and Amy Bruckman. (2006) “From Wikipedia to the classroom: exploring online publication and learning” Proceedings of the International Conference of the Learning Sciences, Bloomington, IN.

Forte, Andrea. Wiki uses in teaching and learning. Panel. WikiSym, Odense, Denmark, 2006.

Forte, Andrea and Amy Bruckman. Self and school: nurturing students’ identities as science writers using wikis. American Psychological Association, 113th Annual Conference, 2005.

Bryant, Susan, Andrea Forte and Amy Bruckman (2005). “Becoming Wikipedian: Transformation of Participation in a Collaborative Online Encyclopedia.” Proceedings of GROUP: International Conference on Supporting Group Work, Sanibel Island, FL. pp 1-10. (26% acceptance rate).

Other Products: 

The project has resulted in the science online site (, and also the ProveIt reference tool for use with MediaWiki servers and the FireFox browser.

Target Population: 
Research Design: 


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