For my PhD Project, I led an interdisciplinary co-design team consisting of a high school biology teacher, two software developers, and two academic researchers. Working as a team, we designed, built, tested, implemented, and evaluated a collaborative inquiry curriculum and corresponding technology environment called CKBiology within two Grade 12 Biology classes over five design cycles. CKBiology was enacted over five curricular units during the 2016-2017 academic year, with each unit treated as one design cycle.

The design of CKBiology was informed by a pedagogical model called Knowledge Community and Inquiry (KCI).  Throughout each unit, students worked together as a knowledge community to co-construct a shared knowledge base, which served as a resource for subsequent “review challenge” activities, situated in a specially constructed Active Learning Classroom within their school.

The CKBiology software was an adaptation of the more general “Common Knowledge” (CK) platform that was designed to support KCI in previous studies. CKBiology was designed in close collaboration with our co-design teacher and reflects the unique design constraints of her course structure, her students, and her school context.  Accordingly, CKBiology is a bespoke technology that was custom tailored to support our KCI script, enabling the teacher to orchestrate various curricular activities and configurations (e.g., grouping students, distributing materials and activities), providing information at-a-glance to students and teachers about progress within the community, and scaffolding students in specific activities within the various learning contexts.

One important feature of this environment was a layer of intelligence, implemented on the Web server—invisible to any user interface, but supporting the scripting and orchestration conditions of our design.  We sought to track the progress of individual students and groups, as well as the community as a whole, providing valuable information that could serve as input into teacher decisions or be automatically processed on our server.  For example, the tracking of student activities could be used to provide real-time feedback or displays of progress, which could inform students and teachers alike in their timing, assessment and orchestration of the activities (e.g., by showing progress bars of students, groups, and community).

For each iteration of our curriculum, CKBiology was adapted to support our specific scripting and orchestration conditions.  The software thus served to implement our designs, as well as to capture the data that could be analyzed, and can be seen as a product or outcome of this design-based research. While this software was developed for research purposes and was not intended to serve as a standalone product, the software repository has been made freely available on GitHub under an open-source MIT license to anyone who wishes to use, copy, expand, or adapt this software for their own purposes.