What's in a name?: students' use of anonymity within next-generation classroom networks
Davis, Sarah Margaret
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Next-generation classroom networks are poised to become a significant presence in schools. In contrast with current networks which connect students to the Internet and information or knowledge outside of the classroom, next-generation networks harness and share the knowledge within classrooms, sharing and aggregating data among all the members. To date, no systematic research has been done to show if anonymity is an important design element in network-supported learning. This project looked at anonymity of input across a series of classroom activities seeking to answer three research questions. First, did activity type influence students’ use of anonymity? Second, did activity type influence students’ perception of the utility of anonymity? Finally, did student statements about the use and utility of anonymity match their actions? A research project was conducted in two pre-calculus classrooms (n=29) at an urban high school on the East Coast. Next-generation classroom networks facilitate a kind of activity defined as generative activities (Stroup, Ares, & Hurford, 2004; Stroup, Ares, Hurford, & Lesh, in press-b; Stroup, Ares, & Hurford, in press-a). These activities have at the core of instruction, data and information submitted by the students. In this way, students “generate” all of the materials used in the lesson. All digital artifacts from each activity were collected, students completed a questionnaire at the end of each activity and video taped interviews were conducted with the students at the completion of the four activities. Statistical analysis of the digital artifacts revealed no significant differences for use of names by activity or gender. Therefore it was concluded that activity type did not influence students’ use of anonymity. The students’ responses on the questionnaire were evaluated using both qualitative and quantitative methods which made evident that students perceived the activities to be significantly different. From analysis of the video tapes, the most common type of statement made by students dealt with anonymity being important for risk mitigation (avoid embarrassment, lack of confidence, etc.). Finally, all three forms of data were compared and it was found that students comments about how, why and when they used anonymity did not always match their actions.