This design-based research study describes the design, implementation, and evaluation of a suite of technology applications, curriculum materials, and activities, created to support a learning community to collectively investigate a digital ecosystem simulation called WallCology. The specific research goal is to understand the role of visual representations within student and teacher practices, including their use of digital technologies and paper-based activities. Curriculum designs were intended to support small groups of students in their progression through an inquiry script, within the broader context of the whole community. The theoretical construct that guided the creation of this script, and all associated tools and materials, was the Knowledge Community and Inquiry model, in which a collective inquiry curriculum is indexed to specific learning goals, to ensure that the learning community makes directed progress towards these goals. The analysis of this Wallcology community has two parts. The first analysis uses an innovative visual timeline methodology to understand the participant structures, activity types, and roles associated with activities involving visual representations. Findings show that visual representations were used in several distinct participant structures: individual, small group, whole-class discussion, and teacher-guided construction. Visual representations played a role in four distinct activity types: foundational work, contributing to the digital knowledge base, problem solving, and verbal knowledge sharing. Finally, visual representations played a wide range of logistical, pedagogical and conceptual roles within the curriculum, serving as attentional beacons, facilitating connections, providing exemplars and templates, organizing group knowledge, and scaffolding activities. The second analysis evaluates how students engaged in scientific explanations within presentations that were made during the Investigation phase of the unit, with a focus on the role of visual representations during each component of their explanation. Students used visual representations fluently within their scientific discourse. This thesis closes with recommendations for future designers of classroom inquiry experiences.
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- Education;Educational technology;Science education