"A good day to see a bobcat": Elementary students' online journal entries during a structured observation visit to a wildlife center

Michelle M. Kazmer, Nicole D. Alemanne, Anne Mendenhall, Paul F. Marty, Sherry A. Southerland, Victor Sampson, Ian Douglas, Amanda Clark, Jennifer Schellinger


This paper presents findings from a qualitative analysis of electronic journal entries created by elementary school students during field trips to a nature center. The field trips were part of the Habitat Tracker project (http://tracker.cci.fsu.edu/) designed to help elementary students learn about scientific practices. The Habitat Tracker team developed a mobile app and accompanying Web site integrated with a standards-based science curriculum. The mobile app includes observation worksheets and an electronic journal that guide student inquiry activities during the field trip. This study focuses on how the students’ journal entries demonstrate features of scientific journaling; how students engage in scientific practices when journaling; and how including multiple nature observation sites during a field trip shapes students’ journal writing. Our analysis demonstrates that journal entries reveal underlying strengths and weaknesses of students’ progress in scientific inquiry. The analysis indicates persistent effects of scaffolding and how carefully scaffolds’ content and delivery must be designed.


digital journaling; collaboration; scientific inquiry; field trips; scaffolding; educational technology; curriculum

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v21i4.6152

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