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Final Report
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth...

- The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost

An Online Collaborative Metacurricular

L e a r n i n g To o l

Jeremy Price
T-540 Cognition and the Art of Instruction
10 January 2003
Jeremy Price 10 January 2003 T-540 Dilemma Explorer Final Report



LEARNING OBJECTIVES..........................................................................................................................3
DOMAIN-CENTERED OBJECTIVES....................................................................................................................................3
METACURRICULUM-CENTERED OBJECTIVES......................................................................................................................4

LEARNING CHALLENGES........................................................................................................................5

STRUCTURE OF THE INTERVENTION.........................................................................................................7

ACTIVITY SYSTEMS....................................................................................................................................................12
TEACHING FOR UNDERSTANDING...................................................................................................................................12
DISTRIBUTED COGNITION.............................................................................................................................................13
CHANGING BEHAVIOR: BAD POP ART.......................................................................................................................13
CONSTRUCTIVIST LEARNING ENVIRONMENT DESIGN GOALS.............................................................................................15

CRITIQUE OF THE DESIGN....................................................................................................................17



APPENDIX 1. TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS.....................................................................................................................24
APPENDIX 2. SCREENSHOTS OF THE DILEMMA EXPLORER.................................................................................................25
APPENDIX 3. HELP SCREEN TEXTS..............................................................................................................................40
APPENDIX 4. SHUTTLE CHALLENGER EXAMPLE: TABLE VIEW PRINTOUT..........................................................................41

Jeremy Price 10 January 2003 T-540 Dilemma Explorer Final Report

Dilemma (n.) A situation in which a choice must be made between alternative

courses of action or argument.
(American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved from, October 27, 2002)


Dilemmas permeate everyday life. It is difficult to avoid ethical, moral, or legal dilemmas in

the workplace, the home, or the social gathering, and they

The Challenger:
A Dilemma Case Study
often involve strong personalities and even more strongly
On January 28, 1986, the space
shuttle Challenger lifted off from Earth
held beliefs. Decisions arising from dilemmas often have with a full crew, including a pair of
civilians. Seventy-three seconds later,
important consequences. Exploring dilemmas, and then the Challenger exploded, taking the lives
of the entire crew. Could this disaster to
human life, and an event that put a
taking a stand on them, can allow the learners to create their damper on the American space program,
have been avoided? Throughout this
report, references will be made to this
own connections and lead to a greater appreciation of the dilemma as an example of a real
application of the Dilemma Explorer, and
situation (deeper understanding of the subject matter). The all screenshots found in Appendix 2 refer
to the Challenger dilemma.

experience can lead to an improved readiness to deal with This dilemma, adapted from The
Online Ethics Center for Engineering and
Science at Case Western Reserve
subsequent dilemmas, whether they are thought experiments University
or in the learners’ lives (sharpened critical thinking skills). shuttle/bois.html), was presented in class
by David Perkins, T-540 Cognition and
the Art of Instruction, 1 October 2002.
Rooting lessons and activities in controversial dilemmas

can get learners excited about learning, increasing intrinsic motivation (NCAE, 2000). This

motivation can translate into an interest in learning in general, making learning and inquiry a

lifelong activity. This type of motivation is difficult to achieve when learners are just presented

with the facts.

The Dilemma Explorer is an online collaborative tool that allows learners to explore

dilemmas in a scaffolded manner. There are excellent software packages on the market that

allow for a collective construction of knowledge, notably Knowledge Forum, which can add a

Jeremy Price 10 January 2003 T-540 Dilemma Explorer Final Report

great deal to the dilemma exploration process. However, Knowledge Forum scaffolds the

process in such a way to encourage divergence. In other words, it supports an environment with

no outcome in mind except to continuously pile new findings, knowledge, and understandings

onto an idea or question. This process can be very disconcerting to teachers with time

constraints and a set amount of information to cover. Designed for middle- and high-school

students and their teachers, the Dilemma Explorer online tool helps to guide learners through the

inquiry process of exploring a dilemma, allows them to organize supporting material in a variety

of ways helping them to focus the issues, and then encourages them to come to a conclusion and

articulate their position on the dilemma. Learners have the ability to save their dilemma

exploration to a database in order to work on the process in multiple sessions. Feedback from

peers and teachers at all stages of the exploration is possible, challenging the learner to further

critically examine the process.

The Dilemma Explorer is a tool for the metacurriculum – that is, it encourages the

development of higher-order thinking (Perkins, 1992: 101). Learners are encouraged to develop

questions, analyze issues from multiple perspectives, articulate their position on the dilemma,

and revise their stances based on new information and feedback from peers and teachers. While

the Dilemma Explorer does not address any particular subject matter specifically, it can be

applied to a broad range of knowledge domains. The experience with Dilemma Explorer can

culminate in a variety of different performances, depending on the requirements and expertise of

the learners and teachers.

Jeremy Price 10 January 2003 T-540 Dilemma Explorer Final Report

Learning Objectives

The learning objectives of the Dilemma Explorer can be divided into two interrelated subsets:

domain-centered objectives (those objectives that focus on learning particular subject matter) and

metacurriculum-centered objectives (those objectives that focus on developing higher-order

thinking skills).

Domain-Centered Objectives

Domain-centered objectives may be different according to particular domains, but can be

abstracted for the Dilemma Explorer’s purposes along the following lines:

 Gaining a deeper understanding into an event, theory, debate, or concept;

 Understanding the particular contexts in which an event, theory, debate, or concept is
 Appreciating the implications of an event, theory, debate, or concept;
 Becoming familiar with the source materials and interpretations of an event, theory,
debate, or concept.

Dilemmas can be utilized to introduce a multitude of specific topics or concepts. Many

scientific discoveries have caused public debate and discourse – such discoveries can cause an

upheaval in people’s belief systems. Examples of such discoveries include Charles Darwin’s

theory of evolution and natural selection, genetics and DNA, and linking greenhouse gasses to

the global warming trend. The Challenger shuttle example introduces concepts in physics and

chemistry by demonstrating the effects of changes in temperature on substances.

Characters in most great works of literature are faced with at least one dilemma, often tied to

real societal situations that may span centuries. The works of William Shakespeare can be

looked upon as especially fertile ground in this regard. The study of history and civics, when

reduced to its most basic discipline, can be distilled into a series of dilemmas, from nationalistic

struggles to inequalities due to almost every imaginable reason. The Dilemma Explorer, due to

Jeremy Price 10 January 2003 T-540 Dilemma Explorer Final Report

its non-domain-specific nature, can support inquiry into any of these dilemmas, allowing the

learner to incorporate the facts, figures, concepts, and language that are inherent in any

discipline, in a manner that is meaningful and interesting.

Metacurriculum-Centered Objectives

Metacurriculum-centered objectives, on the other hand, do not deal with particularities, but

instead with getting better at thinking about thinking. Such objectives can be articulated as

getting better at:

 Identifying dilemmas, the choices inherent within dilemmas, and the potential
 Recognizing the different points-of-view concerning dilemmas, and what motivations
various parties may have in taking a particular stance on a dilemma;
 Asking well-formed, probing questions that tackle the issues at the heart of the dilemma;
 Finding, Organizing and Prioritizing data and information that address the questions or
support or refute various points-of-view;
 Articulating a well-formed stance on the dilemma;
 Revising priorities and stances, based on emergent information from further research and
feedback from peers and teachers, both at the conclusion and mid-stream.

The Dilemma Explorer is designed for learners to become more reflective in their

metacognition (Perkins, 1992: 102). As learners formulate questions, find information that

address these questions, and then take a well-formed stance in a structured environment, they are

encouraged to reflect on their process.

The skills developed during this process apply to almost any domain of inquiry, not just

science, literature, or social science. These skills can be applied to non-academic settings as

well, as learners can use the same skills to analyze personal dilemmas that may be found in

interactions with family, friends, or peers. It is hoped that teachers will encourage learners to use

the more-structured aspects of the Dilemma Explorer less as the learners become more skilled in

the dilemma inquiry process.

Jeremy Price 10 January 2003 T-540 Dilemma Explorer Final Report

Learning Challenges

There can be many challenges to implementing an intervention such as the Dilemma

Explorer. Becoming a reflective thinker, i.e., thinking about one’s own thinking, can be a

difficult, painful, and time-consuming progression, especially for tacit learners, learners who are

not aware of their inner cognitive processes. Changing metacurricular attitudes and practices can

be a frustrating and discouraging activity for both learner and teacher. Either learner or teacher

may become uncertain of one or the other’s abilities and decide to simply give up. Either one

may also start to feel that the motivation for improving such higher-order thinking skills is not

sufficient to surmount the difficulties encountered – a simple cost-benefit analysis (especially

when performed tacitly, which would favor a quick, shallow, cursory examination of a dilemma)

may influence either one to surrender before significant progress is made. This challenge is

especially true of entity, or mastery-oriented, learners, as opposed to incremental learners

(Dweck, 2000), who have turned grappling with processes into a form of intrinsic motivation.

Isolating the issues, asking well-formed questions, and finding and prioritizing appropriate

information may be points of contention as well, especially for learners not accustomed to such

practices. While Dilemma Explorer will be structured to help guide learners in their inquiry,

ultimately success depends on feedback from the learners’ peers and teachers. The Dilemma

Explorer will not be an “intelligent system,” that is, by itself it cannot recognize a well-formed

question, appropriate data, or a well-supported argument. The tool cannot give feedback on the

learner’s progress – only peers and teachers can provide this valuable wisdom. Thus, if peers

and teachers are not willing to challenge learners, the Dilemma Explorer may serve to perpetuate

bad, naïve, or unformed habits.

Jeremy Price 10 January 2003 T-540 Dilemma Explorer Final Report

The last issue is a question of transfer – will learners actually become more reflective

thinkers when approaching dilemmas in their own lives, or will they see their experience with the

Dilemma Explorer as a necessary assignment for school? Will the Dilemma Explorer contribute

to a “deskilling,” or lessening, of learners’ critical thinking if they come to rely on it as a crutch

in their decision-making and dilemma-managing processes?

By redirecting the emphasis in the classroom, teachers have the ability to foster an

environment in which many of these issues can be minimized or overcome. In classes where the

emphasis is on learning, rather than meeting goals, students have demonstrated a higher interest

in the subject matter and a higher level of cognitive engagement (Blumenfeld, Puro, &

Mergendoller, 1992: 208). Based on the work of Blumenfeld et al. (1992: 213-214), the

following are four overarching strategies that encourage thoughtfulness through teacher practice:

 Emphasizing connections between concepts presented in textbooks and lessons and issues
found in the dilemmas explored through the Dilemma Explorer, and just as important,
between the dilemmas and the real world or even the life experience of the learners;
 Providing feedback that encourages learners to press further into the dilemma inquiry
process, and recognizing and valuing the contributions of all students rather than a select
 Providing support through demonstrations, suggesting strategies, and encouraging
collaborative work;
 Allowing students to make mistakes and treating mistakes or incomplete work as part of a
larger learning process.

Any or all of the above may be applied to the use of the Dilemma Explorer in the classroom.

While many of these strategies are inherent within the Dilemma Explorer system itself (e.g.,

feedback [“Sticky Notes”], collaborative work, and a scaffolded process of a conceptually

complex inquiry process), much responsibility is still shouldered upon the teacher. If the teacher

does not choose to address these issues, the strategies inherent within the Dilemma Explorer

become superfluous.

Jeremy Price 10 January 2003 T-540 Dilemma Explorer Final Report

Structure of The Intervention

The Dilemma Explorer is a Web-based system that can be accessed over the Internet, a

school-wide intranet, or even just from a particular computer with no network access if the

proper Web server software is installed. All server software necessary for the Dilemma Explorer

is free of charge and in the public domain. See Appendix 1 for more technical specifications.

The Dilemma


Points of View

Feedback Loop
(peer reactions,
teacher reactions,
testing against
Data/ existant information,
Issues Opinions
new information)

Critical Analysis

Learner' s Stance
On The Dilemma

Figure 1. Dilemma Explorer Conceptual Model

The conceptual model upon which Dilemma Explorer is based is illustrated in Figure 1.

Based on this model, the learner starts the process by stating the dilemma and entering it into the

Jeremy Price 10 January 2003 T-540 Dilemma Explorer Final Report

database. For this statement of the dilemma, the learner is encouraged to give the dilemma and

to articulate a summary of some of the major issues involved with the dilemma. After a

summary of the dilemma has been entered, the learner may save his or her work at any point and

come back to it at any time. In this manner, the learner is not forced to complete the exploration

in only one sitting.

The learner is then asked to develop a set of questions and enter those into the database as

well. These questions will aid in the learner’s exploration process and help to focus the issues.

Learners are encouraged to ask questions about any aspect of the dilemma on which he or she

may want clarification, questions that critique an understanding the learner may have concerning

the dilemma, or questions that hone in on the heart of the issues. After that, the learner is

encouraged to enter into the database the various points-of-view related to the dilemma. A point-

of-view may represent a person or group of people who have a stake in the outcome of the

dilemma, who have been involved in the genesis of the dilemma, or who may in some way be

affected by the process or outcome of the dilemma.

For example, in the case of the Challenger space shuttle launch dilemma, some questions that

a learner may be inclined to enter are:

• What were the technical issues that may present problems with that particular launch?
• Why was it important to launch the Challenger on that particular day?
• How would a delay of launch impact the American space program and NASA?

Some points-of-view may include the engineers involved in the design, the engineers’ managers,

NASA, elected officials in the Federal Government, the astronauts who would man the shuttle,

and the American public in general.

For both the questions and points-of-view, learners are encouraged to classify their entries

based on two scales, “Magnetic Attraction” and “Putting your ducks in a row.” The “Magnetic

Jeremy Price 10 January 2003 T-540 Dilemma Explorer Final Report

Attraction” scale is a five-point scale that demonstrates how strongly the question or point-of-

view relates to the dilemma itself. The “Putting your ducks in a row” scale, also a five-point

scale, exhibits how much weight the learner would personally put in the question or point-of-

view in taking a position or stance on the dilemma. For example, the engineers and the flight

crew (in particular), may rate highly in both scales: the engineers are closely aligned with the

design of the shuttle and are therefore aware of the problems and dangers that may crop up, and

the astronauts can be put in danger if something goes wrong. The engineers’ managers, on the

other hand, may rate highly on the “Magnetic Attraction” scale, as they act as decision makers or

gate-keepers, but the learner may rate them on the low end of the “Putting your ducks in a row”

scale, as the learner may perceive an underlying concern on the part of the managers for a

priority other than for safety.

The information gathering stage is next, where the learner is able to enter sources of

information that address the issues of the dilemma from multiple perspectives. This stage is

scaffolded to allow proper citation measures based on the APA format (Harvey, 1998). Learners

are encouraged to cross-reference the piece of information with one or multiple questions or

points-of-view, thus allowing for in-process reflection on the information by the learner. This

cross-referencing feature is built in to the Dilemma Explorer itself, and a list of all questions and

points-of-view are provided for the learner to select and connect with the particular source of

information. For example, a memo from the engineers to their managers concerning the dangers

inherent in the current O-ring design may be cross-referenced with the technical issues question

and the engineers’ point-of-view. Similar to the questions and points-of-view, learners have the

ability to rank information by “Magnetic Attraction and “Putting your ducks in a row.”

Jeremy Price 10 January 2003 T-540 Dilemma Explorer Final Report

The Dilemma Explorer provides learners with two ways of looking at the information they

have entered. These two ways of displaying information (views) allow the learner to analyze the

information visually. The first view, the Table view, presents the information presented in tables,

one table each for the Questions, Points of View, Sources, and Positions. Each table can be

sorted by the learner according to the various fields of information for each table.

The second view, the Tree view, presents an Inspiration1-like semantic network diagram or

visual concept map. On screen, it is visually similar to standing on one’s head and looking at a

tree with a trunk, branches, and leaves. At the top of the screen the summary of the dilemma as

entered by the learner is displayed, representing the trunk. Branching off of the summary are the

questions and points-of-view, representing the branches. Next are the sources, linked visually to

the questions and points-of-view to which they have been cross-referenced, representing the


By allowing learners to view the information in these ways, and granting them some

flexibility in how the information is organized, it is hoped that they will be able to analyze more

easily the various issues, opinions, and possible outcomes of the dilemma they are exploring.

They are then encouraged to articulate their own position on the dilemma, what the learner thinks

should happen. The learner is not restricted to writing their position at the end of the process, but

can enter a stance at the very beginning of the process, or at any time during the exploration.

The Dilemma Explorer system allows learners to categorize their stances as Initial, In-Process, or

Final. In this manner, learners can chart the positions they take on the dilemma and see how

their positions change over time and by considering new information, more questions, or

additional points-of-view that may come to light through the dilemma exploration process.

Inspiration is a software package that allows users to create graphical concept maps in order to brainstorm and
organize information. For more information, Inspiration Software’s Web site is

Jeremy Price 10 January 2003 T-540 Dilemma Explorer Final Report

Learners have the ability to collaborate with others – they may specify other students that

have the same privileges as they do to add to and update the dilemma exploration process. In

this way, learners can work in teams to explore their dilemma.

Another form of collaboration is that the teacher and peers of the learner have the ability to

comment on the information collected and the stance the learner takes throughout the process.

These comments and feedback are referred to as “sticky notes.” The “sticky notes” feature is not

an online forum or threaded message board; instead, one can actually leave a note and have it

attached to a specific question, point-of-view, source, or position on the dilemma. This allows

issues the learner may not have thought of, as well as the experiences of others, to be considered.

Teachers also have the ability to make their comments “private,” thereby allowing the comments

to be read only by that specific learner and his or her collaborative team. The learner has the

option of going back and updating data, modifying questions, or honing in on a more

sophisticated stance on the dilemma at any time, due to the uncovering of further information or

based on feedback from peers or the teacher.

It is envisioned that Dilemma Explorer would be used as supplementary to, not in place of,

traditional instruction. It would fit in well with a project-based approach, where learners are

responsible for investigating dilemmas in politics, social studies, science, language arts, etc., or

even a cross-curricular project. Learners can then develop one or multiple culminating

performances demonstrating their stance on the dilemma utilizing various media, such as a

video-based public service message, a PowerPoint presentation, a Web site, or a conference

poster session. This is not to say that a traditional paper is excluded as a performance, because

the Dilemma Explorer can serve as a way for learners to organize and form ideas for an

expository essay.

Jeremy Price 10 January 2003 T-540 Dilemma Explorer Final Report


The Dilemma Explorer connects well with many learning theories, philosophies, and ideas.

These theories include: Activity Systems, Teaching for Understanding, Distributed

Cognition, Behaviorist models such as Priming and Believe-And-Do, and Constructivist

Learning Environment Design Goals.

Activity Systems

Learners are encouraged to develop and hone their higher-order thinking skills. In other

words, Dilemma Explorer helps learners in their journey towards getting better at questioning

assumptions; gathering, organizing, and critically analyzing evidence; and, articulating and

defending an argument. This type of reflective cognition is especially troublesome for those who

tacitly solve problems and manage dilemmas. By learning to become more reflective in their

processes, learners gain a deeper understanding and insight not only into the issues that surround

formative events, but they gain an appreciation for their own critical thinking skills. It is hoped

that learners will be able to therefore develop these skills so they become more complex and

applicable to a larger range of situations.

Teaching for Understanding

The inquiry process by which the Dilemma Explorer guides learners is similar to the

underlying processes that experts undergo when thinking about a problem and developing a

management strategy or solution. Dilemmas are often laden with emotion, personalities, and

strongly held beliefs, and often have important consequences. Teachers are encouraged to work

with learners to uncover dilemmas (generative topics) that interest both parties. Learners are

expected to take a stand on the dilemma and articulate that stand. Learners can demonstrate their

position using a variety of methods, such as a video, presentation, or paper. Teachers and peers

Jeremy Price 10 January 2003 T-540 Dilemma Explorer Final Report

are encouraged to provide feedback during the dilemma exploration process. This important

feedback provides the learner with an idea of his or her progress. Dilemma Explorer provides

the learner with the conceptual model upon which the tool is based (Figure 1). Allowing the

learner to organize information in a variety of ways, or models, supports the learning process.

Distributed Cognition

The Dilemma Explorer encourages peers and teachers to provide feedback on a learner’s

progress through the dilemma exploration process. They are encouraged to prompt the learner

with questions such as, what if…?, what about…?, why is ______ so? This will encourage the

learner to reconsider and reflect on the evidence they have gathered in attempting to address

these questions. All teachers and peers have access to the same visual data display models of the

collected information that the learner has. While teachers and peers are encouraged to provide

informative and constructive feedback, there is no guarantee they will. This may serve to

reinforce poor or unformed inquiry skills. Models of appropriate questions can be provided.

Learners may come to rely on the Dilemma Explorer when solving problems or managing

dilemmas if proper scaffold removal and transfer activities do not occur. It is also important for

teachers to encourage learners to develop their skills independent of the Dilemma Explorer.

Changing Behavior: BAD POP Art

While the analysis and exploration of a dilemma is an important and rich learning experience

in itself, it is hoped that the Dilemma Explorer will be used to explore dilemmas that allow for

student action. Beyond simply taking a position, students could be encouraged – in the spirit of

the maxim “think globally, act locally” – to get involved in making their stance on the dilemma a

reality in some way. This necessitates a change in behavior, from inaction to action in some

form, whether it is writing letters, educating others, or organizing rallies.

Jeremy Price 10 January 2003 T-540 Dilemma Explorer Final Report

In order to facilitate this behavior change, the Dilemma Explorer draws upon two ideas in

behaviorism: the Priming (the Power of Priming, or “POP”; Perkins 2002) and Believe-And-Do

(“BAD”; Perkins 2002). While the Dilemma Explorer is not a strict behaviorist tool, certain

aspects of it (described below) support the type of environment to allow for changes in behavior.

In order for a behavior to occur, there must be sufficient priming for action. By delineating

and then favoring (by assigning high ratings) various points of view and the actions these people

have taken on the same dilemma in the past can prime learners through expectations. If a certain

action has worked in the past, the learner may become primed for action via the precedent set by

the other personalities, in other words, following their lead (observing the model). In addition,

by allowing the learner to articulate his or her own point of view, the learner may become primed

through hopes and fears. The learner may write that he or she hopes for a certain outcome to the

dilemma, thereby priming for action to allow that outcome to occur.

Since many dilemmas are steeped in controversy and emotions, beliefs may enter the process

a learner undertakes on the way towards action. Inherent in the Dilemma Explorer process is the

notion that learners must first convince themselves of their own stance on the dilemma.

Articulating a stance on the dilemma is a method of “tell-and-do,” stating what needs to be done

can lead to action. However, the delineation of questions and points of view, the interpretation of

sources, and the recursive feedback loop that allows classmates and teachers to challenge the

learner’s information and stances, encourages the shoring up of the learner’s “action poetry” and

persuasion skills. Coupled with the priming strategies outlined above, the learner may become

aware of their own defenses and primed for action to attempt to make their stance on the

dilemma a reality.

Jeremy Price 10 January 2003 T-540 Dilemma Explorer Final Report

Constructivist Learning Environment Design Goals

The Dilemma Explorer can be utilized within a constructivist learning environment for

reasons outlined below. This fit, of course, is contingent upon the pedagogical bent of the

teacher – if the teacher adheres to a constructivist philosophy, the Dilemma Explorer can be

incorporated into such a setting. Honebein (1996) delineates seven goals to which designers of

constructivist learning environments should adhere, and to which the Dilemma Explorer strives

to meet:

1. Provide experience with the knowledge construction process. As a metacurricular

learning tool, the system allows for a broad range of topics to explore, which can be

decided by negotiation between the learner and teacher. In addition, while Dilemma

Explorer scaffolds the dilemma inquiry process, it allows for great flexibility in terms of

actual implementation and use – the culminating performance can likewise be determined

by negotiation.

2. Provide experience in and appreciation for multiple perspectives. Through the point-

of-view section of the system, the Dilemma Explorer encourages learners to recognize the

various stakeholders and viewpoints inherent in a dilemma. By ranking these points-of-

view, learners have the ability to evaluate these different viewpoints and incorporate them

into their own positions.

3. Embed learning in realistic and relevant contexts. Real dilemmas are rooted in real

contexts, and those contexts depend on the knowledge domain in which the dilemma is

found. The Dilemma Explorer allows learners to organize the information inherent in the

dilemma in order to make sense of it and to take a stand on it.

4. Encourage ownership and voice in the learning process. With the Dilemma Explorer,

learners are responsible for collecting the information, entering it into the system, and

Jeremy Price 10 January 2003 T-540 Dilemma Explorer Final Report

organizing it – Dilemma Explorer provides a framework in which this can occur.

Teachers can consult and advise through direct communication with the learners or by

leaving “Sticky Notes” throughout the process.

5. Embed learning in social experience. Throughout the use of the Dilemma Explorer,

learners are encouraged to work with others. They may collaborate on the same dilemma

inquiry. They may also leave “Sticky Notes” for each other, making suggestions and

providing feedback throughout the inquiry process.

6. Encourage the use of multiple modes of representation. The Dilemma Explorer is a

computer-based organizational inquiry tool – the culminating performance activity in

which learners demonstrate and present their dilemma inquiry is negotiable. A teacher

and learner may negotiate the actual mode in which this performance is presented.

7. Encourage self-awareness of the knowledge construction process. The dilemma

inquiry process inherent in the Dilemma Explorer is transparent – learners are made

aware of the various steps involved. In addition, positions can be classified as “Initial,”

“In-Progress,” or “Final,” demonstrating the process by which they arrived at their


Jeremy Price 10 January 2003 T-540 Dilemma Explorer Final Report

Critique of the Design

No intervention is perfect, especially when completed within the time constraints of one

academic semester. The Dilemma Explorer is no exception. There are several areas in which the

design either does not reflect the complexities of the real world or falls short of providing

flexible or powerful enough tools for an in-depth exploration of a dilemma.

As stated in the Introduction of this report, dilemmas in life are messy, complex situations

that often involve deeply seated beliefs and strong personalities. While it is an important and

educational experience to explore a dilemma logically and rationally, quantifying these

emotionally situated circumstances may detract from the very human side of the dilemmas. A

computer-based modality allowing learners to explore dilemmas may lead them to view

dilemmas in a cold and analytical manner, ignoring the strong emotions that are often ignited in

dilemmas. In addition, as in the case of the Challenger shuttle dilemma, does assigning five

ducks (as in “Putting your ducks in a row”) to life-and-death decisions devalue human life? A

computer or a system such as the Dilemma Explorer cannot adequately address these

shortcomings; it is up to the teacher and learner to fully consider that lives, livelihoods,

emotions, and beliefs may be at stake and to explore the dilemma with the thoughtfulness, care,

and respect such an inquiry would require.

After airing those emotional concerns, the prototype at this stage does not provide as many

ways of visually organizing information as was hoped. Currently there are only two ways to

display the information culled through an exploration: as a series of tables and as a “tree” (see

the Prototype section of this report and Appendices 2m, 2n, and 2o). While these ways of

viewing and organizing the collected data are enough to start the analysis of the dilemma in

depth, it was hoped that further and more complex ways of organizing the data would be in

Jeremy Price 10 January 2003 T-540 Dilemma Explorer Final Report

place. One such idea includes the development of an automatically generated concept map,

similar to the “tree view” but more like a web clustered around a central point where each piece

of information can be manipulated, resized, moved from place to place on the screen, and

connected to other pieces of information. Another idea includes the development of a “matrix

view,” which in essence presents the learner with a blank slate. The learner has the ability to

drag-and-drop the information anywhere on the screen. Both ideas would provide for much

more flexibility than is currently available. Due to time constraints and the lack of the technical

expertise necessary to develop such functionality, these ideas can only be articulated in this


Lastly, as noted in the Learning Challenges section of this report, the ultimate responsibility

of making the dilemma exploration process with the Dilemma Explorer a meaningful and

educational experience lies within the cognitive nexus consisting of the learner, his or her peers,

and the teacher. Without a strong system of feedback on the learner’s inquiry process from peers

and the teacher, and a strong underlying intrinsic motivation based on a sense of importance in

exploring a dilemma, the Dilemma Explorer runs the risk of becoming an assignment devoid of

meaning or any connection with the learner’s world.

Jeremy Price 10 January 2003 T-540 Dilemma Explorer Final Report


At the current time, the prototype of the Dilemma Explorer system is a fully functional

implementation of the system, with the exception of the additional Help Screens, which were

formulated late in the development process. Appendices 2a through 2o contain screenshots of

all currently authored pages, with the exception of the teacher sign-up and sign-in pages. The

text for the additional Help Screens can be found in Appendix 3.

The first step of the process is for the teacher to sign up for a username and password, and to

specify a password for the entire class. This password is then entered by the learner when

signing up as a measure of security. This student sign-up screen can be seen in Appendix 2b.

After signing up and then signing in (Appendix 2a), the learner is presented with a page

(Appendix 2c, “Learner’s Main Page”) that lists all the current dilemma inquiries on which he or

she is working or collaborating, as well as all of the other dilemmas on which other classmates

are working. Learners have the ability to view, but not add to or change, the dilemma inquiries

of classmates, and will have the ability to leave “Sticky Note” comments with feedback.

Starting a new dilemma is a straightforward process. The learner is presented with a page

(Appendix 2d) that asks for some overview and summary information about the dilemma. Upon

saving this information to the database, the learner is presented with a “Dilemma Main Page”

(Appendix 2e). Rather than funneling the learner through a linear process, this Dilemma Main

Page allows learners to add and change the inquiry as information becomes available. In

addition, while testing an online system for storing and organizing environmental observation

data in a public school in Los Angeles, CA,2 it was found that often one class period was not

enough for students to complete a complex computer-based task in full. This Main Page allows

The author of this report did this testing in March and April of 2002 on behalf of the Natural History Museum of
Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, CA. The environmental system, developed by the author for the Earth Odyssey
outreach program, can be found at

Jeremy Price 10 January 2003 T-540 Dilemma Explorer Final Report

students to come back to their work and update it as time allows, and frees the teacher from

scheduling large blocks of time dedicated to the Dilemma Explorer.

At this point, or at any point in the dilemma exploration process, learners have the ability to

add peers they may want as collaborators or teammates (Appendix 2f). After clicking the link

from the Dilemma Main Page, the learner is presented with a list of students in the same class.

The learner has the ability to choose any peer he or she may want. For these chosen

collaborators, this dilemma will be displayed on their personalized Learner’s Main Page

(Appendix 2c). They have the ability to update, change, add to, and remove information from

this dilemma, just like the originator of the dilemma exploration.

From the Dilemma Main Page, learners may enter questions, points-of-view, sources and

positions (Appendices 2g, 2h, 2i, and 2j, respectively) into the database. Each page asks the

learner to enter information specific to the issue, and for the learner to rank the “Magnetic

Attraction” (how closely the information is tied to the dilemma) and to “Put your ducks in a row”

(how much weight the learner puts on the information in formulating their own position). For

positions, learners may specify the position as “Initial,” “In-Progress,” or “Final,” so that they

may chart their positions through the dilemma inquiry process. Learners may post an unlimited

number of “In-Progress” positions.

While viewing the dilemma explorations of other learners, the learner may leave “sticky

notes,” or feedback, on a particular question, point-of-view, or source of information. An

example of a teacher adding a “sticky note” can be found in Appendix 2k. When the link to add

a “sticky note” is clicked, a new window appears requesting the title of the note and the body of

the note. Teachers have the ability to select the box marked “Make Private,” which allows only

the team working on that specific dilemma to view the comments. This feature may be

Jeremy Price 10 January 2003 T-540 Dilemma Explorer Final Report

especially useful if the teacher wants to critique an aspect of the dilemma exploration process

without causing undue embarrassment by allowing the entire class to view the critique. Once a

“sticky note” has been posted, the title appears in a list. An icon ( ) appears next to the titles of

“sticky notes” that have not yet been read by the learner. In addition, this same icon appears next

to items on the “Dilemma Main Page” that have unread “sticky notes” affiliated with them

(Appendix 2l).

Once items, such as questions, points-of-view, sources, and positions, have been added to the

dilemma exploration process, their titles appear on the “Dilemma Main Page” (Appendix 2l).

The learner has the ability to update any of these items at any time, as well as to add further

items. When examining someone else’s dilemma exploration, the learner does not have the

ability to add or change information, but can read the items in detail and add or read “sticky


From the “Dilemma Main Page,” learners also have the ability to see all of their information

organized in two different manners, a Table View and a Tree View, which were described in

detail in the Structure of the Intervention section of this report. The Table View

(Appendix 2m) organizes the information in a series of tables. The learner can sort these tables

utilizing a variety of criteria. For example, the learner has the ability to sort the Questions table

by the title of the questions, by how he or she may have ranked items according to the “Magnetic

Attraction” scale, by how he or she may have ranked items according to the “Putting your ducks

in a row” scale, or by the date and time the questions were entered into the database. The Tree

View allows learners to view the information in a more freeform visual manner, either in a

summarized form (Appendix 2n), which presents just the title and “Magnetic Attraction” and the

“Putting your ducks in a row” scales, or a longer form (Appendix 2o), which presents the items

Jeremy Price 10 January 2003 T-540 Dilemma Explorer Final Report

in full. The learner has the ability to switch back-and-forth between these two forms. In

addition, the learner can print out any of these views.

In order to aid learners through their exploration of dilemmas, and to make the process more

explicit, contextualized help screens will be provided. While these help screens are not yet a part

of the Dilemma Explorer system itself, the text for these screens can be found in Appendix 3.

The term “contextualized” refers to the idea that if the learner were entering a question and clicks

on the link for the help screen, the information pertaining to the Questions portion of the

dilemma exploration process would be displayed.

The Dilemma Explorer was demonstrated for two professional educators3 and several

classmates4. This process was very helpful, and several improvements to this iteration of the

Dilemma Explorer were implemented. These changes included specifying the various stages of

the positions the learner may take on a dilemma (Price), providing examples of citations for

various types of sources (Reilly), and using the “ducks in a row” phrase for the duck icons

(Pasatta). “Help Pages” were developed in order to facilitate the process for learners using the

system for the first time, and screenshots of the Tree View page and Table View page to visually

illustrate what these views represent (Cook and Simpson). These suggestions were an important

part of the process and made the Dilemma Explorer a better and more useful learning tool.

Nina Price, Director of Congregational Learning at Congregation Beth El of the Sudbury River Valley, Sudbury,
MA, and Jody Reilly, American History teacher at the Indian Mountain School, Lakeville, CT.
Including Lisa Stump, Jason Pasatta, Amy Fienup, Allison Cook, and Dana Simpson.

Jeremy Price 10 January 2003 T-540 Dilemma Explorer Final Report


Blumenfeld, P., Mergendoller, J., & Puro, P. (1992). Translating Motivation into
Thoughtfulness. In H. Marshall (Ed.), Redefining Student Learning: Roots of Educational
Change (pp. 207-239). Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing.

Dweck, C. S. (2000). Self-Theories: Their role in motivation, personality, and development.

Philadelphia: Psychology Press.

Harvey, G. (1998). Writing with Sources: A Guide for Harvard Students. Indianapolis:
Hackett Publishing.

Honebein, P. (1996). Seven Goals for the Design of Constructivist Learning Environments. In
B. G. Wilson (Ed.), Constructivist learning environments: Case studies in instructional
design (pp. 130-143). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE). (2000). How do we “Teach with the Brain in
Mind?” Teaching and Learning Collaborative Newsletter. September 2000.
<>. Retrieved 17 November 2002.

Perkins, D. (1992). Smart Schools: Better Thinking and Learning for Every Child. New York:
Free Press.

Perkins, D. (2002). POP Art: The Power Of Priming via the Power of Precedent. Class
Handout for Harvard Graduate School of Education course T-540.

Perkins, D. (2002). BAD Behavior: Believe-And-Do as the Basis for Behavior. Class Handout
for Harvard Graduate School of Education course T-540.

Appendix 1
Technical Specifications
The Dilemma Explorer is authored in the PHP Web-based scripting language utilizing a MySQL relational database for storage and retrieval purposes. Both PHP
and MySQL are in the public domain and free of charge. In addition, this system can be coupled with the Apache Web Server software, which is also in the
public domain and free of charge to use. All products are available for Windows, Apple Mac OS, Linux, and Unix. The Apache Web Server is available for
download at, PHP is available at, and MySQL is available at A tutorial on installing the
software can be found at Webmonkey’s “PHP4 Installation Overview” (
index4a.html). These products are necessary only for the server side of the system. All that is needed for the client-side (learner-side) of the system is a Web
browser, such as Microsoft Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator, or Opera, all of which are freely available for download from the Internet.

The Dilemma Explorer was developed and tested on a Gateway Performance desktop computer with an Intel Pentium III processor running Windows XP
Professional, Apache 1.3.20 for Windows32 Web Server, PHP 4.2.2, and MySQL 3.23.39. While care was taken in the coding process to make the Dilemma
Explorer system as backward and forward compatible as possible, earlier or later versions of software may cause the Dilemma Explorer to malfunction.

The structure of the MySQL database is illustrated below:

D il e m e x
D a taba se

C o l l a b o r a t io n D il e m m a s F eed ba c k Lea r n er s P o s it io n Q u e s t io n s S o u r c es S o u r c e s t o q u e s t io n s S o u r c e s t o v ie w s T ea c h ers V ie w p o in t s

T a ble T a ble T a ble T a ble T a ble T a ble T a ble T a ble T a ble T a ble T a ble

c _id d_id f _id l _id p_id q _id s _id stq_id s tv _id t _id v_id
c _d il em ma id d_teach er id f _t it le l _l og in p_dilemma id q _d il em ma id s _d il em ma id stq_sourceid s tv _s ou rc eid t _l og in v_dilemmaid
c _o th er id d_learn er id f _o nt ab le l _p as sw ord p_status q _d es cr ip tion s _n ic kn ame stq_questio nid s tv _v ie wid t _p as sw ord v_name
d_name f _o nid l _t ea ch er id p_shortde sc q _f ac tor s _t ype t _t it le v_description
d_short de sc f _f or id l _f ir st na me p_longdesc q _s tr en gth s _s ou rce t _f ir st na me v_factor
d_longd esc f _w ho ty pe l _l as tn ame p_datetime q _d at et ime s _r ef le ct ion t _l as tn ame v_strength
d_datet ime f _w ho id s _l ink t _c la ss pw v_datetime
f _f ir st name s _f ac tor
f _l as tn ame s _s tr en gth
f _f ee db ack s _d at et ime
f _p ri va te
f _d at et ime
f _r ead
Jeremy Price 10 January 2003 T-540 Dilemma Explorer Final Report

Appendix 2a
Log-In Screen

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Appendix 2b
Student Sign Up Screen

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Appendix 2c
Learner Main Page Screen

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Appendix 2d
Dilemma Summary Entry Screen

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Appendix 2e
Dilemma Main Page Screen

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Appendix 2f
Add Collaborators Screen

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Appendix 2g
Question Entry Page Screen

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Appendix 2h
Point-Of-View Entry Page Screen

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Appendix 2i
Source Entry Page Screen

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Appendix 2j
Position Entry Page Screen

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Appendix 2k
Add “Sticky Note” Screen

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Appendix 2l
Dilemma Main Page After Full Data Entry

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Appendix 2m
Table View Screen

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Appendix 2n
Short Tree View Screen

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Appendix 2o
Full Tree View Screen

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Appendix 3
Help Screen Texts

What Do Questions Have To Do With Anything?

Good, well-worded questions can help you in your exploration of a dilemma and can help you by focusing your
search for information. By finding sources that address your questions, your stance on the dilemma will be that
much more informed.

While there is no magic formula for questions, there are a few key words you can start with:
 Who: Who is involved in the dilemma, and who is affected by it, for good or for bad?
 What: What is really going on with dilemma? What was happening that the dilemma occurred?
What do different people think about the dilemma? What effects might the outcome of this dilemma
 Where & When: Where is the dilemma happening? When is it happening?
 How: How did the dilemma start? How might it end? How are different people affected? How
might this dilemma be avoided in the future?
 Why: Why is this dilemma important to explore? Why did certain events or circumstances lead up to
this dilemma? Why do different people think differently about the dilemma? Why is the outcome of
this dilemma important?

What are “Points Of View,” and Why Are They Important?

Dilemmas do not happen in a vacuum. People cause dilemmas to occur, and dilemmas greatly affect people. A
“points of view” are the perspectives of these people – the beliefs and feelings of someone who is right there in the
dilemma, effecting the dilemma in some way, or the beliefs and feelings of someone who might be affected by the
dilemma in some way.

Finding the Right Sources

Finding sources is an important way to explore the dilemma more closely. Look for sources that address your
questions or that support or disprove the points of view you’ve come up with. Some sources might help you come
up with new questions or more points of view. Just add them in. You have the ability to write in what you took
away from the source

Make sure you give credit where credit is due: it is important to properly cite your sources. You will be given
suggestions based on APA (American Psychological Association) guidelines for proper citations.

Taking a Stance
Now it’s your turn to take a stance, or position, on this dilemma. What do you think should be done about this
dilemma? What do you think should be the outcome of this dilemma? You can take stances at different points in
your dilemma exploration process (“Initial,” or at the beginning, “In-Progress,” while you’re going through the
process, or “Final,” at the end of the process). It may be interesting for you to see how your stance changes as you
go through the dilemma exploration process.

Jeremy Price 10 January 2003 T-540 Dilemma Explorer Final Report

Appendix 4
Space Shuttle Challenger Example:
Table View Printout


Jeremy Price 10 January 2003 T-540 Dilemma Explorer Final Report