Asee peer logo

Using Virtual Teams To Improve Information Literacy And Distributed Cognition In A Collaborative Writing And General Chemistry Assignment

Download Paper |


2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Writing and Portfolios

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1368.1 - 13.1368.8



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Jung Oh Kansas State University-Salina

visit author page

Jung Oh is an Associate Professor of Chemistry at Kansas State University at Salina. She earned her Ph.D. from UCLA and was an ASEE postdoctoral fellow at Naval Air Warfare Center. She was 2004 Wakonse Teaching fellow and 2006 Peer Review of Teaching fellow at K-State. Her interests in scholarship of teaching include cross-curricular innovation.

visit author page


Judith Collins Kansas State University-Salina

visit author page

Judith Collins is an Associate Professor of English at Kansas State University at Salina. She earned her Ph.D. from Arizona State University in 2001. Her research interests include information literacy, instructional technology, and literature and technology.

visit author page

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Using virtual teams to improve information literacy and distributed cognition in a collaborative writing and general chemistry assignment

How might individual information literacy skills contribute to the work of the group? Would a cross-curricular assignment generate observable communication related to distributed cognition during virtual team activities?


Two collaborating faculty developed a linked assignment in a general education chemistry course and an upper-level technical writing course. The goals of our collaboration were to foster students’ control, awareness and demonstration of learning, improve student information literacy, and cultivate students’ negotiations with team members. We use the term “distributed cognition” to describe virtual interactions among students that led to fulfilling the goals of the linked assignment. Students’ information literacy skills “funded” the pool of knowledge for student teams to access as they address the problems posed by their assignment to build a presentation.


Information literacy (also known as information fluency) is an umbrella concept encompassing library instruction, computer literacy, critical thinking, communication, ethics, and lifelong learning. The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) defines information literacy as “the set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information”1 and presents information literacy standards for science, engineering and technology.2 Information literacy enables learners to “master content and extent their investigations and become more self- directed, and assume greater control over their own learning”.3

Lave and Wegner proposed that “situated learning” occurs within the context of a “community of practice”, a “set of relations among persons, activities, and world, over time and in relation with other overlapping communities”.4 They claimed that in the community of practice, learning results from the structure of practice, rather than exclusively from the structure of pedagogy; a novice progresses through various stages of participation, including learning the specialized tools and discourse of the community. Ben-Ari, speaking as one engaged in science education, emphasizes the role of curricular content as well as the learning activities in the communities of practice.5 Robey, Khoo,, extend community of practice to “virtual” communities in their study.6

Donath, Spray, Alford, et. al. used the term, “distributed cognition” to explain the integrated contributions of team members,7 where every person contributes to the learning of every other person. Cognition, rather than an individual function, is an activity distributed among persons and their environment. Donath and partners identified seven speech events associated with active learning: critique, elicitation of critique, internalization and awareness of knowledge gained, contextualization and explanation of research or related ideas, negotiations and

Oh, J., & Collins, J. (2008, June), Using Virtual Teams To Improve Information Literacy And Distributed Cognition In A Collaborative Writing And General Chemistry Assignment Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3802

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2008 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015