For the Inquiring Rock Hunters project, I explored the involvement of amateur geologists in investigating rocks. The participants for this project were volunteer rock lovers from all around Europe. The project took place on the online nQuire platform.
The activity was designed to produce science learning experiences in geology within distributed communities interested in geology. Thus, geologists (experts and non-experts) having a shared interest on geology interact and exchange knowledge and methods supported and guided by online systems and tools within a web-based inquiry environment. The environment provides a means to propose personally-interesting geology investigations (such as “are there volcanic rocks in the Milton Keynes area?”), collect data (photographs of rock samples), and share findings. Important components of the design of the project are collaboration, knowledge sharing, peer review aligned to Citizen Science, as well as experimentation, discovery, critique and reflection associated with Inquiry-Based Learning.The Inquiring Rock Hunters project gives some significant information regarding the aspects that form Citizen Inquiry: how people engage with the scientific investigation, what kind of communication they prefer, when they need help and on what, what kind of tools they want to use for their investigations, etc. However, the observation which concerns all the above is the remarkable absence of a sense of community.
The results suggest that a more intensive exploration of communities of practice and online communities may help build a self-sustaining community with a steady or increasing number of members and interactions.