Oct 7, 2009

We Need Collaborative Surfaces: The Shared IT Project & Other Research Touched by Yvonne Rogers and/or her Colleagues

Today I came across Doug Clow's blog post, "Tangibles, tabletops or mobiles:  Which is best for collaborative learning?".  In essence,  the post was a "liveblog", written during Yvonne Roger's review of her work of the past 10 years at an IET Technology Coffee Morning session held at Open University in London.

I've been following Yvonne's research for some time now, and I thought I'd take this opportunity highlight her work. (I've provided additional information for those of you who are new to this blog.)

Background (from my perspective)

Back in the early 1990's, I ran a "paired learning" study skills/social skills group three mornings a week in a computer lab, for a crew of fourth grade students referred to me (the school psychologist) for support for behavior, learning, and social skills problems.  Since many of the students needed to work on social skills such as waiting turns, cooperating, and working nicely with others, I decided to pair the students up, two to a computer.

Some of the applications were designed for two students, taking turns, but other applications were designed for only one person,  and for those applications, the student's were encouraged to forget about the "rules" and help each other out,  in other words, one student would control the mouse, and the other would be the "mouse-seat driver".  I spent some time teaching "mouse-sharing" skills.  One of the students was trying to grab the mouse when it wasn't his turn, and his partner whacked him over the head with it!

Moving on...

When I first touched an interactive whiteboard, it was 2002 or 2003.  It was a SmartBoard, and I was fascinated by the possibilities that it held.   Since I used it as a tool for group counseling and study skills in my role as a school psychologist,  I couldn't help but hope that a new version would come out that would allow at least two students to interact with the screen at the same time.

Better yet, wouldn't it be cool to have the group table offer the same sort of functionality?   I realize when people envision a learning environment, they are likely to think of students seated in single desks.  While this is the case in many classrooms, many teachers manage to focus on group work, such as group projects,  collaborative/cooperative learning lessons, or science experiments...even if they DON'T have tables. They push the desks together to form a "table".

In my life as a school psychologist,  particularly during my days at an elementary school,  I spent a good part of my day sitting at a table, with 3-6 students, for the purpose of group counseling, social skills training, and so forth.  (The speech and language therapist worked with groups of children around a table, too.)  You can imagine that something like the SMARTTable or the Surface would have been a godsend, provided that it came with a wealth of therapeutic activities and templates that could be easily customized to meet the needs of the students!

Interactive displays and whiteboards are now common in our schools and workplaces. There are a few classrooms that have interactive tables,  and these tables are also found in museums and visitor centers.  But there is much work yet to be done- in terms of content development,  hardware design, interaction design, and research. 

No one discipline "owns" this problem-space.  Better said, no one owns this "solution-space"!

(For more information about this topic, read "Don Norman's Keynote at the 21st Transmedia Symposium: Transmedia Design Challenge:  Co-creation" and "Transcending Disciplinary Boundaries in Interaction Design", by Eli Blevis & Erik Stolterman)

Yvonne Rogers has been a key player in this arena.  She is focused, but at the same time, takes a big-picture, multi-faceted point of view, something that I find lacking in much of the computer science research that crosses my path.  Yvonne's approach is consistent with other forward-minded thinkers in the field, such as

When she was a professor at Indiana University, Yvonne's team produced a short video to outline the types of problems when groups of people encounter when they share information and collaborate on projects.

What I like about this video is that it works towards solutions.  Although the video is from 2006, it still rings true.   

If you have ever worked with students in small groups forced to share one mouse and computer screen, some of the footage will bring you to a smile.

More about Dr. Rogers and her colleagues:

Dr. Rogers is the lead researcher of the SharedIT Project, an interdisciplinary endeavor that exploring how new technologies, such as multi-touch tables, gesture-based systems, interactive wall displays, and interactive tangibles, can support collaborative activities among small groups of people in a range of situations and settings.

Some of the people affiliated with Dr. Rogers and the Open University Pervasive Interaction Lab are highlighted in the video clip below.  The video was filmed at an event held on June 23, 2009 at th Science Museums' Dana Center (UK), in collaboration with the London Knowledge Lab.  The video highlights the work of researchers, artists, educators, and technologists, all exploring collaborative tangible, interactive technologies and surfaces.  Some of the questions asked:    What sort of new interfaces can support "collective creativity"?  How can these technologies support interactions between people who are in different places around the world?

Surface Tension:  Interactives and Workshops (June 23, 2009)

Surface Tension: Interactives and workshops from Dreamtime Film on Vimeo.

Yvonne was one of the researchers involved in the Dynamo Project,the topic of one of my posts a couple of years ago: Revisiting promising projects:  Dynamo, an application for sharing information on large interactive displays in public spaces.  (9/16/07)

Doug Clow provides a good overview of some of the SharedIT projects in his April 2009 post, "Low-hanging fruit: interactive tables for collaborative learning".    If you are curious and want to dig deeper, below is a link to the SharedIT publications web page, along with an assortment of articles related to Yvonne Roger's work.

ShareIT Publications

Hornecker, Eva (2008) "I don't understand it either, but it is cool" - Visitor Interactions with a Multi-Touch Table in a Museum. (pdf) IEEE Tabletop 2008

Rick, J, and Rogers, Y. (2008) From DigiQuilt to DigiTile: Adapting Educational Technology to a Multi-Touch Table. IEEE Tabletops and Interactive Surfaces. 79-86.

Rogers, Y., Lim, Y., Hazlewood, W. R. and Marshall, P. (2008) Equal Opportunities: Do Shareable Interfaces Promote More Group Participation than Single User Displays? - To Appear in Human Computer Interaction

Related publications of interest:

Rogers, Y. (2006) Moving on from Weiser's vision of of calm computing: engaging UbiComp experiences. In: P. Dourish and A. Friday (Eds.) Ubicomp 2006 Proceedings, LNCS 4206, pp. 404-421, Springer-Verlag, PDF version

Rick, J., Harris, A., Marshall, P., Fleck, R., Yuill, N. and Rogers, Y. (2009) Children designing together on a multi-touch tabletop: An analysis of spatial orientation and user interactions. Proceedings of Interaction Design and Children (IDC '09), 106-114

Harris, A., Rick, J., Bonnett, V., Yuill, N., Fleck, R., Marshall, P. and Rogers, Y. (2009) Around the Table: Are multiple-touch surfaces better than single-touch for children's collaborative interactions? Proceedings of CSCL 2009
Rick, J., Rogers, Y., Haig, C. and Yuill, N. (2009) Learning by Doing with Shareable Interfaces. Children, Youth & Environments, In Press.

Marshall, P., Fleck, R., Harris, A. Rick, J., Hornecker, E., Rogers, Y., Yuill, N. and Dalton, N. S. (2009) Fighting for Control: Children's Embodied Interactions When Using Physical and Digital Representations. Proceedings of CHI'09, 2149-2152. PDF version

Rogers, Y. and Price, S. (2009) How mobile technologies are changing the way children learn. In A. Druin, (Ed.) On the Move: Children, Learning and Technology. Elsevier. 3-22. PDF version

Rogers, Y. (2008) A comparison of how animation has been used to support formal, informal and playful learning. Learning with Animation, edited by R. Lowe and W. Schnotz, CUP, Cambridge. 286-303.

Rogers, Y. and Price, S. (2008) The role of mobile devices in facilitating collaborative inquiry in situ. Research and Practice in Technology Enhanced Learning. 3 (3), 209-229. PDF version

Rogers, Y. (2008) Using External Visualizations to Extend and Integrate Learning in Mobile and Classroom Settings. In J. Gilbert (ed.), Visualization: and practice in science education. CUP. 89-102. 

Rogers, Y. and Muller, H. (2006) A framework for designing sensor-based interactions to promote exploration and reflection. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 64 (1), 1-15. PDF version
Brignull, H., Izadi, S, , Fitzpatrick, G., Rogers, Y. and Rodden, T. (2004) The Introduction of a Shared Interactive Surface into a Communal Space. In Proc. of CSCW 2004, Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, November 6-10, 2004, Chicago, USA: ACM Press. 49-58. PDF version
Randell, C., Phelps, T. and Rogers, Y. (2003) Ambient Wood: Demonstration of a digitally enhanced field trip for school children. In Adjunct Proc. UbiComp 2003, 100-104. PDF version

Brignull, H. and Rogers, Y (2003) Enticing people to interact with large public displays in public spaces. In Proceedings of INTERACT'03, Zurich, 17-24. PDF version

Rogers, Y., Brignull, H. and Scaife, M. (2002) Designing Dynamic Interactive Visualisations to Support Collaboration and Cognition. In First International Symposium on  Collaborative Information Visualization Environments, IV 2002, London,  July 10-12, 2002, IEEE, 39-50. PDF version

Of course, there are many other researchers who are exploring collaborative technologies, and I've featured a good number on this blog.  I'll be sure to feature more, from a range of disciplines, in future posts.

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