PIs: Karthik Ramani, Anita Roychoudhury, Niklas Elmqvist, Lorraine Kisselburgh
The PIs are designing, deploying, and studying learning in the context of a visually-integrated cyber exploratorium for design — an infrastructure for collaborative visual design activities. The project is being carried out in the context of an undergraduate innovative design course, and the investigative focus is on design of and learner capabilities when using interfaces and environments for expressing ideas in visual forms that capture explicit and tacit knowledge and that can be shared and the affordances for promoting learning of ideation and collaboration around such shared representations of knowledge. The technological innovation is a cyber-infrastructure hardware framework that includes touch tablets, walls, and a wiki combined with software for sketching and diagramming and the socio-technical system around it that enables the kinds of high-end collaborative “play” needed for innovative ideation. Research centers on promoting learning in design; promoting the cognition of ideation in a social learning environment; relationships between visual thinking, imagination, and externalization; and how such a technological framework transforms creation of design knowledge and learning. Foundations are in the constructivist theory of learning, the social constructivist view of social construction of knowledge, the design of natural user interfaces (NUIs), and the view that cognition is embodied in the artifacts and affordances of the environment. The PIs are taking an ecological approach to examining the environment to understand how its combination of factors influence design learning, specifically integrative visual thinking, collaboration, and innovation.
Research has established the important role of exploratory “play” in the development of creativity and cognition and the central role of such exploration in ideation, especially in ideation of innovative solutions to problems and design challenges. This project leverages the possibilities inherent in natural user interfaces (NUIs) for promoting the kinds of collaborative exploration of ideas that is essential for collaborative learning, problem solving, and design. The hardware infrastructure being designed enables groups to articulate ideas visually, share them, and refine them together around a large collaborative multi-touch interface, to access those visualizations from afar and annotate them textually, and to share those ideas broadly with classmates, team-mates, and others. Such an infrastructure provides a foundation for supporting project-based and design-based learning activities in formal learning environments in ways that give all team members chances to contribute appropriately, record the contributions of team-mates for teachers and other mentors to examine, allow sharing and advice from peers, mentors, and experts, and eventually allow automatical assessment, help,and advice. The proposed infrastructure has potential to be used across all ages, in formal and informal learning environments, and in the workplace.