EXP: Fostering Collaborative Drawing and Problem Solving through Digital Sketch and Touch

PIs: Emma Mercier, Joshua Peschel, Geoffrey Herm
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Award Details

This project’s technology innovation is a set of sketching tools for multi-touch tablets and tables to allow collaborative sketching and sharing between small groups and a whole class. Sketching is often a means of working out and expressing one’s understanding of how a mechanism works or how a process develops over time. Collaborative sketching supports learners collaboratively making sense of a mechanisms or processes. While technology exists for collaboratively annotating sketches, support for collaboratively making sense requires other mechanisms that are not available in current tools. Such sense making is important in developing domain expertise across many different STEM fields. Research goals include designing and exploring the benefits of different sketching and sharing tools and better understanding the benefits of using drawing and sketching for communicating and understanding.

The PIs are designing and developing the next generation of collaborative sketching tools, focusing on the functions those tools need to support collaborative sketching and sharing in the context of sense-making. There is also a focus on the introduction of such tools, i.e., the kinds of activities that need to be embedded into classroom activities to foster joint engagement and learning to be collaborative around sketching. The tools will allow sketch creation, reversion to earlier versions, zooming for refinement, selecting and changing sketch size, choosing pieces for elaborating, reference, and combination with other parts; the tools will support part-whole relationships of engineered products and allow both per-part and system-level analyses, moving, and recombining. Three interaction conditions are being trialed and their affordances for fostering learning and challenges to effective learning compared: many users around one tablet with one input at a time, one user per tablet working with others who also have tablets, and many users working at a table that allows multiple inputs. Foundations for this work are in the literatures around spatial reasoning, sketching for development of domain expertise, representational fluency, collaborative learning, and computer support for collaborative learning (CSCL). Important to understanding how to best design collaborative sketching tools and the roles collaborative sketching plays in joint meaning making is analysis of the discourse as learners are using the tools. The team will analyze that discourse along with the sketching behaviors of learners as they investigate how sketching tools impact learning outcomes of group members, how they support collaborative problem solving and sketching interactions, effects of collaborative sketching on understanding of the potential breadth of solutions and solution paths while solving problems, and principles for design of tools that support collaborative sketching.