Bodong Chen

Crisscross Landscapes

Notes: Chen. (2010). What do students do in a F2F CSCL classroom? The optimization of multiple communications modes



Citekey: @Chen2010-ao

Chen, W., Looi, C.-K., & Tan, S. (2010). What do students do in a F2F CSCL classroom? The optimization of multiple communications modes. Computers & Education, 55(3), 1159–1170.


Summarize: An interesting descriptive (or exploratory) case study investigating student online & F2F communication in a CSCL environment.


Small groups of students interacted face- to-face over a computer-mediated communication (CMC) technology called Group Scribbles (GS) to jointly complete a learning task. The lesson designers attempted to optimize the use of CMC technology and face-to-face (F2F) discussion in students’ collaborative learning, with the aim of harnessing the specifi c features of each medium. Building on notions from communication studies and from interaction analysis, we observed the construction and evolution of the interactions through analyzing the artifacts that were produced by a group of students – in verbal talk, gestures, and sketches drawn and text inscribed in GS. F2F and GS interactions intertwined to support collaborative learning. The fi ndings from this study could inform design aspects concerning integrating and reinforcing the strengths of both communication modes when introducing computer-assisted collaborative learning (CSCL) in a F2F classroom. (p. 1)

The work reported here is part of a large scale 3-year research project investigating how to design and support students collaborative learning using a computer technology named GroupScribbles (GS). (p. 1)

  1. Literature review (p. 2)

Computer-mediated communication (CMC) technologies have been widely applied in the fi eld of education. They can remove time and space restrictions of the typical classroom setting (Curtis & Lawson, 2001; Harasim, Hiltz, Teles, & Turoff, 1995; Henri, 1992). They allow learners to have more time to think “deeply” before giving opinions (Moore, 2002), and promote discussion among learners to create a platform for the creation of knowledge (Gay, Sturgill, Martin, & Huttenlocher, 1999). (p. 2)

The bene fi ts of incorporating CMC technology in learning and education include increasing student engagement, enhancing opportunities for dialogue, debate, and the potential for a sense of community, enhancing critical analysis, refl ection, and higher-order thinking, and promoting the social construction of knowledge as well as collaborative thinking (Adelskold, Alklett, Axelsson, & Blomgren, 1999; Collins & Collins, 1996; Dehler & Parras-Hernandez, 1998; Jonassen, Prevish, Christy, & Stavulaki, 1999; Ruberg, Moore, & Taylor, 1996). (p. 2)

). Sutton (2001) stated that CMC technology has caused the shift from correspondence learning to social learning, increasing interaction with other students as well as with the teacher. (p. 2)

CMC has some disadvantages as compared with F2F communication. Hara (2002) indicated that students are required to make assumptions about meaning (p. 2)

The F2F interactions contribute to a higher level of socialization and sense of togetherness (p. 2)

Our design-based research adopted a blended collaborative learning model that integrates both CMC technology and F2F discussion in the classroom with the aim of harnessing the advantages of the specifi c features of each communication mode. There are three actors in this F2F CSCL environment: the teacher as the facilitator, the student as the task performer/problem solver, and the different communication modes (GS and F2F interaction) as the mediator of the collaboration process. (p. 2)

The research question of this study is: how do students use a communication mode to perform different kinds of activities to collab- oratively complete a task when multiple modes of communication are available to them at the same time? (p. 2)

  1. Frameworks for interaction analysis of collaboration (p. 2)

We take the perspective of interaction analysis as the analytical tool of this study. Interaction analysis is an interdisciplinary method for the empirical investigation of human relations with each other and environment (Jordan & Henderson,1995). In the CSCL community, there is interest in analyzing the interactional processes in online learning environments (Suthers, Dwyer, Medina, & Vatrapu, 2007). In analyzing interactions in such environments, researchers have to take into account the construction and manipulation of representations on the shared workspace which may or may not be augmented by face-to-face interactions. (p. 2)

the group ’ s intersubjective meaning-making (Suthers, 2006), common ground (Clark & Brennan, 1991) and a shared world (Stahl, 2008). The works of Dillenbourg (1999) and Stahl, Koschmann, and Suthers (2006) call for the need to design process-oriented methodologies to analyze interactions. (p. 2)

Garcia and Jacobs ’ work was adapted by Stahl (2009) to study maths chat interaction in dual– space interaction environments using the concept of turn-taking and adjacency pair. (p. 3)

Suthers et al. (2007) developed the methodology of uptake analysis and the notation of uptake graphs to analyze how knowledge building is accomplished in a computer-mediated collaborative environment involving a chat stream and evidence mapping tool. Uptake is the description of the act of a participant taking reifi cations of prior or ongoing participation as being relevant for further participation in an ongoing process of meaning-making (Suthers et al., 2007). (p. 3)

in this paper, we will use a descriptive-interpretive interactional analysis approach to analyze both face-to- face discourse as well as media representations on the CSCL environment. We will describe all the student– student and student– interface interactions in this media-rich environment by presenting the discourse, behaviour, and media representations of members of a group. Multiple point logs to analyze the interactional scripts to capture the overall picture of the collaboration process will be used (Looi & Chen, 2010 (p. 3)

  1. CMC technology used in classroom - GroupScribbles (p. 3)

. GS user interface presents each user with a two-paned window (Fig.1 ). The lower pane is the user’ s personal work area, or “private board”, with a virtual pad of fresh “scribble sheets” onwhich the user can draw or type. A scribble can be shared by being dragged and dropped on the public board in the upper pane which is synchronized across all devices. (p. 3)

The essential feature of the GS is the combination of the private board where students can work individually and group boards or public boards where students can post the work and position it relative to others, view others’ work, and take items back to the private board for further elaboration. GS is a general-purpose collaboration tool in the sense that we do not have to need to have a pre-defi ned topic or task. (p. 3)

  1. Context, participants & lesson design (p. 3)

ach student was equipped with a Tablet PC (TPC) with GS client software installed. (p. 3)

The objective of introducing GS into a classroom is to change the traditional patterns of classroom talk. A very common pattern in classroom talk is IRE (a teacher initiation (I) is followed by a student reply ®, followed by an evaluation of this reply (E) by the teacher (See Mehan,1979)). (p. 3)

Changing such deep-seated traditional patterns of classroom discourse poses a considerable degree of challenge for classroom reform. Our design is not just to introduce GS technology into the classroom, but to transform the socio- constructivism pedagogy enabled by GS. Scardamalia and Bereiter (1994) stated that learning is a dialogic, social and cultural process, whereby the learners form a community, therefore providing social, emotional and cognitive support to each other. Our aim is to transform the traditional lecture-based F2F lessons into more student-centered ones by connecting students together by the networked technology. (p. 4)

A typical collaborative pattern when a student group is jointly doing a task is as follows: Individual group member works on the private space in the Tablet PC respectively, then posts to a group board which is synchronized to all group members. They build on each other’ s ideas and create the group artifact. After fi nishing the group task, they visit other groups’ board, learn others’ ideas and give comments and suggestions. After visiting all other groups’ boards, they will go back to the home group board to check the comments and suggestion given by other groups, and further refi ne the ideas. At the end of the session, the groups that have the best group product present their work to the whole class. (p. 4)

  1. Case study method & data collection (p. 4)

A descriptive case study has been carried out to examine what happens in an event or activity in depth. The case examined in this study is a small group collaborative learning scenario. The purpose of this study is to describe the behaviors of students when they are doing group work. (p. 4)

We randomly chose one scenario from the whole dataset as the case for this study. (p. 4)

a Primary 5 science activity that requires the students to discuss confi gurations of connecting a light bulb with batteries in a circuit so that the bulb will light up. (p. 4)

We randomly chose one group from the 10 groups in the class. The group comprised 4 students, and their seating arrangement is as shown in Fig. 4. (p. 5)

When collecting data on the collaborative learning of this group, one researcher sat beside this group and took down detailed fi eld observation notes. A video camcorder was placed at the side to record the group interaction. (p. 5)

In the analysis, we chose to focus on the participants’ interactions regarding substantial questions/problems related to the study case. The actions included how students worked individually and collaborated on the tasks through creating or editing artifacts on GS, verbal conversation and their physical gestures. When doing the transcript analysis, we focus on the role of different communication modes in different stages of doing the task to investigate how F2F and GS interaction intertwined to support collaborative learning. (p. 5)

  1. Data analysis & findings (p. 5)

The transcript (shown in Appendix A) we have chosen is a typical instance of the target group’s interaction. (p. 5)

All the interactions transcribed in Appendix A serve some purpose in the process of students’ collaborative learning. The interactions in the process of students’ collaborative learning in this group can be categorized based on the different stages of the collaborative learning activity: task distribution and coordination, individual cognitive work, within group negotiation, cross-group meaning making, and consolidation. (p. 5)

7.1. Task distribution and coordination (p. 5)

7.2. Individual cognitive work (p. 6)

7.3. Within-group negotiation (p. 6)

7.4. Cross-group meaning-making (p. 6)

  1. Discussion and conclusion (p. 7)

As shown in the transcript, most of the discourse involves student– student interactions. The discourse in this group is multidirectional rather than bi-directional. Multidirectional dialogue exchanges could enhance students’ cognitive development (Gillies, 2006). This transitive discussion contributes to productive meta-cognitive deci- sions, by making students think publicly, and exposes their ideas to critical scrutiny (Goos, Galbraith, & Renshaw, 2002). (p. 7)

There are traces of various uptakes from representations in GS or from F2F verbal discussions. As the students’ learning interactions were constructed in real time through concrete verbal and GS interactions, this provides the foundation for knowledge being evolved as a product of interpersonal meaning making. The construction of knowledge becomes much more of a group achievement, resulting from the intricate semantic intertwining of postings and references rather than being attributable to individuals (Stahl, 2009). (p. 7)

The data analyses show that the students in the group made use of GS as a platform to represent their initial cognitive thinking and under- standing. The time delay and permanence of CMC allows for ‘ think before talking’ (Veerman, Andriessen, & Kanselaar, 2000). Jonassen, Davidson, Collins, Campbell, and Haag (1995) stated that the nature of CMC allows for “collective thinking” and time for reflection, leading to higher quality interactions. The process of writing and refl ecting may encourage higher-level learning such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation, and promote clearer and more precise communication (Garrison, 1997; Jonassen & Kwon, 2001; Sapp & Simon, 2005). GS enables the students to focus on individual idea generation before beingexposed tothe ideas of others and discussing with them. (p. 7)

Knowing that the class is networked via the GS technology, the students have the opportunity to learn and gain more exposure from the artifacts of other groups. (p. 7)

They do not need to search for the contributions of others. Stahl (2009) considers this as a “ non- trivial requirement” for good groupware since the work of a group quickly becomes too extensive for everyone to read and keep track of it. GS keeps track of the development of the students’ work - all the input is stored in a communal database for future reference and this facilitates the sharing of knowledge and ideas. (p. 7)

The intertwining of online and F2F modalities play an important role in unifying and strengthening the student collaborative learning experience described in this paper. GS and F2F interactions are complementary to each other rather than supplementary to each other. The fi ndings from this study support Media Richness Theory (Daft & Lengel, 1986) in that richer media (e.g., F2F interaction) are more effective for equivocal tasks, and leaner media (e.g., GS) are better for unequivocal tasks. Effective collaborative learning often involves both equivocal and unequivocal tasks. (p. 7)

This study is an exploratory study analyzing one group of students’ interactive behaviors when doing a learning task. (p. 8)