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Around the table: Are multiple-touch surfaces better than single-touch for children's collaborative interactions?

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This paper presents a classroom study that investigated the potential of using touch tabletop technology to support children's collaborative learning interactions. Children aged 7-10 worked in groups of three on a collaborative planning task in which they designed a seating plan for their classroom. In the single-touch condition, the tabletop surface allowed only one child to interact with the digital content at a time. In the multiple-touch condition, the children could interact with the digital content simultaneously. Results showed that touch condition did not affect the frequency or equity of interactions, but did influence the nature of children's discussion. In the multiple-touch condition, children talked more about the task; in the single-touch condition, they talked more about turn taking. We also report age and gender differences.
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Around the table: Are multiple-touch surfaces better
than single-touch for children’s collaborative interac-
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Harris, Amanda; Rick, Jochen; Bonnett, Victoria; Yuill, Nicola; Fleck, Rowanne; Marshall, Paul and
Rogers, Yvonne (2009). Around the table: Are multiple-touch surfaces better than single-touch for children’s
collaborative interactions? In: Proceedings of the 9th international conference on Computer supported
collaborative learning, 8-13 June 2009, Rhodes, Greece.
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Around the Table: Are Multiple-Touch Surfaces Better Than Single-
Touch for Children’s Collaborative Interactions?
Amanda Harris1, Jochen Rick2, Victoria Bonnett1, Nicola Yuill1,
Rowanne Fleck1, Paul Marshall2, Yvonne Rogers2
1Psychology Department, University of Sussex, Brighton, BN1 9QH, UK
{a.l.harris,v.m.bonnett,nicolay,r.m.m.fleck}@sussex.ac.uk
2Department of Computing, The Open University, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA, UK
{j.rick,p.marshall,y.rogers}@open.ac.uk
Abstract: This paper presents a classroom study that investigated the potential of using touch
tabletop technology to support children’s collaborative learning interactions. Children aged 7-
10 worked in groups of three on a collaborative planning task in which they designed a seating
plan for their classroom. In the single-touch condition, the tabletop surface allowed only one
child to interact with the digital content at a time. In the multiple-touch condition, the children
could interact with the digital content simultaneously. Results showed that touch condition did
not affect the frequency or equity of interactions, but did influence the nature of children’s
discussion. In the multiple-touch condition, children talked more about the task; in the single-
touch condition, they talked more about turn taking. We also report age and gender
differences.
Introduction
It is well established that collaborative activity is beneficial to children’s learning and development (Webb &
Palincsar, 1996). Peer collaboration now forms a significant part of a child’s classroom experience. For
example, the UK national curriculum identifies the ability to collaborate effectively as a key skill that should be
supported and developed throughout the primary school years (Kutnick & Rogers, 1994).
Technological support for collaborative activity in schools has traditionally been limited to the shared
use of single computers (Stanton, Neale, & Bayon, 2002). However, an emerging generation of shareable
interfaces are being promoted as the new technology to support collaborative learning. Shareable interfaces
allow several people in the same place to interact on the same task using their own input device. For example,
multi-touch tabletops are horizontal surfaces that allow multiple people to interact simultaneously through touch
input. These technologies offer the potential for new ways to support and structure co-located collaborative
learning activities. However, there are few studies that directly examine their effect on children’s interactions
and we therefore know very little about their influence on behaviour.
In this paper, we report on how a multi-touch tabletop supported a classroom design task for 7-10 year
olds working in groups of three. In our analysis we examined levels of participation, the degree to which
interactions were equitable and the nature of collaborative dialogue in two conditions; a multiple-touch and a
single-touch condition.
Background
Definitions of what constitutes collaboration centre on the notion of mutual and joint activity. Collaboration
should be a reciprocal, coordinated interaction in which ideas and perspectives are explored and exchanged
(Goos, Galbraith, & Renshaw, 2002). The benefit of collaboration for learning is dependent on children’s level
of participation in such activity. Too often, learning benefits are impaired by inequitable participation, where the
contributions of some group members dominate while others are marginalized (Barron, 2003). Participation
typically refers to the level of talk and dialogue that occurs between collaborating partners (Teasley, 1995).
However, in the case of computer-supported collaboration, physical action is also an important indicator of
participation. For example, children might indicate agreement or disagreement through direct interaction with
the interface instead of explicitly verbalizing their point of view (Kerawalla, Pearce, Yuill, Luckin & Harris,
2008; Stanton & Neale, 2003).
The unique features of multi-touch tabletops offer the potential to support collaboration in new ways
(Rick, Rogers, Haig, & Yuill, 2009). For example, face-to-face, rather than shoulder-to-shoulder interactions,
can promote more participation and communication between group members (Rogers & Lindley, 2004).
Tabletops also provide the added benefit of a larger display area and the opportunity to organize objects
spatially; this allows group members to see and be aware of each other’s actions more readily (Hornecker,
Marshall, Dalton, & Rogers, 2008; Nacenta, Pinelle, Stuckel, & Gutwin, 2007). In addition, touch input may be
a more appealing and natural means of input as users manipulate objects directly and easily with their fingers
(Shen, Everitt, & Ryall, 2003).
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Children’s simultaneous interactions with technology have been investigated in relation to the use of
multiple mice with PC software. The findings, however, have been mixed. On the one hand simultaneous input
can promote more equitable interactions between children (Stanton, et al., 2002) and higher levels of task
focused participation (Inkpen, Ho-ching, Kuederle, Scott, & Shoemaker, 1999). On the other hand, it can also
result in parallel working, where children work on different parts of the same task, often with limited reciprocity
(Stanton & Neale, 2003). This same study found that sharing a single mouse sometimes led to good
collaboration if contributions and decisions were discussed before being implemented. However, shared mouse
use also led to high levels of conflict and the tendency in some groups for one child to dominate. The extent to
which single input interactions are collaborative or dominated by individual children is largely dependent on
individual differences between children, rather than an inherent characteristic of the technology. Age and gender
differences, for example, play an important role in how children manage turn taking and contribute to
collaborative interactions, particularly around technology (Abnett, Stanton, Neale, & O'Malley, 2001; Inkpen,
Booth, Klawe, & Upitis, 1995).
Other studies have observed children as users of multi-touch tabletops. SIDES is a tool designed for
adolescents with Aspergers Syndrome to practice effective group work (Piper, O'Brien, Morris, & Winograd,
2006) and StoryTable is a system designed to support children’s storytelling activity in groups (Cappelletti,
Gelmini, Pianesi, Rossi, & Zancanaro, 2004). StoryTable enforces a co-operative task structure such that
children can simultaneously work on individual parts of the task but are then forced to perform crucial
operations together in order to progress. Similarly SIDES encourages co-operation as adolescents have to work
together to build a path by combining individually owned pieces. In a further iteration to this system, turn taking
was regulated and enforced in order to ensure participation from those who were disengaged from the task and
to prevent others from dominating.
In the current study, we investigated participation around a tabletop interface in a typically developing
sample of primary-aged children. One potential use of multi-touch tabletops is to support collaborative design,
where users collaborate to design an artefact. Design is an established method for promoting learning. Designing
external artefacts can motivate learners (Harel & Papert, 1991). The designed artefacts can embody concrete
connections to the underlying domain concepts, which learners actively engage through the design process
(Kolodner, Camp, Crismond, Fasse, Gray, Holbrook, Puntambekar, & Ryan, 2003). To observe how children
use a tabletop interface for collaborative design, we developed the OurSpace system, which supports children in
designing a seating plan for their classroom.
We used a DiamondTouch interactive tabletop that recognizes individual user’s interactions (Dietz &
Leigh, 2001). The software was configured to support both a multiple-touch and a single-touch mode. Taking
advantage of this flexibility allowed us to investigate the value of concurrent interactions around the tabletop to
a system that requires users to take turns.
Marshall, Hornecker, Morris, Dalton, & Rogers (2008) report a study of participation around a tabletop
interface for adult participants who completed a similar seating design task. They found that multiple-touch
input facilitated equity of interaction compared to a single-touch condition, but had no effect on levels of verbal
participation. In the current study, we wanted to examine the value of different touch conditions on children’s
collaborative interaction. Based on related literature, there are two competing hypotheses about which condition
is most conducive to useful collaboration: (i) multiple-touch mode supports better collaboration by allowing
more equitable participation at the tabletop, thus allowing everyone to interact whenever they want (Rogers et
al, 2009); (ii) single-touch mode supports better collaboration as it forces more turn taking, thus increasing
awareness of what each group member is doing (Hornecker, et al., 2008).
Method
A within-subjects design was used in which groups completed both the multiple-touch and single-touch
conditions of the task. Each mode was undertaken in a separate session approximately 2-3 days apart. To control
for order effects conditions were counterbalanced, where half the groups completed the multiple-touch condition
first and half completed the single-touch condition first.
Participants
The study was conducted in two urban primary schools in the southeast of England. In total, 45 children (21
boys, 24 girls) participated in the study from three different classes (Year 3 from School A and Year 3 and 4
from School B). The Year 3 children were 7-8 years old and the Year 4 children 9-10 years old. Teachers were
asked to group children on the basis of two criteria: gender and group compatibility. This resulted in 15 same-
gender same-year group triads (7 boy and 8 girl groups).
OurSpace
The OurSpace software was designed to support a seating allocation task that was both meaningful to the
children and challenging enough to require collaboration and compromise. A large floor plan of their actual
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classroom was centered on the interactive tabletop (Figure 1). Participants (seated left, bottom, and right of the
screen) used their fingers to drag students and tables onto the floor plan. When a student icon was dragged over
an available table seat, the seat was highlighted and the student oriented toward that seat position (Figure 2a:
Frame 1); when dropped, the student icon snapped to that seat (Figure 2a: Frame 2). Once a student was seated,
that student moved along with the table; students could also be dragged out of their seats and relocated. To
rotate tables, users dropped them on rotation areas at the bottom left and right of the screen (Figure 2c). When
on a rotation area, a table rotated 15 degrees every 600ms, pausing for an extra cycle in the more common
vertical and horizontal positions. Tables that were dropped near each other (within 5 pixels) snapped together.
To emphasize the need to place students into seats, students that were dropped in the room but not on a seat
showed a red halo around them (Figure 2a: Frame 3).
Before implementing the software, we conducted design iteration sessions with target users (Year 4
students at School A) using cardboard pieces and a paper floor plan (Rick, Harris, Marshall, Fleck, Yuill, &
Rogers, 2009). These iterations helped demonstrate the viability of the design task to engender collaborative
dialog. They also revealed the criteria that children thought were important when seating students in the
classroom. For example, friendship groups, level of talkativeness and eyesight were all discussed by children as
organising properties of a classroom. Some children thought it was important to seat friends together while
others felt this might lead to too much chatting in class. Equally some children thought it was important to
separate talkative children while others thought that talkative children should be seated together at the front of
the class so that the teacher could keep an eye on them. These criteria were clearly dimensions of the classroom
that children had strong opinions on and a range of beliefs about, therefore, to make the task more challenging,
we integrated these into the software (Figure 2b). Friendship groups were indicated by icon colour; to simplify,
there were no overlapping friendship groups. Talkative students were shown with an open mouth and speech
bubble. Those with vision problems were shown with glasses. To make the task meaningful, participants were
told to create a seating arrangement for the class coming in the next year; the class was fictitious, but we kept to
the same number of students and tables as the current class.
Figure 1. OurSpace classroom layouts
Figure 2. OurSpace feature details
Procedure
The tabletop was set up in a quiet room in the school and each group of three was taken out of class for the
OurSpace sessions. At the beginning of the first session, the researchers introduced the multi-touch tabletop, the
task (identifying the student characteristics, the floor plan and the idea of a seating arrangement), the application
(how to move students and tables, how to attach students to tables, how to rotate tables, etc.), and the scenario
(create a table and seating arrangement for next year’s class). The researchers remained in the room throughout
the session, but did not interact with groups while they were completing the task unless in response to specific
problems with the technology. The second session began with highlighting the different mode of the tabletop
(single-touch or multiple-touch, depending on condition order) and then followed an identical procedure.
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Measures of collaboration
Levels of participation
Transcripts of each session were used to measure levels of verbal participation. First, turns of talk were
identified for each participant and then divided into individual utterances based on the application of coding
categories (see below). The total number of utterances made by each participant over the course of a session was
summed to give a score of their overall level of verbal participation.
Systems logs were used to measure levels of physical participation. This was done by calculating the
rate at which children added to or changed their seating design through touches to the tabletop. Each
participant’s total number of touches over the course of a session was summed to give a score of their overall
level of physical participation.
In order to measure the relative contribution of individuals within each group we used the Gini
Coefficient as a measure of the equity of participation. The Gini Coefficient sums the deviation from equal
participation for all members of a group, normalized by the maximum possible value of this deviation
(Weisband, Schneider, & Connolly, 1995). Values range from 0 and 1 where a low score represents greater
equity. For a set of three participation rates X1, X2, and X3, it is calculated as:
G!3
4Xi"1
3
i!1
N
#
Nature of discussion
As well as how much children participated in the task and the extent to which that participation was equitable
within groups we were also interested in the content of the group discussions and the extent to which this varied
between conditions. We iteratively developed a coding scheme for the task that categorizes talk into five broad
types. Table 1 lists each talk type with an operational definition and example from the transcript. Four sessions
were doubled coded by a second rater and a kappa coefficient of .88 was achieved.
Table 1. OurSpace Coding Scheme
Talk Types Definition Example from transcripts
Task Focused All task focused utterances relating to
the design of the seating plan.
‘Lets put chatty ones near the front’
‘If the chatterboxes aren’t with their
friends they won’t chat’
Turn Taking All utterances referring to turn taking “It my turn next, then yours” ‘Stop doing
it, its my turn!’
Brief Response Short responses to suggestions or moves ‘yeah, ok’ ‘no, no’
Evaluation General evaluative comments about the
task
‘This is hard’ ‘This is easy’ ‘I like doing
this’
Other All utterances not coded as above. These
included off-task comments, questions
and comments about the setup of the
technology, comments to the researcher
and fillers.
‘Is it assembly next?’
‘Why do I have to stand on the mat?’
‘Is this on the internet?’
‘Are we going to have another turn next
week?’
Results
In the following analysis we used groups (N =15) as the unit of analysis although note that results were similar
when individual data was analyzed. Group scores were calculated by summing the scores of individual group
members. As there was no specific time limit on the task, the length of sessions varied considerably. As seen in
Table 2 single-touch sessions, which ranged from 8.7 minutes to 23.81 minutes were on average longer than the
multiple-touch sessions, which ranged from 6.28 to 22.89 minutes. Although the overall difference between
touch conditions was not significant there was an interaction of touch condition with session order where
multiple-touch sessions that occurred second were shorter than all other sessions (F (1,13) = 8.36, p < 0.05). We
have therefore included condition order as a between subjects factor in our analysis.
Levels of participation
Verbal and physical participation
Due to differences in session lengths, we calculated the mean number of utterances per minute for each group as
a proportional measure of verbal participation and the mean number of touches per minute as a proportional
measure of physical participation (see Table 2). Repeated measures ANOVAs show that levels of physical
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participation were significantly higher in the multiple-touch condition (F (1, 14) = 9.85, p < 0.01), while levels
of verbal participation did not differ significantly between touch conditions. The higher rate of touches in the
multiple-touch condition is not surprising given the opportunity in this mode for working simultaneously, in
contrast to the one-at-a-time restriction of the single-touch condition. We also found a negative association in
the single-touch condition between verbal and physical participation (r = -.56, p < 0.05); as verbal participation
increased physical participation decreased and vice versa. There was no significant relationship between
participation types in the multiple-touch condition.
Table 2. Means and standard deviations for time on task, level and equity of participation
Multiple
M (SD)
Single
M (SD)
Time on task
(minutes)
Session 1 16.19 (4.4) 15.56 (5.2)
Session 2 10.41 (3.4) 14.21 (3.4)
Level of participation
(mean utterance/touch per
minute)
Verbal 15.46 (6.5) 16.08 (5.1)
Physical 92.96 (47.25) 63.18 (34.19)
Equity of participation
(Gini coefficient)
Verbal .17 (.10) .21 (.17)
Physical .18 (.09) .20 (.12)
On further investigation of between subject factors, we found that participation levels (verbal and
physical) in the single-touch condition were significantly correlated with the mean age of the group (see Table
3). The positive correlation with verbal participation and the negative correlation with physical participation
suggest that older children tended to talk more in the single-touch condition while younger children tend to
touch more in this condition.
Equity of participation
Analysis of the Gini Coefficients revealed no significant difference between touch conditions in levels of verbal
or physical equity. In addition, verbal equity scores were highly correlated across conditions (r = .61, p < 0.05)
suggesting that individual differences between groups, in relation to verbal equity were consistent regardless of
touch condition. However, verbal equity was significantly related to the age of the group again in the single-
touch condition but not in the multiple-touch condition (See Table 3). The relationship indicates that the
younger the group the less equitable their interaction. We also found that physical equity was different for male
and female groups depending on touch condition. Figure 3 shows that boys were less equitable than girls in the
single-touch condition, while girls were less equitable than boys in the multiple-touch condition; the interaction
approached significance (F(1, 13) = 4.3, p = 0.058).
Table 3. Correlation of age with level and equity of participation
Multiple Single
Verbal Physical Verbal Physical
Level of participation
(utterance/touch per minute) .42 -.35 .65* -.58*
Equity of participation
(Gini Coefficient) -.29 .36 -.62* -.02
* p < 0.05
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Figure 3. Physical equity by gender (lower values indicate more equitable interaction)
Nature of discussion
Figure 4 shows the proportional distribution of talk types across both conditions. In the following analysis, we
focus on task focused and turn taking talk and exclude: brief response as it occurred equally across sessions,
evaluative as it occurred too rarely for meaningful analysis, and other as it incorporated a range of behaviours
not directly related to the design task. In the other category, off-task comments were rare across both conditions
while comments relating to the technology setup were relatively frequent; children were interested in how the
tabletop worked, whether their school was going to get one and related questions.
Figure 4. Proportional distribution of talk types across conditions
Figure 5. Task focused and turn taking talk by gender
A repeated measures MANOVA, with touch condition (multiple and single) as within subjects and talk
type (task focused and turn taking) as dependent variables, revealed a significantly higher proportion of task
focused talk in the multiple-touch condition (F(1, 14) = 9.28, p < 0.01) and a significantly higher proportion of
turn taking talk in the single-touch condition (F (1, 14) = 31.08, p < .001). In addition, there was a negative
relationship between turn taking and task focused talk in the single-touch condition (r= -.51, p < 0.05); as turn
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taking talk increased, task focused talk decreased. This relationship was not evident in the multiple-touch
condition.
Analysis of between subject variables revealed no effect of age or order effect on talk type, but there
was a significant gender effect. As shown in Figure 5 girls used proportionally more task focused talk (F(1, 13)
= 7.98, p < 0.05) and boys used proportionally more turn taking talk (F(1, 13) = 5.04, p < 0.05) regardless of
condition.
Discussion
The overall high levels of task-focused discussion we observed suggest that this task was not only engaging for
children (i.e., they were motivated to achieve a good result) but was also challenging for them (i.e., due to the
different constraints, there was no simple solution that satisfied all the design criteria). As a result the task
elicited appropriate dialogue and discussion from our participants; elements important for learning within such a
context (Yuill, Kerawalla, Pearce, Luckin & Harris, 2008). This was the case in both conditions where neither
multiple- nor single-touch modes emerged as better for discussion about the task.
The degree of verbal and physical equity was also consistent across conditions. Based on previous
studies with children using multiple mice (Stanton & Neale, 2003) and adults in multiple- and single-touch
tabletop conditions (Marshall, et al., 2008), we had predicted that multiple-touch would enable more equity in
children’s verbal and physical participation. However, our results showed that overall children’s interactions
during this task were highly equitable across both touch conditions as scores tended towards zero (perfect
equity). Therefore, the multiple-touch functionality of the tabletop did not result in higher levels of equity, in
comparison to the enforced single-touch condition as we had predicted. This suggests that the benefits of an
interactive tabletop do not depend on simultaneous input but perhaps lie in a more general quality of the form of
input (i.e. touch). Marshall et al (2008) in their study with adults doing a similar design task found that multiple-
touch input facilitated greater equity of physical participation, but that touch condition had no influence on
levels of verbal participation. The single-touch condition in their study was implemented by using only a single
conductive pad to interact with a DiamondTouch tabletop; thus, participants had to physically change location
around the tabletop in order to pass control. In the study reported here, single-touch was implemented by
blocking others’ actions in software and therefore required no change of location. The differences between the
way in which turn taking was enforced between studies adds further support to the notion that the form of the
input plays a crucial role in how equitable interactions are likely to be; in our study, direct touch to the tabletop
was all that was required for interaction in contrast to the change of location required in the Marshall et al
(2008) study.
As well as examining levels of verbal and physical participation, we also focused our analysis on the
content of discussion. Children talked more about their designs (task-focused) in the multiple-touch condition
than they did in the single-touch condition. However, in the single-touch condition, talk about turn taking was
more frequent and appeared to be replacing discussion about design. It is not surprising there was more turn
taking talk in the single-touch condition, as children would have to negotiate how turns should be managed if all
group members were to participate equally. However, we observed considerable differences between groups in
children’s ability to manage and regulate this type of interaction. Some group interactions were characterized by
frustration and high levels of negative affect during single-touch interaction, especially when a particular child
was perceived as dominating. For example:
Group1: Single-touch Yeah like that Beth. Child A
Amy get your finger off the board! Child C
It was there and you put your finger like there. Child B
Beth get off! Get off! Child C
Beth you already had so many turns.
Last time you did it. Child B
I think you should let Amy have a go. Child C
Last time you did most of it. Child B
No, not lots of it. Child C
But you did though! Child B
Other groups were more successful at regulating turn taking during single-touch interactions. For
example, some groups generated rules for the interaction and decided democratically how to manage turn taking
in order that everyone had an equal opportunity for participation. For example:
Group 2: Single-touch
Child A No no, let’s take it in turns to do it like one at a time, me or
Tom first, then Jack then either me or Drew.
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What? Child B
‘cause then it goes, like that (motions a circle around the
group with his finger) for example or like that. (motions a
circle with his finger the other way)
Child A
Shall I go first or you Ben? Child C
Erm Child A
Have a vote. Oh Joe it’s not your go! Child C
Ok let’s let Jack go first, like that. We can take it in turns to
say ideas then we can do it one at a time.
Child A
Group 2’s interaction demonstrates the kind of co-operative working that was characteristic of the
single-touch condition. For example, in groups that tended to allocate rules for turn taking there was also the
tendency to divide the task into subtasks and allocate responsibility for these subtasks to particular group
members. This is illustrated in this second example from Group 2:
Group 2: Single-touch
Child C Ok, I’ll do the people. Somebody does the tables, I’ll
do the people and somebody turns.
I’m doing the tables Child A
Ok do you wanna turn, no, no he’s doing the tables,
Alex is doing the tables. (moves B’s hand away)
Child C
Ok I’ll do the people Child A
These extracts offer support to our second hypothesis, which predicted that single-touch would be
associated with more awareness of the other group member’s actions. However, the extent to which this led to
co-operation or frustration and dominant behaviour was dependent on individual group characteristics.
The finding that task-focused discussion often replaced turn taking talk is illustrated by a further extract
from Group 2, taken from their multiple-touch session. Here, the group were all focused on the same part of the
activity and were talked together about where to seat particular students in relation to the student’s attributes.
Their discussion involved explicit reasoning and justifications. Compared to their talk about turns and subtasks
in the single-touch condition, this interaction was more collaborative in nature.
Group 2: Multiple-touch
OK now shall we put the people on? Child B
Yeah the chatty people at the back. Child C
OK. Child B
But there’s one with glasses and that’s chatty! Child A
Where? Child C
There and there. Child A
Then just put them at the front. Child B
Well then put them still near the front because it’s hard to see. Child C
And they’re also friends. Child A
Look, no, oh yeah chatty people go on the back with their…no
wouldn’t they need to go on the front so the teacher can see
them?
Child C
Another important finding to emerge from this study is the importance of considering age and gender
when designing for collaborative activities. We have found that differences that exist in relation to these
variables seemed to be accentuated in the single-touch condition. For example, younger groups tended to engage
in less dialogue and were less equitable in their verbal interactions during the single-touch condition. In
addition, boys tended to talk more about turn taking than girls and were less equitable in the single-touch
condition, where turn taking was necessary. It is interesting to note that these differences seemed moderated by
the touch condition, as they were less evident in behaviour in the multiple-touch condition. This might be
because multiple-touch provided the opportunity to work more independently; children could engage in
simultaneous input without enforced awareness of other group members. The multiple-touch functionality might
therefore act to mask developmental and gender related differences in which are not challenged by the
constraints of the technology.
A particular strength of this study was the holistic approach we took to understanding the collaborative
process. We analyzed children’s physical and verbal participation, acknowledging that collaboration can occur
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through doing as well as talking. However, we did not underplay the importance of talk and measured both the
amount of talk as well as the content of that talk. In doing this, our results suggest that tabletop working
encouraged children to participate equally in both the discussion and the activity of collaborative interaction.
Varying simultaneous versus one-at-a-time input influenced the nature of the discussion and allowed for the
influence of important individual differences between children.
There were also a number of limitations in the findings reported here that point towards future work.
First, we focused on children between the ages of 7 and 10 and found interesting age-related trends. While
younger children can use interactive tabletops, their ability to use the interface and their ability to collaborate on
a task is substantially different (Mansor, De Angeli, & De Bruijn, 2008). Much of the work on collaboration
with multiple mice has used younger (e.g., Stanton & Neale, 2003) or older participants (Inkpen et al., 1999). It
would be interesting to extend our work to both younger and older groups.
We also only focused on one kind of collaborative task – a design task with a shared integrated
representation. While collaborative design is an important task, particularly in regards to learning, other tasks
may elicit substantially different behaviour. Tan et al. (2008) call for a standard set of evaluation tasks to allow
for comparison between different configurations of shareable interfaces, but it is unclear to what extent existing
frameworks such as McGrath’s task circumplex typology will be useful in classifying tasks for this new
generation of tools for co-located collaboration.
Finally, we only used the DiamondTouch tabletop in the school for a short period of time and the
children were excited to be able to use this new technology. Therefore, it remains to be seen to what extent
findings are attributable to the novelty of the system (Rogers, Scaife, Gabrielli, Smith, & Harris, 2002). We plan
to explore in future work whether our findings would extend to the situation where such technologies had
become a normal part of classroom practice.
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This paper presents evaluation of two technologies designed to encourage collaborative behaviour in young children in a classroom setting. KidPad, a 2_D drawing package with zooming capabilities, was adapted for use with multiple mice and tangible interfaces. The first section of the paper focuses on a study carried out to evaluate the effect of multiple mice on children's collaborative behaviour at a desktop computer. Positive effects of the use of two mice included symmetry of mouse use amongst pairs and a greater degree of engagement in the task. However a number of usability issues were identified when children attempted to collaborate, particular problems were faced when the shared control was taken away, and one of the users took control, for example, when navigating. Different types of working styles were also evident between the one mouse and two mice conditions. The second section of the paper describes a move away from the desktop computer towards room-based technologies. Tangible interfaces to KidPad were developed in order to facilitate shared control over actions such as navigation where difficulties had been identified in a desktop situation. The visibility of action is highlighted as a fundamental element in the support of collaboration on a larger scale. Finally, future work and the potential of these technologies in encouraging shareable co-present interaction in a real school context are briefly discussed.