ArticlePDF Available

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


Abstract and Figures

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.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Open Research Online
The Open University’s repository of research publications
and other research outputs
Around the table: Are multiple-touch surfaces better
than single-touch for children’s collaborative interac-
Conference Item
How to cite:
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.
For guidance on citations see FAQs.
2009 The Authors
Version: Accepted Manuscript
Link(s) to article on publisher’s website:
Copyright and Moral Rights for the articles on this site are retained by the individual authors and/or other copy-
right owners. For more information on Open Research Online’s data policy on reuse of materials please consult
the policies page.
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
2Department of Computing, The Open University, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA, 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
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.
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).
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).
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.
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).
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
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
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.
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:
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
‘This is hard’ ‘This is easy’ ‘I like doing
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
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
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
M (SD)
M (SD)
Time on task
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
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
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
taking talk increased, task focused talk decreased. This relationship was not evident in the multiple-touch
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
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.
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
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
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.
Abnett, C., Stanton, D., Neale, H., & O'Malley, C. (2001). The effect of multiple input devices on collaboration
and gender issues. Proc. of European Perspectives on Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning
(EuroCSCL) (pp. 29-36). Maastricht, The Netherlands.
Barron, B. (2003). When smart groups fail. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 12(3), 307-359.
Cappelletti, A., Gelmini, G., Pianesi, F., Rossi, F., & Zancanaro, M. (2004). Enforcing cooperative storytelling:
First studies. Proceedings of the 4th IEEE International Conference on Advanced Learning
Technologies ICALT2004. Joensuu, Finland.
Goos, M., Galbraith, P., & Renshaw, P. (2002). Socially mediated metacognition: Creating collaborative zones
of proximal development in small group problem solving. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 49,
Harel, I., & Papert, S. (1991). Constructionism. New York: Ablex.
Hornecker, E., Marshall, P., Dalton, N. S., & Rogers, Y. (2008). Collaboration and interference: Awareness with
mice or touch input. Proc. of CSCW'08.
Inkpen, K., Booth, K. S., Klawe, M., & Upitis, R. (1995). Playing together beats playing apart, especially for
girls. Proc. of CSCL'95. Bloomington, Indiana.
Inkpen, K., Ho-ching, W.-l., Kuederle, O., Scott, S. D., & Shoemaker, B. D. (1999). "This is fun! We're all best
friends and we're all playing": Supporting children's synchronous collaboration. Proc. of CSCL'99 (pp.
252-259). Palo Alto, California: ACM.
Kerawalla, L., Pearce, D., Yuill, N., Luckin, R., & Harris, A. (2008) “I’m keeping those there, are you?” The
role of a new user interface paradigm – Separate Control of Shared Space (SCOSS) – in the
collaborative decision-making process, Computers and Education, 50(1) p193-206
Kolodner, J. L., Camp, P. J., Crismond, D., Fasse, B., Gray, J., Holbrook, J., Puntambekar, S., & Ryan, M.
(2003). Problem-based learning meets case-based reasoning in the middle-school science classroom:
Putting Learning by Design™ into practice. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 12(4), 495–547.
Kutnick, P., & Rogers, C. (1994). Groups in Schools. London: Cassell.
Mansor, E. I., De Angeli, A., and De Bruijn, O. (2008). Little fingers on the tabletop: A usability evaluation in
the kindergarten. Proc. of TABLETOP ’08 (pp. 99–102).
Marshall, P., Hornecker, E., Morris, R., Dalton, N. S., & Rogers, Y. (2008). When the fingers do the talking: A
study of group participation with varying constraints to a tabletop interface. Proc. of IEEE Tabletops
and Interactive Surfaces. Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Nacenta, M., Pinelle, D., Stuckel, D., & Gutwin, C. (2007). The effects of interaction technique on coordination
in tabletop groupware. Proc. of Graphics Interface'07: ACM.
Piper, A. M., O'Brien, E., Morris, M. R., & Winograd, T. (2006). SIDES: A cooperative tabletop computer
game for social skills development. Proc. of CSCW'06. Banff, Alberta, Canada: ACM.
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. Proc. of IDC 2009: ACM.
Rick, J., Rogers, Y., Haig, C., & Yuill, N. (2009). Learning by doing with shareable interfaces. Children, Youth
and Environments, 19(1).
Rogers, Y., & Lindley, S. (2004). Collaborating around vertical and horizontal large interactive displays: Which
way is best? Interacting with Computers, 16, 1133-1152.
Rogers, Y., Scaife, M., Gabrielli, S., Smith, H., & Harris, E. (2002). A conceptual framework for mixed reality
environments: designing novel activities for young children. Presence: Teleoperators & Virtual
Environments, 11(6), 677-686.
Shen, C., Everitt, K. M., & Ryall, K. (2003). UbiTable: Impromptu face-to-face collaboration on horizontal
interactive surfaces. Proc. of UbiComp'03 (pp. 281-288).
Stanton, D., & Neale, H. (2003). The effect of multiple mice on chidren's talk and interaction. Journal of
Computer Assisted Learning, 19(2), 229-238.
Stanton, D., Neale, H., & Bayon, V. (2002). Interfaces to support children's co-present collaboration: Multiple
mice and tangible technologies. Proc. of CSCL'02 (pp. 342-351). Boulder: ACM.
Tan, D. S., Gergle, D., Mandryk, R., Inkpen, K., Kellar, M., Hawkey, K., et al. (2008). Using job-shop
scheduling tasks for evaluating collocated collaboration. Journal of Personal and Ubiquitous
Computing 12(3), 255-267.
Teasley, S. (1995). The role of talk in children's peer collaborations. Developmental Psychology, 31(2), 207-
Webb, N. M., & Palincsar, A. S. (1996). Group processes in the classroom. In D. C. Berliner & R. C. Calfee
(Eds.) Handbook of Educational Psychology (pp. 841-873). New York: Simon & Schuster Macmillan.
Weisband, S. P., Schneider, S. K., & Connolly, T. (1995). Computer-mediated communication and social
information: Status salience and status differences. The Academy of Management Journal, 38(4), 1124-
Yuill, N., Kerawalla, C., Pearce, D., Luckin, A. & Harris, A. (2008). Using technology to teach flexibility
through peer discussion. In K.E.Cartwright (Ed.), Flexibility in literacy processes and instructional
practice: Implications of developing representational ability for literacy teaching and learning. New
York: The Guilford Press
... When using the turn-taking protocol, the participant who had to answer first was chosen randomly by the application. This made all the participants to be focused on the activities, since they did not know if they would have to answer first (Harris et al., 2009). It first seems that turn-taking may not be suitable for a collaborative environment, but other studies such as Goh et al., 2012 shows otherwise. ...
... This data and the class exam results showed that students with a high mathematics level could advance some students; those with limited abilities often tried to copy the activity with limited learning. This situation can be seen in other studies where individual turns or actions leads to discursions and an attitude focus more on turntaking than on solving the activity (Harris et al., 2009). ...
The adoption of information and communication technologies in primary education is crucial for adapting traditional classrooms to the digital era. Over time, young children are increasingly using touch screen technologies such as tablets at home and interactive whiteboards at school, either for leisure or for academic activities. However, the literature shows that there is still a gap between what is known about the benefits of using this technology and its real use in primary education settings. Most researchers have focused on the pedagogical theory behind using touch screen devices, but there are few empirical studies about how these technologies and different approaches affect students’ learning processes. This paper presents two learning experiences in a primary school in Fuenlabrada (Madrid-Spain) where primary students performed mathematics activities using a multi-touch table with two different methodologies: turns and consensus. The results show that both methodologies help students acquire meaningful learning, but there is no statistically significance between them.
... A follow-up study explored how participants, who had previous experience using both displays determined how to work together when provided with both kinds of displays. Harris et al. [69] presented a classroom study that compared multiple-touch surfaces with single-touch for children's collaborative learning interactions. The results of the transcript analysis of children's interaction showed that touch condition did not affect the frequency or equity of interactions but did influence the nature of the children's discussion. ...
Full-text available
Traditional wall-sized displays mostly only support side-by-side co-located collaboration, while transparent displays naturally support face-to-face interaction. Many previous works assume transparent displays support collaboration. Yet it is unknown how exactly its afforded face-to-face interaction can support loose or close collaboration, especially compared to the side-by-side configuration offered by traditional large displays. In this paper, we used an established experimental task that operationalizes different collaboration coupling and layout locality, to compare pairs of participants collaborating side-by-side versus face-to-face in each collaborative situation. We compared quantitative measures and collected interview and observation data to further illustrate and explain our observed user behavior patterns. The results showed that the unique face-to-face collaboration brought by transparent display can result in more efficient task performance, different territorial behavior, and both positive and negative collaborative factors. Our findings provided empirical understanding about the collaborative experience supported by wall-sized transparent displays and shed light on its future design.
... In this study, our measurement of both communicative and collaborative processes was obtained through audio recordings, which is consistent with past studies (Edelsky, 1981;Harris et al., 2009;Harris et al., 2008;Kannampallil et al., 2016;Rice et al., 2010). For example, Harris and colleagues (2009) used mean number of utterances obtained from audio recordings to represent communication in their study that explored participants' interactions with single-touch surfaces and multi-touch surfaces, while Edelsky (1981) defined the mean number of turns per minute obtained from audio recordings as a measure of collaboration between adults. ...
Full-text available
Collaborative problem-solving, the mutual engagement of people in a coordinated effort to solve a problem together, plays a critical role in the increasingly complex, linguistically diverse, and interconnected world. In particular, being able to communicate in the same languages provides a critical platform for facilitating problem solving among members of a multilingual team. Little research has explored whether sharing the same spoken languages would boost collaborative problem-solving over and beyond the effects of possible confounding variables such as language proficiency, personality, ethnicity, nationality, and non-verbal intelligence. This study manipulated the sharing of same languages by pairing 118 English-speaking bilingual participants either with someone who shares the same two spoken languages as themselves (English-same pair) or with someone who differs in one language (English-different pair). We explored whether such sharing of the same languages enhances collaborative problem-solving in multilingual pairs. Participants completed the Raven’s Matrices individually, as well as an insight problem-solving task (Triangle of Coins task) and a divergent thinking task (Mind-mapping) in pairs. English-same pairs performed better than English-different pairs in the insight problem-solving task but not in the divergent thinking task. English-different pairs collaborated (mean number of turns per minute) and communicated (mean number of utterances) more than English-same pairs in the divergent thinking task, although the effect of pair type on communication was fully mediated by a difference in ethnicity within pairs. More collaboration could have been needed between English-different pairs in the divergent thinking task to achieve comparable performance as English-same pairs, possibly due to the different communication processes experienced by English-different pairs. This study provides insights to the role of sharing spoken languages in enhancing collaborative problem-solving in small multilingual groups.
... Savage, et al [8] put forward a "Midas fabricating custom capacitive touch sensors to prototype interactive objects." Harris et al [9] the author explains the capability of the multi-touch over the single touch in the by experimenting both among a group of people and projects the multi-touch to be superior to the single touch, as the multi-touch provides a simultaneous interaction with the digital world. Rimon et al [10] the author proffers a design of an input device that contains a touch sensitive sensor that flexibly operates on the single and the multi-touch detection with the single touch detected on the first period and the multi-touch detected on the second period of the sampling. ...
The touch sensing technology that has paved way for a user friendly interaction with the components has become a more prominent option in the recent days due to its capability of providing a direct communication by just one touch and its compatibility with the users of all age and different level of skills. The touch technology can be single or multi and supported by variety of technologies, such as resistive, capacitive, acoustic and infrared. Among all the technologies the capacitive sensor are widely opted as they possess a low hysteresis, good repeatability and faster response time. The paper also puts forward adaptable multi-touch technology system for the touch sensitive devices, by proposing a flexible capacitive touch sensor to make touch sensitive devices more users friendly with the a highest degree of sensitivity to the touch and satisfactory performance for a broader range of applications with the heightened durability.
... The vast majority of previous HCI and design work in this space has focused on supporting collaborative activities between adults [24,25,36,75], and supporting childhood learning [2,35,46,74,77]. Few works have focused on collaborations between adults and young children [72,73,93,94], especially where one of these actors has a disability. ...
Conference Paper
Co-reading (when parents read aloud with their children) is an important literacy development activity for children. HCI has begun to explore how technology might support children in co-reading, but little empirical work examines how parents currently co-read, and no work examines how people with visual impairments (PWVI) co-read. PWVIs' perspectives offer unique insights into co-reading, as PWVI often read differently from their children, and (Braille) literacy holds particular cultural significance for PWVI. We observed discussions of co-reading practices in a blind parenting forum on Facebook, to establish a grounded understanding of how and why PWVI co-read. We found that PWVIs' co-reading practices were highly diverse and affected by a variety of socio-technical concerns - and visual ability was less influential than other factors like ability to read Braille, presence of social supports, and children's literacy. Our findings show that PWVI have valuable insights into co-reading, which could help technologies in this space better meet the needs of parents and children, with and without disabilities.
... The primary goal of this paper is to investigate how adults and children (ages 7 to 11, ages typically targeted by public learning exhibits [1]) interact with large spherical displays. To help us understand users' gesture preferences and how the form factor of the display might influence the types of gestures users would find more intuitive on the spherical display as opposed to flatscreen tabletop displays, we conducted a user study by adapting the userdefined gestures methodology from Wobbrock et al. [28]. ...
Conference Paper
Interactive spherical displays offer unique opportunities for engagement in public spaces. Research on flatscreen tabletop displays has mapped the gesture design space and compared gestures created by adults and children. However, it is not clear if the findings from these prior studies can be directly applied to spherical displays. To investigate this question, we conducted a user-defined gestures study to understand the gesture preferences of adults and children (ages 7 to 11) for spherical displays. We compare the physical characteristics of the gestures performed on the spherical display to gestures on tabletop displays from prior work. We found that the spherical form factor influenced users' gesture design decisions. For example, users were more likely to perform multi-finger or whole-handed gestures on the sphere than in prior work on tabletop displays. Our findings will inform the design of interactive applications for spherical displays.
Control influences how collaboration around technology works, through its means (e.g. mouse, touch) and distribution (simultaneous or sequential, shared or single). Single control can produce dominance and disengagement, but shared control needs support for awareness. Awareness, such as through gesture, bodily movement and talking, affects control. Collaboration requires actions controlled by one individual to be contingent on the actions of others, so as to create a connected flow of joint action, rather than a series of unconnected moves. Contingent behaviour can be supported through constraints, for example the SCoSS paradigm.
Full-text available
Conceptualizing and understanding global, physical systems like Earth’s ocean is challenging. Data visualizations on touch-based technology allow learners to explore systems and facilitate embodied experiences, promoting deeper understanding. We investigated how direct manipulation of data visualizations on a touchscreen table affords meaningful learning of science concepts and practices. Using a conceptual framework informed by embodied cognition and sociocultural theory, we analyzed the use of an application displaying global ocean temperature visualizations. Eleven adult-child groups of two to four participants used a think-aloud procedure during four tasks in a lab setting. We recorded, transcribed, and qualitatively coded resulting utterances, looking for evidence of concepts and practices, group meaning-making, and language that could point to embodied cognition. Participants discussed science content and engaged in scientific practices such as describing patterns and refining ideas. Participants used ontological, orientational, and metonymic conceptual metaphors. We discuss implications and provide suggestions for data visualizations on touch platforms.
Using information and communication technology (ICT) in childhood education is becoming more relevant as research shows that it can be used to foster children's academic and non-academic skills. ICT can help build environments where children can communicate and collaborate, but creating effective learning environments is not trivial. It is thus necessary to study which configuration is the most appropriate for encouraging collaboration. In this work, we present how two different ways of interacting with a multitouch tabletop, taking turns without having to agree on the answer and working simultaneously but having to agree on the answer, affect group communication and children's satisfaction. We have carried out four different learning experiments involving 180 children between 6 and 11 years of age who had to solve math problems in groups of three and four at a multitouch tabletop. Our results suggest that turn-based interaction makes students communicate more with each other when solving activities in groups. In addition, children's satisfaction is high when they perform activities at a multitouch tabletop, but learning outcomes seems to not be impacted by the way of interacting with the device. Thus, while multitouch tabletops can be used to create collaborative learning environments, it is the way in which students interact with the device that may impact group communication.
One challenge of child–computer interaction research is surveying variation of children’s attitudes towards novel educational technology, which often results in an opinion ceiling effect. In this article, the authors introduce BiCo – a bipolar continuous rating scale which builds on children’s ability to draw relative comparisons. They elaborate on the development of BiCo and on how they designed it to better survey children’s attitudes. Beyond addressing the opinion ceiling effect, BiCo is suitable for surveying a wide range of concepts and its invertible design enables simulation of inverted items. The authors provide data comparing BiCo with the widely used Smileyometer instrument when used by fourth-graders (around 10 years old), demonstrating that BiCo mitigates the opinion ceiling effect. They discuss BiCo as a new tool for children’s technology evaluation and provide directions for future research.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
A user study is presented that investigates how different configurations of input can influence equity of participation around a tabletop interface. Groups of three worked on a design task requiring negotiation in four interface conditions that varied the number (all members can act or only one) and type (touch versus mice) of input. Our findings show that a multi-touch surface increases physical interaction equity and perceptions of dominance, but does not affect levels of verbal participation. Dominant people still continue to talk the most, while quiet ones remain quiet. Qualitative analyses further revealed how other factors can affect how participants contribute to the task. The findings are discussed in terms of how the design of the physical technological set-up can affect the desired form of collaboration.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
This paper presents selected results from an experimental study designed to compare fantasy play in a virtual and physical setting. Twenty-two children (aged 3 and 4) played in same-sex dyads with a real wooden tree house and its virtual implementation on a DiamondTouch tabletop. The study evinced several problems in the interaction with the tabletop as children often struggled to drag the objects displayed on the surface. An error analysis is presented and results are used to propose guidelines for improving the use of DiamondTouch tabletops by young children.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
As computers become integrated in our everyday lives, it is important that we do not limit computer-based collaboration to distributed settings. As the demand for collaborative applications grows, it is imperative that we investigate how to effectively support co-located collaboration and fully understand the consequences of this style of interaction. This paper presents preliminary results from a research study which examined pairs of elementary school children playing a puzzle solving game in various collaborative setups. Children's activity and engagement levels when playing on a computer with multiple input devices was compared to other traditional collaborative settings (paper-based, common desktop configuration). Preliminary qualitative and quantitative analyses revealed three main benefits of providing each child with access to a mouse and a cursor: (a) children exhibited a significantly higher level of engagement; (b) children tended to be more active; and (c) children significantly preferred playing on a computer equipped with multiple input devices and cursors.
In this study I investigated how collaborative interactions influence problem-solving outcomes. Conversations of twelve 6th-grade triads were analyzed utilizing quantitative and qualitative methods. Neither prior achievement of group members nor the generation of correct ideas for solution could account for between-triad differences in problem-solving outcomes. Instead, both characteristics of proposals and partner responsiveness were important correlates of the uptake and documentation of correct ideas by the group. Less successful groups ignored or rejected correct proposals, whereas more successful groups discussed or accepted them. Conversations in less successful groups were relatively incoherent as measured by the extent that proposals for solutions in these groups were connected with preceding discussions. Performance differences observed in triads extended to subsequent problem-solving sessions during which all students solved the same kinds of problems independently. These findings suggest that the quality of interaction had implications for teaming. Case study descriptions illustrate the interweaving of social and cognitive factors involved in establishing a joint problem-solving space. A dual-space model of what collaboration requires of participants is described to clarify how the content of the problem and the relational context are interdependent aspects of the collaborative situation. How participants manage these interacting spaces is critical to the outcome of their work and helps account for variability in collaborative outcomes. Directions for future research that may help teachers, students, and designers of educational environments learn to see and foster productive interactional practices are proposed. The properties of groups of minds in interaction with each other, or the properties of the interaction between individual minds and artifacts in the world, are frequently at the heart of intelligent human performance (Hutchins, 1993, p. 62).
The role of talk in children's peer collaborations using a computer-based scientific reasoning task was investigated in this study. Seventy 4th-grade students were assigned to work alone or with a same-sex partner for 1 20-min session. Half of the children in each condition (alone and dyads) were asked to talk as they worked, and half were not. Significant performance differences between groups were present, although there were no significant differences in experimental activity. Talk dyads generated better hypotheses than no-talk alones and no-talk dyads, and talk alones did not generate better hypotheses than no-talk alones. Analyses of children's talk showed that talk dyads produced more talk overall and more interpretive types of talk than talk alones. The importance of peer collaborations as a social context that supports interpretive cognitive processes was discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Large interactive displays are increasingly being placed in work and public settings. An assumption is that the shared surface they provide can facilitate collaboration among co-located groups. An exploratory study was carried out to investigate this claim, and, in particular, to examine the effects of the physical orientation of a display on group working. Two conditions were compared: vertical versus horizontal. A number of differences were found. In the horizontal condition group members switched more between roles, explored more ideas and had a greater awareness of what each other was doing. In the vertical condition groups found it more difficult to collaborate around the display. A follow-up study explored how participants, who had previous experience of using both displays, determined how to work together when provided with both kinds of display. The groups exhibited a more efficient and coordinated way of working but less collaboration in terms of the sharing and discussion of ideas.
We take a socio-cultural approach to comparing how dual control of a new user interface paradigm – Separate Control of Shared Space (SCOSS) – and dual control of a single user interface can work to mediate the collaborative decision-making process between pairs of children carrying out a multiple categorisation word task on a shared computer. Qualitative analysis focuses on how the interface properties of SCOSS can encourage each child to participate in the task and to represent their own opinions as part of the process of reaching final joint agreement. We conclude by suggesting additional features to improve the content of collaborative conversations and by proposing other contexts that may benefit from this interface.
Conference Paper
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.