Proceedings of CSCL '97: The Second International Conference on Computer Support for Collaborative Learning, December 10-14, 1997, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

By Rogers Hall; Naomi Miyake et al. | Go to book overview

Supporting the Distributed Synchronous Learning of Probability: learning from an experiment
Eileen Scanlon*, Tim O'Shea*, Randall B.Smith† & Yibing Li* *Institute of Educational Technology, Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, England, UK. Sun Microsystems Laboratories, Mountain View, California, U.S.A.
Abstract
This paper reports on the some experiments to explore the distributed synchronous learning of probability. We have been studying synchronous computer supported collaboration between adults using Kansas, a very general and powerful environment. We have implemented a shared simulation of a "game show" and used this with groups of adults ranging in size from 2 to 5 participants, collaborating through an audio or video link. We describe our research approach and give preliminary results from our ongoing experiments on the general question how collaborative work changes or is enhanced by different numbers of simultaneous users of such technology, and how collaborative work mediated by technology can support learning difficult concepts. We give examples of the strong prior conceptions of probability held by our students and how these influenced their work on the simulation. We indicate future directions to be taken in this work.
Introduction
In this paper we report on our current research with a system for supporting synchronous collaboration, Kansas, to help learners conduct joint experiments on a statistics task. The number of individuals simultaneously using such systems and whether or not they are co-located alters in fundamental ways the patterns of interaction. We are interested in a number of questions related to the use of such systems in education:
How does such a system impact subjects' potential for solving problems,
How does using such systems alter the pattern of interactions between subjects, and
Are there pedagogical thresholds on scale of simultaneous use for particular learning environments that build on such technologies?
Our research approach involves selecting a technology to support collaboration, finding very hard problems with counterintuitive solutions and then conducting experiments with users systematically altering three key dimensions. The key dimensions of variation we are concerned with are
the number of learners working together,
whether or not they are physically co- located, and
the bandwidth of the communication channels available to them.

Within this framework we are exploring the general question how collaborative work changes or is enhanced by different numbers of simultaneous users of such technology, and how collaborative work mediated by technology can support learning difficult concepts.

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Proceedings of CSCL '97: The Second International Conference on Computer Support for Collaborative Learning, December 10-14, 1997, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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