Visual Learning Lab (UNITED KINGDOM)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2009 Proceedings
Publication year: 2009
Pages: 4863-4874
ISBN: 978-84-612-7578-6
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 3rd International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 9-11 March, 2009
Location: Valencia, Spain
Classroom technologies, such as interactive whiteboards and voting systems, have been extensively used within primary and secondary education to mediate local discourse between students and tutors in classroom situations. However, research around the use of such technologies within higher education settings indicates a lower level of utilisation, both quantitatively and in terms of the complexity of pedagogic use for teaching.

The aim of the study reported here is to examine the affordances and constraints of a new kind of technological response system, compared with these more established solutions. The Thunder system, designed for business deployment, allows multiple screens of information to be displayed simultaneously, while input is distributed across a central easel and tablet PCs running client software. We consider whether the modes of free-response interaction supported by the system allow a meaningful cycle of formative feedback to develop between learners and tutors, initiated in flexible ways by different participants within the lesson.

A series of learning scenarios was designed, in which a cohort of students on a masters course, who had an interest in investigating the technological augmentation of learning scenarios, were asked to utilise each technology in turn as a learner, before later reflecting upon their experiences and considering how the technology might be relevant to teaching scenarios. The module tutor was responsible for introducing the technologies and the scenarios and reflected upon the experience from the position of task arbiter.

We adopted an ethnomethodological approach; a student from within the course video recorded the session from several camera angles, while simultaneously taking field notes and participating in the lesson as a peer. A critical incident video analysis technique was used to identify events within the sessions which constituted indicators of rich interaction, both between students and between students and tutors. Additionally, we collected perceptual data from students by conducting a focus group after the series of learning scenarios was complete, and from the tutor by conducting a one-to-one interview.

Findings indicate that the relative affordances of each system are related to different learning scenarios. Interactive whiteboards are effective for whole group teaching, due to the existence of pre-prepared materials, but student interaction with the materials is often constrained by the need to approach the board. The voting systems seem suitable for larger cohorts, but are limited in response due to the dominance of fixed-response or short-response feedback types. Thunder is the most flexible within small group seminars, generating open discussion around both breakout sessions and whole group plenaries through its flexible modes of distributed, free-response input. Students perceived that, using Thunder, it was easier to share opinions and generate debate rather than merely responding to prompts. However, the system was intimidating and significantly constrained by classroom management issues; primarily, this seems to be related to the fact that it was designed for business meetings rather than explicitly for learning.

We conclude that multiple display systems which allow for free response by students, such as Thunder, can provide a feasible and useful way of qualitatively enhancing interactive discussion within technology supported seminar scenarios.
classroom interaction, interactive whiteboards, voting systems, multiple display, simultaneous.