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					VMT CSCL Workshop
    June 2004
                Group Formation,
                  Facilitation,
                  Recruitment

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation
under Grant Nos. 0333493 and 0325447.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this
material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the
National Science Foundation.
Present
                Future



          - Motivated
          - Improving problem-solving skills
          - Improving communication skills
          - Increasing content knowledge
          - Works for unlimited numbers of
          participants
   How do people
   collaborate     - Middle school students
   face-to-face?   - College/Grad students




Present
                                                    Future



                                              - Motivated
                                              - Improving problem-solving skills
                                              - Improving communication skills
                                              - Increasing content knowledge
                                              - Works for unlimited numbers of
                                              participants
    How do people
    collaborate              - Middle school students
    face-to-face?            - Grad students




Present
                                                                 Future



 How do people                                             - Motivated
 collaborate                                               - Improving problem-solving skills
 online?                                                   - Improving communication skills
                    - PoW-Wow! (AIM)                       - Increasing content knowledge
                    - College/Grad students (Blackboard)   - Works for unlimited numbers of
                                                           participants
    How do people
    collaborate              - Middle school students
    face-to-face?            - Grad students

                                    - Parallel conversation is easy
                                    - Erasing makes reconstruction hard
                                    - Tone, expressions, gestures are easy
                                    - Speaking is fast
                                    - ...



Present
                                                                                   Future



 How do people                                                               - Motivated
 collaborate                                                                 - Improving problem-solving skills
 online?                                                                     - Improving communication skills
                    - PoW-Wow! (AIM)                                         - Increasing content knowledge
                    - Grad students (Blackboard)                             - Works for unlimited numbers of
                                                                             participants
    How do people
    collaborate                     - Middle school students
    face-to-face?                   - College Grad students
                                              - ...
                                            - Parallel conversation is easy
                                            - Erasing makes reconstruction hard
                                            - Tone, expressions, gestures are easy
                                            - Speaking is fast




Present
                                                                                           Future



 How do people                                                                       - Motivated
 collaborate                                                                         - Improving problem-solving skills
 online?                                                                             - Improving communication skills
                          - PoW-Wow! (AIM)                                           - Increasing content knowledge
                          - College/Grad students (Blackboard)                       - Works for unlimited numbers of
                    - Parallel conversation is hard                                  participants
                    - Typing is slow
                    - Tone, expressions, gestures are hard
                    - ...
    How do people
    collaborate                     - Middle school students
    face-to-face?                   - Grad students

                                            - Parallel conversation is easy
                                            - Erasing makes reconstruction hard
                                            - Tone, expressions, gestures are easy
                                            - Speaking is fast
                                            - ...



Present                                   “Neutral” scaffolding:
                                          Easy things should remain easy,                  Future
                                          hard things should become less hard.



 How do people                                                                       - Motivated
 collaborate                                                                         - Improving problem-solving skills
 online?                                                                             - Improving communication skills
                          - PoW-Wow! (AIM)                                           - Increasing content knowledge
                          - Grad students (Blackboard)                               - Works for unlimited numbers of
                    - Parallel conversation is hard                                  participants
                    - Typing is slow
                    - Tone, expressions, gestures are hard
                    - ...
 Neutral scaffolding
Identify obstacles to exploration,
provide tools (e.g., shared whiteboard)
to mitigate them.
    How do people
    collaborate                     - Middle school students
    face-to-face?                   - Grad students

                                            - Parallel conversation is easy
                                            - Erasing makes reconstruction hard
                                            - Tone, expressions, gestures are easy
                                            - Speaking is fast
                                            - ...



Present                                   “Neutral” scaffolding:
                                          Easy things should remain easy,                      Future
                                          hard things should become less hard.



 How do people                                                                           - Motivated
 collaborate                                                                             - Improving problem-solving skills
 online?                                                                                 - Improving communication skills
                          - PoW-Wow! (AIM)                                               - Increasing content knowledge
                          - Grad students (Blackboard)                                   - Works for unlimited numbers of
                    - Parallel conversation is hard            “Positive” scaffolding:   participants
                    - Typing is slow                           Make it easy to do
                    - Tone, expressions, gestures are hard     the right thing, and to
                    - ...                                      learn what that is.
Positive scaffolding
Make it
 clear where they’re supposed to go;
   easier to go there;
     more difficult to go somewhere else.
    How do people
    collaborate                     - Middle school students
    face-to-face?                   - Grad students

                                            - Parallel conversation is easy
                                            - Erasing makes reconstruction hard
                                            - Tone, expressions, gestures are easy
                                            - Speaking is fast
                                            - ...



Present                                   “Neutral” scaffolding:
                                          Easy things should remain easy,                      Future
                                          hard things should become less hard.
                                          People should be able to find collaborators.


 How do people                                                                           - Motivated
 collaborate                                                                             - Improving problem-solving skills
 online?                                                                                 - Improving communication skills
                          - PoW-Wow! (AIM)                                               - Increasing content knowledge
                          - Grad students (Blackboard)                                   - Works for unlimited numbers of
                    - Parallel conversation is hard            “Positive” scaffolding:   participants
                    - Typing is slow                           Make it easy to do
                    - Tone, expressions, gestures are hard     the right thing, and to
                    - ...                                      learn what that is.
                                                               People should be able
                                                               to find appropriate
                                                               collaborators.
Exploring How People Collaborate
• So far we did some experiments to get a feeling
  for this
• Face-to-face
  – Fall ‘03: In a middle school classroom, we observed a
    face-to-face lesson
  – Winter ‘04: Taxicab Geometry session in Gerry’s
    class (university level)
• Online
  – Winter ‘04: 3 online sessions in Gerry’s class
  – Winter – Spring ‘04: 20 PoW-wow! sessions
What Factors Affect Collaboration?
Environmental Factors      Group Attributes   Individual Attributes

Math Problems
 - Difficulty
 - Resource availability
 - Learning goals
 F2F Experiment I - Sharswood
       group formation
• In the middle school classroom, we observed a
  face-to-face lesson in which students were
  grouped by their classroom teacher.
• Students were asked to self-assign typical
  cooperative learning roles (reporter, facilitator,
  recorder).
   – Results: They did not continue to use the roles as
     they worked together.
    F2F Experiment II – TaxiCab
        Geometry Sessions
• Student surveys were used to form groups
• Decisions were mainly based on
  availability of students for synchronous
  communication.
• Students were not highly motivated
• Depending on their math knowledge and
  problem solving skills, each group followed
  very different approaches.
  F2F Collaboration in General
• + Easy to coordinate discussion, taking
  turns etc.
• + Effective communication channels, can
  benefit from gestures, body lang. etc.
• - Resource limitation, discussed ideas are
  volatile, could be forgotten etc.
• - Access to information resources is
  limited
     Our Experience with Online
      Experiments – In Class
• Groups were initially grouped randomly for the
  first online session.
• For the second two virtual problems groups
  were the same as in taxicab sessions.
  (longevity)
• Groups used Blackboard software (shared
  whiteboard, synch chat, equation editor)
• Groups did better as they became familiar with
  the software and their group members
• Facilitation instructions
  – Inscribed-Circle   Tangent-Square   Ducks-in-a-row
      Our Experience with Online
      Experiments – PoW-Wow!
• Collected information     • Group size
  – Age                       – Original goal of 3-4
  – Grade                       students
  – Gender                    – Later goal of 3-5
  – Math class                – With small numbers
  – Knowledge about math        of registrants,
  – Knowledge about             groups were usually
    technology                  small
  – How often they join a
    Pow-wow
     PoW-Wow! - Facilitation
• In initial Pow-wows, instructions were
  given within the chat room. Later general
  instructions were printed only on the
  problem page.
• Goal: basic, clear information
• Script: Facilitator Information
    PoW-Wow! - Recruitment
• We have promoted the Pow-wows on the
  Math Forum site
  – Problem of the Week index page
  – Algebra and Geometry problem pages
  – Instant Messages from MFpowwow to see if
    registrants are serious and if past participants
    are coming back
  – We contacted some active PoW submitters
       PoW-Wow! - Statistics
• 20 Pow-wows
• 37 different participants
• 7 repeating participants (2, 3, 3, 4, 4, 6,
  11)
• 64 never-shows (some registered more
  than once; some participants were no-
  shows at times)
• VMT facilitators joined 4 chats to fill space
PoW-Wow! - Getting Return Visitors
• Problems
   –   Time zones, home schedules, other homework
   –   Kids who register don’t show up
   –   A few rude participants
   –   Software?
   –   Purpose not clear?

• What’s in it for the participant?
   – Socializing, chatting
   – Math help
Online Collaboration in General
• - Coordination is difficult (taking turns,
  following ideas etc.)
• - Limited communication channels
  – Hard to share your work (e.g. diagram)
  – Typing issue
• + Resources, easy keep a log of the
  discussion for future reference
• + Math resources: Can benefit from online
  searches to retrieve necessary math info
What Factors Affect Collaboration?
Environmental Factors         Group Attributes     Individual Attributes

Math Problems                 Group Size           Math skills:
  - Difficulty                Member composition     - Math background
  - Resource availability     Longevity              - Problem solving skills
  - Learning goals            Cohesion             Social skills:
Activity structure (roles)                           - Communication style
Software Interface                                   - Linguistic skills
  - Affordances                                    Technical skills:
  - Usability of the system                          - Familiarity with tech
Facilitation                                       Availability
                                                   Learning style
                                                   Personality
                                                   Motivation/Confidence
                                                   Familiarity with
                                                       tools/collaboration.
Some Desirable Outcomes of Small
Group Collaboration in Our Context
 Mastering problem solving (logical reasoning) skills
 Mastering communication skills, becoming better collaborators
 Developing mathematical thinking; logically linking topics learned
  in class to solve a problem
 Asking insightful questions
 Raising different viewpoints, perspectives
 Paying attention to other members’ thoughts and needs;
  providing feedback, help
 Critiquing other members’ ideas in a constructive way
 Learning from mistakes, making corrections/refinements with the
  help of other members
 Intertwining of perspectives through a process of negotiation;
  collectively constructing a solution to the problem
 To get to the desirable situation…
• We need to find out how we should set the
  parameters effecting the collaboration.
• I.e. we need to answer questions like:
  – How we should form our groups?
  – What sort of software tools do we need to
    provide scaffolding?
  – What sort of facilitation/help features can we
    build into the system?
  – What sort of problems should we use?
   Approximating Parameters
• Answering previous questions requires us
  to approximate the values of key
  parameters (especially those regarding
  skills of group members)
• Possible data sources:
  – Self-assessment data obtained from surveys
  – Observed performance in previous sessions
    (if such historical info is available)
          Automation Issues
• We expect to serve 100s of users around
  the globe
• Due to the projected scale of the system
  we need
  – a reasonable group formation scheme
  – an automated facilitator agent (handle group
    formation, providing feedback etc.)
  – a scheme for forming/updating user profiles
    • updating user profiles according to observed
      performance
              A simple framework for collaboration...
       Present                           Future                                 ∆
Sharing drawings, resources     Sharing drawings, resources      [Remove this obstacle.]
is awkward.                     is fast and easy.

Typing is slow, error prone.    Other input modes are            [Remove this obstacle.]
                                supported.

Students don’t seem to          Tracking and coordinating        [Provide this structure.]
understand problem reduction.   sub-problems is facilitated by
                                the environment.
Hypotheses already rejected     Tracking confirmed or rejected   [Provide this structure.]
can resurface.                  hypotheses is facilitated by
                                the environment.
Limited perspectives lead to    Multiple perspectives increase   [Form groups more effectively]
circling, ‘stuckness’.          alternatives.

Mismatch in knowledge levels    Compatible knowledge levels      [Form groups more effectively]
leads to excessive ‘catch-up’   support facile exploration of
discussions.                    problem space.



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