Embedded phenomena: supporting science learning with classroom-sized distributed simulations

CHI, pp. 691-700, 2006.

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In, we introduced one such design space, embedded phenomena, intended to create opportunities for learners to explore the kind of “patient science” in which the making of meaning requires the accumulation of evidence gathered over extended periods of observation

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'Embedded phenomena' is a learning technology framework in which simulated scientific phenomena are mapped onto the physical space of classrooms. Students monitor and control the local state of the simulation through distributed media positioned around the room, gathering and aggregating evidence to solve problems or answer questions rela...More

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Introduction
  • Where learning technologies were once circumscribed by the form factor of the desktop computer, emerging ubiquitous technologies are giving rise to a cornucopia of new designs that expand the space of activity structures available to students and teachers [35].
  • ABSTRACT ‘Embedded phenomena’ is a learning technology framework in which simulated scientific phenomena are mapped onto the physical space of classrooms.
Highlights
  • Where learning technologies were once circumscribed by the form factor of the desktop computer, emerging ubiquitous technologies are giving rise to a cornucopia of new designs that expand the space of activity structures available to students and teachers [35]
  • ABSTRACT ‘Embedded phenomena’ is a learning technology framework in which simulated scientific phenomena are mapped onto the physical space of classrooms
  • In [27], we introduced one such design space, embedded phenomena, intended to create opportunities for learners to explore the kind of “patient science” in which the making of meaning requires the accumulation of evidence gathered over extended periods of observation
  • In the examples that we describe later in this paper, embedded phenomena were employed in units that lasted in each case for several weeks
  • Interaction From an interaction perspective, embedded phenomena support the collaborative activity of workgroups through the use of multiple media devices distributed within a single physical space, a common deployment framework in CSCW and CSCL research
  • We have sought to add to the practitioner’s toolbox by introducing a new way to use existing technologies, embedded phenomena, which addresses the needs of learners while making innovative use of classroom space and time
Results
  • The embedded phenomena approach does not differ from traditional experience-based learning methods, with or without technology, that have always been used by teachers as an important element of science education.
  • The contribution introduced by the embedded phenomena framework lies in the way that phenomena are made accessible and responsive to the needs of learners [37] through the novel uses of classroom time and space.
  • While the authors were heartened to see that the long time course of RoomQuake provided an opportunity for "disengaged" students to move, in Lave and Wenger's terms, from the periphery to the center of a community of practice [25], the response variability suggests that instructional decisions surrounding the duration of embedded phenomena and the articulation of standards for participation require careful planning with attention to classroom populations.
  • Interaction From an interaction perspective, embedded phenomena support the collaborative activity of workgroups through the use of multiple media devices distributed within a single physical space, a common deployment framework in CSCW and CSCL research.
  • While these systems are designed to support group activity in fairly structured settings in which participants are focused on a shared goal during a fixed time period, more recent systems, such as MessyBoard [15], Notification Collage [17], and Semi-Public Displays [19], among others, have explored the utility of embedded devices for opportunistic interaction within co-located work groups engaged in longer-term collaborative activity.
  • While they share with ‘roomware’ projects such as iRoom [20] and iLAND [40] the notion of the designed physical space as the interface to the computational system, in embedded phenomena multiple devices are used not to partition information by functionality [18], but rather as a means of distributing the representation of state over physical space, requiring users to attend to multiple devices in order to understand and/or control the state of the ongoing simulation.
  • The authors have sought to add to the practitioner’s toolbox by introducing a new way to use existing technologies, embedded phenomena, which addresses the needs of learners while making innovative use of classroom space and time.
Conclusion
  • The authors' classroom experiences provide support for the assertion that the use of embedded phenomena can impact student learning, participation, skill acquisition, and attitudes toward the scientific enterprise.
  • The authors showed how the essential elements of the framework have been informed by research in human-computer interaction and learning technologies
Summary
  • Where learning technologies were once circumscribed by the form factor of the desktop computer, emerging ubiquitous technologies are giving rise to a cornucopia of new designs that expand the space of activity structures available to students and teachers [35].
  • ABSTRACT ‘Embedded phenomena’ is a learning technology framework in which simulated scientific phenomena are mapped onto the physical space of classrooms.
  • The embedded phenomena approach does not differ from traditional experience-based learning methods, with or without technology, that have always been used by teachers as an important element of science education.
  • The contribution introduced by the embedded phenomena framework lies in the way that phenomena are made accessible and responsive to the needs of learners [37] through the novel uses of classroom time and space.
  • While the authors were heartened to see that the long time course of RoomQuake provided an opportunity for "disengaged" students to move, in Lave and Wenger's terms, from the periphery to the center of a community of practice [25], the response variability suggests that instructional decisions surrounding the duration of embedded phenomena and the articulation of standards for participation require careful planning with attention to classroom populations.
  • Interaction From an interaction perspective, embedded phenomena support the collaborative activity of workgroups through the use of multiple media devices distributed within a single physical space, a common deployment framework in CSCW and CSCL research.
  • While these systems are designed to support group activity in fairly structured settings in which participants are focused on a shared goal during a fixed time period, more recent systems, such as MessyBoard [15], Notification Collage [17], and Semi-Public Displays [19], among others, have explored the utility of embedded devices for opportunistic interaction within co-located work groups engaged in longer-term collaborative activity.
  • While they share with ‘roomware’ projects such as iRoom [20] and iLAND [40] the notion of the designed physical space as the interface to the computational system, in embedded phenomena multiple devices are used not to partition information by functionality [18], but rather as a means of distributing the representation of state over physical space, requiring users to attend to multiple devices in order to understand and/or control the state of the ongoing simulation.
  • The authors have sought to add to the practitioner’s toolbox by introducing a new way to use existing technologies, embedded phenomena, which addresses the needs of learners while making innovative use of classroom space and time.
  • The authors' classroom experiences provide support for the assertion that the use of embedded phenomena can impact student learning, participation, skill acquisition, and attitudes toward the scientific enterprise.
  • The authors showed how the essential elements of the framework have been informed by research in human-computer interaction and learning technologies
Related work
  • Interaction From an interaction perspective, embedded phenomena support the collaborative activity of workgroups through the use of multiple media devices distributed within a single physical space, a common deployment framework in CSCW and CSCL research. Kraemer and King [24] surveyed a number of the early efforts in this area, which were typically configured as a fixed collection of private workstations in combination with a large public displays within an “electronic boardroom.” Systems such as Xerox PARC’s Colab [38], the University of Arizona’s Planning Laboratory [2], and the Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation’s Project NICK [4], and their successors, have focused on support for activities such brainstorming, decision support, and planning within group meetings. Among instructional systems, ClassTalk [14], eClass (formerly Classroom 2000) [1], ActiveClass [32], LiveNotes [21], and HubCalc [45] share a similar mix of private and public media (albeit with wireless computational devices increasingly replacing dedicated private workstations).

    While these systems are designed to support group activity in fairly structured settings in which participants are focused on a shared goal during a fixed time period, more recent systems, such as MessyBoard [15], Notification Collage [17], and Semi-Public Displays [19], among others, have explored the utility of embedded devices for opportunistic interaction within co-located work groups engaged in longer-term collaborative activity. In such systems, public affordances provide focal points for informal discourse and activity that complement individual work undertaken in private.

    Embedded phenomena are distinguished from these systems by their complete absence of private affordances; in this way, they more closely resemble a multi-display variant of single-display groupware [39] in which all interaction is undertaken publicly on shared devices. And while they share with ‘roomware’ projects such as iRoom [20] and iLAND [40] the notion of the designed physical space as the interface to the computational system, in embedded phenomena multiple devices are used not to partition information by functionality [18], but rather as a means of distributing the representation of state over physical space, requiring users to attend to multiple devices in order to understand and/or control the state of the ongoing simulation.
Funding
  • We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Electronic Visualization Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Chicago
  • This material is based on work was supported in part by the National Science Foundation under grants DGE-0338328 and ANI-0225642
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