Welcome to the second of a series of Blogs featuring 2017/2018 Masters projects on Education and Technology supervised at the UCL Knowledge Lab (partner and coordinator of iRead). Each of the projects featured has focused on a key research area of relevance for iRead.
During my Bachelor degree I studied English Language and Literature and I received pedagogical training. What was determining for my future career path, was my teaching practice. This was the moment that I acknowledged my love and passion for teaching, as well as my thirst for innovation and change at the educational system in Greece. Educational technology appeared to me as a means to reach this aspiration of mine. During my teaching practice, as well as during my work experience at a private language school as an EFL teacher, I implemented new technologies to the teaching process, such as interactive materials, IWB, LMS (Learning Management System) and tablets. Eventually, after having observed how these tools influence students’ learning experience, I realized that the power of technology has to be used wisely for it to have a beneficial outcome. This thought motivated me to pursue an in-depth and well-rounded knowledge on educational technologies, something that I achieved during my MA in Education and Technology at UCL.
Tablets are a widespread technology where often they are used in many-to-one situations, i.e. multiple students using a single tablet. This tablet use taking place at schools often goes without theorising. There is a high demand in examining the mechanisms of collaboration, in order to gain a better understanding and insight on how to improve students’ collaborative process and thus in turn to improve learning outcomes emerging from collaborative situations. One of the most important collaborative mechanisms that has not yet been thoroughly examined in past research is joint attention. Joint attention is a condition during which two or more people, not only experience the same thing simultaneously, but they are fully aware together, that they are in this condition. Without joint attention coordination and subsequent collaboration would not be possible. Arguably in the context of many-to-one tablet use, it is possible that affordances such as small screen size or single touch may limit joint attention. In summary, joint attention is a critical component of collaboration but we do not know enough about how the emergent interactions around tablets support it. To achieve this, a more holistic view of joint attention has to be taken, that looks at how it is achieved both verbally and non-verbally.
I conducted case study research using secondary data, i.e., video recordings from a previous EU research project called iLearnRW. The participants of the research were primary school children. In total there were four boys and two girls, aged 9-11 years old. These students played a literacy game called “Words Matter” in pairs on a tablet. The video data was analysed by applying thematic and conversation analysis. Specifically a previous framework called Collaborative Learning Mechanisms (Fleck et al, 2008) was used top-down (deductive) to identify already known mechanisms of joint attention in the data. This was extended by looking bottom up (inductive) for new joint attention mechanisms, and by also exploring how joint attention behaviours interrelate to one another in order to construct joint attention events.
Key highlights of your research
This research contributed the following new insights:
- An extension of the Collaborative Learning Mechanisms framework providing future researchers with a methodology for empirically examining joint attention in tablet-based interactions
- Evidence that mechanisms and behaviors that emerge around multi-touch surfaces designed to foster collaborative learning, also emerge around tablets where the software is not explicitly designed to support collaboration
- Determination of three new joint attention mechanisms that are specific to tablet-based interactions: shared space (e.g. leaning to gain view of the screen), rejection (e.g. not following someone’s order) and attention focusing acts (e.g. poking someone to restore his attention)
- An empirical examination and critical analysis of joint attentions behaviours considered “undesirable” to collaboration. For example, whereas intrusions (e.g. knocking hands away) may seem to be aggressive acts, in fact, this study shows that they triggered responses and turn-taking, which is indicative of effective collaboration.
Relevance to iRead
The overall iRead project is based on a personalised learning paradigm. This research takes a shift away from a purely cognitive view on technology to show the social mechanisms that can additionally facilitate learning.
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