The Effects of Handheld Network Service "Look" on the Acquisition of Common Ground

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Virginia Tech

Constructing common ground and the associated convergent conceptual change is critical to cooperative work and learning. Convergent conceptual change is achieved as participants in a conversation update common ground through presentations, repairs, and acceptances of utterances. People employ available techniques that utilize the least collaborative effort for current purposes. Although sharing physical co-presence of interlocutors' facial expressions doesn't make grounding more efficient even in more open-ended and less task-focused dialogues, visual co-presence of the addressee's workspace is essential to work-related tasks, such as information transmission and collaborative problem-solving. However, handheld-mediated collaborative activity makes sharing the workspace challenging, especially when we consider that handhelds possess small screens and permit activities of a distributed nature. In a handheld-mediated classroom, a teacher must be able to check students' work for various reasons (e.g., grading, checking whether they are following directions correctly or paying attention) and at various phases of the activity. Gazing into the small screen of a handheld over someone's shoulder is a tricky task at best. The teacher may misread the information on the screen and thus provide incorrect feedback. Another challenge involves the difficulty inherent in latecomers joining the collaborative activity when each student is involved with his or her individual and small screen. This exclusion from joining on-going activity can reduce the chance of student's vicarious and serendipitous learning. Although such events may occur naturally in the learning environment, they become important concerns when one attempts to focus collaborative activities with handheld devices. I therefore created a new handheld network service called "Look," which is designed to facilitate the acquisition of common ground and allow a latecomer to do meaningful monitoring of ongoing conversation about the workspace. I tested empirically the value of this shared physical/virtual context in the task of creating common ground by examining task performance and conversation quality.

Human-Computer Interaction, Computer-Supported Cooperative Work, Handheld Devices, Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, Ubiquitous and Pervasive Computing