Investigating a Multi-Device Framework for Collaborative Inquiry Learning
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The MUSHI (Multi-User Simulation with Handheld Integration) framework was designed to address two educational needs: (1) to help students learn about complex, multi-scalar systems, and (2) to help students collaborate with one another in small groups. The MUSHI system provides each student with a handheld computer that is wirelessly synchronized with a simulation running on a tablet PC computer. A group of students can interact in real time with small-scale elements of the simulation via their personal handhelds, and can simultaneously observe large-scale simulation elements on the shared computer.
Because this is a novel combination of devices, we conducted use trials with middle school students to explore issues surrounding linked multi-device representations and small-group collaboration. In these pilot studies, we confirmed that the multi-device interface can be used by the lower age range of our target demographic, and that its use does not impair the execution of representative inquiry learning tasks. With respect to collaboration, we uncovered unexpected behaviors that forced us to alter our notions of how students negotiate task allocation in a shared environment. The design rationale for MUSHI, the mixed quantitative and ethnographic methods used to capture data for this study, and future research following these findings will be discussed.