• With GS, how do students interact with others during group discussion in a jigsaw activity?
• To what extent do GS benefit students in having rich interactive questioning, dialogue, and continuous improvement of ideas?
1. Log in and configure group (20 minutes). After the students have enrolled and logged into GS, the instructor uses the function of teacher administrator of GS to configure students into three expert groups so that four expert group members with Tablet PCs could sit together to facilitate communicating and discussing.
2. Operation of GS (10 minutes). Students practice how to write/type on, drag, and drop the notes from a private board to the public board of GS using the digital stylus of the Tablet PC.
3. Expert group discussion (30 minutes). In each expert group, the students are asked to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of their assigned OSLMS using an organizer with items as "system setup," "administrator function," "teacher function," "student function," "interface," and "other." Students have to produce, share, and advance the knowledge of the collective. Students discuss and write/type their ideas on the scribble notes and drag/drop them on a blank table (uploaded by teacher beforehand) on its expert public board, as shown in Fig. 5. The instructor monitors the students' interaction and saves the results as files using the function of the teacher administrator.
4. Original group discussion (40 minutes). Each student returns to the original group with his or her Tablet PC to share the results of his or her group's discussion. After the members have acquired some basic understanding of all three OSLMS in their original group, they begin to discuss and contrast the strengths and weaknesses of three platforms item by item, as shown in Fig. 5. Each student could switch back to the expert group table by clicking icon at the right of the upper pane (shown in Fig. 6) to refer to or review what they have originally constructed during the expert group discussion. They can create new scribble notes or copy/edit any scribble notes from their expert group result and paste it onto the OSLMS comparison table. Next, each group has to integrate various contributed information and achieve new synthesis. They also grade different OSLMS functions on the comparison table with , which represents excellent, good, and no good, respectively. The comparison tables of three groups are also saved as files immediately after the activity. Fig. 6 shows an example of the OSLMS comparison table (g3).
5. Group presentation (20 minutes). One student in each original group uses a single-gun projector to display and report results to the whole class. The instructor initiates class discussion and encourages the students to compare and contrast the ideas with those of others.
6. Questionnaire (20 minutes). The students respond to 10 items on a Likert scale of 1 to 5, indicating the degree to which they agree or disagree with statements concerning their opinions about GS interface operation, interaction, and KB mediated with GS.
7. Interview (30 minutes). Following the activity, the students are interviewed for approximately half an hour about KB and interaction experience with GS. The interviewing data is intended to serve as an additional source of information to supplement the questionnaire survey.
4.1.1 Expert Group Discussions Table 1 shows the number of scribble notes created in the discussions in the expert groups with their means and standard deviations. The Min and Max show the minimum and maximum notes generated by a member, while the total reflects the total number of notes generated. Among the three expert groups, Sakai members contributes 33 notes, the greatest number of notes for a group , whereas Atutor members contribute relatively less . Since the software operation and wireless access is not very stable, two students, student 4 (Atutor group) and student 5 (Sakai group), could not contribute their ideas very smoothly. Student 10 in the Sakai expert group is a very active student and he contributes 16 ideas.
4.1.2 Original Group Discussions When the students return to the original group to interact and contrast several functions of three OSLMS, they use the same function of GS to drop their ideas onto the comparison table. The statistics of the scribble notes generated in the original groups are shown in Table 2. The columns from Atutor, Moodle, and Sakai denote the number of notes created by the member from the Atutor, Moodle, and the Sakai group, respectively. Among the three original groups' discussion, g3 members contribute the highest 35 integrated notes . g1 students have relatively low means because they spend a lot of time on discussion and negotiation in order to derive their conclusions. On the contrary, g3 members have comparatively less dialogue during the interaction, mainly because they focus on creating new ideas.
4.1.3 Knowledge Building Since students may switch interface between the group boards of expert and original groups by clicking the icon at the right of the upper pane, they can copy and edit any scribble notes from their expert group table and paste it onto the comparison table in the public space of the original group. In the comparison table ( Fig. 6), the scribble note (marked by the circle shape) which says "easy and flexible to use" was copied intact from the expert group table ( Fig. 5). Some scribble notes are identified as notes which are edited from those in the expert group tables which have similar meaning and expression. For example, in the expert group table ( Fig. 5), the scribble notes (marked by the oval shapes) which say "powerful function" and "a lot of functions" were integrated into one note which says "multiple and powerful functions" in the comparison table ( Fig. 6). There are also some notes specified as new which do not appear in the expert group tables. The numbers of copied, revised, and new scribble notes in original group tables are shown in Table 3. The percentages of copied and edited scribble notes are 46 percent (g1), 90 percent (g2), and 80 percent (g3). Analysis of the videotape also shows that students use the function of GS to switch the interface between original and expert group tables frequently. In this case, g2 and g3 students tend to borrow ideas from previous records. However, g1 students report that their new ideas are derived out of inspiration, which helps the generation of more ideas. The possible explanation is that GS not only enables students to shift interface and view the discussion notes between the boards of the original and expert group effortlessly, but provides participant's opportunities for mutual learning and cooperation that stimulate the creation of new knowledge and help develop better thinking and analytical skill. Participants take advantage of the GS function of interface shift for public discussions and interaction, and thereby enhance their KB with idea improvement and negotiation.
4.2.1 GS Operation The means of the first two items related to GS operation are 4.25 and 4.67 ( and 0.42). More than 91.7 percent of the students agree or strongly agree that GS interface and operation is simple and easy to learn. Item 3, "I think the system lagging time is acceptable for me," scores 2.33, which indicates that the software operation is not stable. As the system is still in the development phase, the students and instructor encounter some "frozen-screen" situations. From tracking the system usage logs, we find that the bottleneck could be possibly caused by the limitations of the Tuple Spaces server, insufficient wireless network capacity, and server overloading. This suggests that the current GS system is not sophisticated enough to support jigsaw cooperative learning without support from an experienced teacher fluent with GS or even a technology specialist. This finding urges us to improve the capacity of communication facilities and server loading to prevent communication jam problems from impeding the learning activities.
4.2.2 Students' Interaction Items 4-6 are clustered around students' interactions. Item 4 "Compared to paper-and-pencil experience, GS encourages me to express more ideas" scores 3.50, which appears to mean that students are not inspired to express ideas by using GS. For students, there is not much difference between GS and paper-and-pencil experience. Item 5 "On expert group discussion, GS enables me to quickly understand other's views" shows that 11 students (41.7 percent 50 percent) strongly agree or agree that GS benefited them for assimilating other's ideas. In addition, item 6 "Compared with paper-and-pencil experience, GS improves the interaction among members" scores 3.92 and 75 percent students agreed with the statement. A partial explanation for this might lie in the fact that the lagging problem and frozen-screen situation interrupt students' interactions.
4.2.3 Knowledge Building We seek to better understand whether GS supported students' knowledge transfer by designing items 7-10. These questions score 4.17-4.42 and participants tend to agree or strongly agree with the statement that the records of previous discussion are crucial and GS benefited them for reviewing such records quickly so that they may integrate the knowledge to share with the original group members. The results might support the hypothesis that GS helps students to retrieve the previous discussion in the expert group to better understand the characteristics of OSLMS. Understanding of different systems can benefit students for comparing and contrasting the strengths and weaknesses among OSLMS after mutual learning and discussion.
• S3: "For group discussion, I am used to typing important ideas or concepts with my notebook computer for records. Reviewing learning records is crucial for me in terms of learning. Sometimes I would pay too much attention to typing down every crucial idea instead of interacting with classmates. With GS in the jigsaw activity, I do not need to focus on typing due to the embedded saving functions of GS. In this case, I may devote attention to discussion and interaction and no ideas will be missed. GS benefits me to engage in group interaction to have better understanding of learning task."
• S5: "I am not a quick learner. When I return to the original group to compare the strengths and weaknesses of three OSLMS, I usually shift to previous records to review the notes of characteristics of Atutor (assigned OSLMS). Those notes help me to recollect some important ideas quickly so that I can share with or even instruct original group members."
• S8: "During discussion, two of original group members, Alibuda and Lij, had very different points of view toward the administrator function of Sakai and Moodle. Both members shift to previous records often and show the previous records to every member, trying to persuade every one of us. When one note entitled "Chian" is challenged and Alibuda failed to defend himself immediately, he moved over to other group to ask Chian, Alibuda's previous expert group member, for better understanding. The similar process goes on and forth in different items. Obviously, the conclusion is not really satisfied to every member; however, after the intensive interaction with use of previous record, we better understand the similarities and differences between the two OSLMS afterwards."
• S10: "A feature of GS is that there is an indication of the name of each member associated with the contributions. In addition, we were asked to choose a specific color in the beginning of class for distinction. In this case, it is easy for us to distinguish which sticky note is created by whom during discussion. Furthermore, with the indication of name and color coding, I got the pressure to pay more attention to express my ideas on shared space, especially when my contributions, sticky notes, are relatively less. However, I still have to post notes prudently because my name is just above my notes."
• The writing function of Tablet PCs is similar to paper-and-pencil. (S2, S6, S11).
• GS will be a rather useful tool for cooperative and brain storming activities if the system lag problem is solved. (S1-S7, S9-S12).
• I think the lagging time is a critical issue which needs to be solved. For learners, they will never tolerate lagging problems during interaction. (S4, S8).
• Since all notes with names are on the shared space and it is easy to tell who contributes the least ideas, I will try to create or invent ideas to avoid being left behind. (S3, S5, S8).
• It is effective that GS can save the discussion records as files immediately. (S2-S8, S10-S12).
• With GS, it is helpful to be able to review the records of previous discussions to recollect ideas and knowledge integration. (S1, S3-S6, S8-S12).
• C.-K. Looi is with the Learning Sciences and Technologies Academic Group, National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, 1 Nanyang Walk, Singapore 637616. E-mail: email@example.com.
• C.-P. Lin is with the Graduate Institute of e-Learning Technology, National Hsinchu University of Education, Hsinchu, Taiwan, ROC. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
• K.-P. Liu is with the Graduate Institute of Network Learning Technology, National Central University, No. 300, Jhongda Rd., Jhongli City, Taoyuan County 32001, Taiwan, ROC. E-mail: email@example.com.
Manuscript received 7 Aug. 2008; revised 2 Dec. 2008; accepted 5 Dec. 2008; published online 8 Dec. 2008.
For information on obtaining reprints of this article, please send e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org, and reference IEEECS Log Number TLT-2008-08-0064.
Digital Object Identifier no. 10.1109/TLT.2008.20.