JILR 9(2)

Journal of Interactive Learning Research

Volume 9, Number 2 1998


Computer-Support for Collaborative Learning: Learning to Support StudentEngagement

Cindy E. Hmelo, Mark Guzdial, and Jennifer Turns 107


Student Diagnostic Strategies in aDynamic Simulation Environment

Mimi M. Recker, T. Govindaraj, and Vijay Vasandani 131


The Effect of Being HypermediaDesigners on Elementary School Students’ Motivation and Learning of Design Knowledge

Min Liu and Susan Pedersen 155


Interactive Storytelling Systemsfor Children: Using Technology to Explore Language and Identity

Marina Umaschi Bers and Justine Cassell 183


Computer-Support for Collaborative Learning: Learning to Support StudentEngagement

Cindy E. Hmelo

University of Pittsburgh
816 LRDC, 3939 O’Hara Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA


Mark Guzdial and Jennifer Turns

College of Computing
Georgia Institute of Technology
Atlanta, GA 30332-0280, USA

Sometimes the very best thing to happen in a first trial of a research project is tofail. That failure gives the research team perspective on the complexity of the problemand on how much there is to learn from working at the problem. The second best thing tohappen in a research project is to have at least some success in a second or third trial,in order to provide a direction and confidence that the problem is tenable. In our work oncomputer-support for collaborative learning, we have been fortunate enough to have both:clear failures and enough success to suggest that we had found a better direction. Thispaper attempts to tell the story at two levels: first, as a methodological tale of how ourlearning led to a better learning environment, and second, as a parable in which weindicate the lessons that we have learned from our efforts. We report on four attempts touse CaMILE, the Collaborative and Multimedia Interactive Learning Environment. CaMILE isan on-line forum for collaboration and reflection. The first two attempts were failuresfrom the perspective of our design goals but provided important lessons for theresearchers. These early lessons about the technology and how the instructors framed itsuse informed later, more successful attempts.

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Student Diagnostic Strategies in aDynamic Simulation Environment

Mimi M. Recker

Victoria University of Wellington
P.O. Box 600
Wellington, New Zealand


T. Govindaraj

Industrial and Systems Engineering
Georgia Institute of Technology
Atlanta, GA 30332, USA

Vijay Vasandani

Axiom Systems
8302 Dunwoody Place, Suite 300
Atlanta, GA 30350, USA

We demonstrate the use of simulation systems for studying diagnostic problem solving.In particular, we present results from two empirical studies in which students diagnosedfaults that occurred in a computer-based, dynamical simulation of an oil-fired marinepower plant, called Turbinia. Our studies were shaped by a view of diagnosis as dualproblem space search (DPSS), in which non-routine diagnosis was characterized as a processof generating hypotheses to explain the observed faults, and testing these hypotheses byconducting experiments. In the first study, we found that the less efficient studentsconducted significantly more experiments, indicating a strong bottom-up bias in theirdiagnostic strategy. In the second study, we examined the effects of imposing externalresource bounds on students’ diagnostic strategies. Results indicated thatconstraints on diagnosis time led to a reduction in the number of actions performed andcomponents viewed, without appearing to affect diagnostic performance. Constraints on thenumber of diagnostic tests reduced search in the experiment problem space, which appearedto negatively affect performance. Taken together, these results suggest thatstudents’ diagnostic strategies were sensitive to constraints present in the softwaresimulation system. As such, the results have important implications for the design ofinteractive learning environments for fostering strategies that are faithful to theactivity demands of real-world situations.

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The Effect of Being Hypermedia Designers on Elementary School Students’Motivation and Learning of Design Knowledge

Min Liu and Susan Pedersen

Department of Curriculum and Instruction
University of Texas - Austin
Austin, TX 78712, USA



Current educational theory and practice clearly shows that project-based instructionhas the potential to enhance learning. Preliminary findings on one type of project-basedlearning in which students take on the role of hypermedia designers supports this claim.This study examined if being hypermedia designers could have an effect on fourthgraders’ motivation and learning of design knowledge. The findings showed thatengaging students in hypermedia authoring could enhance their motivation, and allowingstudents to be hypermedia designers could support the development of design knowledge andhigher order thinking skills. The skills mostly affected in this study included planning,presentation, reflection, collaboration, task distribution, and time management. Thehypermedia design project provided an opportunity for students of different abilities togrow at their own pace cognitively, affectively, and socially.

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Interactive Storytelling Systems forChildren: Using Technology to Explore Language and Identity

Marina Umaschi Bers and Justine Cassell

MIT Media Laboratory
20 Ames Street, Room E15-320A
Cambridge, MA 02139, USA


More and more often there is embarrassment all around when the wish to hear a story is expressed. It is as if something that seemed inalienable to us, the securest among our possessions, were taken from us: the ability to exchange experiences.
The Storyteller, Walter Benjamin

Storytelling is a good medium for learning about identity and communication as itenables exploration of one’s inner world and requires flexing one’s languageskills. This paper presents a new approach to interactive storytelling: SAGE (StorytellingAgent Generation Environment), an authoring environment for children to create their ownwise storytellers to interact with by telling and listening to stories. In order toencourage children’s emotional engagement in the SAGE environment, the storytellersare embodied in an interactive stuffed animal, also programmable by the children.

This paper presents technical aspects of SAGE’s design and implementation as wellas results from pilot studies done with fourth and fifth graders. Results show thatchildren had a tendency to share their personal stories with the soft interactiveinterface. Exploration of identity and communication happened in several ways: First,storytellers built by the children were projections of their fears, feelings, interests,and role models; they allowed them to explore their own identity as well as presentthemselves to others. Second, through designing and testing the conversational structuresof their storytelling characters, children observed and repaired breakdowns inconversational interaction. This process engaged them in the exploration of communicationand decentering, or taking the point of view of others.

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