Setting the Stage for Interaction: A Tablet Application to Augment Group Discussion in a Seminar Class

Drew Harry, Eric Gordon, Chris Schmandt


We present a tablet-based system to collaboratively track discussion topics and ideas in a seminar-style discussion classroom. Each student uses his or her own tablet to share text ideas in a synchronized, visual environment. The system is designed to promote diverse participation and increase engagement. Our findings are based on observations of twelve class sessions and interviews with participating students. Instead of simply introducing an additional text-based communication channel into the classroom, we find that the system creates a new "stage" (in the Goffman sense) on which students could perform in ways that the main spoken stage could not support. This stage coexists with spoken communication, and augments how students attend to the material and each other. We conclude that spoken participation alone poses barriers for some participants and the addition of a non-oral, text-based stage can help establish equitable and engaging discussions in the class.

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