CSCL 2002 in Boulder, Colorado
'My new hand puppet's name is Cecil. Get it??? Cscl! Ha ha ha..' - Mike, who needs a vacation.
Documenting Collaborative Interactions Workshop
Colourful Hints for Collaborative Climbing
Jonathan Cohen, James Dai, Michael Wu, Sarah Yang
UBC EGEMS Research

Headline News
Jan 7th, 2002 - Red carpet welcomes the EGEMS team
Jan 8th, 2002 - News flash! This just in: EGEMS team rocks CSCL workshop!
Jan 9th, 2002 - CSCL organizers consider renaming the conference to EGEMS2
Jan 10th, 2002 - Colorado tears of snow as EGEMS team bids farewell

A team of four EGEMS members (Jonathan Cohen, James Dai, Michael Wu, Sarah Yang) was dispatched Monday morning to the Computer Support for Collaborative Learning 2002 conference to present their current research in a workshop and receive insights and feedback. The conference was held in Boulder, Colorado between January 7th to 11th. Though this team would only participate in half the conference, they set high goals and had the vision to meet the challenges they faced. This web page is a journal that tracks what happened at the conference - it is incomplete as there are still pictures that need to be developed, scanned, and added here.

Click here for our brief proposal paper to the conference (PDF format).

Many thanks to Dr. Maria Klawe, Dr. Bob Woodham, and the UBC Computer Science Department for helping to sponsor our trip!


EGEMS, Electronic Games for Education in Mathematics and Science, is an interdisciplinary group from the University of British Columbia. Directed by Dr. Maria Klawe, EGEMS is interested in researching the role of educational computer games in the classroom environment in supporting and reinforcing mathematical concepts learned in class. A parallel focus is on the gender issues involved. EGEMS works with a multitude of people ranging from elementary school teachers, professors, and industrial companies.

What is PrimeClimb?

'PrimeClimb rules!' - Sarah, on suggesting a title for the PrimeClimb 'how to play' section.
Screenshot of PrimeClimb game

PrimeClimb, created by EGEMS, is an educational computer game that supports introductory classroom teachings of prime factorization for grade six and seven students. The game is played in partners, and success can be achieved through collaborative play. Pairs of students climb a treacherous mountain together with only their tools and wits. The climbers are limited in the distance they may travel because a safety rope constrains their movement. This mountain is made up of numbers which climbers may climb on. When a climber climbs onto a number that has a shared common factor with his partner's number, that climber falls. The safety rope helps the fallen climber recover. This rope acts as a constraint at times and encourages climbers to work together. A pick tool is provided to reduce any mountain number by one. This can be particularly helpful in difficult situations.

Our Current Research

PrimeClimb is currently being used in two separate research projects. One involves a socially interactive animated pedagogical agent, and the other involves shared hint-giving collaborative tools. The latter is the primary focus of this web site as it was the research discussed at the CSCL conference.

'5 more minutes...' - Jonny, on the art of waking up early. In the classroom, traditional learning involves students communicating to learn from one another. Shared hint-giving tools facilitate this in the educational computer environment. Thus, various tools have been integrated into PrimeClimb, most notably the Magnifying Glass and Flag tools. These tools display factor breakdowns, which often prove useful in finding shared common factors between numbers. Several factors that define a "shared" tool are: resource limitation, visual effect permanence, distributed nature of feedback (do both players see the result, or just the tool user, or just the partner), their effects.

The Magnifying Glass tool presents factorization information visually as a factor tree. It is unlimited in number and the factor tree remains visible so long as the user does not apply the magnifying glass onto another number (in which the factor breakdown of the new number is displayed). Only the user of this tool will see its results.

'The good news is that PrimeClimb is in the proceedings. The bad news is that we didn't do it.' - Mike, upon seeing PrimeClimb entered in the CSCL 2002 Proceedings by Dr. Kori Inkpen.
The magnifying glass tool

The Flag tool presents one equation that contains the factors of a number. This tool is limited in number. When used on a mountain number, a flag marks the usage area and an equation is placed on the screen. This equation, which both players can see, remains on the screen throughout the entire game.

'Prime numbers are wild.' - James, choosing the new rule for Poker. He went on to win 2 of the 24 games.
The flag tool

Currently, we are interested in exploring whether or not shared hint-giving tools improve mathematical and collaborative learning through encouragement of individual accountability and communication between peers. One way of promoting accountability on the individual level is to allow both members of the team to use a tool and then place a team limit on the number of tool usages. (The flip side would be to put individual limits on the number of available resources.) For example, we may find that students teach one another through the use of their shared tools. In order to draw conclusions about patterns of behaviour and learning, we need to record and document both a student's game inputs and a student's off-screen interactions while playing PrimeClimb.

'I'm not leaving Colorado until I GET this!' - Sarah, trying to complete Jonny's Rubik's cube.
Game log documentation and video annotations

To record the former, game play logs generated by the application can be used. For the latter, we can video tape the playing sessions of a student. This can be done by recording (with the use of two cameras): what is happening on the computer screen, and what physical actions are being performed. Note that these video feeds should ultimately be synchronized to make annotations easier. It is important to recognize that we must overcome some underlying challenges of documenting social interactions. For example, when annotating video, what criteria constitute a "student explanation" or a "hand gesture"?

'#$@!' - Jonny, on putting out his pair of Jacks in Big2 when he could have won the game by using the Jack for his straight.
Synchronizing the game screen with social interations

Documenting Collaborative Interactions

For our study, we need to document informal activity to find patterns in collaborative interactions. Two challenges we face are:

(1) Combining documentation of social interactions with documentation of game events, and
(2) Facilitating the analyses of various pattern hypotheses.

Our Approach
To combine both social interaction documentation and game event documentation, we can create a multi-dimensional timeline that includes both sets of data. This can potentially aid in the identification of interesting patterns of behaviour through visual pattern matching.

'I seriously don't think the plane will lift with 4 hardcopy proceedings on board.' - Mike.
Timelines of game events and social interactions

We want to adopt an open-ended approach to these challenges such that we can satisfy openness. If we were able to support mechanisms of testing various pattern hypotheses about how tool usage and planning ties in to communication, we would be able to quickly answer different questions and address specific hypotheses.

By annotating only interesting items and then analyzing that data, we can achieve our open-ended goal. This is because we can come up with interesting questions, and only annotate what is necessary from the video. If that information is already processed, then much time can be saved (as annotation of video can be very time consuming). This methodology allows others to carry out future work using the same data set to test out new ideas and suggestions.