The joint organization of interaction within a multimodal CSCL medium

  • Murat Perit Çakır
  • Alan Zemel
  • Gerry Stahl


In order to collaborate effectively in group discourse on a topic like mathematical patterns, group participants must organize their activities in ways that share the significance of their utterances, inscriptions, and behaviors. Here, we report the results of a ethnomethodological case study of collaborative math problem-solving activities mediated by a synchronous multimodal online environment. We investigate the moment-by-moment details of the interaction practices through which participants organize their chat utterances and whiteboard actions as a coherent whole. This approach to analysis foregrounds the sequentiality of action and the implicit referencing of meaning making—fundamental features of interaction. In particular, we observe that the sequential construction of shared drawings and the deictic references that link chat messages to features of those drawings and to prior chat content are instrumental in the achievement of intersubjectivity among group members’ understandings. We characterize this precondition of collaboration as the co-construction of an indexical field that functions as a common ground for group cognition. Our analysis reveals methods by which the group co-constructs meaningful inscriptions in the dual-interaction spaces of its CSCL environment. The integration of graphical, narrative, and symbolic semiotic modalities in this manner also facilitates joint problem solving. It allows group members to invoke and operate with multiple realizations of their mathematical artifacts, a characteristic of deep learning of mathematics.


Group cognition Interaction analysis Dual-interaction space Ethnomethodology Indexicality Mathematics education Text chat Visual reasoning Common ground Joint problem space 



The reviews coordinated by Dan Suthers helped us to structure this paper more clearly. Some of the larger methodological, technological, and pedagogical issues the reviewers raised are addressed in (Stahl 2009b), which lists the VMT research team members. This paper is a result of the team’s group cognition. Access to the complete data using the VMT Replayer is available by emailing the authors.


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Copyright information

© International Society of the Learning Sciences, Inc.; Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Information Science & TechnologyDrexel UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.The Department of Culture & CommunicationDrexel UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA

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