Interfering and resolving: How tabletop interaction facilitates co-construction of argumentative knowledge



Tangible technologies and shared interfaces create new paradigms for mediating collaboration through dynamic, synchronous environments, where action is as important as speech for participating and contributing to the activity. However, interaction with shared interfaces has been shown to be inherently susceptible to peer interference, potentially hindering productive forms of collaborative learning. Making learners effectively engage in processes of argumentative co-construction of knowledge is challenging in such exploratory learning environments. This paper adapts the social modes dimension of Weinberger and Fischer’s (Computers and Education 46(1):71–95, 2006) analytical framework (for argumentative co-construction of knowledge) to analyse episodes of interference, in the context of a shared tabletop interface, to better understand its effect on collaborative knowledge construction. Studies involved 43 students, aged 11–14 years, interacting in groups of three, with a tangible tabletop application to learn basic concepts of the behaviour of light. Contrary to the dominant perspective, our analysis suggests that interference in shared interfaces can be productive for learning, serving as a trigger for promoting argumentation and collective knowledge construction. Interference episodes led to both productive and counter-productive learning opportunities. They were resolved through quick consensus building, when students abandoned their own activity and accepted changes made by others; integration-oriented consensus building, where students reflected on and integrated what happened in the investigation; or conflict-oriented consensus building where students tried to undo others’ actions and rebuild previous configurations. Overall, interference resolved through integration-oriented consensus building was found to lead to productive learning interactions, while counter-productive situations were mostly characterised by interference resolved through conflict-oriented consensus building.


Co-construction of knowledge Interference Physical interaction Shared interfaces Tangible interfaces 


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Copyright information

© International Society of the Learning Sciences, Inc.; Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.London Knowledge LabInstitute of EducationLondonUK

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