Collaborative Problem Solving with Objects: Physical Aspects of a Tangible Tabletop in Technology-based Assessment

  • Valérie MaquilEmail author
  • Eric Ras
Conference paper


This chapter analyses how the physical objects and space of a tangible user interface supports groups of participants to collaboratively solve a problem. Our aim is to understand which characteristics of the physical space support the participants in thinking collaboratively. We describe a user study with a tangible tabletop for technology-based assessment. We identify a series of patterns extracted from a video analysis using the Collaborative Learning Mechanism framework. In our discussion, we elaborate the characteristics of the TUI that support interactions based on the observed patterns: the physical interaction objects, the shareability of the space, and the non-responsive spaces.


Tangible user interface Interaction design External cognition Collaborative problem solving Computer-based assessment User study 



Many thanks go to our student Warda Atlaoui, who was strongly involved in the development of the tangible tabletop. Further, we would like to thank all the colleagues who voluntarily participated in our study.


  1. 1.
    Al-Smadi, M., Gütl, C.: Past, Present and Future of e-Assessment: Towards a Flexible e-Assessment System. Special Track on Computer-based Knowledge & Skill Assessment and Feedback in Learning Settings (CAF 2008), ICL 2008, pp. 1–9, Villach, Austria (2008)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Fernaeus, Y., Tholander, J.: Looking at the Computer but Doing it on Land: Children’s Interactions in a Tangible Programming Space. People and Computers XIX—The Bigger Picture, pp. 3–18. Springer, London (2006)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Fernaeus, Y., Tholander, J.: Finding design qualities in a tangible programming space. In: Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems—CHI 2006, p. 447, ACM Press, New York, NY, USA (2006)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Fleck, R., Rogers, Y., Yuill, N., Marshall, P., Carr, A., Rick, J., Bonnett, V.: Actions speak loudly with words: unpacking collaboration around the table. In: Proceedings of the ACM International Conference on Interactive Tabletops and Surfaces, pp. 189–196, ACM Press (2009)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Horn, M.S., Solovey, E.T., Crouser, R.J., Jacob, R.J.K.: Comparing the use of tangible and graphical programming languages for informal science education. In: Proceedings of the 27th international Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pp. 975–984, ACM Press (2009)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Hornecker, E.: Understanding the benefits of graspable interfaces for cooperative use. In: Proceedings of 5th International Conference on the Design of Cooperative Systems, pp. 71–87 (2002)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Kirsh, D., Maglio, P.: On distinguishing epistemic from pragmatic action. Cogn. Sci. 18(4), 513–549 (1994)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Klemmer, S.R., Hartmann, B., Takayama, L.: How bodies matter: five themes for interaction design. In: Proceedings of the 6th Conference on Designing Interactive Systems, pp. 140–149, ACM Press (2006)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Marshall, P.: Do tangible interfaces enhance learning? In: Proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Tangible and Embedded Interaction, p 163, ACM Press, New York, USA (2007)Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Oppl, S., Steiner, C.M., Albert, D.: Supporting Self-regulated Learning with Tabletop Concept Mapping. In: Mühlhäuser, M., Sesink, W., Kaminski A., Steimle J. (eds.) Interdisciplinary approaches to technology-enhanced learning. Waxmann Verlag (2010)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Pontual Falcão, T., Price, S.: Interfering and resolving: How tabletop interaction facilitates co-construction of argumentative knowledge. Int. J. Comput. Support. Collab. Learn. 6(4), 23–29 (2011)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Price, S., Falcão, T.P., Sheridan, J.G., Roussos, G.: The effect of representation location on interaction in a tangible learning environment. In: Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Tangible and Embedded Interaction, pp. 85–92, ACM Press (2009)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Ras, E., Maquil, V.: Preliminary Results of a Usability Study in the Domain of Technology-based Assessment Using a Tangible Tabletop. In: Workshop Proceedings of IHM, pp. 3–7 (2011)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Ras, E., Swietlik, J., Plichart, P., Latour, T.: TAO–A versatile and open platform for technology-based assessment. Paper presented at the sustaining TEL: from innovation to learning and practice, proceedings of 5th European Conference on Technology Enhanced Learning (EC-TEL 2010), vol. LNCS 6383. Springer, Barcelona (2010)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Resnick, M., Martin, F., Berg, R., Borovoy, R.: Digital manipulatives: new toys to think with. In: Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Computer Human Interaction, pp. 281–287 (1998)Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Rogers, Y., Scaife, M., Gabrielli, S., Smith, H., Harris, E.: A conceptual framework for mixed reality environments: designing novel learning activities for young children. Presence Teleoperators Virtual Environ. 11(6), 677–686 (2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Shaer, O., Hornecker, E.: Tangible user interfaces: past, present, and future directions. Found. Trends® Hum. Comput. Interact. 3(1–2), 1–137 (2009)Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Sharlin, E., Itoh, Y., Watson, B., Kitamura, Y.: Cognitive cubes: a tangible user interface for cognitive assessment. In: Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, vol. 4, pp. 347–354 (2002)Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Stanton, D., Pridmore, T., Bayon, V., Neale, H., Ghali, A., Benford, S., Cobb, S., Ingram, R., O’Malley, C., Wilson, J.: Classroom collaboration in the design of tangible interfaces for storytelling. In: Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems—CHI 2001, pp. 482–489 (2001)Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Terrenghi, L., Kranz, M., Holleis, P., Schmidt, A.: A cube to learn: a tangible user interface for the design of a learning appliance. Pers. Ubiquitous Comput. 10(2–3), 153–158 (2005)Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Zhang, J.: The nature of external representations in problem solving. Cogn. Sci. 21(2), 1–25 (1997)Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Zuckerman, O., Arida, S.: Extending tangible interfaces for education: digital montessori-inspired manipulatives. In: Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (2005)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Public Research Centre Henri TudorLuxembourgLuxembourg

Personalised recommendations