1. Emma Mercier
  2. http://www.emmamercier.com
  3. Assistant Professor
  5. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  1. Joshua Peschel
  2. http://peschel.cee.illinois.edu/
  3. Research Assistant Professor
  5. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

EXP: Fostering Collaborative Drawing and Problem Solving through Digital Sket...

NSF Awards: 1441149

2015 (see original presentation & discussion)


The CSTEPS project, a Cyberlearning Exploratory project, focuses on Collaborative Sketch Tools for Engineering Problem Solving. The project builds on the recognition that the creation of joint representations is a key collaborative and engineering practice. We are developing tools to support collaborative sketch creation in introductory engineering courses, and tools to support the assessment and integration of these sketches into the classroom discourse.

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Original Discussion from the 2015 Teaching & Learning Video Showcase
  • Icon for: Amie Patchen

    Amie Patchen

    May 11, 2015 | 12:04 p.m.

    This looks like a useful tool for learning content, collaboration, and presentation. Thanks for sharing! I’m curious about how the collaboration develops, since you mentioned in the video that many students don’t have experiences working in collaborate groups at the beginning. Do you see any chances in the way students collaborate over the course of a semester? Do you provide any supports to facilitate collaboration or does it happen naturally around the sketching tool?

  • Icon for: Emma Mercier

    Emma Mercier

    Lead Presenter
    Assistant Professor
    May 11, 2015 | 02:32 p.m.

    Thanks for the comment! The issues of supporting students as they learn to engage in collaborative activities is important. We’re approaching this from a number of directions:
    1) Analyzing video of groups as they work together over time, to see what sort of skills they develop (we’ll have a CSCL poster about this in June).
    2) Working with the teaching assistants to help them learn how to support students in their collaborative interactions.
    3) Exploring if there are features in the tool that can be used to prompt better collaborative interactions.

  • Icon for: Amie Patchen

    Amie Patchen

    May 14, 2015 | 11:49 a.m.

    Great, I’ll be excited to hear what you find out— sounds like it will be really useful!

  • Icon for: Beth Sanzenbacher

    Beth Sanzenbacher

    Middle Science Instructional Leader
    May 12, 2015 | 01:00 a.m.

    Important research! Finding ways to increase student-to-student and student-to-teacher collaborations is important for all age levels and disciplines. I am curious what affordances you think the technology gives to the collaborative process? Are touch screens essential or could similar out comes be produced with large butcher paper and white boards?

  • Icon for: Emma Mercier

    Emma Mercier

    Lead Presenter
    Assistant Professor
    May 12, 2015 | 06:37 p.m.

    Technology is essential for some of what we’re doing – and not necessary for other parts of it. Yes, of course, providing students with larger pieces of paper would allow them to create larger sketches – and likely share them within their group more easily. However, the technology allows us to do a wider range of things such as
    - let the TA see what each group is working on
    - easily share work with the whole class
    - allow a student to work on a small sketch, that can then be enlarged to share with the group
    - potentially ‘play back’ a sketch process, allowing students and instructors to talk about their process.
    - potentially use sketch recognition technology to alert TAs to problems the students are having, or at least, identify groups whose sketches aren’t going to help them solve the problem.
    We’re spending a lot of time thinking about what in means to engage in collaborative problem solving within a classroom – and creating tools to support learning beyond the interaction that occurs within the small group – which is where the technology really comes into its own.

  • Icon for: Tammy Pirmann

    Tammy Pirmann

    K-12 Coordinator
    May 12, 2015 | 02:19 p.m.

    Are there any explicit lessons or instructions regarding collaboration before students are expected to do it? If they are coming in with little to no experience with collaboration, do they need external motivation to participate in collaborative groups?

  • Icon for: Emma Mercier

    Emma Mercier

    Lead Presenter
    Assistant Professor
    May 12, 2015 | 06:43 p.m.

    We’re working on this! Next year, we’ll be working with the TAs to help them learn how to teach the students to collaborate (drawing on prior research on collaboration, and also the data we collected of the students collaborating this year). There certainly has to be more to this project (and the entire endeavor of introducing collaborative tasks to engineering courses) than giving students technology and telling them to collaborate. Learning good collaborative practices is an essential piece of the puzzle.

    Motivation is a mixed issue – the tasks are group tasks, so they have to work in groups in their classes. But, motivating them to engage in joint knowledge construction and to care about what their teammates learn requires some support, and the type of classroom climate where learning is prioritized over task completion, and all students see themselves as part of the learning community.

  • Small default profile

    Robert Ireland

    May 14, 2015 | 07:42 a.m.

    Love it! And the strategic empowerment dimension of it that has immediately captured my attention is the ability to ‘play back’ the sketch development process, allowing students and instructors to talk about (and, I guess collectively change)their input at different stages. This could work wonders in so many areas of creative development – including my own, which is training management groups in creative writing for highly-focused business marketing and advertising purposes.

  • Icon for: Emma Mercier

    Emma Mercier

    Lead Presenter
    Assistant Professor
    May 15, 2015 | 11:14 a.m.

    Thanks Robert – we’re excited about the potential of this tool to support the collaborative practice of creating shared representations in a range of contexts too!

  • Further posting is closed as the event has ended.

Multiplex Discussion
  • Icon for: Pete Schwartz

    Pete Schwartz

    K-12 Teacher
    February 6, 2021 | 02:56 p.m.

    I'm curious about the collaborative skills that you teach your students.  How do you do this?  Do you talk about it explicitly before they begin working together or are they more reflective about their practices as they go?  I ultimately want my students to see that learning how to collaborate is sometimes just as important as completing the task they're collaborating on together.

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