This PhD focuses on collaborative writing using technology afforded by digital tabletops, from use as a learning platform for writing skills for “novice” students, to being a collaborative tool for “expert” adult writers. We have researched related work on digital tabletops and collaborative writing tools, as well as socio-psychological and pedagogical aspects of writing and collaboration.
A focus has been on collaborative writing in an educational context. The writing generally taught to students in school English classes is freeform, “creative” writing, which does not equip them with the skills to produce the structured, persuasive writing required for other academic subjects. We have developed a program that helps students collaboratively plan essays by arranging supplied bullet points of evidence into paragraph templates. After they decide the order of the paragraphs the program prompts them to add a word or phrase to connect them together, such as “However”, “Therefore” or “In conclusion”, encouraging them to think about how pieces of evidence support or contradict each other. They can then convert the basic structure into their essay. The program was recently trialled in a class at Longbenton School, which is the largest scale on which the technology has ever been used.
The project has also addressed some of the issues surrounding co-located collaborative writing in general, such as document management and the roles of participants, as well as text entry and manipulation using a digital table top (especially within a multi-user interface).