Technologically mediated complex problem‐solving on a statistics task

Scanlon, Eileen; Blake, Canan; Joiner, Richard and O'Shea, Tim (2005). Technologically mediated complex problem‐solving on a statistics task. Learning, Media and Technology, 30(2) pp. 165–183.



Simulations on computers can allow many experiments to be conducted quickly to help students develop an understanding of statistical topics. We used a simulation of a challenging problem in statistics as the focus of an exploration of situations where members of a problem-solving group are physically separated then reconnected via combinations of computer and communications technology to work collaboratively on the simulation. The particular focus in this work was on trying to understand how students could use a system which allowed them to conduct variable based practical experiments in order to help them develop their knowledge and understanding of a statistics topic. We wished to develop an understanding of the virtual space created by shared simulations and video communication tools for supporting collaborative work between people at a distance. The paper reports on an experiment involving 48 subjects using this virtual space to establish the impact on their statistics understanding and to map their use of this distributed environment for learning. It establishes that the virtual space is effective for learning, and that the video conferencing condition which allows for eye contact between the pairs has some advantages for successful problem-solving with the simulation. In addition the experimental setting provided some opportunities for exploring subjects' understanding of statistical and experimental concepts.

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