RoomCast: an Authoring Environment and Runtime System for Classroom Orchestration of Digital Resources

2016-07-01T00:00:00Z (GMT) by Matteo Palvarini
Modern whole class collectivist pedagogies focus on the development of community knowledge through activities in which young learners engage in collaborative inquiry over multi-week instructional units. Instruction is organized as a sequence of temporal phases. As students move from phase to phase, the resources that the children need to do their work may change. Within each phase, students serving in different roles may require specialized resources as well. The orchestration of those time-varying, heterogeneous resource sets imposes substantial design and enactment challenges on teachers, and transitions often come at the cost of significant instructional time, even (or perhaps especially) when those resources are digital. This thesis introduces RoomCast: an authoring environment and runtime system for the orchestration of interactive, screen-based software resources in multi-week, whole-class instructional units. Designed to address problems of practice identified in prior research, RoomCast adopts a cable television metaphor that positions the teacher as the provider of individualized “channel packages” to students, with each “channel” representing a specific pedagogical resource. Prior to instruction, teachers design the set of different “channel packages” needed within each phase and corresponding to student roles or identities. During enactment, students “log in” on individual and public devices, they are presented with a “channel lineup” based on their role in the current phase, and can “change channels” depending on their needs; teachers use an interactive tool to transition among phases and to reallocate channels during a phase. In addition to describing the design and implementation of RoomCast, the thesis presents the results of an exploratory study of the use of the system’s authoring and runtime features by teachers and learners in three 6th grade classrooms. Evidence of RoomCast’s reliability and usability, both at individual and classroom level, is provided, thus showing its value as an orchestration technology.