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The use of computer to register student’s actions in chemistry learning

Jackson Gois1,2, Marcelo Giordan1
Universidade de São Paulo – Brazil, 2 Universidade Federal do Paraná – Brazil,

Keywords: learning dialogues, ICT, virtual molecular objects, simulation,

Background, framework and purpose

Information and communication technologies (ICT) has been helping the development of
strategies and methodologies to study meaning promotion, since audio and video is now
easily recorded in digital format and the data obtained can be accessed faster. We have
developed a methodology to record simultaneously the student’s actions and the screen-in-
use, when they were working with learning activities mediated by a computer. We found out
that the often referred essential teaching exchange ‘IRF’ (Fischer, 1992; Wegerif et al., 2003)
may be changed depending on the kind of the activity students are asked to perform. In this
case the activities performed included the assembly of concrete and virtual molecular models,
besides textual answers. We also present some data that shows how much time they spend
interacting with the peer, the screen, or the teacher (also in the computer lab), or combinations
like peer and screen, or teacher and screen, while performing the learning activities.

Our group has developed a series of hypertext chemistry learning activities which
includes texts and tools to visualize (Posso and Giordan, 2008; Giordan, 2008), manipulate
(Giordan and Gois, 2009) and build virtual molecular objects (Gois, 2007; Giordan, 2008). In
these learning activities students were asked nine questions that included textual answers, as
well as manipulation and creation of concrete and virtual molecular models. In all questions
the couples were supposed do discuss while writing the answers in the system or assembling
the models. The learning activities included a tool, also developed in our group, named
‘Construtor’, where students can create virtual molecular objects from their condensed
structural formula (eg. CH3CH2CH3). The data has been obtained from a simultaneous taping
system, where both the screen-in-use and student’s actions were taped synchronically. We
have transcribed a 48 minutes class and we drawn on the speech episodes in categories related
to what students were interacting. We decided to divide the data in five categories of
interaction: peer, screen, teacher, peer and screen, teacher and screen, described in table 1.

Category Description
Peer (P) students talking to the other, but not interacting with computer through
its peripherals (keyboard, mouse or screen)
Screen (S) students not talking to the other, but just interacting with the computer
Teacher (T) students not talking to the other, but talking together to the teacher and
not interacting with computer peripherals
Peer/Screen (P/S) students talking to the other and interacting with the computer
Teacher/Screen students talking to the teacher and interacting with the computer
Table 1. The table shows the description of the five categories chosen in this work to describe the data obtained.
Table 2 shows some results obtained. As expected, students spent more time in
peer/screen (P/S) interaction, as they had to interact with the system and their peer to perform
the learning activities. They also spent almost three minutes (S) only reading/re-reading the
activities, without talking, and only about seven minutes (P) just talking to their peers. This
time includes the periods of loosing attention and talking about other things out of the subject
(chemistry), and also the time they spent assembling concrete models (about 60% of this
time). The time spent talking to the teacher and using the computer (T/S) is bigger (about ten
minutes) than the time spent talking to the peer, and the time spent talking to the teacher
without using the computer (T) is the smallest. From the results we can say that students did
loose their attention talking about other things, but they mostly used their time interacting
with the teacher, the peer and the computer to solve the proposed activities. They called the
teacher to help for a considerable time (second bigger time) but they preferably worked with
his/her peer to perform the tasks (bigger and third bigger time).

T/S P/S T S P Total

seconds 583 1683 30 174 410 2880
minutes 9,7 28,1 0,5 2,9 6,8 48,0
% 20,24 58,44 1,04 6,04 14,24 100
Table 2. The table shows the time used in interactions with the teacher (T), the screen (S) and other, according
to categories shown in table1.

We are proposing out a new interaction model, called ‘IMF’, from the ‘IRF’
(Initiation, Response and Feedback) model. The assembling of concrete and virtual molecular
objects, started from the Initiation of an exercise (teacher speech turn), required them to
Discuss and Response at the same time and continuously while assembling the three-
dimensional structure, waiting the Feedback from the teacher when finished. We named this
long turn, what could be characterized as a specific discursive movement, where students talk
about a molecular structure and builds it, in either concrete or virtual way, ‘Modeling’.

Conclusions and implications

Students spend their time mostly talking and interacting with the computer AT THE SAME
TIME in this activity.
A new pattern of discursive interaction is proposed, Initiation, Modeling, Feedback (IMF).
The IMF interaction model depends on the activities proposed to students. Proposing learning
activities where students can talk and manipulate/assembly molecular models at the same time
may support different kinds of meaning elaboration.

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