Classroom Exhibit Builder

Team members
Lyndsey Franklin ( )
and open to other class members!

What is the problem that you are solving?
When teaching topics such as science and art and history, teachers are often left with few tools to adequately assess students' previous knowledge of topics and how they are integrating new information to their current way of thinking. Typically, they are left with basic assignment types such as reports, fact-checking tests and homework, and the occasional group project. Most often, these involve fact repetition on an individual basis. Group projects often get completed through a divide-and-conquer approach with group members each taking small pieces to complete in isolation and be fit together at the end. There are few options for teachers who want to draw out students deeper understanding of topics and generate more extensive classroom collaboration and discussion.

How will you do the project?
The Classroom Exhibit Builder will be an online environment designed around an analogy with museum exhibits. The online interface will be important for supporting later collaboration across classrooms though that functionality may no appear in the initial prototype. Teachers and students will have separate interfaces to separate their roles. Teachers will specify topics for students to examine and assign topics to groups of students as exhibit designers. Rather than just present facts in a graphical way, exhibits will be focused on students showing each other how to learn their given topic. Students will play two roles, exhibit designers and fact-checkers. As exhibit designers, students will decide what important information needs to be included to understand their topic and prompt classmates for that information. Exhibit designers will then organize the retrieved information and present it in such a way that it shows how their questions were answered. Students will also participate as fact-checkers. As exhibit designers request information, any other student in the class may respond with what they know. Multiple students may respond to the same request and it is up to the exhibit designers to determine how to best represent the answers in their exhibit. Teachers will act as moderators of content and quality as needed.

Which algorithms/techniques/models do you plan to use/develop?
Our approach to the interactions of the system is based on the emphasis on deeper understanding and meta-knowledge skills as discussed by [1]. We have chosen the metaphor of a museum exhibit for its connotations as an educational institution and medium of presentation. Museums actively seek to engage the public in learning about the world around them, many with hands-on activities for children. In our model, children conceptualize an exhibit which would answer their questions about a topic and then work with other students to find information that answers their questions. This approach combines some traits of the "crowd" and "hierarchy" genes from [2]- exhibit designers may ask "crowds" (their fellow classmates) for information but together exhibit designers are responsible for what appears in their exhibit. In order to form a coherent teaching exhibit, exhibit designers will have to collaborate [2] to resolve dependencies in the information available to them.

What data will you use? (How will you get it?)
Background material for our prototype will include literature on teaching principles and work focused on designing interfaces for children that support creativity. We will also design our initial prototype to support a subset of age-groups and curricula to limit our need for expertise in both.

What will you evaluate, and how will you know if you are successful?
We will first focus our evaluations on usability of our working prototype by teachers and students as a mechanism for collaboratively creating online exhibits about teacher-directed topics. Success will come in the form of positive user reviews and continued interest in expansion of supported age-groups and curricula. Future research would explore the impact of the systems' approach to improving students' deeper understanding of topics and their meta-knowledge. Successful results would include improved demonstrations of student mastery of topics such as improved test scores and presentation skills.

What do you expect to submit/accomplish by the end of the semester?
By the end of the semester, we will have a working prototype which supports the construction of collaborative student exhibits focused on middle school earth-science projects. The system will include space for teachers to specify topics and assign them to groups of students responsible for completing an exhibit. Students will have an interface to post their questions about their topics and prompt for answers from their classmates. Students will also have an accompanying interface to respond to the posted questions of classmates. Another interface will support the collaborative development of exhibits/presentations once student groups have had their questions answered. An accompanying paper will outline our design choices and the underlying educational principles we intend them to support as well as the results of our initial exploratory user testing and future directions.


- Donovan, S.M., Bransford, J. D., Pellegrino, J. W. Eds. 1999. How People Learn: Bridging Research and Practice. Committee on Learning Research and Educational Practice, National Research Council. National Academy of Sciences.
- Malone, T. W., Laubacher, R., and Dellarocas, C. 2010. The Collective Intelligence Genome. MIT Sloan Management Review. v51 no3. Spring 2010

Comment (Ben): Intriguing! I like the idea, and am looking forward to your work. The big question I have is what the actual user experience will be like. Will it be more like a WYSIWYG graphical editor (i.e., very unstructured), or more like (i.e., very structured). Figuring out how to balance the ability to offer full creativity, while providing enough structure so there can be a reasonable expectation of group participation is going to be an interesting design challenge. I'm glad that you started to look at the literature. Keep looking. Figure out what others have done in this area. Perhaps look at modern school science fairs? I've heard that some schools are going to online entries.

Also, see Mike & Johnny's project. There is a fair amount of similarity, and you might want to consider joining forces: