Workspace Awareness Support in Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Classrooms

Students using tablets

In a bring-your-own-device classroom (BYOD) setting, students work in a large web-based canvas through their individual tablets or laptops. While students are co-located, they have limited awareness of their peers’ work. The distance between students and the small sizes of personal devices can make observing peers’ actions difficult. Without appropriate awareness support, students often yelled out to the entire class, attempting to resolve conflicting actions in the workspace. Such actions created distractions for the class and increased teachers’ workload in their classroom management. We investigated the design of an awareness cue for students aged 6 to 17, in BYOD classrooms. The project’s goal was to support workspace awareness needs on touch devices, as well as to ensure age-appropriateness and technical feasibility. Specifically, we aimed to balance awareness, distraction, and clutter.

A callout bubble, a workspace awareness cue for students, was designed through a highly iterative process which incorporated teacher and student feedback. It was displayed near the object being manipulated by a peer, and faded away over time. We conducted four in-class evaluations with a total of 71 students. The results showed that callout bubbles were beneficial for improved task focus and decreased frustration levels when conflicts arose. Students understood the awareness information and were able to self-monitor and coordinate within the group. Teachers also reported lower physical and cognitive workload.