This page provides more details about the FACT system.   It assumes you have already read the overview on the Home page.

Teacher’s dashboard circa April 2021

The little squares with student names on them are called “tiles.”

Peeking at a student’s poster

When the teachers tap on a student’s tile, the teacher temporarily joins the student’s group.  Without visiting the group, the teacher can edit the group’s poster (e.g., circle something and scribble a question mark) or send a message.  However, most teachers look at the errors (inside red boxes) and sometimes click on the exclamation-point icons to see an explanation of the error.

Three minute video introducing FACT as of April 2021:

90 second progress report to NSF in December, 2020

One minute video of two student collaborating

These are ASU students working on the “Interpreting Distance-Time Graphs” lesson in a lab (not a classroom).  They are trying to find a distance-time graph that matches a story about Tom coming home from a party.  Because both students are working on the same goal at the same time, and they are both contributing substantial comments to the dialogue, their behavior counts as collaborating (also called transactivity or co-construction).  This video’s sound quality is typical or perhaps even better than the sound obtained in the classroom.  The movement of the cards is also typical.  It demonstrates how difficult it is to interpret student behavior.

FACT vs. Paper

When students work in small groups on the paper-based version of the Classroom Challenges, they usually construct a poster by gluing cards to the posterboard and writing on the posterboard and cards. They often must cut the cards out of a sheet of paper. With FACT, every student has their own viewport (i.e., the screen of a tablet or laptop) onto the group’s electronic poster and the poster already has electronic cards on it. Students can scroll and zoom around the poster using the usual pinching, dragging and mouse gestures. Instead of gluing paper cards, students tap on a pin icon. They can move cards by dragging on them. They can type anywhere. They can draw anywhere using a stylus or finger on a touchscreen or using a mouse. Some key differences over paper are:

  • The typing, drawing and card-movements are colored, and each student in a group has a different color. Thus, the teacher and the students can see who did what.
  • If the teacher enables audio explanations, which requires that students have microphones, then students can record an explanation of why they moved a card on the card itself.  If audio-explanations are not enabled, then on a new card, student can type or handwrite an explanation of the card they just moved.  Electronic cards can be expanded easily, encouraging longer explanations.
  • Students can erase text and drawings easily, which can encourage exploration.
  • With paper posters, students must either sit on the same side of the table or continually rotate the poster so that they can read it. With FACT, students can always seeing the poster in its upright position no matter where they sit.
  • The Classroom Challenges often have a student from one group visit another group so that the solutions of the two groups can be compared. With paper posters, the student who is about to leave and visit another group must copy the poster’s content onto scratch paper in order to bring it along. With FACT, the visiting student just brings their tablet or laptop with them.
  • When groups needs to stop and resume work the next day, it is difficult to store the paper poster and the cards without the cards falling off and getting lost. With FACT, students just close the app and reopen it the next day.
  • After a Classroom Challenge is finished, it is difficult to store paper posters for inclusion in portfolios or for future reference. FACT posters are stored indefinitely on the FACT secure server.
  • When teachers want to show a group’s paper poster to the whole class, they can try to squeeze it under a document camera, or they can just hold it up; either way, the content will be hard for the class to see. With FACT, the teacher can tell the classroom projector or SmartBoard to display any group’s poster. The teacher can then zoom and scroll so that students can see the key parts easily. The teacher can edit on the poster, e.g., to circle important parts.
  • If the teacher wants a student to present a poster, the teacher can project it and then hand the teacher’s tablet to the student. The student can then scroll, zoom and even edit the poster while explaining it.

Classroom orchestration

“Orchestration” is the technical term in the Computer Supported Collaborative Learning literature for conducting a complicated lesson smoothly.  Teachers typically use speaking to the whole class and circulating around the classroom to guide the workflow and monitor students. Some teachers have a digital projector or SmartBoard that they use to display PowerPoint slides, videos or other content. Some teachers have a document camera for displaying student work. FACT augments these orchestration tools with some new ones.

  • Teachers can rapidly gain the attention of the whole class by tapping on the Pause button. This cause all the FACT student screens to display “Eyes on teacher” and freeze. Tapping the Pause button again unfreezes the student screens and allows students to continue their work.
  • Teachers can watch the work of a student or group without having to walk over and visit them. They tap the name of the student or group, and they are now “peeking” at the work. This allows a teacher to decide whether a group needs a visit or is making good progress on their own.
  • When peeking at student work, the teacher can zoom and scroll around the poster or worksheet. This is especially handy when visiting a group and trying to read the poster, which may have small handwriting on it.
  • For most activities, FACT can tell how far along students or groups of students are. For example, if the activity involves filling out cards with explanations, FACT can tell how many cards have writing or typing on them. It displays such progress with a bar on the group’s tile (a small rectangle on the teacher’s dashboard). This allows the teacher to tell how far along the class is, and who is lagging behind.
  • FACT also provides two class-wide progress bars.  One shows the number of groups that have finished the current activity.  The other shows the number of cards, summed over the whole class, that have been placed.  Both allow the teacher to estimate how long it will take for the whole class to finish the current activity.
  • Classroom Challenges have several activities. The paper-based versions of an activity come with pdfs to be printed in order to make the paper cards and worksheets. Most activities also have a PowerPoint slide for launching the activity (i.e., for giving students instructions and introducing concept). With FACT, no printing is necessary, and it is no longer necessary to hand out and collect paper. To start an activity, the teacher taps the name of an activity. This causes the launch slide to be displayed on the classroom projector and all the materials to be “handed out” instantly to the students.
  • The Classroom Challenges encourage teachers to review the work of their students outside of class in order both to get a sense of what the student understand, and to allow the teacher to provide written comments on the work. This is inconvenient for paper worksheets and nearly impossible for paper posters. With FACT, the teacher can review all their students work using their home computer.