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The Map-It tool: Introducing new practices in learning and working environments based on graphically mapped oral discussions R. Drachman1, R. De-Groot1 and B. Baurens2 1

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel 2 AKKA Technologies, Toulouse, France

Abstract — The "Map-It" tool, aimed at generating in real time and in a largely automatic manner a written/graphical record of an oral conversation, is presented. Map-It, partially developed in the KP-Lab R&D project, has its roots in prior work highlighting the contribution of graphical representations of written synchronous discussions to learning and working. Preliminary experimentation results show that while novices (who liked the Map-It idea) needed some time to get used to the tool's affordances, professionals could more easily split their attention between the oral discussion and the tasks of feeding the written record. Index Terms — Oral discussion, discussion maps, agenda, pre-prepared drafts, collaborative and note-taking modes.



This paper intends to briefly describe the "Map-It" tool, partially developed in the recently concluded KP-Lab ("Knowledge Practices Laboratory", project1, providing also a succinct account of preliminary experimentation work carried with the tool. Map-It is, essentially, a software tool aimed at generating, in real time and in a largely automatic manner, a written/graphical record of an oral conversation. The "record" is a set of maps, graphically representing the sequence of utterances of the discussion participants as well as a textual transcription of the discussion contents.

Figure 1: A sample screenshot of the Map-It tool

An audio recording of the conversation can optionally be part of the mentioned record and be indexed to the various items/contributions depicted in the maps (e.g., by right-clicking on an item in the map, it will be possible to listen to the recording section corresponding to that item). The Map-It tool has its root ideas coming from discussion and argumentation-based CSCL and CSCA (computer supported collaborative learning and argumentation, respectively; see e.g. Scardamalia and Bereiter, 1996; Andriessen, Baker and Suthers, 2003; Schwarz and Glassner, 2007) and previous R&D projects undertaken by the authors and other participants – such as the DUNES ( and ARGUNAUT ( projects2 (De Groot et al., 2007) – in which the Digalo tool ( and the related Argunaut system were developed and tried with the aim of supporting written moderated synchronous ediscussions as learning activities (usually in class or other settings with remote participation). The "support" involved, among other things, the automatic and friendly creation, by the participating pupils or students, of a "discussion map" featuring different geometric shapes, icons, colors, arrows, etc., graphically depicting the ongoing discussion and permitting a quick grasp of current and past developments in it. In all the aforementioned tools, the map serves as a graphical guide for participants during and after the discussion, letting them know, at a glance, who said what and to whom, when it was said, the context of the intervention (e.g., its ordinal numbering; subject, aspects or perspectives addressed); etc. As has been found in studies carried out around those and other discussion / argumentation-based tools and pedagogies (Schwarz and Asterhan, 2011; Asterhan and Eisenman, 2009; Asterhan and Schwarz, 2010; De-Groot, 2011), the additional graphical dimension embodied in the maps conveys several advantages, such as structuring the discussion and adding order to it, clarifying its direction and smoothing its flow, highlighting support and opposition, simply


An Integrated Project (IP) co-funded by the European Union under the Information Society Technologies (IST) theme of the 6th Framework Programme for R&D (FP6); Contract number 27490.


Both co-funded by the European Union under the IST theme of the 5th and 6th Framework Programmes, respectively.


representing large amounts of information, detecting trends, common views and changes (e.g., in opinion), etc. A question naturally arises: How could one benefit from all the above advantages in oral conversations? Indeed, if one could effortlessly create a map for an oral conversation – the most common form of "discussion" in daily life – while it is being held, the advantages could be impressive. Furthermore, if, for an oral conversation (either face-to-face or remotely, like in a teleconference), it were possible to have, besides an easily generated map, also (a) some additional information (e.g., timing of contributions, subject/agenda item tackled, etc.), and (b) an audio or video recording of the discussion, both automatically generated, the organic integration of these elements would actually stand for the minutes (the protocol, the summary) of the discussion. The map could then serve, in addition to its usual purposes, also as a ready access point to specific parts of the oral discussion's recording. Minutes would, indeed, assume a very special and comprehensive meaning in this context. To the best of our knowledge, the Map-It tool constitutes a first attempt to bring these concepts into a usable practical embodiment, for both learning and working environments. The development work has brought the idea to an advanced stage of implementation allowing for operational usage of the tool in various settings. The following sections further describe the concept, the involved challenges and the available prototype of the tool, followed by an abridged account of some preliminary experiences in learning environments and a discussion of questions that still await deeper research. II.


The most critical point in Map-It tool’s design has to do with the combination of technical and conceptual means intended to enable its usability. In fact, if the use of MapIt will not be easy and natural, i.e., if too much attention will be required from the users to construct the maps – when most of this attention should ideally be devoted to the oral conversation itself – Map-It will not be used. The proposed solution to this challenge builds to a large extent on the fact that participants usually prepare themselves in advance for a multiparty discussion, e.g., by drafting some bulleted notes or other similar actions, possibly along the lines of an agenda for the meeting or discussion. Map-It offers means for preparing and handling these "notes" (or “drafts”) electronically, thereby facilitating the feeding of the map by transferring content directly from these drafts while the discussion runs. The result is that the need to type something new during a discussion is brought to the very minimum, minimizing also the attention that the users should devote to the task of creating the conversation / discussion map. As shall be seen below, the tool fosters and enables the pre-definition of a shared “agenda” among the participants assigning personal responsibilities for the

presentation and moderation of each content item in the discussion. This greatly facilitates the preparation of the drafts by the users, based on their expectations as for the contents and direction of the discussion. The participants will also be able to quote or partially use textual contributions made by their fellows during the same discussion. In addition, useful information is automatically generated, such as, e.g., time-tags, owner's names on each contribution to the map, the corresponding agenda item, etc., which will not demand any action from the side of the users. For any remaining need, typing of new, unpredicted text will of course be possible. It is worth noting that even when the participants, for any reason, could not fill the map with substantial written content, the resulting "minutes" would nevertheless be meaningful since one would still be able to know: (1) that the discussion was held, when and by whom; (2) who convened the discussion, with what agenda and responsibilities; (3) the stream and order of interventions, who answered to whom and when; and (4) on demand, the actual content of each intervention, by accessing the audio recording from any desired point in the map. In addition, the system is planned to provide for the timelimited, audit-trailed ex-post completion of the written contributions by their authors. III.


Fig. 2 below shows the main screen parts and roles in a Map-It-supported meeting. Map-It can be used in various types of discussion settings (co-located, at distance or a mix of both). The artifacts manipulated by the tool (agendas, argumentative maps, shared resources, tasks lists, annotations, highlights, audio recordings and logs of conversational moves) form a whole set of shared objects. The preparation of arguments or other contributions in advance and the reflection on the discussion results are possible whether or not connected to the Internet (i.e., also on the move).

Figure 2: Map-It – Main screen parts and roles


During actual meetings, the capture of speech acts and of shared resources can be done through:  a collaborative mode (argumentation maps and contents are concurrently elaborated by several connected users), or  a note-taking/individual mode (argumentation maps and contents are first elaborated by a single user – the note-taker). This mode also allows usage in meeting settings with no network connection. As a companion tool, a Web application allows for browsing a database of Map-It-created meeting records. The tool facilitates search and reflection around meeting contents by proposing functionalities and alternative visualizations of discussions such as, e.g., timeline view of users' time in meetings, mining chained-discussions, searching discussions for specific speech acts, words expression, etc. The following picture summarizes some of these capabilities:

solutions became clear, a host of questions started to sprout for which only research could give answers. Two major elements can be seen at the basis of the initial research needs associated with Map-It. One is the mentioned challenge of "creating a useful and comprehensive enough map by users that should, in principle, devote most of their attention and efforts to the oral conversation itself". The other is the proposed solution, namely, building on users' pre-prepared "drafts", the utilization of others' contributions and other means intended to minimize the typing needs. This immediately raises the questions:  Is the "attention tax" to build the map still too heavy?  What is the user motivation and incentive to be "Map-It-conscious", i.e., to actively and voluntarily contribute graphical and textual material to the map as the discussion progresses?; and  Does the use of Map-It bring new perspectives in quality and efficiency of knowledge creation and management throughout meetings? In the next section we present an initial attempt to deal with these and related research questions. B. A Map-It Study Carried out in the KP-Lab Project We present below some results from a study in which users (university students) were in beginning phases of using the technology, gradually advancing to a greater sophistication of their collaborative work practices. Some reference is made, as needed, also to auxiliary studies conducted in support of this main study. Research design and methods

Figure 3: Discussion visualizations available through Map-It

Map-It exposes HTTP services (ReST method) to other systems allowing for:  Meeting management: creation, list with filters, deletion  Agenda management: list, update  Access to various outcomes of a particular meetings; e.g. generated minutes documents (PDF, Office, HTML formats), discussion maps with their contributions in XML format, external links and External documents (resources provided during the meeting), tasks (To-Dos) defined during a meeting. IV.


A. Introduction The emergence of research topics and questions accompanied the development of Map-It from its very beginning. Indeed, as soon as the basic challenges involved in the Map-It concept and "good practice", their technological implications and the nature of the proposed

Research questions The main research question guiding the study was: What are the collaborative work practices in using Map-It and how they changed when people got used to the technological tool in a context of collaboratively developing of a goal-oriented task? This question was broken down into smaller and more specific questions: 1. How does the preparation stage support the course of the online discussion? 2. What are the practices of preparing for a meeting? 3. What are the different practices for effective management of focus of attention between the oral conversation and the manipulations needed for handling the visual features of Map-It? How those practices develop? 4. How do the participants use the visual map? 5. What do people choose to represent textually, and how? 6. How does this particular piece of technology influence the discussion practices? Naturally, some of these questions are affected also by usability issues of the tool under development. Research design We use two types of methods for the study of Map-It.


The first is interviewing people who already developed a strong expertise in using the tool, usually people that use it occasionally for their work. We ask them about their practices of doing specific things in Map-It, and also about the differences between those practices and the ones they use without Map-It. The second is training people to use Map-It in their practice, and following their work with Map-It as it develops. We report here on one of the studies, in which we trained a group of students to use Map-It in the context of a course on collaborative learning. The students used Map-It to work collaboratively on a course assignment. In addition, we use data from other studies to support the results of the main study. The participants The main study reported here involved ten university students, of which eight were also teachers at schools as part of their regular participation in the class, for three sessions. The students varied in their technological expertise. One student had less than basic skills in using computers, five of the students had very good skills, and the rest were moderate. Three of the students continued to work as a group with Map-It to develop their course project. In addition to the three sessions at class, they had three extra online sessions with the researcher in the following weeks to continue working on their project. Those sessions were essential to the research as they allowed us to see a more substantial development of practices over an extended period of time. The students had a positive attitude towards the study and activity with Map-It and were very cooperative, despite the technical difficulties they encountered. Beyond this study, we used data from other (previous and contemporaneous) sources, including the examination of other groups working with Map-It (some of them quite experienced with Map-It and/or with related pedagogies). The activity In designing the activity with Map-It, we assumed two kinds of hindrances people may have when working with the tool to achieve their own goals: 1. In every technological tool there is always a period of time that needs to be taken into account in order to learn how to use the tool effectively – until the technology becomes transparent (learning curve). Until this happens, no substantial practices of using the tool can be observed. 2. Even after the technology becomes transparent, people tend to use the new tool utilizing their old practices taken from non-technological settings or from other common technological tools. Using the tool with old practices means that many of the tool's features will be considered as constraints rather than affordances. Users will need to get used to the tool in order to exploit the power of the new facilities.

Based on these two assumptions, we considered it reasonable that some people may be resistant to the new tool for some time. For this reason, it was important in our studies to look at people using the tool for their work for a long stretch of time (at least one month). In addition, once the participants have more experience they find new ways of using the tools that we have not thought about before. For this reason, we decided to conduct the activity with Map-It for at least three successive sessions - an introductory session followed by two sessions of activities for designing teaching units with Map-It. Even in this extended framework, it was still hard to see real transformations of practices, but we could already start seeing some interesting issues of using Map-It beyond usability issues. The group that continued working with Map-It provided us with the opportunity to observe some development of practices. The activity for all students in the course included three lessons: (1) Presenting Map-It and practicing with it on a simple demo-activity ("planning a trip for your students"); (2) Working on a real task using Map-It (“design a collaborative activity for kids on the topic of environmental quality�); and (3) Continuing working on the task using Map-It. In the activities we used both Map-It (for the written conversation) and Skype (for the oral conversation). It was important to get the feel of how the interaction goes as if it is carried on from a distance, even though the students were in the same room. One group (3 students) continued working on the project through Map-It from home. We scheduled three discussions with Map-It in the evenings, and conducted Map-It discussions on their task. Data collection Some sessions were observed only by the researcher and some were fully screen-recorded (using CamStudio). Students worked with two computers, which enabled the researchers to capture the work in the discussion map as well as to listen to the oral conversation that took place simultaneously. At the end of the three sessions we gave the participants a questionnaire that included questions about learning Map-It and practices of using it. Results Overall, people were engaged with interest and curiosity throughout the activity. When working on a collaborative activity on environmental quality, the students were busy looking at websites, gathering ideas and talking about them. Along with the conversation about content, there was much discussion about the technology, how to do certain things and troubleshooting, which is reasonable for first stages of using a new technology. Students used the features of Map-It to manage their collaborative work when preparing together an activity for kids. In what follows, we discuss some outcomes


regarding our research questions on practices of discussion and collaborative work. Practices of creating and using drafts Most people prepared their drafts in advance, either at home or in class before joining a discussion. In general, people liked the idea of preparing drafts in advance. They said that it is convenient to prepare the drafts, it is natural, effective and it helps with brainstorming. One person noted that it is convenient and easy to prepare a draft, but it is not focused. Indeed, drafts varied in their form and size; some had a lot of information and others expressed an opinion (e.g., “I think we should select activities that students could use afterwards”, or, “I really like this idea”). The characteristics and evolution of the drafts used made it clear that their value and contribution to a good discussion should develop through experience. Attention distribution During the discussion there were several issues. One of the issues that were considered challenging was the distribution of attention between the verbal conversation and the textual contributions. Most students agreed that coordinating writing and talking is difficult. In this phase of their experience people used different kinds of strategies to cope with or avoid this difficulty:  Talking through Skype, and hardly writing in Map-it – in some parts of their discussions, students discussed for a long time the topic without making any textual contribution. This discussion was similar in many ways to a simple phone conversation.  Working with only one channel (either verbal or textual) at a time. Even when receiving information in two channels caused the filtering of one channel.  A mixture of the two channels. It was hard to know when to talk and when to write. The students were not clear enough on the particular functions of each of these two channels and when one should use one over the other. But sometimes they just used both channels, talking and maintaining the oral conversation, and writing some notes.  In the group that continued working on their project, there was a pattern of talking and discussing verbally, and using the textual option of Map-It for cases where they needed to share information such as a web-site, a description of a long idea taken from a document they have on their computer, etc. Decision making and planning next steps were done verbally. Looking at people who are experienced with Map-It, some interesting practices can be observed. First, a better preparation of drafts with the expertise of the kind and form of information that is written in the draft is very effective for using during the conversation. The participants post the drafts and then talk about it, sometimes reading parts of it, while the other watch the contribution as they listen. Second, when a participant wishes to respond to something that was raised in the conversation, he writes a brief draft while other people talk, and posts it when his turn to talk arrives. This

requires some practice with the tools’ function, but it is also a process of practice evolution through the use of Map-It over time. What do people choose to represent textually, and how? During the oral discussion, people needed to decide which textual contribution to make. Some people said that they needed to think hard on what to write, which led to a better processing of the issues. On the other hand, there were contributions that were copied and pasted from other resources – a website, for example. There were some discussions on the content, in which technological issues were discussed (“I lost my drafts, does anybody know what to do?”). The students found it important to leave a textual trace of this technical issue in the visual map. Overall, people needed to make decisions on when to post a contribution, what to write in it, and how concise or detailed to be. On the other hand, there were many occasions in which there was a long verbal conversation with no textual contributions. In another occasion, there was a question regarding how to summarize or conclude the discussion. They felt a strong need to wrap up the discussion somehow and collect the ideas with which they were going to move forward. Dealing with the question of what should be contributed in text, and not only verbally, requires focusing and prioritizing, and also should evolve from a good understanding of how the visual map could mediate the discussion. This evolves through practice and experience. How do the participants use the visual map? Students appreciated the visual map and said that it enables reflective thought because the picture is seen clearly, and that it is also helpful for recalling what was said in the verbal conversation. The content and structure of the conversation is represented in the map for further examination. They also said that the visual representation helps understanding the interaction in the conversation. The fact that all of the steps in the discussion are laid out in front of the viewer helps to overcome gaps, go back and look deeply at what is there, and be prepared to the next reaction. Examination of the maps produced from the meetings reveals that there was a lot done, but mainly in the spirit of brainstorming: one idea is tossed to the air, and the others say that it is interesting, or a web-site is presented and the rest look at it and react briefly. There is still no clue of moving forward towards the goal, even thought it was expressed verbally with no textual trace. Brainstorming is natural to early stages of the task of designing an activity for kids, and in later stages decisions are made and action items are distributed. One notable feature of the brainstorming discussion through Map-It is the serious consideration of every idea that is contributed. Due to the textual trace, contributions are not easily ignored by others as happens occasionally in oral conversations but they are picked up by others, and are dragged to the next meeting through the minutes


document. Indeed, the shared artifact becomes part of the group knowledge with a shared ownership. Discussion and conclusions The experience with Map-It revealed some naturally occurring practices of collaborative work with a new technology. The technology causes some real challenges such as using simultaneously a verbal and a textual-visual channel, using pre-prepared written drafts, maintaining a coherent discussion toward a shared goal and contributing to a visual representation that ought to be coherent and express the oral conversation. These challenges are dealt with by the participants using some authentic strategies and practices. The results of this study present some of these original practices and raise questions regarding paths of development towards more advanced practices. Implications for pedagogical design The study suggests that the activity of using a new piece of technology involves a series of transformations in users’ practices spanning multiple successive sessions. There is a question about the need to discuss and maybe teach “good practices” of using Map-It for collaborative work, rather than allowing natural practices to emerge.

making helpers, advanced management of discussion databases and some improvements in the user interface will certainly bring Map-It closer to what our "vision" needs for materializing.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT We are thankful to Orit Parnafes, who conducted, in the framework of the Hebrew University’s team in the KPLab project, much of the research referred in Section IV.







We see the Map-It tool as a pioneering instrument to help learners in schools and workers in workplaces to better use and re-use knowledge created in oral conversations. Map-It has posed challenging hurdles to those that have been involved in its development. On the basis of our knowledge and experience, these hurdles had to do, in the main, with two questions that still await research and answer: (1) how friendly, easy to use the tool should be to ensure usability and adoption, and (2) how motivated the users will feel to use the tool. The answers to these questions will ultimately determine the solution of the equation of the "cost/benefit" balance of Map-It. We have no doubt of the value of having ready "minutes" in the form of a graphically mapped discussion, point-wise access to a discussion's audio/video recording and a tangible reference to its contents (both during the discussion and for post-discussion reflection, analysis and knowledge management purposes). For these "benefits" to be accruable, however, the "costs" have to be affordable: the use of the tool has to be natural, building on use paradigms taken, as much as possible, from users' – students', workers' – oral discussing experience, and not representing a substantial increase to their attention or workload. Achieving this goal is our vision for Map-It. The "ultimate Map-It" will show additional capabilities to those seen in the current and probably near-future prototypes, but we are already identifying those capabilities and assessing their technological implications. Features like (very basic and limited) voice and speech recognition, semantic tagging, decision-






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AUTHORS Raul Drachman is with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the School of Education, Mt. Scopus Campus, 91905 Jerusalem, Israel ( ). Reuma De-Groot is with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the School of Education, Mt. Scopus Campus, 91905 Jerusalem, Israel ( ). Benoit Baurens is with AKKA Technologies, 6 rue Roger Camboulives, F-31100 Toulouse, France (e-mail: ).



R. Drachman 1 , R. De-Groot 1 and B. Baurens 2 Map-It is, essentially, a software tool aimed at generating, in real time and in a largely au...