Visual Classrooms is an innovative computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) environment to enable a broad range of collaborative knowledge construction activities. It provides a shared interactive white board where users can post, visualize, build on, reorganize, and comment on their own and/or others’ ideas as they work together to solve problems, brainstormor create solutions or knowledge. It supports collaboration by making it easy for users to recognize conflicting ideas, argue their position, negotiate meaning, think critically, and reflect on their work.

Using Visual Classrooms

  • New Idea: In Visual Classrooms a “new idea” is like a post-it note that you can read or write down your ideas. You can add a new idea in many different ways – typing text, uploading a file, taking a picture with a webcam and making a sketch with our sketch tool. Each of these are described in the sections that follow. Everyone’s ideas will be posted and visible on Visual Classrooms’ collaboration work space.
  • Respond allows users to respond to another user’s new idea by adding a “sticky-note”.
  • Comparing and Highlighting: The compare and highlight features – indicated on the menu on the upper right hand corner of new idea – allows users to designate and enlarge one or two ideas to discuss.
  • The Notebook is a private work space where users can develop ideas before publishing them to the public Visual Classrooms’ collaboration work space. The only people who can view a notebook are the owner (either an individual or a group of users) and his/her teacher.
  • The List View provides a list of posts by user/user group or prompt. This is available for both teachers and end users.
  • Knowledge Tags allow users to create and manage labels (or “tags”) that categorize their ideas using simple keywords. Tags can be used in a variety of ways – conceptual knowledge tags describe procedures, lessons learned, and reflections that are related to the ideas being expressed. Tags can be used to answer multiple choice questions, express levels of understanding of other’s ideas, and reference other’s ideas. They also make it easier to find and track ideas. Users can choose from a list of pre-determined tags and also add their own.
  • Visual Analytics is a page where teachers and students can see visualizations of data about activity and interactions taking place in Visual Classrooms. One visualization is a word cloud that displays frequently used words as larger and slightly faded in color. Words used less frequently are smaller and darker.
  • Organizing ideas: Users can individually and collaboratively arrange ideas to express relationships and connections. They can save their arrangements and annotate the arrangement with an explanation.
  • An Activity is a Visual Classrooms assignment – homework, lab, in-class discussion, review, etc. Activities are made up of a series of what we call “prompts”. Prompts are instructions, questions, or challenges posed by the teacher that can be responded to by individual students, groups of students, and the teacher. .
  • The Activity Page provides users with an overview of the prompts for an activity, as well as the notebook page, visual analytics pages, and a list view page. This page also contains a sparkline visualization that displays the number of posts and responses to a prompt by both the teacher and the students.
  • Prompts are instructions, questions, or challenges posed by the teacher that can be responded to by individual students, groups of students, and the teacher. .
  • Sessions are activities that have been assigned to a group.


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