DREW: Discussion Relative to the Environment on the Web

The CESIFS Project

DREW has been designed and developped within the framework of the CESIFS project (in French : Conception et Etude de Sites Internet pour la Formation Scientifique). An approximate translation into English would be : The Design and Study of Internet Sites for Teaching and Learning Science. The project is fincanced by the 9th theme of the Rhone-Alpes research themes : Educational Sciences and New Communication Technologies. The two participating research teams that concern design of DREW are RIM at the Ecole des Mines in St. Etienne and Interaction & Cognition at the University of Lyon 2 in Lyon. DREW is a computer mediated interactional and communicational tool based on the real-time exchange of written messages and whiteboard actions.

The objective of DREW is to put a computer mediated discussion Internet tool at the disposition of secondary schools. The context of CESIFS is such that the experimental teaching and learning situations we have designed and observed have dealt with the physics and chemistry of environemental issues. However, DREW is a generic interactional and communicational tool that is not limited to a particular domain.

Our target population has been Natural Science teachers, French teachers and their students. The developpement of DREW has been carried out in parallel with the developpement of web pages also used in our experimental teaching and learning situations, pages that have been inspired by the "environement server" of ENSMSE (Ecole Nationale Superieure des Mines de Saint Etienne) and that have been developed by Laurence LeDiouris, a member of the COAST research team, as a part of her thesis in Physics Didactics.

The project's original idea was to elaborate a situation of debate in which students could look for information, arguments, and explanations in the web pages designed by Laurence to enable students to acquire the physics and chemistry knowledge necessary to understand the environement.

The General Characteristics of DREW

DREW is a CMI (Computer Mediated Interaction) tool that combines synchronous message exchange and whiteboard activity with browser-driven web page consultation. All of the written messages and whiteboard actions are saved to file in their chronological order. We call this file an interaction trace.

A replay module allows the researcher or teacher to replay the students' interaction in order to analyse it, from their respective perspectives. In order to understand how the replay module functions, one could compare it to a VCR. It's possible to play back an interaction, to pause, to stop, to rewind, and to fast forward. These functions allow an analysis of the whole of the students' interaction, from being to end. It is thus possible to focus on significant events, in the context in which they occurred, in order to understand their place within the entire co-constructed interaction. The interaction trace and its replay module is an indispensable tool for the researcher. We also plan on studying the role of such a tool from the teacher's perspective. Part of Kristine Lund's thesis in Cognitive Science focuses on teachers' analyses of students' problem-solving interactions.

Subjets to Debate

A data base of subjects that have already been debated can be consulted on the web.

The resulting interactions can either be taken up again or be replayed. If a debate is taken up again, there is no loss of the previously recorded interaction trace. It is also possible to create a n

If you want to create a new subject and experiment with DREW, you need to know the password. It's drew.

The subject of debate can be described using text and hypertext (links to other web pages).

The Modules Available During the Shared Interaction


The Chat is a window where participants can debate and exchange ideas by typing messages on their keyboard. When a participant signs on, he or she enters a nickname to be used within DREW. The message typed by a participant appears in the group chat window (visible by each logged in participant), when the participant "sends" it by hitting return. Each contribution is preceded by the author's name. The messages appear in the group chat window in the order they were sent. This sometimes causes confusion, especially when there is more than one conversation going on between many different participants. DREW provides a solution for this problem by defining different "rooms". For example, two partcipants can isolate themselves in a room where they can have a conversation without the distraction of other partcipants.

DREW is capable of keeping track of the interaction traces of simultaneously occurring interactions in different rooms. This is quite practical from an experimental point of view where a researcher may want to record 5 different dyads discussing the same subjet within one class period.


The Whiteboard is a standard module. DREW's particularity in its regard, however, is that all of the actions produced by the students on the whiteboard are recorded into the interaction trace.

And in alphabetical order :

Programmers 1999 : P. Garachon, I. Sanchez et F. Tillon
Programmers 2000 : L. Brule, M. Vergues

Designers : M. Baker, A. Corbel, J.-J. Girardot, P. Jaillon, K. Lund