Objects to Talk With/OG

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Objects to Talk With
Contributors Yishay Mor
Last modification May 16, 2017
Source Mor (2008)[1]
Pattern formats OPR Alexandrian
Learning domain

Natural discourse makes extensive use of artefacts: we gesture towards objects that mediate the activity to which the discussion refers. This dimension of human interaction is often lost in computerized interfaces. When providing tools for learners to discuss their experience, allow them to easily include the objects of discussion in the discussion.

Image Objects to Talk With-OG.png

The problem

Several approaches to mathematics education highlight the importance of conversation and collaboration. The communicational approach[2] equates thinking with communication, and sees learning mathematics as acquiring certain rules of discourse. Yackel and Cobb[3] talk of the establishment of socio-mathematical norms through classroom discourse. Hurme and Järvelä[4]argue that networked discussions can mediate students’ learning, allowing students to coregulate their thinking, use subject and metacognitive knowledge, make metacognitive judgments, perform monitoring during networked discussions and stimulates them into making their thinking visible.

Most computer-mediated discussion tools are strongly text-oriented, prompting users to express their thoughts lucidly in words or symbols. Yet two important elements of natural conversation are lost: the embodied dimension, i.e. gestures, and the ability to directly reference the objects of discussion.


Force Map Objects to Talk With-OG.png
Figure 1. Force map for Objects to Talk With pattern

• Conversation is a powerful driver of learning, it:

-Prompts learners to articulate their intuitions and in the process formulate and substantiate them.

-Establishes mathematical norms of discourse.

-Enables learners to share knowledge and questions.

• Conversation is even more powerful when building on personal experience or constructing or exploring mathematical objects.

• However, text based conversation media may obstruct learners, by forcing them to describe verbally the objects of enquiry which they would naturally gesture at.


This pattern refers to interfaces which allow learners to converse about a common activity.


Learning activities often involve the use or construction of artefacts. When providing tools for learners to discuss their experience, allow them to easily include these artefacts in the discussion. If the activity is mediated by or aims to produce digital artefacts, then the discussion medium should allow embedding of these artefacts. The medium should support a visual (graphical, symbolic, animated or simulated) 1:1 representation of these objects.

When providing a Narrative Spaces (Narrative Spaces), allow the user to seamlessly embed the objects of discussion in the flow of narrative, so that learners can refer to these objects in a naturalistic manner.

In Post Ludus (Post Ludus) discussions, the game’s Mathematical Game Pieces (Mathematical Game Pieces) should become the Objects to Talk With (Objects to Talk With). If the game is supported by a Narrative Spaces (Narrative Spaces), this emerges from the game flow.


This pattern identifies one of the WebReports system’s primary design objectives. When developing the final version of the system, significant effort went into providing streamlined integration, which would allow students to select objects in ToonTalk and with a few clicks embed them in a webreport. The embedded objects were represented by their graphical image. When clicked, this image would invoke the original ToonTalk object in the viewers’ ToonTalk environment. Likewise, when the activity involved graphs, learners could embed these in their report (Figure 2).

Example 1 Objects to Talk With-OG.png
Figure 2. Webreport discussing a graphing activity, with the graph embedded as an object to talk with

Related Patterns

Used by: Guess My X (Guess My X); Task In A Box (Task In A Box); Active Worksheet (Active Worksheet); Soft Scaffolding (Soft Scaffolding); Narrative Spaces (Narrative Spaces); Post Ludus (Post Ludus)

Uses: Mathematical Game Pieces (Mathematical Game Pieces)


The wide range of patterns which use this one indicate that it is indeed a fundamental component, applicable to most systems aiming to support discussion and collaborative learning.


  1. Mor, Y. (2008). Guess my X and other Techno-pedagogical Patterns: Toward a Language of Patterns for Teaching and Learning Mathematics. In Proceedings of the 13th European Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs (EuroPLoP 2008). New York:ACM.
  2. Sfard, A. (2008). Thinking as communicating: Human development, the growth of discourses, and mathematizing. Cambridge University Press.
  3. Yackel, E., & Cobb, P. (1995). Classroom sociomathematical norms and intellectual autonomy. Program Committee of the 19th PME Conference.
  4. Hurme, T. R., & Järvelä, S. (2005). Students’ activity in computer-supported collaborative problem solving in mathematics. International Journal of Computers for mathematical learning, 10(1), 49-73.