Both formal and informal educational venues such as classrooms and public science centers are increasingly using touchscreen interfaces for differing sizes and form factors such tablets, multi-touch flatscreen tabletops, and interactive spherical displays for learning purposes [1,2]. With this shift towards more direct-interaction-based learning comes new research opportunities for designing touch-based gestural interactions that are natural and intuitive to use for learners of all ages (i.e., both adults and children). As a graduate research assistant in the INIT lab, I have led two research projects that lie at the intersection of human-computer interaction (HCI) and learning sciences (LS) research: the TIDRC project and the TIDESS project. The overarching goal of the TIDRC project is to explore the extent to which research-based interaction design guidelines for children’s touch-based interfaces are employed in practice by app developers who build the educational apps children use regularly. In the TIDESS project, our main aim is to understand how adults and children interact with large touchscreen interfaces such as multi-touch tabletops and spherical displays in order to build effective educational technology that adapts to users’ natural interactions.
In summer 2019, we wrote a workshop paper, titled: “HCI Methodologies for Designing Natural User Interactions that Do Not Interfere with Learning” that reports what we have learned on both projects regarding the type of HCI methodologies that can be adopted to design effective educational technology. The paper was written for the Making the Learning Sciences Count: Impacting Association for Computing Machinery Communities in Human-Computer Interaction workshop. I traveled to the workshop to present our paper and participate in the discussion, in Lyon, France at the International Conference of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL’19). The abstract of the paper is as follows:
“As emerging touchscreen technologies continue to become more prevalent in learning environments such as science museums and schools, there is a need to understand both principles of interaction design and of learning sciences to create effective educational technology. In this paper, we describe how the HCI approaches we employ in our work can be used to design more effective learning experiences, specifically for interactive touchscreen platforms. As members of an interdisciplinary community, we are exploring the interplay between interaction design research and learning. For example, how can we make sure that users’ touch interactions with educational interfaces on these platforms are intuitive, discoverable, and do not interfere with learning outcomes? The “Making the Learning Sciences Count” workshop at CSCL is an ideal setting to share and discuss our evolving understanding at the intersection of interaction design research and learning sciences.”
Interested readers can read the workshop paper here. Participating in the workshop discussion sessions along with other researchers and students working at the juncture of HCI and LS was very helpful and informative for me. I learned about similarities and differences in the publication process followed in the HCI and LS academic communities and how to publish research in both communities. In addition, attending the workshop gave me a chance to get feedback on my thesis research idea from interdisciplinary research community members. I look forward to contributing to this interdisciplinary community and attending a similar workshop in the future.
References Tom Geller. 2006. Interactive Tabletop Exhibits in Museums and Galleries. IEEE COMPUT GRAPH 26, 5: 6–11.  Kate Haley Goldman, Cheryl Kessler, and Elizabeth Danter. 2010. Science On a Sphere®. Retrieved December 31, 2018 from https://sos.noaa.gov/What_is_SOS/