Recent developments in wireless and sensor technologies make it possible for computational power to be embedded in objects and the environment. These objects and locations can be networked together in a number of different ways, and can be linked to various forms of digital representation, e.g. an image or animation on a screen display, a sound, or even a change in the object itself. Digitally enhancing physical objects and real world environments in this way offers the opportunity for learners to explore physical or scientific phenomena in new ways. Although research studies demonstrate the technical possibilities of such ‘tangible environments’, little is known about their particular value for learning.
This project aims to more systematically investigate and understand how different ways of linking together objects, environments and information affect the way that learners interact with and understand scientific ideas. Based on a research framework, identifying the design characteristics of tangible artefact-representation relationships (i.e., the different ways of linking information and representations of scientific phenomena to objects and actions placed upon those objects), a number of tangible artefacts and representations to support students’ science learning will be developed. Data from empirical studies will analyse the impact of different design variables on interaction and cognition, and provide an explanation of how the different artefact-representation relationships support different kinds of learning. This will extend and enrich existing theoretical frameworks (e.g., external cognition) to adequately account for novel aspects of learning that arise in the context of tangible learning environments, and inform the design of such environments. Specific objectives are to:
- Identify the impact of different combinations of representation and tangibles on interaction and cognition, specifically with respect to locality, dynamics and physical correspondence.
- Verify and refine the investigative framework to inform research methodology
- Design and develop tangible artefacts and associated representations to support learning.
- Provide design guidelines for tangible learning environments and associated digital augmentation in the form of representation.
This project is supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) grant number EP/F018436.
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