(1997-8) - interactivity and external representations
ECOi project "External Cognition for Designing and Engineering
Interactivity" was funded by the UK Economic and Social Research
Council (ESRC) Cognitive Engineering Initiative and ran from 1997-1998.
Its main aims were: (i) to develop innovative software prototypes,
using interactive multimedia and 3-D visualisations, to teach children
difficult concepts that they have a hard time learning using existing
media (e.g. text, animations) and (ii) to develop a new methodological
and theoretical framework for informing the design and evaluation
of interactive educational material.
prototypes were built in director, using dynamically-linked visualisations
('dynalinking') to bridge the learning gap between abstractions
of an ecosystem, such as food web diagrams, and the corresponding
'real world', exemplified by a simulation of animals and plants
in a pond. One of the prototypes 'Pondworld' was evaluated over
a period of time, first of all determining whether the interface
was understandable for children aged 7 to 11 working in pairs. Further
tests were then carried out, and an assessment of
knowledge before and after interacting with the software revealed
substantial learning improvements.
the example above a simulation of a pond is linked to a foodweb
diagram - the red circle in the pond matches the link in the foodweb
diagram. Such 'dynalinking', where abstract representations, such
as diagrams, are linked together with a more concrete illustration
of what they stand for, such a simulation. Changes in one are matched
by changes in the other, enabling a better understanding of what
the abstraction means.Here the user has made an incorrect placement
of an organism in the food web (placing the weed above the perch).
The animation shows what would happen if the weed did eat the perch.
The children readily understadn that this is not possible and suggested
to us what animation should appear.
CD-ROM of the suite of interactive software modules is available
from the author.
further outcome of the project was a website on interactivity, that provides examples of the interactive prototypes, as shockwave
movies, plus a conceptual and methodological framework for designing
interactive multimedia. While its genre is somewhat outdated, many
of the design principles and interactivities are still highly relevant.
Rogers, Mike Scaife, Frances Aldrich, Matt Davies