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Why Tangibility Matters: A Design Case Study of At-Risk Children Learning to Read and Spell

Conference Paper
Fan, M., Antle, A.N., Maureen, H., Neustaedter, C., Cramer S.E.
Proceedings of Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ‘17), ACM Press, May 06 -11, 2017, Denver, CO, USA (forthcoming) [Top5% Honorable Mention Award]
Publication year: 2017

Tangibles may be effective for reading applications. Letters can be represented as 3D physical objects. Words are spatially organized collections of letters. We explore how tangibility impacts reading and spelling acquisition for young Anglophone children who have dyslexia. We describe our theory-based design rationale and present a mixed methods case study of eight children using our PhonoBlocks system. All children made significant gains in reading and spelling on trained and untrained (new) words, and could apply all spelling rules a month later. We discuss the design features of our system that contributed to effective learning processes, resulting in successful learning outcomes: dynamic colour cues embedded in 3D letters, which can draw attention to how letter(s) position changes their sounds; and the form of 3D tangible letters, which can enforce correct letter orientation and enable epistemic strategies in letter organization that simplify spelling tasks. We conclude with design guidelines for tangible reading systems.

Design Rationale: Opportunities and Recommendations for Tangible Reading Systems for Children

Conference Paper
Fan, M., Antle, A.N., Cramer, S. E.
In Proceedings of Conference on Interaction Design for Children (IDC ‘16), ACM Press, Manchester, UK, June 21-24, 2016, 102-112.
Publication year: 2016

Tangible User Interfaces (TUIs) have been suggested to have the potential to support learning for children. Despite the increasing number of TUI reading systems there are few design guidelines for children, especially for those with dyslexia (a specific difficulty in language acquisition skills). In this paper we discuss four design opportunities and five design recommendations for designing tangible reading systems for children, particularly those with dyslexia. We ground our analysis using theories of the causes and interventions for dyslexia, best multisensory training practices and existing research on TUIs that support learning to read for children. We describe our tangible reading system, called PhonoBlocks, focusing on two core design features which take advantage of these opportunities. We also describe how we iteratively finetuned the details of our design based on our recommendations, an expert review and feedback from tutors who work with children with dyslexia every day. We include a discussion of design trade-offs in our process. This design rationale paper contributes to the growing research on designing tangible spelling and reading systems for children.

Exploring the Design Space of Tangible Systems Supported for Early Reading Acquisition in Children with Dyslexia

Graduate Student Consortium
Fan, M., Antle, A.N.
in Proceedings of Conference on Tangible, Embodied and Embedded Interaction (TEI’16), ACM Press, Eindhoven, the Netherlands, February, 14-17, 2016, 690-692.
Publication year: 2016

Tangible user interfaces have the potential to support children in learning to read. This research explores the design space of school-based tangible learning systems that support early reading acquisition in children, particularly in children with reading difficulties. Informed by theories of the causes and interventions for dyslexia and research on TUIs for learning, we present the design of a tangible reading system that uses the dynamic colour and tactile cues to help children with dyslexia to learn English letter-sound correspondences. We then propose a case study design that investigates how this system can support children with dyslexia aged 7-8 years old in learning letter-sound correspondences in a school context. We conclude by discussing the future work and potential contributions of this research.

Tactile Letters: a Tangible Tabletop with Texture Cues Supporting Alphabetic Learning for Dyslexic Children

Working-in-Process
Fan, M., Antle, A.N.
In Proceedings of Conference on Tangible, Embodied and Embedded Interaction (TEI’15), ACM Press, Stanford, CA, USA, January, 16-19, 2015, 673-678.
Publication year: 2015

Dyslexic children have great difficulty in learning to read. While research in HCI suggests that tangible user interfaces (TUIs) have the potential to support children learning to read, few studies have explored how to help dyslexic children learn to read. Even fewer studies have specifically investigated the design space of texture cues in TUIs in supporting learning to read. In this paper, we present Tactile Letters, a multimodal tangible tabletop with texture cues developed to support English letter-sound correspondence learning for dyslexic children aged 5-6 years old. This prototype is used as a research instrument to investigate the role of texture cues in a multimodal TUI in alphabetic learning. We discuss the current knowledge gap, the theoretical foundations that informed our core design strategy, and the subsequent design decisions we made while developing Tactile Letters.

Exploring How a Co-dependent Tangible Tool Design Supports Collaboration in a Tabletop Activity

Conference Paper
Fan, M., Antle, A.N., Neustaedter, C. and Wise, A.F.
In Proceedings of International Conference on Supporting Group (Group ’14), ACM Press, Sanibel Island, FL, USA, November 9-12, 2014, 81-90.
Publication year: 2014

Many studies suggest that tangibles and digital tabletops have potential to support collaborative interaction. However, previous findings show that users often work in parallel with such systems. One design strategy that may encourage collaboration rather than parallel use involves creating a system that responds to codependent access points in which more than one action is required to create a successful system response. To better understand how co-dependent access points support collaboration, we designed a comparative study with 12 young adults using the same application with a co-dependent and an independent access point design. We collected and analyzed categories of both verbal and behavioural data in the two conditions. Our results show support for the co-dependent strategy and suggest ways that the codependent design can be used to support flexible collaboration on tangible tabletops for young adults.

Situated Action as a Theoretical Lens: A Contextual Analysis of a Collaborative Tabletop Activity

Workshop
Fan, M., Antle, A.N., Wakkary, R.
Accepted to workshop presentation: From Research to Design: Challenges of Qualitative Data Representation and Interpretation in HCI. In Proceedings of BCS HCI 2013 – The Internet of Things XXVII, Uxbridge, UK, September 9-13, 2013.
Publication year: 2013

To better understanding design problems arising in the real social context, we conducted and analyzed a contextual study with 12 adults using a hybrid tangible tabletop activity called Youtopia. Video recording was used to capture users’ behaviours and verbal communication. Analysis of video data uses the lens of situated action. We discussed the potential issues of using the results to improve the design of applications.

PhonoBlocks: A tangible System for Supporting Dyslexic Children Learning to Read

Working-in-Process
Antle, A.N., Fan, M., Cramer, E.S.
In Proceedings of Conference on Tangible, Embodied and Embedded Interaction (TEI’15), ACM Press, Stanford, CA, USA, January, 16-19, 2015, 533-538.
Publication year: 2015

Dyslexia is defined as severe difficulty learning to read. It affects about 10% of the population in English speaking countries. Severe difficulty learning to read is correlated with tremendous emotional, social and economic costs. In this paper, we describe PhonoBlocks,a tangible user interface to a reading system that uses dynamic colour cues embedded in 3D tangible letters to provide additional decoding information and modalities. PhonoBlocks was developed to support children, aged 5-8 years old, who are having difficulty learning to decode English letter-sound pairs. We present the theoretical foundations as rationale for our core design strategies and decisions. We discuss the assumptions in our design rationale and describe how we will validate our system working with a school for dyslexic children.

The Code of Many Colours: Evaluating the Effects of a Dynamic Colour-Coding Scheme on Children’s Spelling in a Tangible Software System

Conference Paper
Cramer, E.S., Antle, A.N., Fan, M.
In Proceedings of Conference on Interaction Design for Children (IDC ‘15), ACM Press, Mdeford, MA, USA, June, 21-25, 2015, 331-334.
Publication year: 2016

Dyslexia is a severe impairment in reading and spelling that affects 10% of children in English-speaking countries. One area of difficulty is learning spelling rules that require attention to other letters within a word (i.e., context): for example, why grapple requires two p s while staple  requires one. Poor visual attention contributes to children’s difficulties. Computer-based programs that use multisensory cues have helped children learn simple letter sound relations, but not contextual spelling rules. In this paper we present three theoretically derived principles that can be used to design dynamic colour codes for a variety of contextual spelling rules in software systems. We discuss how we used our principles to design the colour scheme for a single contextual spelling rule in our tangible software system, called PhonoBlocks. We evaluate its effectiveness in a field study with nine dyslexic children. On the basis of our findings, we conclude that our approach to using dynamic colour may help children with dyslexia to learn contextual spelling rules, but that individual factors impact the colours’ effectiveness. We conclude by suggesting ways our dynamic colour-coding principles can be implemented in other systems taking into consideration individual factors that also impact their effectiveness.

Colouring the Path from Instruction to Practice: Perspectives on Software for Struggling Readers

Poster and Demo
Cramer, E.S., Antle, A.N., Fan, M.
In Proceedings of Conference on Interaction Design for Children (IDC ‘15), ACM Press, Mdeford, MA, USA, June, 21-25, 2015, 331-334.
Publication year: 2015

Mainstream paper and pencil interventions for Anglophone students with dyslexia emphasize a strategy of analyzing syllables to compensate for irregularities in English letter-sound correspondences. Classroom interventions have developed effective scaffolds for supporting students in analyzing syllables in instructional contexts. However, students typically fail to transfer knowledge to practice contexts (i.e, reading without a tutor). Software has proven to be an effective medium for helping dyslexic students practice basic literacy skills (phoneme awareness and letter knowledge). However, at present, there are no systems specifically designed to support dyslexic students in practicing syllable analysis. Correspondingly, there is a lack of information about which design features would best support dyslexic students in transferring syllable analysis skills from instructional (classroom) to practice (software) contexts. In an attempt to address this gap, we propose two guidelines for software supports of syllable-analysis in dyslexia: 1. Design software that serves as a dual medium for instruction and practice 2. Design scaffolds that serve as dual catalysts for learning and transfer. We realize our guidelines in a prototype software system for syllable analysis that uses colour-coding to direct attention to information during learning and to retrieve learned information during practice.

What Kind of World Do You Want to live in?: Positive Interdependence and Collaborative Processes in the Land-use Planning Game YouTopia

Conference Paper
Wise, A.F., Antle, A.N., Warren, J., May, A., Fan, M. and Macaranas
In Proceedings of Conference on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL ‘15), ISLS Press, Gothenburg, Sweden, June 7-11, 2015.
Publication year: 2015

Twenty pairs of 5th grade children used a tangible tabletop sustainability game to create a world they would want to live in to share with the rest of the class. Half of the pairs were assigned particular roles with associated game controls (positive interdependence condition) while the other half were not (control condition). Results showed that pairs in the assigned roles/controls condition gave more in-depth explanations to their partners about what they wanted to do in the game, but did not negotiate with each other more frequently than control pairs. They also had fewer but longer instances of jointly resolved conflict. Contrary to some previous findings, all pairs in both conditions were found to work together (rather than in parallel / competitively) the entire time. The general finding is a somewhat limited, but consistent, positive effect of the assigned roles/tools manipulation on collaborative processes.

Emergent Dialogue: Eliciting Values During Children’s Collaboration with a Tabletop Game for Change

Conference Paper
Antle, A.N., Warren, J.L., May, A., Fan, M., and Wise, A.F.
In Proceedings of Conference on Interaction Design for Children (IDC ‘14), ACM Press, Aarhus, Denmark, June, 17-20, 2014, 37-46.
Publication year: 2014

Games for Change (G4C) is a movement and community of practice dedicated to using digital games for social change. However, a common model of persuasion built into most G4C, called Information Deficit, assumes that supporting children to learn facts will result in behavior change around social issues. There is little evidence that this approach works. We propose a model of game play, called Emergent Dialogue, which encourages children to discuss their values during interaction with factual information in a G4C. We summarize a set of guidelines based on our Emergent Dialogue model and apply them to the design of Youtopia, a tangible, tabletop learning game about sustainability. Our goal was to create a game that provided opportunities for children to express and discuss their values around sustainable development trade-offs during game play. We evaluate our design using video, survey and questionnaire data. Our results provide evidence that our model and design guidelines are effective for supporting value-based dialogue during collaborative game play.

Youtopia: A Collaborative, Tangible, Multi-touch, Sustainability Learning Activity

Poster and Demo
Antle, A.N., Wise, A.F., Hall, A., Nowroozi, S., Tan, P., Warren, J., Eckersley, R., Fan, M.
In Proceedings of Conference on Interaction Design for Children (IDC ’13), ACM Press, New York City, USA, June 24 – 27, 2013, 565-568.
Publication year: 2013

Youtopia is a hybrid tangible and multi-touch land use planning activity for elementary school aged children. It was implemented on a Microsoft Pixelsense digital tabletop. The main method of interaction is through physical stamp objects that children use to “stamp” different land use types onto an interactive map. Youtopia was developed to investigate issues surrounding how to design and evaluate children’s collaborative learning applications using digital tabletops. In particular we are looking at how the interface design supports in depth discussion and negotiation between pairs of children around issues in sustainable development. Our primary concern is to investigate questions about codependent access points, which may enable positive interdependence among children. Codependent access points are characteristics that enable two or more children to participate and interact together. In Youtopia these implemented through sequences of stamps that are required for successful interaction, which can be assigned to children

Designing Tangibles for Children: One Day Hands-on Workshop

Workshop
Antle, A.N., Warren, J., Cramer, E.S., Fan, M., Matkin, B.B.
In Proceedings of Conference on Interaction Design for Children (IDC ‘16), ACM Press, Manchester, UK, June 21-24, 2016, 727-730.
Publication year: 2016

This hands-on workshop introduces a foundation for designing tangibles for children. Participants engage in a low-fidelity design challenge using the iPad Osmo system. We focus on how designing tangibles for children is unique from other design problems and processes. We walk participants through an outcome driven design process using the award winning Developmentally Situated Design (DSD) card set – focusing on cognitive, emotional, physical, and social skills specific to children at different ages. Small groups create solutions for the same design challenge, but focus on the skills and abilities of a specific age group. We facilitate a compare and contrast exercise of their solutions to help synthesize the complexities of, and showcase skills for, designing child-centric tangibles. Participants are encouraged to review the DSD II cards in advance, available at www.antle.iat.sfu.ca/DSD, as well the papers [1, 2, 3], to get the most out of their workshop experience. These artifacts and papers will be used to within the workshop for hands-on learning and conceptual discussions.

Designing Tangibles for Children: One Day Hands-on Workshop

Workshop
Antle, A.N., Warren, J., Matkin, B.B., Fan, M., Cramer, E.S.
In Proceedings of Conference on Tangible, Embodied and Embedded Interaction (TEI’16), ACM Press, Eindhoven, the Netherlands, February, 14-17, 2016, 750-752.
Publication year: 2016

This hands-on workshop introduces a foundation for designing tangibles for children. Participants engage in a low-fidelity design challenge using the iPad Osmo system. We focus on how designing tangibles for children is unique from other design problems and processes. We walk participants through an outcome driven design process using the award winning Developmentally Situated Design (DSD) card set – focusing on cognitive, emotional, physical, and social skills specific to children at different ages. Small groups create solutions for the same design challenge, but focus on the skills and abilities of a specific age group. We facilitate a compare and contrast exercise of their solutions to help synthesize the complexities of, and showcase skills for, designing child-centric tangibles. While not necessary for participation, we encourage participants who have them to bring iPads (v2 or higher) or iPad minis. Participants are also encouraged to review the DSD II cards in advance, available at http://www.antle.iat.sfu.ca/DSD.