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Posts Tagged ‘hci

… or do as I do?

That was my reaction when I read this article in STonline about a local school restricting mobile gaming from 7am to 2pm.

Before I explain my reaction, I should point out that the newspaper article was a report of a report. There could be information loss from translation and there definitely was selective reporting of another report. That said, I have to work only with the information at hand.

Draconian measures by HCI on mobile gaming.

The crux of the matter is this: Students cannot use their own devices for mobile games right before school starts and during breaks.

Sometimes it is logical for students to be held to different standards. Other times it is not. For example, there are dress codes for students’ uniforms and their general appearances that teachers are not subject to.

Some would argue that the adults have matured to the point of understanding socially accepted standards of decency so that they know how to dress professionally.

If you believe that, you have not sampled enough adults. That is why we have dress codes everywhere, even at a beach.

So if standards and codes of conduct are the norm, what is wrong with a partial ban on mobile gaming?

Consider this: How would you like to be told that you cannot check your Facebook feed on your commute to work because you need to psyche yourself up for work?

Or how you like to be told that you cannot nap, gossip, or surf down rabbit holes during your lunch break?

Yes, both the students and teachers are at school and schools are walled gardens separate from the real world. So what happened to bringing the real world in?

Some teachers I know do not draw that line. I know adults who are just as guilty of walking distractedly or being overly engaged with their phones. What gives these adults the right to say “do as I say and not as I do?”

As for the adults who say “do as I say because I do not do what you do”, I ask: Just how real world is that? How (dis)connected are you?

This reflection has been brought to you by the medieval workshop of Draconian Measures.

Video source

This video has been embedded in several techie blogs and surrounded by words that practically proclaim it as the next big thing. I would so love it to be!

The product is Leap, a gesture-based module for controlling whatever happens on a screen. It is touted to have no noticeable lag, detect fine motion, and is able to register all ten fingers or even a pencil tip.

While the Kinect offers coarse gesture control (you flap your arms and legs), the Leap offers fine control. This is a marked refinement in this form of human-computer interaction.

All Leap needs now is to be integrated into computers and gaming consoles. If that happens, the Minority Report style of interaction will leap off the screen and become a distinct reality.

Video source

Oblong is the company behind the Minority Report computing interface [more information at TechCrunch]. They designed the fictitious system for the movie but they have also made it reality! I’m just glad that they thought of a way to bring in more than one user into the system.

Chris Dawson invariably touched on a hot topic: Multitouch technology. He wondered out loud “Is it a technology looking for a solution and does anyone actually want it?” He concluded that “this isn’t a technology looking for a solution but a paradigm waiting to shift”. How did he get there? Read his blog entry.

While I agree wholeheartedly with his conclusion, I think that he and most of the commenters to his blog missed an important point. If they were looking for a shift in an individual’s human-computer interaction (HCI), they should take a look at technology developed by Mgestyk.

I think that multitouch will bring about a more important shift when it is used collaboratively! Featured below is a video I highlighted before.

I think that multitouch makes more sense when you have more than one user working on the same screen. Imagine three or four learners working collaboratively to put together a video or draft a musical performance.

In the first example, imagine one user searching for digital photos, the second user selecting MP3s for background music, and the third Googling for choice quotations or other textual information. They “flick” files to the fourth user who puts everything together in a video timeline. Collectively, they view their draft and edit it until a polished product emerges.

Consider also in the second example how one user could be writing the score, another the lyrics, yet another play virtual instruments, and still another create beats or rhythm on such a surface. They draft their music here before they rehearse and perform with actual instruments (if they wish).

The shift here is not so much the change in HCI, but the way people collaborate with other people with computer-based technologies. Educators sometimes worry (unnecessarily) that online technologies breed anti-social behaviour (I don’t believe that they do because I think they allow people to connect with one another even more, albeit not physically).

Multitouch technologies present a way for collaborators to meet in person and to use one device at the same time to solve a shared problem or to create a common artefact. They need not work on separate machines and transfer files back and forth simply because everything is one place.

I admit that it is difficult to think of the possibilities and to imagine outside our current mindsets. But this is the nature of innovation and so much of it is emergent and unexpected. Such shifts also point to the new ways our children will work in the future, so it is our responsibility to prepare them as best we can.

One of the things that we are working on at the MxL is multitouch technologies. This means that users simply use their fingers to create and manipulate objects directly on the computer screen. There is no need for a mouse and keyboard. This is evident in the Apple iPhone and Microsoft’s Surface (video of the latter above).

Sadly, Microsoft did not highlight any educational uses of Surface. I think that such technologies can transform education in positive ways. This was why I was excited to read today that a UK university is developing multitouch desks for students.

Image source:

Both articles highlighted this:

Dr Liz Burd, Director of Active Learning in Computing at Durham University, said: “Our vision is that every desk in school in 10 years time will be interactive”.

My take? I think that it is unfortunate that the shorter article decided to show a photo of just one child using it and using it for what looks like drill and practice. This technology has the ability to facilitate true and real-time collaboration and to enable tasks that are more complex and worthwhile.

I wonder if we can beat the UK folks to it? We already have our own prototype in the MxL (see image above)! Technologically, we might if I can find the right collaborators from local universities and polytechnics. Pedagogically, I am certain we can if I can find enlightened and energetic teachers and school leaders.

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