Tangible Technologies as Interactive Play Spaces for Children with Learning Difficulties: The Reactive Colours Project
The positive role that technology can play in learning has been well researched and whilst there have been arguments raised by some that computer use, particularly with young children, may drain precious cognitive resources, there has been significant progress in the area of embodied tangible technologies. Drawing on this research and bringing together perspectives from human computer interaction (HCI), psychology, linguistics and graphic communication, I will present the findings of the Reactive Colours project, which has been developing customizable sensory software, ReacTickles, and investigating the impact of embodied user interfaces on social communication and learning for children with autism. Through my work I aim to demonstrate a democratic and participatory approach for the design of embodied user interfaces where manipulation is intuitive and expressive acts foster improvisation and an opportunity to encounter experiences independently of skill, knowledge or directed task. ReacTickles aims to subtly trigger collaboration between individuals and co-ordination through performative actions rather the necessity to complete a directed activity. This novel approach allows the emergent idiosyncratic needs of the child to lead activities rather than the typically operational modes of traditional computer interaction. The significance of this for children with autism is that meaning is created and understood through sensory arousal and action, rather than the necessity to interpret a graphically mediated environment. I will demonstrate, with the assistance of video testimonies, ways in which my research has been introduced in pilot studies in a number of schools throughout the UK and the impact partnerships with schools has had in developing ReacTickles and the emerging heuristics which may prove useful for all young learners, irrespective of individual developmental levels.
Keywords: Embodied Tangible Technologies, Embodied User Interfaces, Manipulation, Improvisation, Collaboration, Performative Actions
Wendy E. Keay-Bright
Senior Lecturer, Cardiff School of Art & Design, University of Wales Institute Cardiff