3.3     Interface design

(This section consists of many illustrations and is therefore divided into sections for faster loading)

3.3.1    Introduction

The second section of the chapter is a review of papers informing the study of the relationship between children and computers. The available research into computers in education in section 3.2, because of its quantity and quality was limited in providing answers to the contextual research. The research in this section also demonstrated that the scope of the range of subjects needed to be wider than conventionally accepted. The problem was that of the conventional educationalist’s narrow view of users and the computer equipment they operated, specifically of the child-computer relationship in a classroom environment was not available to answer the questions posed by the contextual research. Therefore other relevant subjects informing the child-computer relationship were studied in depth. The question posed was ‘What are the features that improve the quality of engagement between user and computer?’ Emerging from the literature review was evidence of a wider set of relationships between user and computer. These relationships involved physiological and ergonomic aspects of human-computer interaction known in their specialised fields but not in an educational context, which might enhance the quality of engagement in educational computer interfaces. An argument was proposed a convergence of evidence for an alternative paradigm indicating ten features that may achieve greater depth of engagement between users and computers in an educational context.

However, the scope of the wider range of literature review required defined limits. The boundary was confined in the following respects:

  • Researching the extensive field of visual search was limited to the foveal oval and visual field issues because of the contextual research problems of children performing educational tasks within complex screens.
  • The study of ergonomics literature focused on the issues around definitions of the physical organisation of the user and the computer work station configurations, in so far as they have specific implications for the classroom environment and children using computers.
  • The advantage of pleasure in learning was well-known in the education field, but did not form part of an academic framework. Initially promoted by the gaming potential of multimedia, the study was confined to simulation in an educational context and the components of deeper engagement through concentration during physical involvement called flow theory.
  • Education theory was limited to investigating manipulation of objects and child development in a conventional context. The reason was to inform the significance of manipulation of objects on the computer.
  • The subject of interface metaphor has been widely covered in human-computer interface literature. The thesis review confined the study to issues arising from the linguistic interpretation of metaphor in the human-computer interface literature. The reason for focussing attention on this aspect was because the literature research indicated metaphor had a physical component. Metaphor has significant potential for effective human-computer interaction in the learning process, as this thesis concerned a study of a holistic, whole body experience, specifically a child using manipulation with the mouse.
  • The investigation of 3-D interface literature was confined to aspects that might inform the value of pseudo 3-D perspectives interfaces in the Research Tool. The review was not intended to be a comprehensive study of 3-D immersive environments literature because at the time education interface designs were generally limited in their full 3-D capability – for reason of cost.

Within the limits of the study, research into all these elements showed the integrated nature between brain-body relationships and together a coherence emerged that can inform methods of giving children a greater sense of engagement. The convergence was formulated as a set of criteria used to inform the research question and for the main study. Each aspect of the literature review begins with a reminder of contextual research and concerns of the Research Tool design during its development and ends with a short summation relating findings that clarify issues which are listed in the final summary.