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Title: Physicality and Learning: Searching for the Effects ofTangibility in Scientific Domains
Author: Marshall, Paul
Awarding Body: University of Sussex
Current Institution: University of Sussex
Date of Award: 2006
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In recent years, new ways to access or control digital information through the manipulation of physical objects have become possible. These technologies, often described as tangible interfaces, are being increasingly used to design systems for learning. The assumption has been that interacting with physical materials might provide some benefit to the learner. However, few coherent frameworks or theories have been .- presented to motivate the use of tangible interfaces for learning. Nor have there been compelling empirical demonstrations of the benefits of using physical materials.. This thesis aims to add to our understanding of tangible interfaces for learning. After relating work on tangible interfaces to literature on embodiment, external cognition and learning, it makes two contributions to this aim. First, it presents an analytic framework, to facilitate future research and development. It comprises six themes: possible learning benefits; learning domains; exploratory and expressive activity; concreteness and sensory directness; integration of representations; and effects of physicality. It then presents a series of three empirical studies designed to explore the final framework theme: the effects of using physical materials on learning. These studies compare the outcomes and behavioural correlates of leanllng for participants who completed discovery learning tasks using either physical or graph.ical materials. The design was progressively optimised to magnify any potential effects of physicality.. No differences were found between the physical and graphical interface groups on any of the learning measures, providing no support for the view that using physical materials is beneficial to learning. Some differences are found in the amount of descriptive dialogue produced by participants using physical materials, which are discussed in terms of awareness work. While it is difficult to draw strong conclusions from these negative findings, a hypothesis was proposed that in many cases, culturally-learned representational systems can free individuals from reliance upon sensori-motor aspects of cognition. If this is the case, then tangible interfaces might be expected to be of greatest benefit in situations where alternative representations are unavailable.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available