Making Processes Visible and Manipulable

Document Sample
Making Processes Visible and Manipulable Powered By Docstoc
					                 Making Processes Visible and Manipulable
                                         Oren Zuckerman and Mitchel Resnick
                                                MIT Media Laboratory
                                               20 Ames Street E15-020
                                             Cambridge MA 02139 USA
                                            {orenz, mres} @

ABSTRACT                                                         (3) Group learning – provides a multi-hand interface, does
We created FlowBlocks to enable children to manipulate           not give the control to one person, facilitates natural group
abstract structures of sequential processes. We wanted to        interaction, and promotes group discussion.
design a system that could “grow with the child”, starting       DEMONSTRATION DESCRIPTION
with preschoolers making their first steps in counting and       There are four types of components to FlowBlocks: Paths,
quantity, and continuing with high school or college             Generators, Rules, and Probes. Path blocks connect to each
students struggling with calculus and statistics. FlowBlocks     other using magnetic connectors. Light is representing the
is designed to simulate concepts related to counting,            dynamic process, by “moving” from one Path block to the
probability, looping and branching.                              next in a sequential process. The Generator block supplies
                                                                 power to the other blocks, and has a button that sends out
                                                                 the first light. Rules blocks are small units that plug into the
                                                                 Path blocks and change the internal rule programmed into
                                                                 that block. For example, Rules can make the light go faster
                                                                 or slower. Probes are additional representations, such as the
                                                                 “Counter” Probe that numerically counts how many times
                                                                 the light passed through it.

Figure 5: connecting FlowBlocks (left) forming loops (right)

Tangible Interfaces, Digital Manipulatives,            Playful
Learning, Simulation, Education.
Physical objects have been traditionally used in
kindergartens and elementary schools to introduce young             Figure 6: Left to right – Yellow “Straight” Path, Green
learners to abstract concepts such as quantity, numbers,           “Turn” Path, Blue “Probability Fork” Path, “Faster” and
base ten, fractions etc. Abstract concepts of dynamic                      “Slower” Rules, and a “Counter” Probe
behavior, involving change and behavior over time, make
the learning challenge even harder.                              Viewers of the demonstrations would be able to model and
Abstract concepts are hard to learn. The advantage of            simulate sequences on their own, and experience the multi-
tangible interfaces as a teaching tool for abstract problem      sensory experience. In particular interest to this conference
domains is threefold:                                            participants would be Flow Blocks design as a tangible
(1) Sensory engagement – the natural way children learn,         interactive learning environment, and the lessons learned
engaging multiple senses (in this case touch, vision,            from the qualitative studies.
auditory) in a constructive process.                             Flow Blocks noteworthy and distinguishing ideas are: A
(2) Accessibility – dramatically improves accessibility to       tangible interface that enables novices to quickly and easily
younger children, to people with learning disabilities, and      model sequences involving accumulation, probability, rates
to novices.                                                      etc.
                                                                 Hypothetical Scenario - Interacting with FlowBlocks
                                                                 Three 8-year-old girls, Valerie, Suzanne, and Karen, gather
                                                                 around a table with a set of FlowBlocks. Valerie takes the
                                                                 Generator block, turns it on, and brings it close to a Yellow
                                                                 “Straight” Path block. The magnetic connectors pull the
two blocks together, and the Yellow “Straight” Path block          it’s getting faster and faster” says Valerie, “it makes my
flash to signal it was automatically turned on. Valerie            head spin…let’s make it go slower again”.
clicks the button on the Generator and watches the light
travels through the Yellow “Straight” Path block she just          The FlowBlocks evaluation [2] focused on individual as
connected. Meanwhile, Suzanne played with Green “Turn”             well as small-group sessions with mixed-age groups (three
Path blocks and created an “L” shape by snapping two of            children per group), ranging in age from 6-11 year-olds.
them together. “Hey, Valerie, maybe we can connect my              The study was performed at MIT’s Westgate community
green blocks to your yellow”. Together, they bring the             center with ten children, five girls and five boys. The
blocks closer until they snap.                                     average session duration was 45 minutes. All sessions were
Valerie clicks the button again, and they watch the light          videotaped for later analysis. These sessions were designed
travel straight through the Yellow, take a turn through the        to be more open-ended play. During the sessions, we
Green, and another turn through the second Green. Karen            looked for the following activities: (1) building sequences
snaps another Yellow and in no time they connect all the           with various speed changes, (2) forming a loop with
25 Path blocks in a long and winding sequence. This time,          increasing speed, (3) using the Blue probability block to
Karen clicks the button to send the light. When it reaches a       direct sequences, (4) using the Probes to perform counting
Blue “Probability Fork” Block, the light turns to the left         and probability measurements, (6) reacting to the “normal
instead of to the right, where the next block is connected.        distribution” statistics simulation, constructed by the
They stare at it for a while. Suzanne starts to tinker with the    interviewer.
slider mounted on the Blue “Probability Fork” Block’s              All the children were able to quickly form sequences by
surface, noticing she can move it from side to side. She           themselves, figuring out the way the Path blocks connect to
moves it all the way to the right and clicks the button again.     each other. The magnetic connectors were very effective in
They watch the light with anticipation and scream with joy         helping the children “guess their way” though the
when the light turns to the right direction. Now the three of      construction process. The sequences they created were
them quickly move all the Blue blocks’ sliders along the           directly influenced by the set of blocks they were offered.
path, and the light travels successfully through all the
blocks along the sequence.                                         DISCUSSION
                                                                   In a world of increasing complexity, understanding
They are satisfied and immediately look for the next thing
                                                                   processes becomes an essential skill. Processes around us
to do. Karen looks for more blocks to add to their
                                                                   are invisible, and technology is needed to make them
sequence, and finds one of the small Rule units. “It says
                                                                   visible. Flow Blocks merge familiar interaction with
faster on it” she says to her friends, and snaps it into the top
                                                                   unfamiliar concepts, and can promote reflection by the
surface of one of the Path blocks in their sequence. Valerie
                                                                   child [1].
clicks the button and they watch with anticipation, waiting
for the light to reach the Faster Rule. When the light hits        ACKOWLEDGMENT
the Rule, it speeds up to a new constant speed and travels at      We would like to thank Brian Silverman, Saeed Arida,
that speed throughout the sequence. They plug all the              Carlos Vila-Virella, and Betsy Eames. This research could
Faster and Slower Rules Blocks along the sequence,                 not have been done without the generous support of the
watching the light go faster or slower at each sub-sequence.       LEGO Company, the MIT Media Lab’s Center for Bits and
While the light is traveling, Suzanne is tinkering again with      Atoms (NSF CCR-0122419), Things That Think, and
the Blue block’s slider, making the light disappear by             Digital Life consortia.
turning left to nowhere. “Hey, what if we connect more             REFERENCES
blocks to the left side as well?” They quickly snap-out            1. Rogers, Y., Scaife, M., Gabrielli, S., Smith, H. and
blocks from their long sequence to construct a new one                Harris, E. (2002). A conceptual framework for mixed
from both sides of the Blue “Probability Fork” Block.                 reality environments: Designing novel learning
“Hey, what if we make a square and connect this Yellow                activities for young children. Presence, Vol 11, No 6,
one back to this Green one?” says Valerie. They quickly               677 - 686.
snap blocks in and out, trying to form a square.
                                                                   2. Zuckerman O., Arida S., Resnick M. (2005). Extending
When they are done, Valerie clicks the button and they all            Tangible Interfaces for Education: Digital Montessori-
watch the light. “It goes round and round” Valerie says.              inspired Manipulatives. To be published in proceedings
“Do you think it will ever stop?” says Karen. “Let’s make             of CHI 2005, Portland, Oregon.
it go faster” says Suzanne, and plugs a Faster Rule. “Look,

Shared By: