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Tangible Interaction and Cultural Forms: Supporting Learning in Informal Environments

Dr. Michael Horn, Northwestern University
Friday, January 19, 2018 at 12 p.m. in IT 252


Designers who create computer-based learning experiences for places like museums, out-of-school programs, and homes face a number of challenges related to the “informal” nature of such settings. Designs must generally function on their own without the support of teachers or curriculum while at the same time engaging a diverse audience, supporting productive social interaction, and activating appropriate prior knowledge and skills. In this talk I present an approach to the design of informal learning experiences based on tangible interaction. The term “tangible” refers to a variety of human-computer interaction techniques that move beyond computer screens and create opportunities for people to interact with digital systems using their bodies and physical artifacts. I argue that tangible interaction creates unique opportunities for designers to shape objects and situations to evoke cultural forms of literacy, learning, and play. To illustrate these ideas I’ll describe a few example designs that colleagues and I have created to support learning in museums and other informal environments.

About Michael Horn

Michael Horn is an Associate Professor of Computer Science and Learning Sciences at Northwestern University where he directs the Tangible Interaction Design and Learning (TIDAL) Lab. Michael serves as the Program Coordinator for the Learning Sciences PhD Program at Northwestern and is co-Founder of the new Joint PhD Program in Computer Science and Learning Sciences.

Michael’s research explores the use of interactive technology in the design of innovative learning experiences. He takes a cautious but optimistic stance towards technology in a process that tightly couples research and design. His work has been exhibited at museums around the world including the California Academy of Sciences (San Francisco), the Museum of Science (Boston), the Field Museum (Chicago), and the Computer History Museum (Silicon Valley). Michael’s research on tangible programming has contributed to the commercial products: Osmo Coding and Kibo Robotics.

Michael earned his Ph.D. in Computer Science at Tufts University working in the Human-Computer Interaction Lab and the Developmental Technologies research group. He received his undergraduate degree in Computer Science from Brown University and has worked as a software engineer for several companies including Classroom Connect and iRobot Corporation.