How can Tangible Interaction benefit learning?

Tangible Interaction allows students to go beyond the screen and actually physically interact with objects that reveal information on the subjects they are learning. A number of concepts behind Tangible Interaction support this, including the idea of multi-sensory interfaces and support for experimentation.

The concept of multi-sensory interfaces is a common theme in Tangible Interaction design. Traditional learning techniques generally engage just two senses – hearing and vision – when providing access to information. Tangible Interaction promotes the concept of engaging multiple senses including vision, hearing, touch and even smell and taste as a medium for interacting with data. For example, students could learn about the flow of electricity through a circuit by connecting different digitally-augmented objects representing electrical components that change weight depending on the amount of ‘current’ flowing through them. Check out our post on littleBits, a brilliant project developing kits similar to this.

Tangible objects, by their very nature, support exploratory activities. Students can play and experiment with tangibles in a way that chalk-and-talk or screen based information delivery methods do not encourage. This opens up the possibility for students to learn through discovery, and engage with the lesson material on a more personal and motivated level.

The above gives just a brief glimpse at the opportunities for enhancing the learning experience presented by the field of Tangible Interaction. There are still countless unexplored avenues for designing tangibles that can engage students and provide deeper insights into learning material. The field holds great promise for the development of new learning strategies, and presents an exciting view into the future of education.

How do you envision Tangibles being used in your classroom? What subjects in particular do you think they might be useful for? Comment below or on Facebook, or Tweet us your thoughts and ideas!


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