Tangible Computing Module – Reflection

Module Title: Tangible Computing

Venue: B Block, CIT

Date: September – October on Mondays @ 12 noon

Class: 3rd year Creative Digital Media Students

Participation: Mentor to one of the group projects

During the first half of the semester of the 2017/18 college year, I acted as a mentor to one of the groups in the Tangible Computing Module as part of the Creative Digital Media Course. Each group was given a brief to create a video prototype to demonstrate a tangible user interface and how it would be used should it be implemented with the appropriate technology. Each group was given a location where the tangible user interface would be located and a topic which the user interface would be used to explain. For example, my group were given a Secondary School and the topic was the ‘Life Cycle of Water’. Through a process of researching existing tangible user interfaces, brainstorming and ideation they developed the idea of a cube which would display a different animation on each side of the cube to demonstrate a different aspect of the water cycle as the cube is moved through a person’s hands.

Getting involved as a mentor is this module could prove useful towards engaging with third level students for future pilots as part of the UMI project. It was a useful way of engaging with design students, making them aware of who we are and what our projects are about so that if we look to get them involved in a study going forward, they may be willing to do so. One thing I noticed was that when they working towards developing their TUI, they didn’t struggle with the STEM topic they were given. In truth, their knowledge of the topic was probably the strongest aspect of their project. They struggled more with the design concept and how to demonstrate the topic through the use of a TUI. The STEM topic didn’t provide a barrier to the students even though they probably haven’t studied STEM subjects since they were in secondary school. It was harder for them to develop the solution.

The various different types of prototyping techniques (ideation, storyboarding, modelling) were all suggested to the group during the course of the project but it wasn’t clear whether or not they were using them on a week to week basis to develop their idea. They didn’t provide any evidence of a storyboard or a mind-map etc. until the day of submission. They may have just completed them for the sake of grading their project.

During the module, to align with my project, I also suggested that when designing their solution, the students should think about how it could be used across many different schools and how the schools could possibly connect with one another through the solution or in some other way. This was suggested to them two weeks in a row but they failed to take it on board and a community aspect wasn’t part of their final design. This may be because they didn’t like the idea (even though they seemed to) or they found the idea of introducing a community aspect to their solution a difficult one to grasp. Perhaps in future pilots there could be a way that we focus on community-based activities or designing community-based activities for different groups with the participants of the study (e.g. third level students, secondary school students, Coderdojo participants, etc.) This may be something we could discuss going forward.

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