Summer Award Dispatches: Kiera Chase

03 Aug, 2015

Summer Award Dispatches: Kiera Chase

This year, the BCNM awarded five new media graduate students with summer fellowships to help support their dissertation research and writing. Kiera Chase's dissertation develops and refines cognitive-science theoretical models that illuminate challenges and opportunities in children’s development of mathematical concepts. She is developing a tablet application based on her educational-research dissertation project, Giant Steps for Algebra (GS4A). GS4A evaluates a pedagogical innovation for mathematics learning, in which a curricular unit is parsed into level-based game flow. Students construct virtual models of algebra problems consisting of fictional narratives. Here's what Kiera gained from the experience!

For this project, I proposed to collaborate with technology designers to develop a tablet application based on an interface I used for my dissertation project, Giant Steps for Algebra (GS4A). The initial phase of this collaboration has been very productive, enabling us to advance both the efficacy of the design as well as think about the pedagogical implications of our work.

In the redesign for a touch-screen environment we have improved upon the original GUI implementation by specifically addressing some of the glitches. We focused on improving non-content related interface actions that were distracting in the initial GUI interface. For example, the images below, of the development build, demonstrates how the treasure flag, attached to the node furthest to the right, now remains attached to this node as the model is shrunk. Once the user has assigned the treasure flag to a specific node, it now remains with that specific node. This clarifies the purpose of the treasure flag and will reduce the cognitive ‘noise’ that we observed in the alpha design.

In this phase of design work, we have also encountered some interesting interaction features that highlight the significant differences between the web-based and touch-screen environment. The GUI environment provided a context in which users input the number of giant steps that they wanted to model, entering data using a mouse and keyboard. This way of interacting runs counter to the cultural practices associated with a touch screen environment. The design work has forced our team to closely examine the cultural norms associated with difference technological devices, and consider the pedagogically significant design implications of these interaction practices.