Children and computers: The development of graphical user interfaces to improve the quality of interaction
The development of educational multimedia since 1994 has been characterised by a rapid expansion of new technologies. In the context of an exciting and controversial exploration of techniques, research into how children used computers in the classroom had been limited. The thesis therefore included a wide-ranging study into factors informing a deeper understanding of the way 5 to7-year-old school children use interactive computer programs. The thesis originated in contextual studies undertaken by the researcher in classrooms. The contextual research raised issues that are not the common ground of educational multimedia practitioners. These issues were explored in depth in the literature review. The thesis tested the potential improvements in interface design – an interactive educational CD-ROM using audio and visual resources from a BBC School Radio music series. The focus was not the music content or the teaching of the subject. The results of testing the research tool that used observation of groups of three children, interviews with individual children and teachers were summarised and improvements identified. The aim was to seek answers to the question ‘How can the quality of computer interface interaction be improved?’ Improvements were considered by enhancing the quality of interaction through greater depth of engagement by using the computer mouse to move icons on the computer screen.
In the process of contextual research the following issues were raised: the need for teachers to have a method of mediating the content of educational CD-ROMs, the physiological demands made on children in terms of eye search; the difficulties they encountered using navigation metaphors; and the potential of pseudo 3-D perspective interfaces. The research re-evaluates the relationship between children and computers in the familiar context of groups of three children using computers in the primary classroom, and resulted in a coherent set of suggestions for a more effective holistic paradigm for the design of multimedia programs that takes into account practical realities in classroom environments.