Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Learner Centred Design for a Hybrid Interaction Application

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Learner Centred Design for a Hybrid Interaction Application

Article excerpt


Students of mathematics and physics need to understand how to construct and interpret kinematic graphs which plot distance or speed against time (see figure 1). They need to do this with fluency and accuracy, recognising the meaning and significance of the variable, slope, area under the graph and intersections with the axes. However, students are susceptible to a number of misconceptions such as viewing the graph as a picture or confusing the gradient and height (McDermott, Rosenquist & van Zee, 1987; Beichner 1990, 1994; Beichner & Robert, 1994; Janvier, 2004). These are related with associating the symbols and representations in these graphs with the concrete movement of an object. For example, in the graph-as-picture error, students might think the graph is an illustration of the travelled terrain mistaking an increase in velocity with travelling up a hill.


Two successful ways of learning about kinematic graphs are hands-on approaches and using tools and instruments. The idea behind hands-on approaches is that a powerful paradigm in learning is activity followed by reflection (Harel and Papert, 1991; Ackermann, 2001; Simpson & Noss, 2006) while using tools and instruments allows students to view in real time the effect of the movement of concrete objects on a graph (Mokros & Tinker, 1987; Thornton & Sokoloff, 1990). In the study reported here, we went beyond just combining these two approaches, we enabled students themselves to be the moving objects so that in this way we could exploit their kinesthetic functions to support effective mappings between movement and its graph representation. In order to implement such an approach, we employed innovative technologies such as location awareness and large screen capabilities of modern mobile phones. Developing learning applications using innovative technologies can however add an element of uncertainty and complexity to the design. In order to meet these potential challenges we employed a learner centred design (LCD) methodology, an approach that has been proven successful in these cases (Good & Robertson, 2006; Goolnik, Robertson & Good 2006).

This paper describes the learner centred approach that was employed to design activities and representations that would effectively exploit the learner's kinesthetic functions when learning about kinematic graphs. The next section talks about the teaching and learning of kinematic graphs and about approaches that have employed similar technologies. The following section talks about the use of LCD for innovative systems. The section "The design process of Move Grapher" summarises the work done in terms of the LCD process followed. The section "Establishing the requirements" describes two initial studies aimed at clarifying the requirements of the design. The following section, "Paper prototyping", describes two studies intended to refine early versions of the prototype. The section "High fidelity prototyping" describes the iterative refinement of the computerised prototypes that implement the approach. The paper finishes with a discussion of lessons learned and relevant conclusions.

Innovative approaches for the learning of kinematic graphs.

Kinematic graphs are an important part of the language of physics and being able to construct and interpret them correctly is essential to understanding and communicating mechanical concepts effectively. However, in using kinematics graphs for mathematics and science, students are susceptible to a number of important misconceptions (Beichner 1990, 1994). These include: viewing the graph as a picture, confusing the gradient and height, confusing variables (mistaking acceleration for velocity, for example), assuming (for the purpose of calculation) that the line representing the movement passes through the graph's origin, and confusions involving areas (misunderstanding the area, or calculating area instead of the gradient and visa versa). …

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