Learning through Multi-Touch Interfaces in Museum Exhibits: An Empirical Investigation

By Zaharias, Panagiotis; Michael, Despina et al. | Educational Technology & Society, July 2013 | Go to article overview

Learning through Multi-Touch Interfaces in Museum Exhibits: An Empirical Investigation


Zaharias, Panagiotis, Michael, Despina, Chrysanthou, Yiorgos, Educational Technology & Society


Introduction

Traditionally museums were using only real objects as exhibits to convey information to their visitors. During last two decades a new trend exists which is based on the involvement of the visitor and thus museums exploit technologically advanced systems to achieve their targets (Wishart and Triggs, 2010). The use of such systems aim in two directions: firstly to attract more visitors to the museums and secondly to "pass" the knowledge to their visitors in a more effective way.

Great amount in budgets and many man-hours of hard work and effort are spent to develop such systems. Does it really worth to do so? Do such systems indeed achieve their goals? Do they enhance the user experience (UX)? In this study we evaluate the learning performance and user experience of such a system installed at the Leventis Municipal Museum in Nicosia, Cyprus. The system under investigation is a 3D multi-touch table that runs an application about "the Walls of Nicosia" which is the fortification of Nicosia in different historical periods. We compare the results with those achieved with the traditional way of getting information from a museum which is by studying the exhibits (printed maps).

In the following section we describe related work on interactive systems installed at the museums. The Section 3 describes the multi-touch system that is evaluated and the application "The Walls of Nicosia" that runs on it. The next section, Section 4, is about the method that has been followed for the empirical evaluation. Results of the experiments are demonstrated at the Section 5. Finally at the last section we discuss our results and we give directions for further work on the subject.

Related work

Technology is exploited recently by modern-day museums as a tool to convey information to their visitors; physical or virtual ones. Many museums setup technologically advanced systems in their physical space to attract more visitors and convey information in a more effective way or use online technologies in order to disseminate knowledge to remote visitors as well. Such systems are (or at least they should be) based on a theoretical background for learning and knowledge in the context of museum's content. In this section we give a brief theoretical background on learning related to technology and then we review work that has been done on interactive systems implemented in museums.

Hawkey (2004) made a review of aspects of learning provided by museums and galleries through the use of digital technologies. There are different learning philosophies regarding the learning opportunities in museums: should museums offer delivery or engagement? Should the underpinning rationale be a passive/transmission view or an active/constructivist view? Different taxonomies of learning experiences in a museum have been proposed. Gammon (2001) in his practical guide for museum evaluators classifies the learning process to cognitive, affective, social, skills development and personal categories. Hooper-Greenhill et al., (2003) proposed a quite similar set of learning experiences in a museum: a) knowledge and understanding, b) skills, c) values and attitudes, d) enjoyment, inspiration and creativity, and e) activity, behavior and progression.

During the recent years main emphasis has been put on a constructive process where the visitor feels that she is a privileged participant who has several possible learning pathways and possibilities. Accordingly, most of the proposed learning taxonomies take into account new learning developments and theories; such developments approach learning in the digital age as not a passive transmission of information to the learners/users of interactive technologies but as an active process through which people construct new understandings of the world around them (Resnick, 2001).

Such an approach can be verified by recent research findings that highlight the crucial role that technology and interactive systems can play in helping to maintain museums as constructive learning spaces. …

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