Eva Hornecker, Bernd Robben Research Centre Work and Technology (artec), University of Bremen
Is it possible to interconnect physical learning media and computer-based learning? If so, what do we gain by attempting this? We will describe the conceptual evolution, as well as various results of a project aimed at the development of a computer-supported learning environment for pneumatics, targeted at vocational students. This environment uses a new approach to human/computer interaction, which involves coupling the building of models in the real space of physical objects with the virtual space of signs and images.
The project EUGABE (sponsored by German Research Commission DFG) interconnects traditional workbenches with computer-based simulators. While the student constructs a physical circuit, the computer tracks this construction. It then generates a symbolic circuit, which can be digitally simulated. As users introduce new elements, or relocate existing elements, symbols pop up in the simulator, or they move.
This concept of a graspable user interface is based on the pairing of real artifacts with their virtual counterparts. Students wear DataGloves and use real objects to construct a system on a workbench, while the computer tracks and interprets their actions and gestures. It simultaneously assembles a corresponding virtual model, responding to the actions of the students' hands. Virtual objects may also contain further information required either for creating computer simulations, or for obtaining specific information about elements. The virtual model can be connected to application-specific simulators. Experiments can be performed in either the physical system or the virtual system. Users are able to switch freely between operations on both the real and the virtual objects.
The material workspace functions as an interface for the virtual model, and controls it. The computer acts as a supporting tool. The "hands-on" manipula-