Employing Physical Computing in Education: How Teachers and Students Utilized Physical Computing to Develop Embodied and Tangible Learning Objects

By Gabriela T. Richard.

Published by The Technology Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Physical computing (O’Sullivan, 2004) and human-computer interaction explore how sensors and interactive technology could further user experiences, moving the educational technology experience away from the typical computer screen. Physical computing is specifically intriguing as an educational tool because of its linking of the physical and virtual environments and frameworks, making the connection between the “real” world and the virtual one concrete and viable. From 2004-2005, we ran three pilot programs aimed at teaching New York City public high school teachers and students how to use physical computing to create tangible, embodied learning objects. This paper explores the development of the pilot programs, as well as the projects developed by the students and teachers.

Keywords: Physical Computing, Embodied Interaction, Tangibles, Human Computer Interaction, Physical Manipulatives, Virtual Manipulatives, Digital Manipulatives, Interactive Technology, Educational Technology, Constructivism, Constructionism

The International Journal of Technology, Knowledge and Society, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp.93-102. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.738MB).

Gabriela T. Richard

Doctoral Candidate, Educational Communication and Technology Program , Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, Division of Educational Informatics, New York University, New York, NY, USA

In 2001, Gabriela Richard began working at the Division of Educational Informatics (DEI) (formerly, Advanced Educational Systems) at the NYU School of Medicine, where she assisted with educational technology development and research. During this time, she received her M.P.S. from the Interactive Telecommunications Program (the birthplace of Physical Computing), which sparked her interest in examining it as an instructional tool. In 2004 and 2005, she initiated three pilot programs at DEI, under the guidance of her supervisor, Dr. Nachbar, which sought to teach physical computing to high school students and teachers to examine its efficacy as a means of developing learner-generated materials or teacher-designed learning objects. In 2005, DEI and the Institute for Schools of the Future teamed up to start a city-wide physical computing educational program aimed at high school teachers. They received a 3-year ITEST grant for implementation from the National Science Foundation. Gabriela Richard continued to design curriculum, coordinate, instruct and implement program activities for the grant. In Fall 2006, she was accepted as a doctoral student at the Educational Communication and Technology program at NYU. She received a 3-year pre-doctoral fellowship from the National Science Foundation in Fall 2007 to study physical computing in education.

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