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Discovery learning with tangible technologies: the case of children with intellectual disabilities

Pontual da Rocha Falcão, Taciana (2014) Discovery learning with tangible technologies: the case of children with intellectual disabilities. PhD thesis, UCL Institute of Education .

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Intellectual disabilities cause significant sub--‐average achievement in learning, with difficulties in perception, attention, communication of ideas, language acquisition, abstraction and generalisation. From a socio--‐constructionist perspective, digital technologies can provide resources to help addressing these difficulties. Tangible technologies are considered particularly promising tools for children with intellectual disabilities, by enabling interaction through physical action and manipulation and facilitating representational concrete--‐ abstract links by integrating physical and digital worlds. However, hands--‐on learning activities remain a recommended but problematic approach for intellectually disabled students. This thesis investigates how and which characteristics of tangible interaction may support children with intellectual disabilities to productively engage in discovery learning. Empirical studies were performed where children with intellectual disabilities used four tangible systems with distinct design characteristics. Four broad themes emerged from qualitative analysis which are central for identifying how to best support exploratory interaction: types of digital representations; physical affordances; representational mappings; and conceptual metaphors. Guidelines for the development of tangible artefacts and facilitation of discovery learning activities with tangibles were derived from these themes. A complementary quantitative analysis investigated the effects of external guidance in promoting episodes of discovery in tangible interaction. This thesis argues that providing tangible interaction alone is not sufficient to bring significant benefits to the experience of intellectually disabled students in discovery learning. Visual digital representations, meaningful spatial configurations of physical representations, temporal and spatial contiguity between action and representations, simple causality and familiar conceptual metaphors are critical in providing informational intrinsic feedback to exploratory actions, which allied with external guidance that creates a minimal underlying structure for interaction, should establish an ideal environment for discovery.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Controlled Keywords: Discovery learning, tangible discoveries, intellectual disabilities
Subjects: Departments > Culture, Communication and Media
Depositing User: Mr Julian Zerfahs
Date Deposited: 11 Apr 2015 13:45
Last Modified: 15 Apr 2015 15:18
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