Young children's learning of novel digital interfaces: How technology experience, age, and design come into play
Shuli Gilutz, Columbia University, United States
Columbia University . Awarded
This study looks at the relationship between age, technology experience, and design factors in determining young children's comprehension of novel digital interfaces. In Experiment 1, 35 preschoolers played three games that varied in complexity and familiarity. Parental questionnaires were used to assess children's previous technology experience. Comprehension was measured by children's ability to recognize the actions possible on the interface.
An interaction pattern was found between age, technology experience, and design, suggesting that the interface elements can affect the way age and experience relate. For the younger group, technology experience had little effect, whereas for the older group the more technology experience they had, the better they succeeded. The more challenging the interface was, the more significant this interaction trend.
In experiment 2, complexity and familiarity were teased apart within the design variable, and four interfaces were created: familiar simple, familiar complex, unfamiliar simple, and unfamiliar complex. One hundred fifteen children aged 3 to 5 played two games each, and their age, previous technology experience, and comprehension of the interfaces was measured. Comprehension was measured by children's ability to recognize the actions needed to play the game.
Findings revealed a significant three-way interaction between age, technology experience, and complexity, with age and experience moderating the effect of complexity on children's comprehension. In the simple condition, technology experience did not affect the younger group, whereas the older group performed significantly better with more experience. In the complex condition, the younger group improved with technology experience, whereas the older group did not. Familiarity had a significant overall main effect: the more familiar, the better the success.
These findings suggest that both child factors (age, technology experience) and design factors (complexity, familiarity) play a significant role in children's human-computer interaction and should be taken into consideration when designing interfaces for children, assigning software to children, and conducting research in this field.
The cognitive load theory model for child-computer interaction is presented, defining the elements contributing to the mental load of the interface and the mental capacity limits of the child during the process of comprehension of an interface.
Gilutz, S. Young children's learning of novel digital interfaces: How technology experience, age, and design come into play. Ph.D. thesis, Columbia University.
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