Education and Information Technologies

, Volume 21, Issue 5, pp 1433–1456 | Cite as

Information practices and user interfaces: Student use of an iOS application in special education

  • Carrie Demmans Epp
  • Rhonda McEwen
  • Rachelle Campigotto
  • Karyn Moffatt


A framework connecting concepts from user interface design with those from information studies is applied in a study that integrated a location-aware mobile application into two special education classes at different schools; this application had two support modes (one general and one location specific). The five-month study revealed several information practices that emerged from student attempts to overcome barriers within the application and the curriculum. Students engaged in atypical and unintended practices when using the application. These practices appear to be consequences of the user interface and information processing challenges faced by students. Abandoning activities was a strategic choice and was an unanticipated information practice associated with the application’s integration into lessons. From an information processing perspective, it is likely that students reinterpreted information in the location mode as housing application content rather than being location specific and the information practice of taking photos emerged as an expressive use of the device when an instrumental task was absent. Based on these and other emergent practices, we recommend functionality that should be considered when developing or integrating these types of applications into special education settings and we seek to expand the traditional definition of information practice by including human-computer interaction principles.


Mobile learning Human information processing Mobile applications User interfaces Special education Cognitive support tools Usability 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Technologies for Aging Gracefully Laboratory (TAGlab)University of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Institute of Communication, Culture, Information and TechnologyUniversity of Toronto MississaugaTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Faculty of Environmental StudiesYork UniversityTorontoCanada
  4. 4.School of Information StudiesMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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