Personal and Ubiquitous Computing

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 379–389 | Cite as

Tangible interaction and learning: the case for a hybrid approach

  • Michael S. Horn
  • R. Jordan Crouser
  • Marina U. Bers
Original Article


Research involving tangible interaction and children has often focused on how tangibles might support or improve learning compared to more traditional methods. In this paper, we review three of our research studies involving tangible computer programming that have addressed this question in a variety of learning environments with a diverse population of children. Through these studies, we identify situations in which tangible interaction seems to offer advantages for learning; however, we have also identify situations in which tangible interaction proves less useful and an alternative interaction style provides a more appropriate medium for learning. Thus, we advocate for a hybrid approach—one that offers teachers and learners the flexibility to select the most appropriate interaction style to meet the needs of a specific situation.


Tangible interaction TUIs Hybrid tangible interface Computer programming Education Children Robotics 



We thank Robert Jacob and our collaborators at the Tufts University Human–Computer Interaction Laboratory. Work at the Boston Museum of Science was the result of a collaboration with Taleen Agulian, Dan Noren, Lucy Kirshner, Erin Solovey, Bill Rogers, and Tim Moore. We also thank Rachael Fein and Emily Lin for their invaluable assistance in our kindergarten classroom research. We thank all students in the DevTech research group, especially Elizabeth Kazakoff, Louise Flannery, and Ken Lee. Finally, we thank the National Science Foundation for its support of this research through grants IIS-0414389 and DRL-0735657. Any opinions, findings, or recommendations expressed in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael S. Horn
    • 1
  • R. Jordan Crouser
    • 2
  • Marina U. Bers
    • 2
  1. 1.Computer Science and the Learning SciencesNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA
  2. 2.Eliot-Pearson Department of Child DevelopmentTufts UniversityMedfordUSA

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