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TUIs vs. GUIs: comparing the learning potential with preschoolers


In an effort to better understand the learning potential of a tangible interface, we conducted a comparison study between a tangible and a traditional graphical user interface for teaching preschoolers (In Portugal, children enter preschool at the age of three and they attend it till entering school, normally at the age of six) about good oral hygiene. The study was carried with two groups of children aged 4 to 5 years. Questionnaires to parents, children’s drawings, and interviews were used for data collection and analysis and revealed important indicators about children’s change of attitude, involvement, and preferences for the interfaces. The questionnaires showed a remarkable change of attitude toward tooth brushing in the children that interacted with the tangible interface; particularly children’s motivation increased significantly. Children’s drawings were used to assess their degree of involvement with the interfaces. The drawings from the children that interacted with the tangible interface were very complete and detailed suggesting that the children felt actively involved with the experience. The results suggest that the tangible interface was capable of promoting a stronger and long-lasting involvement having a greater potential to engage children, therefore potentially promoting learning. Evaluation through drawing seems to be a promising method to work with preliterate children; however, it is advisable to use it together with other methods.

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We would like to thank Colégio Teresiano and Colégio D. Diogo in Braga, the kindergarten teachers Andreia Oliveira e Rosália Henriques, the parents, and all the children for their willingness in helping us conducting this study. We thank the anonymous reviewers for their valuable input in helping us improving the original manuscript.

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Correspondence to Cristina Sylla.

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Sylla, C., Branco, P., Coutinho, C. et al. TUIs vs. GUIs: comparing the learning potential with preschoolers. Pers Ubiquit Comput 16, 421–432 (2012).

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  • Tangible interfaces
  • Interaction design
  • Children and technology
  • Oral hygiene
  • Learning
  • Education