Nov 18, 2015

Highlights from UIST 2015 - Animatronics + Digital Storytelling and More!

I recently attended the 28th ACM User Interface Software and Technology Symposium (UIST2015), held in Charlotte, N.C.   Although the focus of the conference was not on educational interfaces, a good number of the presentations and demos were related to education in some way.

I've been looking at ways newer technologies can take a bigger role in education, something that is important, given the spread of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) in K-12 settings.  The STEM/STEAM approach requires students to work collaboratively through project-based learning activities designed to support a variety of skills that they will need as university students-- and beyond.

The focus of this year's UIST Student Innovation Contest  session was storytelling and animatronics!

According to info from the UIST website: "Schools and museums are starting to offer experimental Animatronics classes where kids build furry robotic animals and use them to tell amazing stories. These courses blur traditional lines - between art and engineering, between the virtual and physical worlds - all while demonstrating the universality of creativity across disciplines. Everybody learns how to write stories, build mechanisms, program motions, provide voice performances, etc. In this way, kids see how it all works together, and it has a way of inspiring kids to see new career possibilities."

I was delighted to see so many kid-friendly interfaces.  The first one that caught my eye was "ZOOO".

The ZOOO platform supports digital storytelling through the creation and use of electronic stage, computer-assisted animated puppets, and an a easy-to-use visual software programming environment.  ZOOO would appeal to teachers who are implementing project-based STEAM activities with their students.

ZOOO poster, UIST 2015

ZOOO programming interface

I liked the visual design of the programming interface, which can be accessed through a touch-screen.  ZOOO was created by a team of students at the IInterdisciplinary Program of Information Art & Design, Academy of Arts & Design,Tsinghua University, China.

Another demo that caught my eye was Show-Flow. Show-Flow is a software tool designed to create a non-linear animatronic puppet show.  In the following video, the story is entitled "Zee's Mystery": 

The Show-Flow software was created by Nuirit Kirshenbaum, and is available for download on github.

So where is all of this headed?

In today's K-12 classrooms following the Common Core Standards, STEM/STEAM subjects are often integrated into the English/Language Arts curriculum.  Reading instruction is very important, but new ways of teaching and learning are taking hold, such as project-based learning.   Projects are interdisciplinary in nature and require careful planning on the part of teachers---and also require plenty of space for students to communicate, collaborate, brainstorm, design, and share ideas.   

In some schools, teachers are finding that laptops, productivity software, and multimedia resources on the web are good for supporting project based learning activities, but there are limitations. Teachers can't always see what is going on with the students, and laptop screens don't allow for more than two children, at best, to easily see content and collaborate. 

What is exciting is that many schools are thinking beyond 2015.  Tired of the cost of replacing projector bulbs and "touchy" interactive whiteboards, some schools are embracing solutions that are likely to support authentic collaboration -- for example, the picture below shows young children on a Clear Touch display running NUITEQ's Snowflake MultiTeach software.  

Picture of children interacting on a Clear Touch multi-touch table and NUITEQ Snowflake MultiTeach Software.

In a classroom setting, NUITEQ's Snowflake MultiTeach software can support students working individually or in collaborative groups.  Teachers can create a variety of game-like lessons using the versatile Lessons App.    With the multi-touch, multi-user  Clear Touch display, teachers can orient the screen to meet the needs of the students - upright in an interactive presentation mode, at an angle for design and brainstorming activities, or horizontally, in a table mode.  

All of this is great for supporting science lab activities-- and also student collaboration and planning for STEAM projects. 

I'll be posting more about UIST 2015 highlights soon!


UIST 2015
Conference Website

毛成鹏 Chengpeng Mao
清华大学美术学院 信息艺术设计系
Interdisciplinary Program of Information Art & Design, Academy of Arts & Design,Tsinghua University
Mobile  (+86)155-011-21372
Beijing• China  100084

Nuirit Kirshenbaum

MultiTeach Pinterest
MultiTeach Lessons Community

Clear Touch Interactive Experience

Disclosure: I am a K-12 Technology Specialist with NUITEQ.

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