The Relationship Between
Software Interface Instructional Style
and The Engagement of Young Children


Welcome to the dissertation page for Warren Buckleitner.


ABSTRACT: This study examined the relationship between software interface design and child engagement by exposing 38 preschool-age children to two computer sorting activities. These activities were identical except for design characteristics that could be associated with two common teaching styles. In one of the conditions, called "high computer control" (HICOMP), children were prompted and reinforced with each task, resulting in a less responsive experience. The other condition, called "high child control" (HICHILD) provided minimal instructions and reinforcements. The outcome variables were the number of tasks attempted, tasks correct, time with the activity, mouse clicks and a child rating of the experience. In addition, anecdotal observations documented child reactions to both settings.

Children in the high child control treatment were more active, completing more tasks (mean = 64 vs. 20; p < .05), clicking the mouse more times (mean = 129 vs. 73; p < .05), and getting more tasks correct (mean = 41 vs. 16; p < .05). Children rated both experiences highly, and spent about the same amount of time with each condition.

In the high computer control setting, there were more clicks per task (mean = 4.07 vs. 2.09; p < .05), and children had a higher accuracy level (mean = 85% vs. 68% respectively). In addition, ANOVA procedures suggested that younger choose to stay with the HICOMP experience longer than the older group of children.

This study helps connect the established principles of human/child interaction to computer/child interaction, including the role of external reinforcements in instruction and the level of responsivity of the interaction. The results suggest that designers and evaluators of interactive media products for children should pay careful attention to the degree to which the implementation of control mechanisms such as reinforcements can have substantial effects on children's interaction with the software.

The files below contain additional information, including the dissertation, various collection forms with names removed and some video footage. If you have a Macintosh, it is useful to download the Cookie Critters activity and play with the preferences settings. This way you can experience the activity through the eyes of one of the children. I think this is the best way to quickly understand this study.

--> DO THIS FIRST. View the same child in both the high and low control experimental settings as a QuickTime movie--> Download .mov file

--> Read dissertation as a PDF

--> Read dissertation in Microsoft Word --> Download file

--> Get to know some of the population. View 14 slides in Quicktime --> Download .mov file

--> Cookie Critters 2x for Macintosh, unstuffed --> Download 6 MB file

--> Cookie Critters 2x for Macintosh, stuffed --> Download 3.2 MB file

--> Parent permission slip --> jpg

--> UCRIHS human subjects form --> jpg

--> Data collection sheet sample for session 1 --> graphic

--> Data collection sheet sample for session 2 --> graphic

--> View data in Microsoft Excel

Copyright 2004

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