Sydney School of Education and Social Work events - 2013 Archive

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Ideation, problem-solving and reasoning

11 September 2013

Join us on September 11 for a CoCo seminar by Sharon Oviatt titled “The impact of interface affordances on human ideation, problem-solving and inferential reasoning”.

Two studies investigated how computer interface affordances influence basic cognition, including ideational fluency, problem-solving, and inferential reasoning. In one study comparing interfaces with different input capabilities, students expressed 56 per cent more non-linguistic representations (diagrams, symbols, numbers) when using pen interfaces. A linear regression confirmed that non-linguistic communication directly mediated a substantial increase (38.5 per cent) in students’ ability to produce appropriate science ideas.

In contrast, students expressed 41 per cent more linguistic content when using a keyboard-based interface, which mediated a drop in science ideation. A follow-up study pursued the question of how interfaces that prime non-linguistic communication so effectively facilitate cognition. This study examined the relation between students’ expression of non-linguistic representations and their inference accuracy when using analogous digital and non-digital pen tools.

Perhaps surprisingly, the digital pen interface stimulated construction of more diagrams, more correct Venn diagrams, and more accurate domain inferences. Students’ construction of multiple diagrams to represent a problem also directly suppressed overgeneralisation errors, the most common inference failure.

These research results reveal that computer interfaces have communications affordances that elicit communication patterns that can substantially stimulate or impede basic cognition.

Implications are discussed for designing new digital tools for thinking, with an emphasis on nonlinguistic and especially spatial representations that are most poorly supported by current keyboard-based Interfaces.

This seminar will be available live online at

Event details

  • When: 11am–12.30pm

  • Where:

    Education Building (A35)

    Room 230

  • Cost: Free

  • Contact:

    Patricia Thibaut Paez

    T: 9351 6358


  • More info: Arrive at 10.45am for refreshments.

  • Speaker:

    Dr Sharon Oviatt is internationally known for her extensive work in human-centered interface design, multimodal and mobile interfaces, educational interfaces, and interface design and evaluation.

    She has been recipient of a National Science Foundation Special Creativity Award for pioneering research, and has published over 140 scientific articles in a wide range of multidisciplinary venues, including a new book, The Design of Future Educational Interfaces (Routledge Press, 2013).

    Dr Oviatt is an associate editor of the main journals and edited book collections in the field of human interfaces, including the Journal of Human Computer Interaction; ACM Transactions on Intelligent Interactive Systems; and The Human-Computer Interaction Handbook. She also is the founder of Incaa Designs, a Seattle-area nonprofit that researches, designs and evaluates the impact of new educational interfaces. Dr Oviatt was a founder the ACM conference series on Multimodal Interfaces (ICMI), and currently is co-chair of ICMI 2013 in Sydney with colleagues Fang Chen (NICTA) and Julien Epps (UNSW).

    Note: Dr Oviatt is happy to talk informally about the ongoing data-driven challenge on multimodal learning analytics, which she is co-organising (with others from USC, UCSD and Stanford). The results will be presented at the International Workshop on Multimodal Learning Analytics, in Sydney on 9 December 2013.

The Impact of Interface Affordances on Human Ideation, Problem-solving and Inferential Reasoning


Education Building (A35)

Room 230


11 September 2013

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