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Open day offers a digitally enhanced world of learning

* 5 May 2004 *

Open day offers a digitally enhanced world of learning

Exciting new learning tools of the future will be showcased this week (May 7) at a University of Sussex open day that focuses on the educational value of digital technology.

The projects have been developed by the Department of Informatics' Human Centred Technology (HCT) research group, to show how digital technology can be used to improve people's learning experiences, be it at school, university, at work or play.

Last year's HCT open day entertained visitors including Channel 4, BT, Microsoft, the BBC and the Department of Education and Science. This year's open day promises to be bigger and better, with hands-on exhibits that explore the relation between the real and "virtual" worlds.

The Chromarium, for instance, allows children to explore colour mixing by using real paintbrushes with digital paints. The Ambient Wood project offers a digitally enhanced experience for pupils studying ecology. Using handheld devices, they can explore woodland, then reflect on what they have learnt by interacting with a digitally augmented table and real items they have discovered.

Visitors can also "come aboard the good ship mathematical" with the Homework team. With the help of young volunteers enlisted from local infant schools, the team is designing an exemplar Interactive TV system, featuring nautical characters from Channel 4's the Numbers Crew. The interactive system offers individualised learning to young children, parents and teachers at school and in the home.

The e-learning zone, meanwhile, shows how students can party the night away and still get that assignment in on time, by employing technology that helps them work and collaborate on the move and in the lab, whatever the hour.

Recent advances in interactive digital technology also mean that it is now possible to build "mixed reality environments", where the real world is combined with a computer-based virtual world. For example, in one demo, a user blows into a tube to inflate a virtual balloon on screen. 

In the Dynamo project, the old-fashioned notice board is transformed into a communal digital board to which users can link up individually via portable devices such as laptops, digital cameras, USB pen drives and the like to share digital media and to post, copy or respond to notices.

Other demos include a novel user interface - Separate Control of a Shared Space (SCOSS) - that  encourages children to work together on reading and language projects using the Riddles software. The eScience project, meanwhile, gets pupils from Hove Park and Varndean schools chatting to environmental scientists in the Antarctic and London to assess global pollution levels.

The HCT group, one of the UK's leading research centres in interactive design and e-learning, draws on expertise across the disciplines, from computer sciences to philosophy. Event organiser Rose Luckin says: "It's a great opportunity for us to demonstrate why a human-centred approach to technology design works, from blue skies to the real world".

* Notes for editors *

For further information, see:

University of Sussex Press Office contacts: Jacqui Bealing or Maggie Clune, Tel. 01273 678888, or

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