do not usually allow
student collaboration. However, the
theme has to be introduced carefully and clearly to avoid confusion
among students about its role.
Our initial results are encouraging, but more studies are necessary to get deeper insights into the
learning process of students and to
develop an empirically grounded
theory of how interventions based
on experiential learning of computing concepts work.
a student is willing
to become a
and learn a
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We used various themes and
metaphors to provide experience constraints. For example,
in our master’s course on multimodal interaction we used the
“Power Trio” theme to inspire
and unify students’ activities.
In our undergraduate course
“Sketching Interactive Systems”
we used the theme of sketching to encourage them to explore
more diverse technologies.
Our experience constraints have
a role similar to that of a primary
generator in design used to “narrow
down the space of possible solutions
by providing an initial focus, i.e., by
constraining and guiding the designer’s development of a solution” [ 10].
Our framework has been devel-
oped and applied during a period
of three years at the Department of
Industrial Design at the Eindhoven
University of Technology. We used it
in three iterations of the undergrad-
uate course “Sketching Interactive
Systems” and three iterations of the
postgraduate course “Multimodal
Interaction.” The first results are
encouraging, and although it’s still
too early to make more specific
claims, our initial findings suggest
• The key element of our
approach was to empower students
to have relevant experiences with
advanced computational technolo-
gies. Without such experience, the
students do not have a basis to
reflect and learn. This was a par-
ticularly successful element in the
usage of our framework, especially
in undergraduate education.
• Our tools enabled students
to discover and learn a range of
important properties of current
computing technologies, as well
as some basic computing abstractions, such as variables. Though
such experience has its limits and
cannot enable students to discover
all relevant concepts, it provides a
productive context to discuss such
concepts and increases the general
interest of students.
• Providing a structure and a
set of plans that support informed
exploration and reflective inquiry
was crucial to enabling students
to learn from their experience and
from each other. Simply letting students explore computing technology
and build computational systems
will not necessarily help them learn
• Having themes and constraining
students’ experiences had a positive
effect on the conceptual integrity
of our educational activities and on
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Željko Obrenović ( obren.info) is a
best-practices evangelist at
Backbase, Amsterdam. He conducted the work reported here
while working as an assistant professor in the Department of
Industrial Design at the Eindhoven University of
Technology. His professional interests include
design of interactive systems, end-user development, rapid prototyping, creativity support tools,
software engineering, and universal accessibility.
© 2012 ACM 1072-5220/12/05 $10.00