Digital Tabletops & Collaborative Learning for Archaeology: ‘How can Multi-Touch Interfaces allow us to bridge the gap between archaeological artefacts and the viewer by creating engaging collaborative learning environments for adults with digital object handling?’

Helena Demetriou (University of Southampton)

This paper looks at how we can use current interactive touch screen technologies to help bridge the gap between archaeological artefacts and the viewer, enabling us to move towards a new educational paradigm. By developing a digital object handling session that runs on a multi-touch user interface, we can create immersive, intuitive and collaborative learning experiences and environments for users to engage with the archaeological past. This is particularly useful for situations when artefacts are not physically accessible to be studied, including when they are still in situ, are too fragile to be handled or a collection is dispersed over a number of locations.
Within this research, we have designed and implemented a GUI to contain archaeological objects which is interacted with through physical touch gestures and can be run either in an internet browser or as an executable file. By studying learning theory, HCI and CSCL theories, alongside observing archaeological object handling sessions, I have created a GUI that is specifically designed for digital object handling sessions. These sessions allows a group of participants to simultaneously interact with a set of digital artefacts through touch and thus allowing them to learn as a collaborative collocated group which enhances the learning process.

The findings from this research show that by allowing a small group of participants to interact together around a digital table-top, manipulating digital artefacts simultaneously, allows for natural and intuitive enquiry based learning to take place. The characteristics of the digital session run very closely to those observed within a real artefact handling session. Here we are able to disseminate the archaeological past to the public in an intuitive, interactive and collaborative manner.

Video by Doug Rocks-Macqueen, originally posted on his blog.

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