Analysing Interaction in Children's Digital Books

Nicholas Vanderschantz, Claire Timpany
2012 International Journal of the Book  
Pedagogical practices in formal educational settings, together with the nature of communication technologies in a variety of digital media, mean that children will encounter screen-based learning opportunities in both formal educational settings and during their daily recreational pursuits. This research looks to address the lack of research informing best practices for the visual and interaction design of this material for children in a screen-based environment. This investigation provides a
more » ... rvey of interaction methods in on-screen reading material available to children in primary-school, middleschool and public libraries in New Zealand. From the data collected, a database chronicling variables relating to interaction in current digital books for children was created. Specifically, this database houses variables including navigation, orientation functions and in-line linking such as hypertext, as well as other factors that can impact a child's digital book use. Through analysis of the database this research provides insight into current trends in interaction techniques found in material designed for children's on-screen reading and provides recommendations for improvements that may be made to assist in the design of children's digital books. Haugland (1992) considers digital technologies-such as desktop computers, laptops, and personal computing devices-as tools for learning in todays society, equally as much as pencil and paper were in days gone by. Taking this into consideration, children must gain the capacity to successfully navigate and interact with this technology in their learning to be able to use this technology as effortlessly as they use a pen and pencil. According to Cooper (2005) children today are likely to be exposed to technology at times even before they are exposed to print or traditional books. With this in mind children are likely to observe and learn from their parents' technology habits. It is common for children these days to begin school equipped with the technological capability to successfully navigate and interact with the systems they find available to them. However, this is not to say that systems that are poorly designed will not hinder the learning of these children, nor that well designed resources will not enhance their learning. The types of interaction required within the digital books themselves play a significant role in the ability for the child to successfully search, browse and read within the software. These influential factors include, the layout, presentation and navigation of information; the orientation features of the interface and the consistency of display within the interface. The child's ease, efficiency and ability to move between printed and digital reading environments and understand the similarities, and indeed differences, in the physicality and content of the two environments, such as pagination, page numbering, indexing and tables is also imperative. Digital material viewed on a desktop, laptop computer or non-touch-screen digital reader, inherently involves additional points of interaction and navigation when compared to its printed equivalent. This is because unlike a physical book, which is directly manipulated with ones hands, a digital book is operated through manipulation with a mouse or other input device. However, research by Landoni and Gibb (2000) concluded that readers have similar expectations of their electronic books as they do their paper books. The equivalent procedure to opening the book, closing the book, turning to the contents page, index or to a specific page requires the pointing to and clicking of a button with a cursor operated by a mouse. Often many of these common physical interactions would have dedicated buttons within the interface of the book software. Nielson (1996) explains that consistency of important navigation features, for example the help button located in the same position throughout the software, is important for ease of navigation. With the increase of touch screen devices, such as tablet computers and smart phones, there is a return to intuitive physical interaction, by way of swipe and physical presses with fingers, to achieve similar physical results as performed within a printed book. Digital books on touch screen devices were not found in our audit and are thus considered outside the scope of this paper. 32
doi:10.18848/1447-9516/cgp/v09i04/36964 fatcat:fpntzwzpyfds5gx4kpawh6fyhu