As modes of learning move towards increasingly online interactions the viability of the interface has become critical to the success (or otherwise) of how we acquire knowledge in the twenty-first century.
In this “Medieval Helpdesk” video clip, broadcast on Norway’s NSK in 2001, a monk gets help on “How to Use a Book”, perhaps the first complex user interface that learners had to grapple with.
Professor David Kieras is a researcher in the University of Michigan’s Electrical Engineeringand Computer Science Department. His research field is applied and theoretical cognitive psychology, with a specific focus on usability in human computer interaction (HCI). In this video lecture, given at CHI’08 in Firenze, Italy (April 7-10 2008), he discusses current cognitive approaches to evaluation of interfaces, icons, affordances, display design and HCI modeling in general.
In the section of the lecture that discusses input basics and aimed movements, Professor Kieras make the interesting observation that zeroing in on small targets (e.g. on a monitor screen with a mouse) requires micro-movements that conform to Fitts’ Law, a model of human movement developed by Paul Fitts in 1954. The law predicts that smaller targets require more micro-movements than larger ones – which is what you would guess intuitively to be the case – and also helps to explain why different types of input devices such as mice, keyboards, joysticks and trackballs each have advantages depending on the task being performed. Keyboards, for example, are still the fastest devices for inputting linear data, and the QWERTY keyboard layout takes advantage of the fact that alternating-hand input is faster than using a single hand most of the time in an alphabetic layout – due to the way the information is processed at the cognitive level.