The observation of the human-computer interface that I chose was group of third graders in a computer based learning lab. The learning lab consists of banks of computers in a special classroom in the school. The students must use and interact with digital media to complete certain learning tasks. The students interacted with a number of different software programs. They were assigned to complete a certain unit or section of the lesson, or to spend a certain amount of time with a certain set of software, such as Ascend Math, which allows students to practice their mathematics facts. They also interacted with Brain Pop, a keyboarding skills practice software, and Destination Success. These software programs allowed the students to interact with their media in half hour increments. Much of the software has a test that must be completed for evaluation.
The students entered the classroom and already knew how to log on and get started with their work. There were spaces for 20 students in each session, a teacher, and three teacher’s aides to assist students if they had any problems or questions. The students had headsets that allowed them to listen to their software, but not hear anyone else. The use of computers in school meets the goal of No Child Left Behind (2001) which mandates that every child be literate in technology, regardless of family background or socioeconomic status (Yolanda, Hersh, Lee, & Lin et al., 2012). I observed one computer lab period.

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The students seemed enthusiastic about coming into the classroom and getting started with their lessons. Several times, students would laugh out loud, particularly when using Brain Pop, an animated science series. They seemed to be engaged with mathematics games, often vocalizing when they either beat a level, or disappointed when they did not. They appeared to be having fun interacting with the technology. About 5 times, an aide would have to assist with a computer system the froze and needed restarted, or another similar issue. The aides were able to handle these technical difficulties with ease. The students did not seem too disrupted by these glitches and quickly resumed their level of activity when the system was back up.

The effectiveness of teacher directed student use of technology was found to be dependent on the teacher’s experience with the technology, belief that the technology is beneficial to meeting instructional goals, perceived importance of technology, and obstacles in integrating the technology (Miranda & Russell, 2011). The teacher and aides were enthusiastic and provided copious praise for students who made it to the next level or finished their work.

Using computer based mathematics games was found to be effective in improving mathematics test score among children in all learning categories (Shin, Sutherland, Norris, & Soloway). Format was not found to be an important issue in improving test scores among users of a traditional book and an e-book. The students enjoyed the features of ebooks such as pop-up definitions and the option to use narration (Troy & Brown, 2011). The students in this classroom treated learning like play time. Very few were caught looking at the clock to see how much time was left while I observed. The teacher indicated the mathematics and science scores went up considerably when the computer lab was installed and became an integral part of the learning environment. The interactions were a positive experience for the students, teacher, and helpers. They reported few behavioral problems in the classroom because the students were so interested in the software. This learning environment made learning fun, and that seems to have made all the difference in student outcomes in the classroom setting. Seeing the children so engaged in learning math was a good experience. This observation demonstrates that computers in the classroom are an essential part of learning in today’s schools.

This observation took place at a self-checkout at a local grocery store. The observer watched people as they used the self-checkout systems. The observer that the new system would eventually retire their old POS systems and perhaps even cashiers. Even though the system greets customer in a human-like manner, it still does not replace human interaction and a genuine smile from a real person. The observer found that the customers were comfortable doing the work of the cashier. The only criticism is that these systems will not be right for all customers, for instance, those that are not technologically savvy or who have a disability that makes using the system difficult. In addition, the system has only a small bagging area. It is not designed to accommodate large orders. It is suitable for smaller orders and there are a certain number of customers who might be intimidated by the technology and refuse to use it. Cashiers who scan items develop a level of speed and skill. The casual customer using the machine is much slower. I think that for these reasons, they will be accepted by some customers, but they will not replace the traditional POS and cashier.

This observation was of a Common Access Card on a military installation. This technology is designed to keep the computer system secure when working with information where a secret clearance is required. The technology uses a smart chip that is slid into a slot on the side of the keyboard. This system is an easy way to manage information in a system where only certain people are allowed to access certain information. The system provides accountability and the ability to trace who was using which computer terminal if a breach of security should occur.

Human error was found to be the greatest risk for security and problems associated with the systems. They can create inconveniences due to their sensitivity or if the card is broken. This is a highly effective system for areas that require controlled access. No security system is perfect. The more sensitive the security system, the more likely inconveniences will occur from time to time for human users. This is one of the sacrifices the must be made to keep data safe. These types of systems are beginning to be seen in other organizations besides military uses. It is likely that smart chips will become more widespread as time goes on. They are not perfect, but they are a significant improvement over older technologies.

This observation was from a bank worker who must assist customers with using an ATM. The ATM will cash checks, take deposits, and transfer money between accounts. The observer found that most of the customers can operate the system all by themselves, but occasionally a customer will need assistance. The observer found that older people tend to have more problems than younger ones. The observer found that many times the reason for the error is that the person does not read the screen and follow the directions.

The level of technological savvy is an issue with using the machine. New technology will help to resolve many of these issues, especially among older adults. The next advance in this technology is an ATM that connects directly with a teller who can help customers complete the transaction live. It is one thing to develop technology, but getting people to adopt the technology is another issue. This is especially problematic with older persons who are not as familiar with the technology as younger persons. Solving technology generation gap is one of the biggest barriers to acceptance and adoption by these technological advances. Older persons are slower to adopt new technology than younger people. The problem is exposure and knowledge about the technology.

  • Miranda, H. & Russell, M. (2011). Understanding factors associated with teacher-directed student use of technology in elementary classrooms: A structural equation modeling approach. British Journal of Educational Technology. 43 (4): 652-666.
  • Shin, N., Sutherland, L., Norris, C. & Soloway, E. (2011). Effects of game technology on elementary students in mathematics. British Journal of Educational Technology. 41 (4); 540-560.
  • Troy, J. & Brown, C. (2011). Reading Engagement: A Comparison between E-Books and Traditional Print Books in an Elementary Classroom. International Journal of Instruction. 4 (2): 5-22.
  • Yolanda, P., Waxman, H., Lee, YH, & Lin, MF et al., (2012). Observations of Teaching and Learning with Technology in Urban Elementary School Mathematics Classrooms Serving English Language Learners. International Journal of Instructional Media. 30 (1): 45-54.