Can Touching an Interface Impact Learners?

Today’s article by Co.Design is a new project introduced by MIT called SpaceTop which allow users to manipulate objects through a clear screen. Check out the video below to get a better idea of how this device works.

SpaceTop, CHI 2013 from Jinha Lee on Vimeo.

This got me thinking about how this could impact or change education. These were my three thoughts:

      1. Get all that extra energy out! – This device could be used by students who require a greater amount of physical movement in class. My understanding is that this interface provides the same utility as a laptop but with the added feature of using both your hands to manipulate various windows as well as documents. For students who have difficulty staying seated or require greater amount of movement during classes which are stationary, this tool can allow students to do the same tasks but use both hands and increase their overall movement/expenditure of energy. This could improve their concentration, attention or increase their motivation. Behaviours that are exhibited when students have too much extra energy or cannot stay stationary are managed by the teacher using various strategies but this device may change the behaviours of the student and allow for less management from the teacher.


  • Development of fine motor skills – using this device may indirectly impact students’ fine motor skills. Typing and using a mouse also develop fine motor skills but the ability to manipulate objects in space may give students extra practice in using their gestures and movements to develop the muscles they need for fine motor tasks.



  • “Open-Canvas” creation – Tools such as prezi give users the ability to create a presentation on a vast open canvas. This model of creation allows users to “think outside the box” (no pun intended!) allowing for non-linear think thus greater creativity. I postulate that a touchable interface would allow for greater non-linear thinking which could result in greater creativity and innovation.



  • Product creation – Many economist are currently talking about the changes in the manufacturing industry. One trend is the availability and ease of printing products using 3D printers. It seems to me that products could be easily designed using this touchable interface. If this device becomes as widely accessible as the 3D printer, more and more students will be able to design and create their own products. This could completely change project-based learning and the ways in which students’ demonstrate learning (constructionism to the max).



These four areas are only scratching the surface of the ways in which a touchable interface can impact education and learning. It seems a common trend is the idea that technology will continue to enable our students to become more and more innovative. This type of tool could remove numerous barriers to creativity and innovation and thus changes the way in which students learn and how their cognitive structure develops.

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