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Cristina Sylla has a Master degree in Arts and Humanities, and a Master Degree in Technology and Digital Art, and is presently finishing her PhD. She is a senior researcher at engageLab-University of Minho, where she is involved in the Design, Development and Evaluation of Tangible Interfaces for pre-schoolers. She works closely with young children involving them as "Design Partners" in her work. Her research interests are in the areas of Human Computer Interaction and Interaction Design. A central theme of her research is the design of interactive technologies that promote an experimental, participatory and active involvement. Cristina Sylla has several publications in prestigious international conference proceedings, such as CHI, IDC, ACE and TEI.
Sérgio Gonçalves is a junior researcher developing electronic solutions for several interactive educational projects at engageLab – University of Minho (Portugal). He has a Master degree in Industrial Electronics and Computer Engineering, University of Minho. Previous experience comprises embedded systems and robotics, mainly from his Master thesis in the project Mobile Target Pursuit Robot developed at AIT (Asian Institute of Technology) – Thailand. He is currently sponsored by the project Hybrid Learning Materials, funded by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology.
Pedro Branco is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Information Systems, University of Minho where he is currently the director of the master program in Technology and Digital Art. His previous experience includes research in the areas of virtual reality interaction techniques at Fraunhofer CRCG, USA, and user interface usability based on physiological monitoring at IMEDIA, Providence, RI. Branco collaborated on projects with Harvard Medical School, SAP Research Labs, Fidelity Investments, and Fraunhofer IGD, Germany. He is currently working closely with students from a wide range of backgrounds developing interactive systems that explore a synergy of technology and aesthetics, exploring future directions for our interaction with technology.
Clara Coutinho is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Curriculum Studies and Educational Technology at the Institute of Education, University of Minho, Portugal. She teaches Educational Technology and Research Methods in Education in master and doctoral education programs. She has a wide experience in the design of ICT teacher education programs and in the evaluation of the impact of integrating technological innovations in basic and secondary schools. Her previous experience also includes research in the areas of Web 2.0 educational uses and affordances and participation in several projects on e- learning, multimedia technologies and digital storytelling. She has published widely in prestigious national and international journals and conference proceedings.
MEET THE FINALISTS Q&A:
What are you most trying to accomplish in your work?
Our goal is to disseminate simple but engaging technological tools that can be assembled by the children themselves and used in a variety of environments, that do not depend on the existence of a particular infrastructure, nor the need of a computer.
What do you think sets your work apart from the work of others in your field?
The underlying concept of our work is the creation of innovative pedagogic materials that promote experimental, participatory and active involvement from an early age, bringing together the tradition of games and playful activities with the new interactive technological solutions. Our approach is to offer a toolbox of Tangible Interfaces using low cost materials embedded with sensors and electronics, allowing to create rich experiences that strengthens learning while at the same time offers children the chance to develop as creative thinkers.
What or who inspired you to get into your field? Do you have any individuals or groups of people that you credit with helping you achieve the goals you set out to accomplish?
Our work was influenced by great personalities such as Seymour Papert, Edith Ackermann, Mitchel Resnick, Hiroshi Ishii, and groups like the “Lifelong Kindergarten”, or the “Tangible Media Group” from MIT.
What role has serendipity played in the turning points in your career?
Our work is strongly affected by the direct work with children and educators, closely working with them testing, observing and reflecting. Often our initial thoughts are surpassed by what we experience in first hand and by what catches us by surprise. The experience with the children in Nepal at the Entertainment Kids Workshop during ACE 2012 - Advances in Computer Entertainment - was such an example. Working where electricity is not always available and language can be a barrier, gave us valuable insights on how to design technology, which may be used in such contexts. That experience inspired us for further research involving young children from emergent countries.
What have been the greatest challenges that you have encountered in your career?
Turning inspiring ideas into solutions that are able to move beyond the laboratory and be applied in real-world settings, used by a wide range of children, supporting the right mix between technology and support for creativity, has been one of the great challenges.
Do you believe leaders and innovators have certain qualities that they all share? If so, what?
We think that real leaders are open minded, visionary people, compassionate about others. Moreover, they care for other people’s comfort and happiness.
How would you most like to change the world through your work?
Having the possibility of bringing the t-words to children from a wide variety of backgrounds, having them involved with assembling their own technology, creating their own toys and learning tools, in contact with the digital tools, is a strong motivational factor and of likely long-term significance as we want them to grow into creative resourceful adults.
Sylla, C., Gonçalves, S., Branco, P., Coutinho, C. 2013. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers – an Interface for Playful Language Exploration. In Proceedings of CHI '13 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Paris, France, April 27-02 May, ACM Press. DOI: 10.1145/2468356.2479627
Sylla, C., Gonçalves, S., Brito,P., Branco,P., Coutinho, C. 2013. A Tangible Platform for Mixing and Remixing Narratives. In Proceedings of ACE '13, 10th International Conference on Advances in Computer Entertainment, Twente, Netherlands, Springer, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 8253.
Sylla, C., Gonçalves, S., Branco, P., Coutinho, C. 2012. t-words: Playing with Sounds and Creating Narratives. In Proceedings of ACE '12, 9th International Conference on Advances in Computer Entertainment, Kathmandu, Nepal, November 3-5, Lecture Notes In Computer Science, Anton Nijholt, Teresa Romão and Dennis Reidsma (ed.),pp. 565-568, DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-34292-9.
Sylla, C., Gonçalves, S., Brito, P., Branco, P., Coutinho, C. 2012. t-books – Merging Traditional Storybooks With Electronics. In Proceedings of IDC '12, 11th International Conference on Interaction Design and Children, Bremen, Germany, June ACM Press pp. 12-15, 323-326. DOI:10.1145/2307096.2307157
Sylla, C., Branco, P., Coutinho, C., Coquet, M.E. 2011. TUIs vs. GUIs: comparing the learning potential with preschoolers. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing. SPRINGER. ISSN: 1617-4909. (JCR ISI IF 2009: 1.554), DOI: 10.1007/s00779-011-0407-z.