By Laura Benton (UCL)

Last month Laura Benton and Mina Vasalou (UCL Knowledge Lab) attended the 2018 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (known as ‘CHI’) in Montreal, Canada to present some of the latest iRead research – led by partners from UCL Knowledge Lab, DHBW and University of Gothenburg.


CHI is the biggest international conference of Human-Computer Interaction researchers and practitioners, with thousands of attendees from universities and tech companies all over the world – it is even to possible to attend via telepresence robot! There are workshops, paper presentations, courses, posters, interactive demos, panel discussions, special interest groups and more, with 20+ simultaneous sessions it is only possible to experience a tiny part of the conference so it is important to choose which sessions to attend wisely!

Our paper, included as part of the technical program, was entitled “A Critical Examination of Feedback in Early Reading Games”. We presented an analysis of five existing commercial reading games for young children that are currently being used in English primary schools including the popular Teach Your Monster to Read and Nessy apps. We were particularly interested in looking at the provision and design of the feedback within these games, as feedback has been shown to be particularly powerful for learning (you can read more about this in Hattie and Timperley’s paper on the power of feedback). Our analysis identified a number of good feedback design practices within these games but also highlighted several areas for improvement in design especially in the provision of feedback for errors. You can read the full paper here.

Whilst at the conference we also got the chance to attend presentations and chat with other researchers working in the domain of reading technologies. A selection of relevant papers are summarised below along with a link to the full paper.

From Tangible to Augmented: Designing a PhonoBlocks Reading System Using Everyday Technologies (Fan et al.)

This poster presented work extending an existing reading system (PhonoBlocks) to make it more practical for use in the classroom. The original system used tangible technology in the form of 3D letters that could be connected together and dynamically colour-coded to support understanding of grapheme phoneme correspondences, which is also an area of reading that the iRead technologies aim to support. This extension allows wooden letters to be utilised in a similar way by using them in a conjunction with a tablet-based app. This is currently a proof of concept and will shortly be trialled in Canadian schools – watch the video below to see a demo of the system.

Metatation: Annotation as Implicit Interaction to Bridge Close and Distant Reading (Mehta et al.)

This talk presented a new tool (Metatation) that supports annotation to augment close reading (for instance for poetry). This tool supports the identification of connections between annotated words through a colour coding system that highlights features such as perfect rhyme or alliteration, helping the reader to analyse the text. This analysis of text features is interesting for us to consider in relation to the challenges we have faced in identifying syntactic (sentence-level) features of text (as opposed to word-level). Find out more about how the tool works in the video below.


Displaying Invisible Objects: Why People Rarely Re-Read E-books (Gruning)

This was an interesting presentation which considered the differences between physical and digital books. One key finding was that people were much less likely to re-read their digital books, viewing them more as ‘throwaway’ in contrast to physical books which were more likelychi2018_ebook2 to be treasured objects kept on display and returned to multiple times. Gruning pointed out that the interface design of e-readers such as the Kindle may contribute towards these behaviours as they don’t provide a very effective way to organise and view your digital book collections. Children particularly enjoy re-reading their favourite books, so this is something that would be good to take into account in the design of our e-reader.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s