What a Tangible Digital Installation for Museums Can Offer to Autistic Children and Their Teachers

What a Tangible Digital Installation for Museums Can Offer to Autistic Children and Their Teachers

Emanuela Marchetti (Lillebaelt Academy University of Applied Sciences, Denmark) and Andrea Valente (Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Institute, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3827-1.ch008
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Abstract

This study is a cooperation between the authors and a teacher who works with pupils affected by autism spectrum disorders (9-12 years old) in a primary Danish school. The aim was assess the benefits of game-based learning with respect to teachers' main challenges: facilitating the discussion of curricular subjects and enabling learning through conceptual thinking and social interaction. An existing digital and tangible installation called MicroCulture, originally created by the authors to bridge history learning across museums and schools was re-contextualised and placed at the school's disposal, in a three weeks study involving 15 pupils. Data was gathered unobtrusively, with qualitative methods. Through mediated play and teacher's facilitation, children occasionally engaged in interactions leading to conceptual thinking, cooperation, and forms of role play. The authors present both problems and positive experiences the pupils and teachers had in playing at MicroCulture; the findings allowed us to outline guidelines for developing similar installations.
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An increasing number of studies have been dedicated to the design of technologies targeted at children affected by ASD. At the same time an increasing number of children are diagnosed with ASD, partly because a greater awareness and better diagnostic practices emerged about the condition, and partly because of a constant redefinition of what autism means (Aresti-Bartolome and Garcia-Zapirain 2014, Tartaro and Cassell 2007). In general different forms of autism can be found, which can affect individuals in different ways and more or less severely. However, all forms of autism hinder individuals in communicating and identifying emotions in others, causing difficulties in developing relationships and in playing with peers (Ploog et al 2013). At the same time ASD are also related to difficulties in using imagination and in developing creativity, leading affected individuals to repetitive behaviours (Aresti-Bartolome and Garcia-Zapirain 2014). According to some studies there is a risk that digital technologies might reinforce the typical behaviours of autistic children, contributing to their social isolation and to their repetitive behaviour. Authors showing a more positive attitude (Aresti-Bartolome and Garcia-Zapirain 2014, Tartaro and Cassell 2007) argue that properly developed and contextualised technologies can instead support children in compensating for their difficulties, so that they can practice their social and learning skills with less effort and prepare to better face real life situations.

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