Mike Horn Wins Best Paper Award for Presentation in Korea

Mike Horn Wins Best Paper Award for Presentation in Korea

Mike Horn

Assistant professor Michael Horn recently traveled with colleagues to Korea to give a presentation on the effective design of interactive digital museum exhibits. Their presentation at the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems was recognized with a Best Paper Award.

This paper was based on their study at the California Academy of Sciences on how to engage museum groups in interactive exhibits. The ACM conference is the most important venue for sharing information in the field of human-computer interaction internationally, according to Horn. The 2015 conference was held in Seoul, Korea.

Interactive tabletop technology is able to support “rich, collaborative learning experiences as visitors work together to ‘touch’ and explore scientific concepts and phenomena,” Horn says. Large interactive computer displays can simulate with digital media the experience of hands-on exploration of physical artifacts, specimens or phenomena – from fossils to tornadoes.

Still, “creating productive learning experiences around interactive tabletops is deceptively challenging in practice,” according to Horn. The researchers' paper, “Fluid Grouping: Quantifying Group Engagement around Interactive Tabletop Exhibits in the Wild,” offered significant research findings to guide the future of interactive museum exhibit design.

Horn’s findings were based on a study of visitor engagement with multi-touch tabletop science exhibits that he and his colleagues developed for the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. His co-authors were Florian Block, James Hammerman, Amy Spiegel, Jonathan Christiansen, Brenda Phillips, Judy Diamond, Margaret Evans, and Chia Shen. This research incorporated observation of 450 visitors through video study and shadowing.

The researchers found the most engagement occurred with groups of two, groups with both adults and children, and groups that took turns. These types of groups spent more time with the interactive exhibits and engaged more with the scientific concepts.

Horn’s study also developed measures of group engagement and determined how to identify groups within a surge of visitors. In addition, the study found that visitors behaved differently when they knew they were being observed on video than they did under more natural circumstances.  

“Understanding how to support productive informal learning experiences through the use of emerging technology is a topic of interest to an international audience,” says Horn. Specifically, he notes that research teams from the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, Canada, Korea, Japan and France are researching this topic.

Horn’s presentation was supported by the SESP Office of Global Initiatives, which fosters the exchange of ideas internationally. A SESP strategic priority is to develop a more global perspective to inform the work of the School and extend resources and expertise worldwide to address critical human development, learning and education issues.

Horn’s two tabletop exhibits at the California Academy of Sciences advance public understanding of biodiversity and the history of life on Earth. They, along with exhibits at three other museums, were developed through the “Life on Earth” project funded by the National Science Foundation that includes scientists, biologists and learning researchers from Northwestern, Harvard, University of Michigan and University of Nebraska.

At Northwestern, Horn is an assistant professor with a joint appointment in Learning Sciences and Computer Sciences. His research considers the intersection of human-computer interaction and learning with a focus on thoughtful uses of emerging technologies in diverse learning settings.

He has designed interactive exhibits and learning experiences for museums around the country, including the California Academy of Sciences, Chicago’s Field Museum and Boston’s Museum of Science.

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 7/13/16