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Tangible Interaction and Cultural Forms: Supporting Learning in Informal Environments

Journal of the Learning Sciences Volume 27, Number 4, ISSN 1050-8406


Designers who create computer-based learning experiences for places like museums, out-of-school programs, and homes face a number of challenges related to the informal nature of such settings. Designs must generally function on their own without the support of teachers or curriculum while at the same time engaging a diverse audience, supporting productive social interaction, and activating appropriate prior knowledge and skills. In this article, I present an approach to the design of informal learning experiences based on tangible interaction. The term tangible refers to a variety of human-computer interaction techniques that move beyond computer screens and create opportunities for people to interact with digital systems using their bodies and physical artifacts. I argue that tangible interaction creates unique opportunities for designers to shape objects and situations to evoke cultural forms of literacy, learning, and play. In particular, I propose a class of cultural forms called cueing forms that can invite participation into patterned social activity while cueing cognitive, physical, and emotional resources on the part of individuals. To illustrate these arguments, I describe 3 design cases that colleagues and I have created to support learning in museums and homes.


Horn, M.S. (2018). Tangible Interaction and Cultural Forms: Supporting Learning in Informal Environments. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 27(4), 632-665. Retrieved March 24, 2023 from .

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