Examining the Educational User Interface, Technology
and Pedagogy for Arabic Speaking Children in Kuwait
Amandeep Dhir
and Asmaa Alsumait
Institute of Behavioral Science, Department of Psychology, University of Helsinki,
Helsinki, Finland
Computer Engineering Department, Kuwait University, Kuwait City, Kuwait
Abstract. Educational technology has revolutionized the traditional forms of
classroom teaching and learning. Past few years have witnessed the emergence
of the educational User Interface (UI) in the form of tablets, whiteboards, mo-
bile and handheld devices for enhancing the classroom learning and instruction.
Interaction design plays a pivotal role in improving the educational UI through
a step-by-step approach. This process involves understanding needs and expec-
tations of students, examining the fundamental theories governing potential im-
plementations and performing design and evaluation. Existing literature on edu-
cational UI and technology has revealed that its present research agenda is over-
ly dominated by studies conducted in developed world. This has resulted in the
poor understanding on educational technology need of Arabic speaking students
for example. The aim of this paper is to present the recent emergence of educa-
tional technology by performing a thorough review of existing work in this
emerging domain. This work also complements our ongoing work on develop-
ing appropriate educational UI and technology for Arabic speaking students in
1 Introduction
The emergence of pervasive computing in form of mobile phones and handheld de-
vices has transformed the daily routine and lifestyle of young children around the
world. It will be correct to say that teddy bears and fiction magazines are no longer
the sole companions of the children anymore [1,2,3,4]. Daily routine for young chil-
dren consists of morning school, afternoon play, home, evening playtime and spend-
ing time with parents and doing homework. In all these phases, technology plays an
important role i.e., in leisure, learning and play. These interacting physical and tech-
nological spaces have resulted in the need for developing new approaches for design
and evaluation of products aimed at children [5, 6, 7]. Interaction design plays an
important role in educational UI and technology. Interaction Design is governed by
the discipline of Child-Computer Interaction (CCI) that focuses on child psychology,
learning and play [8, 9]. The studies published on the design and evaluations of the
educational UI in developing world such as Middle East are scarce. Similarly, the CCI
research agenda is overly dominated by the studies planned and organized in western
world. Therefore, keeping in mind the urgent nature of this subject, we are interested
in understanding the design, use and evaluation of educational technology by Arabic
Dhir A. and Alsumait A..
Examining the Educational User Interface, Technology and Pedagogy for Arabic Speaking Children in Kuwait.
DOI: 10.5220/0004100700790089
In Proceedings of the 1st International Workshop on Interaction Design in Educational Environments (IDEE-2012), pages 79-89
ISBN: 978-989-8565-17-4
2012 SCITEPRESS (Science and Technology Publications, Lda.)
speaking children in Kuwait. In this paper, we have presented an outline of the design
challenges and opportunities in educational UI, technology and pedagogy by perform-
ing a thorough review of the published work in CCI forums. At present, we are doing
a pilot study at Kuwaiti high schools through an initiative of Kuwait University.
2 Child Computer Interaction
Last two decades have witnessed the emergence of the Child-Computer Interaction
(CCI) research agenda. It is also correct to say that this emergence of CCI and educa-
tional technology has changed the access patterns of today's child [8, 9]. The role of
CCI in educational technology and pedagogy becomes even more important because
children are different from that of adults due to their developing cognitive, social and
motor skills [10, 11]. This shows that children have different interaction needs from
any educational UI and technology so the design and evaluation process should be
different compared to adults. The increasing interest in CCI has lead to the emergence
of various international conferences and workshops [12, 13, 14, 15]. CCI research
agenda is defined to be focused on following broad themes namely the development
of new research methods and adapting older ones so as to make them fit for working
with children in design, evaluation and research; examining fundamental theories on
the child psychology, development and technology design; and developing frame-
works and models that can help product designers and practitioners in better under-
standing the notion of appropriate technology for children [16]. There are some well-
known textbooks are published on evaluating interfaces and other interactive technol-
ogy with children [17, 18, 19]. But, despite the presence of wide category of existing
textbooks and research papers the notion of CCI is ill defined. There has been no
consensus yet on the exact age of the children considered in CCI research [8, 9]. It is
common to refer children from age 1 to 13 as the main user group. However, teenag-
ers between 13-17 years who are considered important technology user are so far
ignored from CCI research agenda.
The existing work published in CCI forums is scattered without any initiative to
organize it and present a clear research agenda and future goals. It lacks understand-
ing on theories; frameworks and conceptual models for design and evaluation of edu-
cational UI and technology. There is an urgent need to address this emerging area by
investigating the opportunities and challenges provided by CCI. This issue becomes
even more important if we look at deprived communities for example Arabic speak-
ing students who have been ignored so far by the CCI research agenda. This kind of
information can prove highly useful for practitioners and researchers who are interest-
ed in educational technology and related products aiming at Arabic speaking students.
3 Educational UI and Technology
Educators are increasingly adopting different modes of digital technology for meeting
the pedagogical needs of their learners (reference). New educational UI and technolo-
gies have enhanced the students’ learning and considered better compared to tradi-
tional pedagogy and learning [20, 21, 22, 23]. Recent empirical evidences have scien-
tifically proved that digital technologies such as multi-touch tables promote inquisi-
tiveness among learners. Educational technologies tend to encourage students towards
experimentation, trial and problem solving. They have the capability to provide real-
time feedback to learners in a collaborative environment. This feedback is essential to
reach at consensus in collaborative learning when learners do not agree. Furthermore
this feedback is needed for constructive learning [24, 25]. Active involvement in
different forms of learning is advocated in the new form of educational pedagogy [26,
27]. There are various digital technologies for example, augmented reality, multi-
touch interfaces and other forms of multimodal interactions that also support this
fundamental principle of active involvement. However, role of these digital technolo-
gies in the advanced educational pedagogy has been less studied so it requires scien-
tific investigation.
Educational interfaces are intended for student learning and improving the quality
of learning support so due consideration must be given to the student audience, navi-
gation, cognitive cost, constructive support and learning value [28]. Student audi-
ence: Students differ according to their previous knowledge, social status, gender,
economical position, information technology skills and learning capabilities. So stu-
dents with different skills will make use of educational UI in different ways for ex-
ample, certain interfaces might not be suitable for children below certain age due to
the use of too much text and small widgets. Constructive Functionality: Educational
interfaces that are heavily decorated often make the actual representation obscure and
hidden. Student often find it difficult to focus on such interfaces and determine what
is being built when they are using the interface. Navigation Support: Many time’s
learners find it too much confusing information space due to bad navigation support
provided by the educational UI. Learners want easy tracking of their navigation histo-
ry so that they can easily visit the information that is required by them. Cognitive
Cost: Every educational UI is designed after keeping in mind the mechanical, repre-
sentational and physical metaphors. Every student has to pay certain cognitive cost
before he or she can becomes proficient in using that particular interface. Added
learning value: Educational UI and technology is developed in order to support
learning and educational pedagogy. Apart from the learning goal, educational UI must
also consider added value or inclination learning value that might be supported by this
technology. For example, if any educational UI supports visualizations and multiple
representations of the same abstract concept then it will result in higher order learning
Educational Pedagogy has witnessed a shift from teacher-centric approach to
learner-centric pedagogy [29, 27, 30]. This very change in pedagogy has been clearly
reflected in the technology too. For example, more and more technological solutions
have been developed or are developing in order to support the learning of the individ-
ual and small group of students. In other words, less and less focus is now given on
supporting the activities of a single teacher. This argument has been further strength-
ening by the student-student negotiation over student-teacher [31]. There is no doubt
that technology support leaning and facets of educational initiatives but we believe
that technological solutions provides key reflections that are must to create consensus
among the group of students or class when learners do not agree on certain arguments.
Multi-media have the potential for enhancing the educational experience because
grasping the attention of users is important characteristics of any educational software
[32]. In the past, there have been several real implementations for enhancing the
learning experience of students through the means of videos (i.e., multimedia) and
customization possibilities [33, 34, 35, 36]. Educational software must take note of
learner’s interest and deliver educational content in accordance so as to support essen-
tial learning. This goal can be achieved through educational UI and technology, which
must be simple, passive, intuitive, consistent, meets user expectations, ergonomically
and contextual aware, reduces cognitive load, makes use of appropriate color schemes
and icons, easy in and easy out, user control and error recovery [32, 38, 39, 40, 41].
Existing empirical studies have argued the need for situating the use of any educa-
tional interface based on the constraints in learning for example, different learning
style, cognitive abilities, gender, culture, personal knowledge about information tech-
nology and motivation [28, 42]. This will enable the proper utilizing of the pedagogic
needs of any educational interface. We also agree with this conclusion because learn-
ing and other cognitive difficulties should be consider while developing any advanced
educational UI that aims to support learning and development among young children.
The existing literature on educational UI and technologies lacks understanding on
theories; frameworks and conceptual models that can explain how digital technology
can contribute towards educational pedagogy. Furthermore, there is a need to examine
the contemporary paradigms of educational pedagogy because these paradigms will
also govern the fate of digital technologies likewise, any digital technology may prove
failure if it does not comply with the educational pedagogy paradigms.
4 Design Challenges in Educational UI and Technology
4.1 Designing Educational UI for Children
Children are different from their adult counterparts because of their underdeveloped
cognitive and social skills [10, 11, 43, 44], limited reach and exposure to real world,
activity and personality [11], developing motor and level of maturity towards society
and individuals [10]. This fundamental difference between children and adults has
resulted in the need for new HCI research methods for CCI practitioners and re-
searchers. Furthermore, new HCI techniques must take into account the physical and
cognitive handicaps faced by the children during their development age [45]. For
example, comprehensive set of heuristics for child e-learning (HECE) were proposed
along with a detailed explanation for the usability experts on how to apply them [46].
Designing for children is both challenging and complex subject because it in-
volves several difficult opens issues into account. Some of the complex issues are
ensuring personal space and privacy in the educational technology design, potential
online security and privacy risks involved in the use of technology and giving due
consideration to the ethical requirements in any user research [47]. All these potential
risks and challenges becomes more alarming in case of young children because they
are always at disadvantage compared to their adult counterpart when any technology
use comes into picture. The possible reasons are lack of awareness about privacy,
security and safe use of educational technology, age and underdeveloped cognition
and thinking [47, 48, 49].
Developmental cognitive skills i.e., memory load and physical motor skills of
children between 4-12 years are having design considerations for new HCI techniques
[45]. For example, memory load will vary from very young to older children so the
response time against any interactive educational technology will also vary. Similarly
child’s motor skills are under development phase so young children might face prob-
lems in the precise object positioning. This fact results in a design consideration for
interaction designers who should include easy drag and drop functionalities, easy
target selection facility and making use of large widgets for easy recognition [45].
Thus CCI practitioners and researchers should take such parameters into account and
device appropriate interaction times. Educational UI and technology aimed at children
must also possess similar characteristics as that for their adult i.e., intuitiveness, sim-
ple, makes use of appropriate icons and less cognitive load [45]. Additionally the
educational interfaces for young children should support and develop literacy skills
through the use of appropriate icons and less use of text [45].
Social media and social relationships can play an important role at any educational
UI and technology because this support collaboration and collective learning among
group of students [50]. The role of social relations in mobile and pervasive computing
has been widely studied [51] but its role in educational UI and technology is less
studied. We argue that educational UI and technology can help students facing chal-
lenges in their daily routine due to their underdeveloped social skills. Such students
often face the condition of distress and embarrassment, which is also a matter of con-
cern of their parents and educators. To best of our knowledge, there has been no initi-
ative for developing such educational UI and technology that can help Arabic speak-
ing children with social skill disadvantage. In our intended research, we aim to exam-
ine and investigate this potential use of educational UI by involving children and
educators in Kuwait.
4.2 Designing Educational UI for All
All children are not the same when compared against their learning, cognitive and
social skills. Some children possess learning difficulties i.e., cognitive disabilities that
they inherit since their biological birth [52]. Children that suffers from learning diffi-
culties often face problems such as clue seeking, poor verbal memory, lack of confi-
dence, reduced academic, social and cognitive performance, underdeveloped logical
and critical reasoning due to weak motor skills [53, 54]. Lately, there has been focus
on developing appropriate educational UI and technology for children that suffer from
learning or other cognitive disabilities. On average, about 8-9% students in every
class that suffer from learning difficulties of different severity levels. These statistics
shows that there is an urgent need for addressing educational UI needs of the children
with learning difficulties. The situation is even further challenging for Arabic speak-
ing children where educational UI and technology for children having learning diffi-
culties is scarce.
4.3 Challenges in Evaluating of UI under Educational Settings
As noted before, children have different cognitive and social skills due to their devel-
oping memory and motor skills. This very difference has resulted in few open re-
search questions namely, how should we evaluate interactive products such as educa-
tional UI with children? ; What kind of evaluation techniques are fit for testing with
young children? ; What are the important or essential information to be considered
before evaluating any educational UI with young children? ; What are the challenges
and complexities in evaluating educational UI under classroom environment? Since
children have different needs and requirements compared to adults so traditional eval-
uation techniques require some adaptation so as evaluation is more appropriate with
children [55]. They found several interesting findings related to evaluating interfaces
with children's, for example organizing in-situ observations in classrooms, adjusting
fit's law so as to make it more engaging, usability evaluation with stations and activity
The evaluation of e learning should address aspects of pedagogy and learning
from educational domains, as well as usability factors such as the efficiency, effec-
tiveness and satisfaction of interfaces. Various usability evaluation methods (UEMs)
exist, e.g. expert heuristic evaluation, survey, and observational and experimental
methods. In literature numerous studies have compared UEMs for adults [56, 57, 58].
However, fewer studies have compared the effectiveness of UEMs with children [59,
60]. Therefore, researchers must give consideration to several minor but essential
things that should be considered while evaluating interactive educational technologies
with children. For example, children might find it difficult to understand the common
written and spoken vocabulary of adult researchers [61]; children often feel shy to
express their genuine opinions in front of adult researchers [61]; evaluation of educa-
tional UI and technology in classroom environment by external adults i.e., researchers
might make children uncomfortable. One recent study has examined the effectiveness
of five survey techniques in evaluating the usability of e-learning program dictated to
five- and six-years old children [62]. Results indicated that “Smileyometer”,
“Best/Worst Activity Table” and “Again/Again Table” survey techniques were more
reliable than “Word Box” and the “Remembering”.
E-learning can also help disable children to learn new vocabulary, mathematics
and literacy skills at any time that suites them. Such programs can also increase disa-
ble children independence, confidence, motivation and social contact. However, it is
important that their e-learning programs be as “disable”-friendly as possible. To do
so, the developers of those programs need to understand disable users’ capabilities
and needs. One way to achieve this is by involving disable children in both of the
design process and the test process of the e-learning program. There are many testing
methods that are developed to test interfaces with children [56, 57, 58, 59]. In context
to Arabic speaking students, set of guidelines for designing e-learning programs for
deaf children were recently studied [63]. These guidelines are suitable for designing
e-learning programs for deaf children in elementary schools.
5 Opportunities in Educational UI and Technology
Educational UI and technology aimed at young children is an interesting market for
product making companies due to their increasing headcount and large existing user
base. In July 2011, 26.3% of the total world population was below 15 years of age
[64]. India and China accounts for world’s largest adolescent population i.e. 243 mil-
lion and 207 million [65]. Furthermore it has been predicted that world's adolescent
population will remain 1.2 billion till the end of 2050 [66]]. The wide scale popularity
of educational UI and related technology and its affordable reach to mass users has
created new opportunities for HCI and CCI researchers and practitioners, educators
and education related policy makers. There is no doubt that educational UI, technolo-
gy and pedagogy is a hot topic at present in both academic and industrial circles and
its dominance can also be anticipated in the near future. However, this research do-
main requires urgent attention of the world’s research community especially towards
the deprived Arabic speaking students who are so far been ignored from the CCI and
educational technology research agenda.
The current literature available in the domain of CCI lacks the basic foundations
of psychological and sociological theories. At the moment, there are several such
interested studies that have been published in the inter-disciplinary areas such as
technology, psychology and sociology on educational UI and technology. However,
there has been no initiative to study these existing theories, guidelines and framework.
These theories might prove useful in preparing common guidelines for developing
enhanced educational UI, aiming at researchers, design practitioners, educationalists
and policy makers for government.
6 Conclusions and Future Work
In this paper, we have presented a detailed review of the educational UI, technology
and pedagogy research agenda by reviewing literature from CCI and empirical studies
on educational UI implementations. Based on our review, design challenges and op-
portunities in educational UI were outlined. We found that Arabic speaking students
are currently not in focus in any educational UI and technology design and evaluation.
This has resulted in poor understanding of their educational needs and requirements.
In order to bridge this gap, we are doing users studies in Kuwait from April – June
2012. Our research is mainly focused on the Arabic-speaking children for whom we
intend to examine, understand and develop educational UI and pedagogy. We will
examine and investigate the issue of providing appropriate educational technology
and UI services to Kuwaiti students based on their needs and expectation. The results
of this research could serve as a reference for designing educational UI for Arabic
students. Our goal is to prepare a framework that will act as a guiding source for edu-
cationalists, teachers and policy makers for developing better educational technology
and pedagogy services aiming young children. This potential framework will not only
provide necessary guidelines to design educational UI but it will also provide methods
to and evaluate these technologies in classroom environment. Our research is also
linked with the Kuwait’s foremost strategic goal, i.e., to increase the competitiveness
and attractiveness of Kuwaiti education. Furthermore this research is highly relevant
to Kuwait society, keeping in mind the current focus of Kuwaiti state on improving
education, ICT infrastructure, learning and educational pedagogy. The research ques-
tions behind this study will be achieved through a multi method research methodolo-
gy that consists of series of large-scale questionnaire surveys, face-to-face interviews,
focus discussions and participatory design workshops involving students and teachers.
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