Nathan Balasubramanian's Response to Assignment 4

Read the article

Carmien, S., Dawe, M., Fischer, G., Gorman, A., Kintsch, A., & Sullivan, J. F. (2004) "Socio-Technical Environments Supporting People with Cognitive Disabilities Using Public Transportation," Transactions on Human-Computer Interaction (ToCHI), p. (in press).

Briefly discuss the following issues for the paper that you have read:

1.1 What did you find interesting about the article?

The idea that designing systems that support 5-7% of the population who have the greatest difficulties can also empower mainstream users. To address the safety concerns of caregivers, the researchers exploration of human errors and breakdowns using Lifeline to detect such errors was fascinating. It reminded me about the importance of “estimation skills,” that we would like all learners to have during problem-solving.

1.2 What did you find not interesting about the article?

I did not find anything uninteresting.

2. What do you consider the main message of the article?

Accessibility and usability are critical issues, not just for people with disabilities but also, for people in the mainstream. The researchers unique dilemma of dealing with the “universe-of-one” for individuals with disability is translated into a grand vision of meeting the needs of “all users in all situations.” The cyclical design methodology (depicted in Fig. 1) How things are → Cognitive Requirements Analysis → How things could/should be → Socio-Technical Solutions → How things are” elegantly describes how Schön’s lower-level cognitive steps: reflect→choose→act can be meaningfully applied to cope with complex higher-level problem-solving.

3. what did you find interesting about the systems?

3.1. Personal Travel Assistant

The prototype environment (Fig. 6) for programming the PTA was really nice because of their underlying architectural components facilitating “just-in-time prompts,” breakdown detection capabilities, adaptive prompts, and visual feedback to the support community.

3.2. Memory Aiding Prompting System (MAPS)

The broader scope of MAPS, that public transportation was only a necessary means to an end was interesting. The panic button feature was interesting too.

3.3. Lifeline

That is could allow caregivers to “remotely and unobtrusively monitor” individuals and provide them with assistance when needed. Also, it was designed to “detect” simple breakdowns.

4. Do you know of other papers, ideas, and systems which are closely related to the article and the “EDC” system?

I know Dr. Jami Goetz at CU – Denver has been working on similar problems for over two decades and she might know of other ideas and systems closely related to this article. Personally, I am interested in designing interactive learning environments, called STRONG, with goals similar to that of the authors in this fascinating paper.

5. What do the article and the associated systems say about

5.1. Design

Making the design user-centered, script editable, and modular was the key. Yet, the challenges are enormous because it was a three-fold “proxy design” problem (p. 7)

5.2. Learning

There is a conscious effort to minimize cognitive load by using just-it-time information and more learning-on-demand. The tools are situated because they use GPS to prompt users and caregivers.

5.3. Collaboration

The idea of making individuals with needs more autonomous requires collaborative, participatory partnerships between all participants to catalyze, inform, enhance, and transform existing practices.

5.4. Innovative media to support these activities?

Mobile, wireless, location-aware PDAs, mobile GPS technology, simulated traveling, and playing “what if” games were all possible due to the supporting innovative media.

6. Are themes discussed in the article which you would like to know more about?

I would like to learn more about the researcher’s prototype that demonstrated the “technical feasibility of creating a remote support system.” I also wondered how the CLevers project’s two research objectives (p. 5) might blend with bounded rationality and machine learning research goals? What are the “core technologies” in the Mobility-for-All project?

7. Do you have any ideas how this research could / should be extended (based on your own knowledge and experience)?

Throughout this article, in fact even at the very outset, I personally replaced “transportation” with “education” to read: Public education systems are among the most ubiquitous and complex large-scale systems found in modern society. Similarly, for individuals with cognitive disabilities, the ability to “learn” will impact their ability to live and work independently (p. 13). Consequently, the authors research can have broad implications for designing more human-centered “education” systems that are universally accessible fort both resource-deprived and resource-affluent learners. The dilemma in science education – hands-on inquiry learning without domain knowledge resulting in inadequate conceptual understanding versus direct instruction to impart domain knowledge resulting in unenlightened learners, can be better addressed when learners pursue a stop → reflect → think → act algorithm much like Schon’s reflect→choose→act algorithm. This vision guided the articulation of STRONG model I used in responding to Q. 5 in Assignment 3. Any takers for collaboration on designing and developing a “proof-of-concept” STRONG prototype for teaching and learning science and engineering in middle schools?

Nathan Balasubramanian