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Concurrent session4: ICT and Pre-school Education (First International Conference of the CRN Child Science Exchange Program in Asia)

Japanese Chinese

Presented at the "First International Conference" of CRN Child Science Exchange Program in Asia held in Shanghai, China, March 4-5, 2017.

Moderator: Jiaxiong Zhu (Professor Emeritus, East China Normal University)
Presenter: Ning Yang (Professor, South China Normal University)

The Application of Motion Sensing Interaction Technology in Early Childhood Education

Recently, the rapid development of new technologies such as motion-sensing interaction technology, cloud computing, big data analysis, and mobile internet access devices is bringing about significant changes to the economy. At the same time, these new technologies are providing important opportunities and challenges for the development of child education. It is worth thinking about how we should respond to this new wave of technological transformation in early childhood education in this era of rapid development of information technologies together with the concept of "Internet Plus*." The application of motion sensing interaction technology in early childhood education is, among other things, an indicator of one possibility.

The term 'motion-sensing interaction technology' refers to a new interaction technology analyzing human gestures, motions, voices, eye movements, etc. to operate computers and computer-related devices and interact with their contents. The emergence of this new technology marked a breakthrough in the development of man-machine interaction technologies. Motion-sensing interaction technology is also considered as the "starting point of the third man-machine interaction revolution" after the conventional man-machine interaction systems including the keyboard/mouse as well as multi-touch displays. The most remarkable aspect of this new technology is the reduction of dependence on the use of keyboard/mouse and to make the user more aware of his/her physical abilities. More precisely, the difference between motion-sensing interaction technology and conventional input devices including the keyboard/mouse is that the former directly uses the user's body and interacts with peripheral devices in a more natural, free and flexible manner.

Let's look into the developmental pathway of the motion sensing interaction technology and its application potential. In 2008, Bill Gates announced the concept of the Natural User Interface (NUI) at the International Consumer Electronics Show. He predicted that the keyboard and mouse would gradually give way to more natural touch, vision and speech interfaces. Only a few years later, we saw a series of new man-machine interaction technologies such as the "six sense" device, augmented reality (AR), multi-touch, Cambot technology, virtual reality (VR), speech recognition, motion sensing and brain-computer interface. Motion-sensing interaction technology has already been used in various ways including virtual application, 3D modeling, machine control, virtual music, virtual entertainment, virtual experiment, game management, rehabilitation and training. This technology is also broadly used in the fields of education, medical science and rehabilitation.

We define the application of motion sensing interaction technology in early childhood education as the "application of motion-sensing interaction technology as well as other multi-media, 3D and augmented reality (AR) technologies in educational processes based on the theories of experience-based learning, situation-based learning and embodied cognition." In an educational environment adopting motion-sensing interaction technology, children will control and interact with people, animals and other moving objects in 3D scenes by waving their hands, stretching up, running around, jumping and employing various other physical movements. In this way, learning can be integrated with experiences, exploration, exercises and games.

Next, I will explain the three main features of early childhood education adopting motion-sensing interaction technology, that is, "immersiveness," "interactivity" and the "entertaining aspect." The first feature is immersiveness. Scenes and activities within the simulated reality of play created by motion-sensing interaction technology can eliminate the wall between children and media. This will let children be fully immersed in a game and experience/feel as if they were "really there." Therefore, children can become fully immersed in their activities, making the best use of their physical senses and attentiveness to play their role. This status is referred to as "flow" a term coined by the Hungarian psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi.

The second feature is interactivity. This is man-machine interaction enabled by motion-sensing interaction technology, and at the same time, real-time interaction in a 3D virtual environment realized by a computer based on the motions of the users (children). This interactivity includes active interactions between peers, between teachers and children, and between parents and children naturally generated when multiple people play a game in a virtual environment.

The final feature is the aspect of entertainment. All educational products using motion-sensing interaction technology are offered in the form of a game. They are thus entertaining and provide a strong feeling of playing a game, which has a strong attraction for children. Children tend to be fully interested in using these products, and thus maintain in a good level of concentration and attentiveness in their activities. There are four main functions of early childhood education adopting motion-sensing interaction technology. The first function is to enlarge the scope of children's experiences and activities. For example, by using the technology, it is possible to create a realistic 3D scene in which children might be an astronaut or wear a atmospheric diving suit. The second function is to provide effective methods for children to build up their physical strength via exercise. Unlike computer games, online games and smartphone games, motion-sensing interaction technology is strongly related to physical movements. The third function is to "activate" scientific education for children. The fourth function is to facilitate the effective practice of safety education at kindergartens. By adopting motion-sensing interaction technology, kindergarten teachers can enhance children's safety awareness by letting them experience certain virtual scenes instead of just teaching a theory of safety.

Finally, we will explain the issues and visions of early childhood education adopting motion-sensing interaction technology. There is no doubt that the application of this new technology in early childhood education will raise numerous questions and challenges, which we often face when we try to introduce anything new. However, for instance, if artificial emotion (an aspect of artificial intelligence) can be substantively useful for us, or solve a difficult situation, or supplement what we lack, then, we might be able to consider it humane. Whether we experience it in real time or virtual reality is not important. The education adopting the motion sensing interaction technology itself is considered "real."

Motion-sensing interaction technology can be applied not only in early childhood education but also in basic education, medical education, special education, vocational education, rehabilitation training and other various fields. This technology is currently in the early developmental stage and has various theoretical and technical issues to resolve. For example, a delay in motion identification should be resolved; a tactile feedback function should be improved; and a function to detect the user's physical fatigue and provide feedback is required. In addition, there are difficulties and ethical risks in designing educational activities using motion-sensing interaction technology. In particular, we will face various difficulties and issues when we try to systematically integrate education, games and exercise.

In sum, the application of motion sensing interaction technology in early childhood education is surely a new attempt. This technology cannot be used as a substitute for real experiences and activities, but can only be used to enhance and supplement the effectiveness of early childhood education. With further advancement of motion-sensing interaction technology, early childhood education adopting such technology will have more vital power and potential.

* A new action plan proposed by Li Keqiang, the current Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China, in March 2015 to promote industrial model changes and economic growth by leveraging mobile internet access devices, big data analysis, IoT, etc.


Ning_Yang.jpg Ning Yang

Professor Yang is currently serving as Professor at School of Education, South China Normal University; Executive Director of the China Preschool Education Study Group; Member of the Academic Committee; and Member of the “National Plan” Professional Workforce Data Bank by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Finance. He previously worked as Director of Preschool Education Department, School of Education, South China Normal University between 2005 and 2013. His main research areas include basic theories for child education, learning psychology, education for kindergarten teachers, and evaluation on the quality of kindergartens.
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