Mastering Technology for Greater Autonomy: Device Familiarisation for Older Users via Games

Darzentas, Dimitri; Darzentas, Jenny; Darzentas, John
January 2012
Proceedings of the European Conference on Games Based Learning;2012, Vol. 1, p131
Conference Proceeding
Technology is all around us, and many technologically enabled devices are not well used or understood. A case in point is that of kitchen appliances. The basic tool for familiarising oneself with these is via manuals, although in practice people also learn by watching others, by asking for advice from friends and relatives, and by trial and error. When people cannot learn in this way, the only resource is the (paper) manual, which is rarely motivating. Teaching and familiarisation techniques need a way to overcome this inadequacy and engage users' attention, whatever their knowledge, background, or abilities. Ideally they should entice and motivate users to learn the paradigms and operating procedures of any device. This paper describes an attempt to introduce game design elements into the familiarisation process; as well as gamification layers; and for the manuals themselves follow the example of games, whose stand alone manuals have become "re-mediated" into in-game tutorials and instructions. Integrating the manual with the use of the device, which is technologically feasible, could offer a way to motivate users to become more proficient with domestic appliances. Simply put, using the device, and having fun doing so, rather than experiencing frustration and uncertainty, could aid in achieving the goal of understanding and using the device and its functionality more fully. The task of device familiarisation, although mundane, is not trivial. The importance of being autonomous in the home, that is, being able to prepare food and to carry out basic domestic chores, does not relate only to satisficing bodily needs, but to social functioning and self-esteem, and this is especially important for older people. Moreover, this approach could be generalised to other technological devices, beyond kitchen appliances. Designing the interaction experience to be attractive and engaging, by using game properties, could offer a new worthwhile approach to this problematic situation, and be of interest to the field of games based learning.


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