Quiet interfaces that help students think

Sharon Oviatt, Alex Arthur, Julia Cohen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperResearchpeer-review

72 Citations (Scopus)


As technical as we have become, modem computing has not permeated many important areas of our lives, including mathematics education which still involves pencil and paper. In the present study, twenty high school geometry students varying in ability from low to high participated in a comparative assessment of math problem solving using existing pencil and paper work practice (PP), and three different interfaces: an Anoto-based digital stylus and paper interface (DP), pen tablet interface (PT), and graphical tablet interface (GT). Cognitive Load Theory correctly predicted that as interfaces departed more from familiar work practice (GT > PT > DP), students would experience greater cognitive load such that performance would deteriorate in speed, attentional focus, meta-cognitive control, correctness of problem solutions, and memory. In addition, low-performing students experienced elevated cognitive load, with the more challenging interfaces (GT, PT) disrupting their performance disproportionately more than higher performers. The present results indicate that Cognitive Load Theory provides a coherent and powerful basis for predicting the rank ordering of users' performance by type of interface. In the future, new interfaces for areas like education and mobile computing could benefit from designs that minimize users' load so performance is more adequately supported.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUIST 2006
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of the 19th Annual ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology
Place of PublicationNY NY USA
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery (ACM)
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)1595933131
ISBN (Print)1595933131, 9781595933133
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes
EventACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology 2006 - Montreux, Switzerland
Duration: 15 Oct 200618 Oct 2006
Conference number: 19th

Publication series

NameUIST: Proceedings of the Annual ACM Symposium on User Interface Softaware and Technology


ConferenceACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology 2006
Abbreviated titleUIST 2006
Internet address


  • Communications
  • E-learning and education
  • Handheld and mobile computing
  • Input and interaction technologies
  • Pen-based interfaces
  • Performance metrics
  • Tangible UIs
  • Universal (or disability access)

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