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Engineering Education Meets Human–Computer Interaction (HCI): Exploring How the Work on "Probes" can Guide the Design of Reflection Activities

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Reflective & Critical Pedagogies

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.622.1 - 26.622.16



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Paper Authors


Mania Orand University of Washington

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Mania Orand is a researcher in the field of Human Computer Interaction at the University of Washington. Her research interests are on using reflection in designing web and mobile technologies, user experience, and digital media.

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Brook Sattler University of Washington

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Dr. Sattler is a Research Scientist for the Center for Engineering Learning & Teaching (CELT) and a Multi-Campus Coordinator for the Consortium to Promote Reflection in Engineering Education (CPREE) at the University of Washington. Her research interests include understanding and promoting self-authoring engineers.

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Jennifer A. Turns University of Washington

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Lauren D. Thomas University of Washington

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Engineering education meets Human-Computer Interaction (HCI):Exploring how the work on probes can guide the design of reflectionactivitiesGiven the amount of innovation in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), there is anopportunity to use ideas from HCI as inspiration in efforts to address challenges inengineering education, such as helping engineering students successfully engage inreflection. The concept of cultural probes developed by Bill Gaver to engaging users inthe design process and to stimulate designers’ imaginations. Cultural probes are smallcollections of artifacts accompanied by provocative tasks and questions. These probes aregiven to participants in order to elicit difficult-to-acquire information, such asinformation about their values or assumptions. This approach to gathering informationhas proliferated widely in the world of HCI. In addition, researchers in HCI have begunto develop variations such as technology probes, mobile probes, and empathy probes. InHCI, “probes” have come to be used as an umbrella for when a collection of artifacts andtasks is given to participants to help them reflect on certain aspects of their lives and toreport their experience to researchers/designers.Although HCI designers are interested in probes because it generates information theycan use, important proponents of the use of probes in the design process draw attention tothe value of the experience for the participants. For example, probes appear to have thepotential to prompt reflection and ideally encourage participants to evaluate their livesbased on the insights that emerge from engaging with the probe.Our proposed work is motivated by the potential connections between probes and theissue of reflection in engineering education. Reflection can be understood as the processof looking back at an experience with the goal of making meaning of that experience.Engineering educators are recognizing more the role of reflection in students’ learningand they are incorporating reflective exercises in their teaching.Given the importance of reflection in engineering education and the widespread use ofprobes in HCI, we are conducting this research to discover whether the use of probes canbe leveraged as a way for engineering educators to understand reflective activities.Therefore, we are interested in exploring how does the prior work on the probes in HCIprovide guidance for supporting reflection in engineering education? And how can thework on the probes be used to inform or support the creation of reflection opportunitiesin engineering education?In this paper, we will review literature on reflection in engineering education and probesin HCI, unpack three examples of the use of the probes in HCI, and explore how theseexamples can be understood for educators in seeking inspiration on how to supportreflection in classrooms. Contributions of this paper would be not only the suggestionsfor using probes that are offered for educators but also an example of how work in theworld of HCI can be used to inspire educational practice.

Orand, M., & Sattler, B., & Turns, J. A., & Thomas, L. D. (2015, June), Engineering Education Meets Human–Computer Interaction (HCI): Exploring How the Work on "Probes" can Guide the Design of Reflection Activities Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23960

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