thoughts & follow-ups

interactive 2002
prof stephen heppell

Stephen will introduce/introduced his contribution to the panel session at the BBC's Interactive 2002 (8th July 1999) with five keywords. Work at Ultralab suggests each as essential precursors to winning viewer engagement in a digital broadcasting future.

Each keyword below is appended with link to some Ultralab project findings or other supporting material, while the icon below each keyword links to an illustrative screen image or short QuickTime movie.


plasticine daisy

All our projects suggest that children and others are hungry to contribute with the full media spectrum that they enjoy as consumers. This points very firmly to symmetrical systems with the same bandwidth passing from as to the consumer. Anything else will be visual wallpaper unless it is absolutely compelling.

This is closer to a model of communication than a model of dissemination and it is the future.

Follow links to: our Nortel sponsored Learning in the New Millennium project's Phase 1 and Phase 2 conclusions (started 1993); our policy paper on ICT in Learning commissioned for EU ministers;


learning community tools in
use in Codename Scoop

A continuum passes from passive through interactive, to participative.

There is a place for all three but no place for ignoring any. Participative requires tools, opportunity, community.

Thus, in the context of learning, consoles are firmly Learning Tools not Teaching Machines.

Follow links to: about past project Schools OnLine (started 1995); our preliminary report from phase 1 of our on-line pilot of the University for Industry (with the IPPR - 1997); Stephen's presentation slides to the I.E.E. Unbundling in the UK conference; any bit of work contributed (try searching just for all the "Sams" for example!) from the children in any of the 16,000 schools in our Tesco SchoolNet 2000 project (the URL is on every Tesco carrier bag).


wired sprite and text track layers in our language learning for business web material

Multiple media add value in many ways: a text track might add subtitles to a French film, a text track might also carry additional information - sports statistics for example, symbols and icons help add a taxonomy, graphs add a visual representation, etc. Broadcast media design should recognise that some 'layers' will be redundant to some users in some contexts. That doesn't mean they shouldn't be provided.

Follow links to: (now dated but useful) taxonomy of multimedia developed by the lab for the HEA;


screen dump of a "stickied"
page from our Oracle
Millennium Project.

In our Internet projects users annotate content

- they use everything from "stickies" to "postcards" (site is lovely, wish you were here). This annotation offers users a role but also allows the repurposing of content too - compare to local radio maybe? With our DTI Schools Online project 50% of total server content ended up being these annotations.

Follow links to: Schools OnLine (started back in 1996, closed in 1998, but the server still works - register and try for yourselves).


Two pictures from the BBC Horizon "TV is dead...etc" programme.

The way we use radio has evolved. We listen whilst we do other things; the 'narrative' of our day lies somewhere between the linear delivery of the radio and the fragmented experience of our lives.

Similarly our TV viewing evolves; indeed we all develop new media capabilites (and lose others - can you still sit around the radio with your family on a wet Sunday?), and we ignore that evolution at our peril.

Follow links to: transcript of "TV is Dead; Long Live TV" BBC Horizon programme with children at Ultralab watching four (4!) TV programmes at the same time (they were highly 'literate' and skilled viewers); an old article for the TES ("Games and Gains" 1993) about children's cognitive capabilities as computer game players.

ULTRALAB is the UK's premier learning technology research centre, find us at:
Victoria Road South, Chelmsford, Essex. CM1 1LL - by the railway station
phone +44 (0) 1245 252009 fax +44 (0) 1245 252047
e.mail for Ultranauts is:
visit ULTRALAB's many World Wide Web servers and projects starting from: