Interview with Professor of University of Central Lancashire Janet Read

Professor of University of Central Lancashire (UK) Janet Read visited SUSU. Janet Read is a Professor in Child Computer Interaction and is the Director of the Child Computer Interaction (ChiCI) research group at UCLan. Internationally known for her work on designing and evaluating technologies for children as well as for her work on text input with digital ink, Prof. Read manages research grants and research students, teaches research methods and advanced HCI and contributes to SET activities in local schools. She presented a course on the mathematical foundations of the user interface of software systems for SUSU students. We’ve talked about this course and her experience in Russia.

– Last Friday you presented the course on the mathematical foundations of the user interface of software systems. What is the role of mathematics and statistics in designing the user interface?

– Human computing interaction is a sphere where we look at how interfaces are designed in order to make them more useful for humans. Every time you go on your phone, you are texting, put data and so on, that all can be model mathematically. In terms of interface design, if we understand how data is transmitted, how each tiny little press is transmitted to the computer, how that then comes part of the message, we can build a better interface. The curious reality is that all interfaces are not very well designed. So, what are we going to talk about is how we might optimize that.

– In the frameworks of the course, you are planning on covering a very interesting socially significant project connected with developing the user interface for interactions with children with certain limited capabilities. Please tell us about this project.

– In my research group, we spend many years searching better design technologies for children. Children are really interesting because typically certain UK children can’t spell. Therefore, when they need to use text interfaces they find that quite hard, they would type things and they go wrong. We recently do the project with BBC, where they have us to look at how games are designed for children with special needs. They may have Down syndrome, they may have some physical conditions, some of the children have got difficulties with their hands, so they can’t easily select things, because they have some sort of shakes, for example. In our study, we go into people’s homes, talked to their children, talked to parents. We now try to think how to design better technology that they use, so they can play better with friends on these games, they can have better game experience, and also use it for communication. Because some of these children have no verbal communication, they need to use the computer to communicate.  It’s so nice to see or imagine what you can do for children in terms of computer interfaces because it can make difference to their lives.

– Your university is among leaders in the employment of students in Britain. What is the cause of it?

– In the UK, most students get jobs when they finish universities. If they do computer science degree they’ve got a good chance to get employed, because IT-industry is big, IT is everywhere. We have students doing networking courses, they’ve typically had jobs in public sector. Now we also have students who are working on software engineering, software programming, and they typically end up working in large project teams. When we teach them we make a point of teaching on communicating and talking to people, which is sometimes quite hard for computer science students.

– You have already got acquainted with SUSU. What is your impression of our university?

– It is my first time in Russia, and that’s really nice. I think I got what I expected. SUSU main building is absolutely gorgeous. And also, when you see a big student in front of it, you feel very inspired. We have a trip to see a supercomputer yesterday, we saw engineers and it was great too. I like the feel of the city. And I also feel like students here are very engaged. That’s really nice and I’m looking forward to teaching them.


Ekaterina Kuznetsova, photo by Oleg Igoshin.