1. Name

Judith Good

2. Role

Reader in Informatics, Director of the Interactive Systems Group, and the Human Centred Technology Lab

3. Mac or PC?

Mac, ever since my first encounter with an Apple IIe longer than I care to remember.

4. What is your favourite book?

It changes all the time, but Michael Ondaatje remains a favourite author.

5. How did you get here?

I arrived at Sussex in 2005, having started out at the University of Edinburgh, where I did my Master’s and Phd and worked as a research assistant, via a transatlantic detour to the University of New Mexico, where I was an assistant professor.

I originally got into the field of artificial intelligence and education as a result of hearing a lecturer describe some software which had been developed for students struggling with maths at university. The system developers had devised a hierarchical model of mathematical competence and embedded it into a intelligent tutoring system. The hypothesis was that the student’s current difficulties may have resulted from incorrectly learning simple concepts on which the current, more complex concepts depend. The system would diagnose the student’s current problems, trace back through its model to determine at what level concepts had not been learned or had been misunderstood, and then reteach those concepts to the student. This probably started my lifelong interest in learning and technology, especially in trying to design tools to help empower students who are struggling.

6. What are you working on right now?

Probably too much!

I’m working with Jim Jackson and Ellie Martin to develop a simulation game called African Farmer (formerly the Green Revolution online game). As its name suggests, students play the role of an African farmer with a small plot of land, and attempt to keep themselves and their families alive. The aim is to allow students to experience the complex decision making processes under which African farmers must operate first hand and, secondarily, to experience the effects of policy decisions at ground level.

I’m also a co-investigator on the ECHOEs project. In it, we developed a technology enhanced learning environment for typically developing children and children with Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASCs). In the environment, children can interact with a virtual character, and take part in activities which require such skills as joint attention, turn taking, etc. We are still analysing the results, but they are very promising, suggesting, among other things, that the behaviours that we observed when children used ECHOEs actually transfer to other situations, something which is often difficult for children on the autistic spectrum.

I recently finished the Flip project with Katy Howland and Keiron Nicholson, in which we designed a visual programming language to teach young people some basic computational skills in the context of 3D role-playing game creation. I’ve also been working on the Shyness project, in which we were studying how pervasive computing may lead to situations which trigger feelings of shyness in users, but also investigating how it can used in a positive way so that users can manage their presentation and use available feedback from such systems to mediate feelings of shyness.

7. Where do you take your inspiration from?

Seeing the joy and confidence that arises when people learn new skills and abilities that they thought were not within their reach, or interact with the world in ways that were not previously possible. These moments often become self-perpetuating.

8. What is the biggest challenge you face in your work?

Finding enough time to do everything that I want (and need) to do!

9. What else do you like to do?

For the moment, any spare time (and money) seems to go into restoring my overly large Victorian house.

10. What’s next for you?

I would like to focus my work on designing technology for children with Autism Spectrum Conditions, and particularly Asperger’s Syndrome. Many children face such enormous challenges (and resultant stress) just trying to navigate each day, with very little in the way of support. I think that technology could play a huge role in helping these children to feel empowered.

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