Children as codesigners of new technologies: Valuing the imagination to transform what is possible

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Abstract

The technological complexity and richness of a child's environment today is far beyond what any adults today experienced when they were growing up. For example, no adult today knows what it is like to be a four-year-old using his or her first iPhone app or Webkinz account. Therefore, we seek ways to understand what children need in today's new technologies even without ourselves being children. Since 1999, young people ages seven to eleven have been the author's partners in codesigning new educational technologies at the University of Maryland's Human-Computer Interaction Lab. This work has helped inform who children are—what matters to them, what technologies need to be changed, and what needs to be built for the future. This work uses cooperative inquiry, a set of codesign methods that can enable adults and children to share their ideas while minimizing the differences in age and communication styles. This article describes low-tech methods for brainstorming, offering feedback, and supporting creative change in technology prototype designs. Examples of technologies are discussed and insights from children shared.

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