Colearnr: Making design practices visible to children


  • Project type: Research
  • Project Area: Learning Management Systems, Collaborative work, Education
  • Collaboraters: Colearnr Inc., Pennsylvania Statue University
  • Research Methodology: Mixed-Methods (Usability testing, Ethnographic observations)
  • Timeline: 5 months
  • Status: Submitted research manuscript

Background & Problem

The role of design-thinking is gaining a huge momentum in schools, specially K-8 classrooms. This is evident with the upsurge of design based thinking as a learning technique in K-12 education. However, emphasis on such swift adoption has overlooked the implicit complexities which design experts bring in during various stages of such process; referred to as “habits of mind”. An example of such habits of mind is how expert designers cope with design failures and criticism. It is therefore important to understand such innate complexities and make them explicit in current design thinking practices.

Usability study in after-school club

In our study, we wanted to understand the process of making these habits of mind explicit to children. For this purpose, we introduce Embedded Design Practise (EDP) - an approach for teaching design thinking practices to children using the technique of cognitive apprenticeship. Our study answers following research questions -

1. How can we use EDP to build habits of mind for children? How does an example study look like?
2. What are opportunities for learning provided by EDP?

## Method
As part of EDP, we carried out mixed-methods in this study. The first phase of the study involved in conducting in-field usability testing (sometimes referred as guerrilla usability testing) with the children in the after-school club. We derived both performance and preferential data for 4 different tasks. To build the cognitive apprenticeship of the children, we then shared the data with children and asked different teams to critique other team’s work. We conducted observations and took diary recordings to understand various behaviors exhibited within the cognitive apprenticeship framework. Further details are mentioned in the research manuscript.

Interface of the Collaborative Learning Management System

Research Manuscript

The research manuscript can be downloaded here