Working with children & Teaching UX

UX-Design Unit — WEB14204

As part of our involvement with Invicta Primary School we were given the opportunity to run sessions with the children about UX-design. Much of the time spent with Invicta felt quite impromptu and unplanned as teachers would jig and re-jig lesson plans around us. This depended on how many of the Ravensbourne students turned up as well as the resources available. This in combination with having little to no information on the classes projects meant we had to think on our feet and come up with ways to keep the children engaged.

The first session I did was with the Year 3. The only thing I knew about their related class work was that they were going to make a video about the different types of plants in a park. At this point I was put in front of the class with a whiteboard and pen and just had to riff it really. The good thing about working with young children is that they love technology and are impressed with pretty much anything if you say it in an interesting way.

with this in mind I started by introducing the idea of their video content being part of an app. I drew an Ipad on the board with a ‘screenshot’ from their proposed video. I tried to encourage them to think about the different ways we consume media depending on our abilities and whether there are features you could include in an app to make the content accessible to everyone.

After some discussion I gave them all tablet wireframe templates and asked them to design some of the features that would help make content available to everyone. The children drew features such as titles and descriptions of plants, annotations of animals and even speech bubbles signifying audio dialogue describing what was happening in the video. I was pleased to see some of the children encouraging their classmates to think about ways to make their designs friendly for blind and deaf people.

The main thing I learned from being thrown in at the deep end in this fashion is that children around 5–6 years old can only really focus on a task for about 20 minutes before losing interest and getting fidgety so you have to switch the pace up

For the other session Jonny and myself held break out activities with another Year 3 class involving QR codes. We had limited time to come up with a plan but we found a fun way for them to understand the basic principle. We decided that QR codes are essentially a key to unlock a piece of information, so we devised a game where the students would be using QR codes to find a secret message.

The related topic this particular class was working on was creating an online recipe for soup. We went with this theme and created a crossword-like puzzle to fill in with different ingredients. Various QR codes were scanned by the children to reveal pictures of some chips, an orange and ginger etc. When all the ingredients were filled into the puzzle a ‘Magic Key’ was used to decode all the words diagonally to show the word ‘spoon’. We timed each group to see how quickly they could complete the challenge and the fastest team was crowned spoon champions.

From this session we established that creating some mystery around a challenge really gets children engaged and cooperating (a competitive element makes them focus their attention even more!). The other thing I noted was that children respond to a task based on its structure and the way you deliver it to them. Hand gestures and intonation are really useful at clarifying details. Also you have to break down tasks into chunks or they will forget what you said at the start.