Issues and Methods for Involving Young People in Design

Authored by: Judy Robertson , Judith Good , Katy Howland , Andrew Macvean

Handbook of Design in Educational Technology

Print publication date:  July  2013
Online publication date:  June  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415807340
eBook ISBN: 9780203075227
Adobe ISBN: 9781135118969


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The concept of involving users in the design of the technology which affects them has been an area of interest since the politically inspired research on participatory design in the Scandinavian workplace during the early 1980s (Spinuzzi, 2002). Ehn identifies two important features of the participatory design strategy: the political aspect of democracy in which users are empowered through contributing to design, and the technical aspect in which the participation of users results in more successful design and higher quality products (Ehn, 1993). This chapter considers the ways in which children and young people can contribute to the design of educational software that they use. In doing so it considers the trade-off between Ehn’s two features: while it might be ideologically important to empower young people in the design of such learning technology, does their participation also result in more effective tools for learning? We argue that young people’s participation in the design of learning technology can indeed provide important design insights, which would not otherwise be possible, but that the design process needs to be carefully managed to facilitate this. We revisit our CARSS framework for learner-centred design (Good & Robertson, 2006) that aims to provide design teams with strategies to appropriately involve younger users as part of a design process while taking account of their developmental stage, domain knowledge and skills. In light of our experiences on educational technology design projects since CARSS was published in 2006, we further consider: what can be done to resolve the potentially conflicting requirements that emerge from young designers and other stakeholders? And we ask if there are methods that can be used to invite input from young people at key points in the project which do not require costly investment in a full participatory design process?

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