CamQuest is a tablet application intended for educational use in preschools that enables children to search for and photograph geometrical shapes in their surroundings with the tablet camera. The purpose of CamQuest is to integrate the use of tablets in active play and collaboration in contrast to what they are usually used for today – single player games. The app works as a link between the children and the objects or shapes they explore. The integrated image in the camera view provides guidance on what to look for, and helps the children to aim at the objects of interest.
This project was initiated and planned by me and Jennie Berggren in the course Interaction Design and Children at Chalmers University of Technology 2013/2014. My role in the project included user research, original idea, prototyping, user testing, UI specifications and UI design. Programming was done by Victor Karlsson.
Defining the problem
The goal of this project was to make an app for children. During the user research, we defined:
- Context of use: preschools
- End users: preschool children age 3-5 and teachers
- Ethnographic studies at preschools – How are tablets used in preschools today? What apps are used and how?
- Interviews and workshops with preschool teachers and educational media experts
- Market research of existing educational apps for children
- Studying design guidelines for interaction design specifically for children
Results and insights from the user research was compiled into a list of requirements for an educational app for use in preschools.
Why did we create CamQuest?
Lack of knowledge in how to use the tablet in an educational way
The curriculum states that children in Swedish preschools should be introduced to digital media and technology. As a consequence, the use of tablets in preschools has increased, however, there is a lack of knowledge among many preschool teachers in how to integrate the tablet in a learning activity. The result is that tablets are often used for single player gaming as a reward rather than for learning.
Negative attitudes towards the use of tablets in preschools
Many preschool teachers and parents express negative attitude towards the use of tablets in preschools. Tablets are seen as contributing to the increasing amount of screen time young children are exposed to today. Because of how they are used in preschools today, they are seen more as game consoles rather than educational tools.
Lack of apps for educational use in preschools
We have found that there is a lack of suitable applications developed for educational use in preschools. Most applications used in Swedish preschools are single player games, which results in individual play without involvement of other preschool children or teachers. Since collaboration is given a great significance in the curriculum, apps that enable multiple users at the same time are more appropriate in this context.
The design of the app has evolved iteratively through lo-fi to hi-fi prototyping and user testing at several encounters with children using the prototypes under guidance of the preschool teacher.
Designing for Preschool
Limited amount of text
Since the primary user group of the app is children ages 3-5, we have not included any text in the interface. There is text based information for parents and teachers, but this information can only be reached by double tapping the i-button.
An app is not educational in itself, it relies on the teacher
In an educational context where children are at different stages of development and are learning things in different ways, it is more suitable with an open-ended application that can be used in several ways. We do not believe in forcing a specific way of using the app, since the advantage of an open-ended application is that teachers can invent their own learning activities with it. For this reason, a very important design decision was to include guidance and tips on how to use the app within the context of a preschool. The guide has been created in collaboration with a preschool teacher and is based on educational goals stated in the Swedish school curriculum. Since the photos taken by the children are saved in the tablet photo album, they can be used as a base for a presentation, discussion and reflection session held by the teacher in a larger group of children after the quest has been completed. The photos can also be printed and used for other activities separate from the Ipad.
No image recognition
CamQuest does not use any kind of image recognition for recognising shapes. Not letting the children receive feedback weather or not they have successfully completed a quest is a conscious design decision since including this type of feedback in the app would remove the need for social interaction with other children as well as the teacher. By not allowing the app to give away the correct answer, the children are encouraged to discuss, reason, and compare among themselves and the teacher. Thus the focus is removed from the app itself, emphasising its role as a pedagogical tool.
What I love about this project is that I got to create a product from scratch all the way to a finished product actually being used. It has been downloaded It is so rewarding to see how a design can change the way people think. In this case the app not only provided a new and immersive way for children to explore geometry, but it also changed the way they saw the Ipad, not just as a game console, but as an educational tool.
Second prize in DEVICE Design Award 2014 in the student category for CamQuest
“The design presents a good pedagogical application for children, based on an interesting concept of learning about geometry. The method is clearly described with a high degree of participation of children in the iterative design process. In this way the project contributes to development of apps that are specifically tailored to fit into a preschool context.”
Design for Vulnerable Generations – Children and Elderly (DEVICE) is an EU funded project, which aims to bridge traditional industrial design programs with ergonomics, usability concepts and user experience approaches with a specific focus on vulnerable generations.
IDC Short paper: CamQuest: Design and Evaluation of a Tablet Application for Educational Use in Preschools
Interaction Design and Children (IDC) is an international conference with the mission to bring together researchers, designers and educators to explore new forms of technology, design and engaged learning among children.
SiDER Short paper: CamQuest: Design and Evaluation of a Tablet Application for Educational Use in Preschools
The Student Interaction Design Research (SIDeR) conference enables interaction design students to participate in and contribute to research in the emerging discipline of interaction design.