Hacking Smart Toys Week 5

Assignment: Pick a paper from previous proceedings to Interaction Design for Children conference! and prepare a short resume in your design journal. Explain why you picked the paper and what you learned from it.

For this assignment, I chose to pick QWERTY and The Art of Designing Microcontrollers for Children by Paulo Blikstein and Arnan Sipitakiat. I chose this paper because a couple of weeks ago, we were using the micro:bit in class and I’ve used other microcontrollers in the past. Since I started to use microcontrollers, I’ve been curious as to what goes into to making and designing one. Designing for children is especially hard because you need to provide a level(s) of abstraction that allows them to learn the underlying principles without making it overwhelmingly hard. This paper points out different problems that occur in creating age appropriate microcontrollers. To start, they mention the QWERTY keyboard because it was a popularized layout that is not rational. The authors of this article want to prevent this from happening to microcontrollers. They mention that Papert has previously criticized the approach when designing educational technology because the designs are usually centered around the technologists, rather than the children. Although the history of developing and designing microcontrollers is rich, the research in using the microcontrollers is a bit limited. When designing, it is important to determine the difference between the technology itself and what concepts children are supposed to learn. There are microcontrollers for children (“Cricket” model) and microcontrollers for college level physical computing (“Breakout” model). The Cricket model is limiting for students who want to go beyond the set plug and play extensions that are offered, but the Breakout model is too difficult for users who do not have the technical background. Both models have what the other models lacks, but combining the two together is also difficult. The plug and play aspect that makes the Cricket model appealing requires a lot of “board real estate” making it difficult to allow of less ease. Because the Breakout model allows for a lot of freedom, adding plug and play aspects to the model will cause there to be less autonomy that the users expect. They solve this problem by creating a scalable micro controller that offers an additional shield. They also looked into the idea of spatial computing and how it can allow children to physically envision code. By making designers of microcontollers think about making the designs more child appropriate, they hope that this will prevent microcontrollers from becoming the next QWERTY.