From contextual observations to design ideas


 Pixton_Comic_The_design_context_af_Pernille_Troelsen (1)

Renewed vision
Target Group Analysis
Analyzing the context of our design
What is our design scenario?
Focus areas

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1. edition design vision

This is the 1. edition of our design vision, which we came up with at our first design seminar in Aarhus.

How can we work with mechanics, in a way that support childrens realization of natural science, through interaction, creativity, play and their naturally curiosity.

or our working headline

Rediscovering the imagination in experimental technology

We are aware of, that there is a lot of open questions in that vision. As the project moves forward we are narrowing it in.

How observations changed our perspective

During our initial observations we realised where our focus should be and this shift in focus made us create a new scenario of interest in our further studies.


Playing with an Ipad is more fun when doing it with someone else

Many design projects begin with an initial idea that is going to be shaped along the way, and quite possibly the initial focus of that idea will also change somewhere in the process. Our “goal” is to create an artefact that can be used in STEM courses with the hope that it can spark curiosity in the pupils.

At the current stage of this project, we are doing our initial fieldwork. We are beginning to discover distinct patterns in the way kids interact within different settings. Our main observational focus is on children ranging from 5 to 10 years of age in kindergartens, after school projects and on the playground. In all of these settings the children’s curiosity and creativity peaked when they were doing projects alongside, with or near other children, in effect creating communities of practice within their own zone of proximal development.

Until now our observations has unveiled that children’s interactions are more focussed towards each other than towards the artefacts in play. They are not in need of their own specific artefact – like an ipad or crafting tool – to create a setting where they can all participate. They are more playful and creative, when working in curiosity driven projects, creating and learning together.


Blending analog and digital play

This calls for a shift in observational focus, from initially looking at how kids are curious and creative in general, to how they are curious and creative when interacting with each other.

How can we as designers, use the spaces children create together when they are fx sitting or laying upon the back of a couch looking at and helping a child sitting on the couch. We need to change the focus of our design thoughts to not only be an interactional artefact but an artefact that also draws on the interactions of the users when interacting each other.

Our design needs to build upon the strength of creativity and curiosity when collaborating.


One artefact – four participants

How can we make an interactional design that supports the way children work together in their naturally formed communities of practice. It could be a device or devices designed for use in fx STEM courses.

The Process of our fieldwork

Arduino day – in a danish border school style


 March 29, 2014 was international Arduino Day, i took the trip to Bork Havn Efterskole. I talked with Heine Ravnholt earlier about coming and see how he and his students works with different maker processes. There was a handful of students, using their weekend at the makerspace, been given the opportunity to do so. His students working on different maker projects ranging from designing a 3D model sentry gun to be printed over different Arduino projects to working on hacking a Raspberry Pi.

Limits for the creativity or technology

Doing these projects the students showed an enormous creativity and insight in working with these technologies. The students having almost free borders in what they could do in projects, they could search for the limits in the their own skills and the technology working with. The students used a variety of sites on the internet where other makers shared many of their project for free, for other makes to print og remix for their own project. Then trying out new ideas the students searched for the limits of the technology they were using. Especially then they were working with 3D models which should be printed later in the process, a big part of that process is breaking the models into smaller pieces so they could fit the printer.

Seeing the light, literally

One of the students was working on Arduino for the first time doing a small project where he could program the Arduino to make a LED flash in a certain time. After he got that tone working he started to explore the possibilities of control more LED in different ways using the same code as he already has written to program the Arduino. Suddenly he was asking for the because his project didn’t work, then looking into his project he had copied his original code and multiplied it and changed the paradigms of it so the individual LED could be recognized from each other, but he lacked the basic knowhow of how the Arduino read his code, so by a simple composition of his code the LED did what he wanted them to do. I could see by his behavior that this was a big personal success and it sparked something in him wanting to dig deeper in this and fulfill his curiosity needs.

Sparkle the lights of curiosity

Heine told me a thing that sparkled my own curiosity about hackerspaces like this small one he created this weekend. As i could observe boys naturally seeked the boundaries of the things they worked with in the hackerspace. Girls wanted to create as much as the boys, they just wanted a useful design on their project, like wearable technologies and so on. This way of thinking creative technology projects like various Arduino projects could be a very useful idea to have in mind then looking into how different groups are creative/curious. By observing Heine on how he guided his students at their projects i noticed how he showed them how to fix certain problems without telling them direct what the problem was and therefor they found the problem themself and was able to fix them much faster.
This goes along with our vision to make a design that enables the student to rediscover their imagination. This way they get the succes and learn without been pinpointed to the problem from the started learning nothing but asking for help then the problems occur.

Ethnography in relation to design

If our focus is the rediscovery of imagination in the creation of experimental technology, how might we use ethnographic fieldwork and ethnography as scientific methods to acquire an understanding of how children play, and how artefacts factor into their play.

In this short video we will try to give our view on this matter.

If our initial question is: How might children work creatively and playfully with practical mechanics when interacting with science and nature?

What sort of settings will be a good idea to observe?

We could narrow down our focus from children in general to a specific age group or context, but that would also narrow our design potentials. So to begin with we have chosen to observe several different contexts and age groups in order to get a broader sense of how children interact and play. Also we find it important not to value one setting over another, we believe that we in this way have a better shot at tapping into the possibility of creating a design or artefact with a much broader impact range, instead of designing for just one purpose or setting.

Our idea is to observe their behaviour in general, and by analysing our fieldnotes finding the most relevant focus of our further studies.

In our different settings there will probably be an ethnographic need for different observational roles – we are very much aware of the potential pitfalls of shifting roles and enter into our fieldwork with eyes wide open.

Rediscovering imagination in experimental technology

Can design thinking and design processes help educators bring imagination into educational systems?

Let´s begin by using a collage to make visual the potentials of thinking nonlinear.

ph++ collage

Hello world!

Welcome to brought to you by PH++

Our goal is to share our experiences, findings, results, ideas etc. relating to educational design and theory. With these we will try to bridge the gap between playing and learning.

Our common ground is a shared Master of Arts (Education) in ICT-based Educational Design. (Cand.pæd.)

We hope you will find our posts useful.

Asbjørn, Helle, Jesper and Pernille

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