Deren Guler finishes up coverage at IDC 2013

Invent-abler Deren Guler reports from the second half of the Interaction Design and Children Conference in New York.

The poster and demo sessions were extremely fun. As a short paper author, I had to give a one-minute madness presentation. I was pretty skeptical of this working out, but turned out to be very efficient. In just 2 hours we heard about 100 different papers. Some of the presenters just showed quick videos, which I thought was a very good technique in this situation.

Many people came to my poster after my presentation, which was a relief since I was not sure that I was able to explain very much about the project in one minute. Most said they were intrigued by the gender neutrality aspect of Invent-abling and had lots of questions about how boys and girls responded. There were various professionals, makers and university researchers from all over the world. It was very interesting to hear about the interactive technologies used in completely opposite communities, from block for Portuguese preschoolers to makerspaces for refugee children in Africa. I met someone who had a similar inventors kit project about making stuffed animals. We are thinking about collaborating and joining forces in the future, perhaps she could make an Invent-abling minikit.

Deren and Cookie Monster at IDC 2013
Deren and Cookie Monster at IDC 2013

There were not as many demos as I hoped, but the papers that did have demos were very cool. A favorite of many attendees was the Bridging Book app from engageLab, a laboratory at the intersection of arts and technology in Portugal. It is a simple interface that extends a physical book on an iPad and allows a child to draw into the “book“ on the iPad. Magnets on the book determine when the page is turned by sending a signal to the magnets in the iPad, pretty slick. Perhaps this is the future of coloring books? In any case it is always nice to see digital games that interface with a tangible object.

Another cute project I liked was Royoblocks– a literacy toy for children. This was a semester project from the Transformative Learning Technologies Lab at the Stanford Education School. It is very polished and well done for a student project. A set of 60 wooden blocks each have a word engraved on the side. The blocks fit into the lap of a teddy bear who “reads” the words out loud through radio frequency technology. The purpose of the toy is to teach kids how to construct their own sentences with the word blocks and improve their comprehension skills. They found it to be a very effective tool after play-testing with several different groups of children.

As for the longer talks, Don Abrahm from UC Berkley gave a wonderful presentation about his research and efforts to make different tools for math education, specifically through quick interactive exercises demonstrating principles of probability. There were a few presentations about initiatives to change the number of girls in computer science including Kanjun Qiu from the MIT Media Lab’s High Low Tech group who is working on developing a curriculum to teach girls basic concepts of computer science by programming the lilyPad Arduino.

Overall I was extremely impressed at the quality of all of the presentations. Everyone was extremely engaging and excited when talking about their work. I would highly recommend this conference to anyone interested in the field of interactive technology as it relates to educational and play oriented research.
Thanks so much to The Sprout Fund for supporting my attendance!

Published July 19, 2013