Designing for Diverse Families

Designing for families' learning needsOn Friday, October 30, 2015 I coached a design team as part of a launch event for the new report, “Diverse Families and Media: Using Research to Inspire Design,” from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. Using ethnographic case studies of families and their digital media practices, design teams of researchers, media producers, education practitioners, and policy experts worked together to create prototypes of new media-based experiences that better meet families’ needs. This opportunity was well aligned with my belief that empathetic understandings of people are important for designing media and technologies that can respond to pressing societal concerns. My design team came up with a mobile app concept called MiMap, which would allow families to collaboratively construct a timeline of important events in their family history, using text, video, photos, audio, and location data. This idea responded to an insight from our reading of an ethnographic case: that the Rivera family sometimes struggled to connect over a digital language learning tool because it put two of their needs in tension with one another. On the one hand, 7-year-old Jessica wanted to show her competency in English. On the other hand, her mother Rebeca, whose English skills are still developing, needed to feel successful in her own right. MiMap allows them to work together rather than compete with each other, so that each can make valuable contributions to a shared goal.