Designing visualizations of temporal relations for children: action research meets HCI
Di Mascio T
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The diffusion of ICT products in everyday life is bringing into the realm of technological artifacts new users and their demands, which translate into novel design/research issues, like in the case of children-oriented Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) systems. In this paper we report our experience within the framework of the EU project TERENCE, which developed an adaptive learning system supporting 7–11 years old children characterized by “poor text comprehension”, a cognitive disability related to reading activities. In particular we discuss how our design approach allowed us to overcome the inadequacy of existing consolidated techniques for visualization of temporal relations and data gathering, which turned out not to comply with constraints typical of children-oriented TEL systems. We show how the definition of a novel children-oriented data gathering technique allowed us to carry out a study on the children mental model of time and, based on it, to design a children-oriented integrated “read-n-play” visual environment able to force the acquisition of the capability of reasoning about temporal events within a story. Since the aim of the stimulation is to drive children towards a mature mental model of time, the challenge was to overcome the drawbacks of adult-oriented techniques by building on concepts already possessed by children, while at the same time retaining some basic features of adult-oriented temporal visualization to favor the transition.