Ph.D. Dissertation from the Dept. of Computer Science
HCIL-2003-21, CS-TR-4480, UMIACS-TR-2003-49
Computers are failing children. They are taking time away from meaningful interactions with people, and are often providing children with inappropriate experiences. In particular, they are failing to support children collaborating, being creative, using their imagination, and accessing appropriate content. To address these issues, I have created developmentally appropriate technologies that support children collaborating, creating, and learning. To support collaboration, I developed MID (Multiple Input Devices), a Java toolkit that supports advanced events, including those from multiple input devices. I used MID to develop KidPad, a collaborative storytelling tool that supports groups of children in the creation of drawings and stories. To support collaboration in a concrete, developmentally appropriate manner, KidPad uses the local tools user interface metaphor in which I implemented several improvements to make efficient use of screen space and to encourage collaboration. SearchKids is an application that also supports collaboration and gives children the ability to search and browse a multimedia animal library. The International Children's Digital Library uses a similar user interface to enable children to search and browse an international collection of digitized children's books. Both applications offer children access to curated collections, shielding them from inappropriate content while keeping them in control of what to experience. While building these technologies I observed that young children had greater difficulty using input devices. This affected their ability to collaborate, be creative and access valuable content. Motivated by such observations, I conducted a study to gain a better understanding of how young children use mice as compared to adults. The results provide guidelines for the sizing of visual targets in young children's software and insight into how children use mice.