22 Jun

Joan Ganz Cooney Center Fellow – Sesame Workshop


Me with my pal, Cookie Monster and a cookie they use for Sesame Street.

“Uno dos tres quatro cinco seis seite ocho nueve diez.”

I learned how to count in Spanish when I was two years old through Sesame Street. I can’t remember a lot, but I can proudly recite one to ten in Spanish.

I also learned how to count in English (the “Pinball Count” song), do math with the Count, and find confidence to sing the Rubber Ducky Song.

I never thought about how these silly little lessons in counting, math, and singing would still capture my imagination. Even at the ripe old age of 34, I find myself excited through Sesame Street. And I don’t think I’m the only one that feels this way.

I don’t know if I have any evidence for this, but I do think that my time with Sesame Street as a child really paved the way for how I love learning and how much I want others to learn. Watching characters and adults get so excited about learning really made me want to learn, even if it was something as silly as watching some crazy blue monster go after his cookie fix (my favorite character by the way).

Today, on my bus ride up to Interaction Design and Children 2013, I accepted an offer from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center to be their 2013 – 2014 Fellow. It was both a super easy no brainer decision and one of the most incredibly hard decisions I’ve had to make. How can this be? Can a decision be super easy and incredibly hard at the same time? By the way, Sesame Street does teach decision making practices.

Well, for the most part, I think you can tell why the decision is incredibly easy. I’m going to be working with some amazing people who have made an incredible impact in what we know about how children learn through digital media. The Cooney Center focuses on working at the intersection with supportive partners in research, industry, and non-profits. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to conduct some research on the intersection between joint media engagement and science learning at home. As a researcher in human-computer interaction, learning sciences, and science education, I’m ecstatic at what lies ahead. Plus, the walls at Sesame Street are litered with chalk art of all my favorite characters. Who doesn’t want to be greeted by Big Bird daily? It’s also nice to have a reason to get your dissertation done ASAP.

So why would this decision be tough then? Well, Sarah (my wife) is “lending” me out to the lovely city of NYC for a year until we can figure out what to do. I want everyone in this whole wide world to know that NONE of my research gets done without her. If I could put her face on every Powerpoint presentation I do at a conference, I would put it on and yell out how fantastic she is for being so patient and supportive.


So while I’m very much a pro-“take care of your family and friends” kinda guy, it is tough to have to be gone for periods at a time. I’m going to try to do the whole run back and forth on the weekends life between DC and NYC. But you know, life gets always complicated too.

If you are reading this blog, I hope that you can send prayers and good vibes to Sarah while I’m gone for a bit. Maybe give her a call, send her a lovely email, take her out to dinner, all the things that will help ease the time that I’m gone. Oh yeah, she loves shopping!

Another reason this decision was hard is that I’m going to miss seeing the people at the University of Maryland on regular basis. Truth be told, I didn’t mind spending another year with the most awesome group of children and adult researchers (Kidsteam) and writing up a storm with my totally rock star adviser, Allison Druin. I love the Human-Computer Interaction Lab and all the folks in the Science Education at the University of Maryland.

Going to Sesame Workshop for a year feels right, given that Jim Henson, the creator of the Muppets is our most famous alumni.

In the end, while I’ve learned a ton about knowledge, theories, and design methods from some really super smart people, everything I’ve learned in graduate school has been about how important relationships are.

Any success I’ve had is summarized in this quote: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” (I promise not to mess up anyone’s hair while standing on their shoulders.)

For whatever reason, I always seem to land at the right place and the right time. I used to think like Bilbo Baggins when he said to Gandalf, “We are plain quiet folk, and I have no use for adventures. Nasty, disturbing, and uncomfortable things.”  

However, Bilbo did over come his fear of adventure and the unknown. So here’s hoping my new adventure starts off well. It is my prayer that wherever I go, even if it is for a brief time, I can be a blessing and a support to all the people around me. Everything is going to be amazing.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m ready to go out my door, step onto the road, and finding out where I will be swept off to.

12 Jun

Games Learning Society 9.0 – June 12 – 14, 2013


Games Learning Society 9.0 was my first games and learning conference I had ever gone to. And I can say that it did not disappoint. I love the emphasis on both learning, evaluation, and design.

Check out our poster:

Qualitative methods for studying learning through gameplay at museums and science centers
Sarah Chu, Jason Yip, Jason Haas, Christine Roman

Abstract: Due to the lack of research on games and learning in museums, there exists few established methods and strategies to best capture learning through gameplay in public informal learning environments. This makes research of this kind doubly complex given numerous other variables already to consider, particularly in acknowledging that learners at museums range broadly in age, gender, race and ethnicity, ability, and socio-economic status, along with their motivations for visiting in the first place. For our study at the Saint Louis Science Center, we observed player interaction with three games for learning science. In preparing for and conducting this study, we encountered several challenges unique to doing research in a public setting. We will draw from our experience running this study to highlight effective research methods for studying how people learn through gameplay in public informal learning environments.

[Abstract – PDF]

[Poster – PDF]



15 Apr

Interaction Design and Children 2013 – New York City, NY


I am excited to go to my first Interaction Design and Children Conference in New York City, NY. Since my work focuses on children designing technologies and learning environments, this is the place to be. I will be presenting four papers I either lead or co-authored.

Full paper

Yip, J.C., Clegg, T., Bonsignore, E., Gelderblom, H., Rhodes, E., & Druin, A. (in press). Brownies or Bags-of-Stuff? Domain expertise in Cooperative Inquiry with children. In Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Interaction Design and Children (IDC ’13).
[PDF – Full paper]


Researchers often utilize the method of Participatory Design to work together with users to enhance technology. In particular, Cooperative Inquiry is a method of Participatory Design with children that involves full partnership between researchers and children. One important challenge designers face in creating learning technologies is that these technologies are often situated in specific activities and contexts. While children involved in these activities may have subject expertise (e.g., science inquiry process), they may not have design expertise (e.g., design aesthetics, usability). In contrast, children with design expertise may be familiar with how to design with researchers, but may not have subject expertise. Little is known about the distinction between child design and subject experts in Cooperative Inquiry. In this paper, we examine two cases – involving children with design expertise and those with subject expertise – to better understand the design process for both groups of children. The data from this study suggests that similarities do exist between the two cases, but that design and subject knowledge does play a significant role in how children co-design learning technologies.

Short paper

Yip, J.C., Foss, E., Bonsignore, E., Guha, M.L., Norooz, L., Rhodes, E., McNally, B., Papadatos, P., Golub, E., & Druin, A. (2013). Children initiating and leading Cooperative Inquiry sessions. In Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Interaction Design and Children (IDC ’13).
[PDF – Short paper]


Cooperative Inquiry is a Participatory Design method that involves children (typically 7-11 years old) as full partners with adults in the design of technologies intended for use by children. For many years, child designers have worked together with adults in Cooperative Inquiry approaches. However, in the past children have not typically initiated the design problems tackled by the intergenerational team, nor have they acted in leadership roles by conducting design sessions– until now. In this paper, we detail three case studies of Cooperative Inquiry in which children led the process of design, from initial problem formulation through one iteration of design review and elaboration. We frame our analysis from three perspectives on the design process: behaviors exhibited by child leaders and their fellow co-designers; supports required for child leaders; and views expressed by child leaders and their co-design cohort about the sessions that they led.

Short paper

Ahn, J., Gubbels, M., Yip, J.C., Bonsignore, E., & Clegg, T.L. (2013). Using social media and learning analytics to understand how children engage in scientific inquiry. In Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Interaction Design and Children (IDC ’13).
[PDF – Short Paper]


Children are increasingly using social media tools in their lives. In addition, there is great interest in understanding how to design and evaluate social technologies to aid in children’s learning and development. We describe two research endeavors that begin to address these issues. First, we introduce SINQ, a social media application that encourages children to practice Scientific INQuiry skills through collaborative participation. Second, we conducted a case study of SINQ with six children, ages 8-11, and collected log data of their interactions in the app. We applied learning analytics on this log data using a visual analytic tool called LifeFlow. The event-sequence visualizations showed how children engaged with scientific inquiry within the SINQ app, and most importantly illuminated how inquiry is not a linear process with a defined start and end. The children in our study traversed the inquiry process via diverse pathways, all of which were supported by the SINQ app.

Demo paper

Ahn, J., Yip, J.C., & Gubbels, M. (in press). SINQ: Designing social media to foster everyday scientific inquiry for children. Demo paper in Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Interaction Design and Children (IDC ’13).
[PDF – Demo paper]


In this paper, we describe a mobile, social media app called SINQ that was the product of a 15-month co-design process with a child design team. The goal of SINQ is to utilize social media design features in ways that help children conceptualize Scientific INQuiry practices through intuitive sharing of media and ideas from their everyday lives. We describe how SINQ builds from prior work in software for science learning and mobile technology for children. We also highlight how SINQ is a distinct evolution of technology for scientific inquiry learning. We argue that by taking seriously, the affordances of social media applications, new opportunities and design challenges arise for interaction design for learning technologies.

22 Feb

Tenth International Conference on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning, Madison, WI.


I’m very excited to have five submissions to the Tenth International Conference on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL 2013) in Madison, WI. I’m co-author on a full paper, a short paper, a symposium, and two workshop papers for Human-Computer Interaction and the Learning Sciences. This is my first time going to CSCL, so I’m looking forward to knowing more about this community and how they attempt to design learning technologies to help collaboration in learning.

Full paper

Clegg, T., Yip, J., Ahn, J., Bonsignore, E., Gubbels, M., Lewittes, B., & Rhodes, E.  (2013). When face-to-face fails: Opportunities for social media to foster collaborative learning. In Proceedings of the Tenth International Conference on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning, Madison, WI.
[PDF – Full paper]

Abstract: Productive collaboration is an integral component of socially constructed perspectives of learning. Yet effective collaboration is quite challenging and not without its own risks. Collaboration, both distributed and face-to-face, must be nurtured; technologies can support or undermine its positive growth in learning communities. In this paper, we present an exploratory investigation of the types of social interactions that are both productive and non-productive in face-to-face informal science learning contexts. We include an analysis of the ways in which social media technologies can be designed to support more collaborative interactions.

Short paper

Ryan, S., Yip, J.C., Stieff, M. & Druin, A. (2013). Cooperative inquiry as communities of practice. In Proceedings of the Tenth Computer Supported Collaboration Learning Conference (CSCL 2013).
[PDF – Short paper]

Abstract: Many researchers in the learning sciences collaborate with teachers in work circles to develop curricula. However, we argue that students have been overlooked as participants in the design process. In this paper, we demonstrate how direct student involvement in the design of curricular interventions and educational technologies not only produces meaningful and creative designs, but also allows students to question their own assumptions about learning and to develop a deeper understanding of content. We adhered to the perspective of participatory design, that is, students were treated as partners in the design process. In doing so, students were encultured into a community of practice with the shared goal of developing and improving a large-scale chemistry curriculum. Using a set of exit interviews, we describe the perceived experiences of four student partners regarding participation. We outline three major themes (learning outcomes, community and philanthropic outlet) and their implications for future design research.


Bonsignore, E., Ahn, J., Clegg, T.L., Guha, M.L., Hourcade, J.P., Yip, J.C. & Druin, A. (2013) Embedding participatory design into designs for learning: An untapped interdisciplinary resource? In Proceedings of the Tenth Computer Supported Collaboration Learning Conference (CSCL 2013).
[PDF – Symposium full paper] 

Abstract: Given the rapid evolution of social networks and online communities, interest in participatory cultures—online and offline social spaces with low barriers to entry and support for creating and sharing knowledge—is increasing. Design-based research (DBR) that invites children to share in the process of designing the technologies that support their learning is a natural extension of this participatory cultures movement. In this symposium, we establish a rationale for using Participatory Design (PD) techniques that can inform and enrich the process of designing technologies that support collaborative learning. We provide empirical examples from our own research of the ways in which PD can be incorporated into learner centered technology designs. Our experiences demonstrate that PD is not only a key contributor in the design of learning technologies themselves, it can also be valuable resource that sheds light on the learning processes of the children who use them.Work

Workshop – Human-Computer Interaction and the Learning Sciences

Yip, J.C., Bonsignore, E., Ahn, J., Clegg, T.L., & Guha, M.L. (2013) Building ScienceKit through Cooperative Inquiry. Workshop paper for the Tenth Computer Supported Collaboration Learning Conference (CSCL 2013).
[PDF – Workshop paper]

Abstract: This paper outlines the design process we followed with ScienceKit, a mobile application that supports learners’ engagement in scientific inquiry. Our system, ScienceKit is evolving through a Cooperative Inquiry (CI) approach in which children (7-11 years old) and adults contribute as equal partners in all iterations of design. We integrate research and practices in the Learning Sciences and HCI to develop several key combinations of design elements that craft a balance of 1) social engagement with personal narrative; 2) diverse points of entry into the scientific inquiry process with collaborative, community views, and 3) scaffolds that support inquiry tasks such as scientific measurement with the freedom of playful, personally meaningful memory capture. The HCI and Learning Sciences workshop format is an ideal venue in which to share our new and emerging understandings at the intersection of participatory design and learning.

Bonsignore, E., Yip, J.C., Ahn, J., Clegg, T.L., & Guha, M.L. (2013). Designing for learners, with learners: Toward a theory of Cooperative Inquiry in the design of learning technologies. Workshop paper for the Tenth Computer Supported Collaboration Learning Conference (CSCL 2013).
[PDF – Workshop paper]

Abstract: In this paper, we establish a rationale for integrating traditionally HCI-oriented Participatory Design techniques with Learner-Centered Design principles from the Learning Sciences (LS). Our focus is on a specific Participatory Design approach known as Cooperative Inquiry, in which children (typically 7-11 years old) and adults work together as full partners to design technologies intended for use by children. In our experience as members of an interdisciplinary HCI/LS research team, we have found parallels between CI practices in HCI and learner-centered, design-based research paradigms in LS. These commonalities offer pockets of opportunity for advancing a more integrated and mutually generative relationship between our two disciplines. We also touch upon opportunities and challenges that researchers in HCI and LS may face in crafting a complementary research agenda to develop learning interaction design (LID) theories that actively involve learners in the process of designing the technologies they themselves will use.

08 Feb

ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI2013)


From April 27 to May 2, 2013, I will be attending CHI 2013 in Paris, France.

I’m very excited to go to my first CHI 2013 in which I co-authored a full paper. This is also my first experience in Paris.

The full reference to the paper is:

Walsh, G., Foss, E., Yip, J. & Druin, A. (in press). FACIT PD: A framework for analysis and creation of intergenerational techniques for participatory design. In Proceedings of the 31st International Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2013). New York, NY: ACM.

Check out our brief video:

The abstract to our paper is below:

In this paper, we present a framework that describes commonly used design techniques for Participatory Design with children. Although there are many currently used techniques for designing with children, researchers working in differing contexts and in a changing technological landscape find themselves facing difficult design situations. The FACIT PD framework presented in this paper can aid  in choosing existing design techniques or in developing new techniques regardless of the stage in the design cycle, the technology being developed, or philosophical approach to design method. The framework consists of eight dimensions, concerning the design partners, the design goal, and the design technique. The partner dimensions are partner experience and need for accommodation. The design goal dimensions are design space and maturity of design. The technique dimensions include: cost, portability, technology and physical interaction. Three cases will be presented which describe new techniques developed using the framework and two cases will describe existing techniques.

I worked together with Greg Walsh, Ph.D., Elizabeth Foss, and my adviser, Allison Druin, Ph.D. I hope that our work can help many design researchers and human-computer interaction researchers develop new techniques for working with children in designing technologies.

30 Jan

iConference 2013


I have the great privilege of working with June Ahn, Ph.D., Michael Gubbels, and Jinyoung Kim on Science INQuiry – SINQ. We developed a social media tool that helps to scaffold and distribute science inquiry processes for children. As part of our work, we are presenting our prototype at the iConference 2013 at the University of North Texas in Fort Worth, Texas. Our track is the Social Media Expo, sponsored by Microsoft Research’s FUSE Lab.

The official link to our work is here.

The abstract to our paper is below:

In this paper we describe SINQ, a prototype mobile social media (SM) application that utilizes social participation to guide learners through an everyday Scientific INQuiry process. The paper outlines the motivation for SINQ based on learning theories of scientific inquiry, the challenges associated with scientific inquiry learning within everyday settings, the design of SINQ to promote science inquiry, and the implications for design and learning with social media that we learned from this development experience.

Also, check out our video and poster for SINQ.


27 May

Why does ownership matter in learning? – The elevator speech

So the million dollar question I get all the time from meeting new people is this:

“Oh so you are a doctoral student… Well tell me about what you are doing?”

In this frightening moment, I have to explain basically my entire reason for research existence in under three minutes. We call this the dreaded “elevator speech” (ES).

The ES is probably one of the best gauges for a person’s dissertation. If you can’t convey what you are talking about in under three minutes to a total stranger or your grandma, you probably don’t have a clue what you are talking about. Sure, out there in “theory land” lies a huge amount of background knowledge, methods, and philosophical concerns. However, I think it’s always a good exercise to try to get that ES out there really as neat, concise, and easy to understand piece for everyone reading. So here’s my ES for my dissertation. I’m hoping to tighten it down better so that I can say something that is somewhat coherent at my presentation at the International Conference of the Learning Sciences in Sydney.

As a warning, if you ask me what my ES is tomorrow, or the next day, or in the next several months, I guarantee it’s going to change. Hey, it will probably change the day right before I give the final defense. But, I think it’s always good practice to get this out there and see if a general audience understands what I’m talking about.

So here goes nothing…

Why does ownership matter in learning?

So, for many of you, science (and learning for that matter) is super boring and dull. What you learn in school often doesn’t connect at all to anything you do at home or with your friends. For example, take the concept of chemical equilibrium. Did you know that equilibrium is established when the rate of reactant formation equal to the rate of product formation? I’m guessing that unless you are a chemist (or some Jeopardy geek) you probably didn’t know this. A lot of what you get from schooling is often disconnected from daily life. I’m going to also guess that when you go grocery shopping, the topic of chemical equilibrium doesn’t quite come up in conversation. Chemical equilibrium is hardly a topic you’d bring up to someone you are attracted to (unless they are a hot chemist).

So a lot of what we learn in school remains inert, barely making it to the surface of our personal lives. And you know what happens? Well a lot of really smart people in education have found out that students don’t learn very well this way (SHOCKER!!!). In fact, students have been telling educators for years that what they are learning is boring, not important for the real world, and that students don’t have much of a choice in what they want to learn. So this is a pretty big problem… On one hand, schools are here to help prepare learners to make really important choices and tasks. But often times, students aren’t able to make important choices in school that pertains to what they want to learn, how they want to learn, when they want to learn, and even if they want to learn.

In the research community, we call this lack of control for students learning, the idea of “ownership”. Again, lots of really smart and important education people have found out years ago that ownership is something that is really important for students. If students don’t have a sense in ownership of what they are learning, students tend to shut down. This is particularly a problem in science education, but I have a feeling it’s a problem throughout many fields of education. So, a lot of these researchers argue, “hey, our educational system really ought to help students develop a sense of ownership in their science learning!”

Wow, brilliant huh?!

Well there’s a problem. The big issue I’ve found is that, what exactly is this ownership thing we are talking about? So on one hand, people say, “hey students need ownership in learning.” However, no one really has quite figured out, well how do you do this and more importantly, how do you do this effectively? Specifically, people talk a lot about ownership having a connection to a person’s self-identity, power relations, communities, and personal goals. So when we talk about ownership, we can’t just say, “oh, students need to develop ownership in the learning process, that’ll get ’em going.” Instead, we need to be more specific about how we think ownership is evolving in students, what exactly students are owning, can ownership be sustained, and how do other people affect a student’s ownership.

So all of this probably sounds like what my friends called, “hippie teaching.” Can’t we just make students learn, get them to pass exams, and move on with life? Why do we have to think about all this ownership feelings and hugging and stuff? Well, somewhere down the line educators are going to have to address this topic. Even if students pass exams and force knowledge into their heads, guess what, students pretty much forget everything the next day. I remember times where I didn’t care about anything I learned; I needed the grade so I crammed in everything I could the night before an exam. I passed those exams and in some cases I aced them. But as predicted, I forgot everything the next day. I didn’t care much for the knowledge I saw in class, I just wanted the grade. And sadly, me (and I’m sure many others) walked away with very little from our classes. But the times I truly cared about the knowledge and felt I could have ownership and control over it, that’s the time I really walked away with something. I still remember the lessons on engineering and team work when I cared about making my balsa wood bridge in 8th grade.

So what I’m trying to figure out in my dissertation is if people say ownership is important in science learning, we ought to study it closely. To get a better idea of what’s going on, I’m examining four students in a place called Kitchen Chemistry (KC). KC is designed as a learning environment that encourages students to make choices and decisions about what they want to learn and how they want to learn science in the context of cooking. Using a case-studies analysis, I’m trying to find patterns and similarities in how these students act and what actions they take that helps us better understand ownership.

If we can better understand how ownership evolves, how it changes over time, and how to sustain it, we might be able to develop learning environments and technological tools that can help out with this issue. However, the big warning here is that I also think ownership is a double edge sword. My dissertation will cover the pros and cons of ownership; how ownership of learning helps and hinders learners. The big argument I’m trying to make is, ownership in science learning is really complex. Curriculum developers, researchers, and teachers need to be careful when they invoke the term ownership, but more importantly, they should think carefully about how to build learning innovations that could face these challenges.

Whew… Let’s see if I can do this…

18 May

HCIL Symposium

One of the best parts of working at the Human-Computer Interaction Lab is the Annual Symposium.

“The Human-Computer Interaction Lab’s 29th Annual Symposium will be held May 22- 23. This year’s symposium will consider the future of social media, networks, medical informatics, information visualization, interaction design, designing for children and youth, games, HCI design methods and more. Learn through talks, hands-on tutorials, workshops, demos and posters. Full-time students receive an 80 percent discount on the cost of registration. Registration is required.”

In my time here at the HCIL, I have seen how great partnerships can develop, not just between academics, but between the industry, non-profit, and community members with researchers. The Symposium has great speakers, poster sessions, and tutorials for anyone interested in human-computer interaction. I’ll be presenting our work on Kitchen Chemistry on Wednesday, May 23. Check out our poster!

01 May

Data Collection: Two more weeks!

Kitchen Chemistry data collection at the school site is almost done! Time to finish up the interviews with all the participants. I’m hoping to wrap everything up by mid June 2012.

01 May

TCETC 2012

The next conference I will be attending is the Teachers College Educational Technology Conference 2012. Take a read at the my extended abstract on Cooperative Inquiry.

Yip, J.C., Clegg, T.L., Druin, A., Guha, M.L., Golub, E., Bonsignore, E., Foss, E., & Walsh, G. (2012, May). Cooperative inquiry for designing technologies for life-relevant learning. Proceedings of the Teachers College Educational Technology Conference 2012 (TCETC). New York City, NY.
[PDF – Extended Abstract]