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.

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.

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

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]