IDC 2013 short paper on gamifying empirical studies for kids!

I’m pleased to announce that the MTAGIC project has had a poster accepted to the Interaction Design and Children (IDC) 2013 conference coming up this month in New York City! This poster paper was led by UMBC Human-Centered Computing (HCC) PhD student Robin Brewer. While doing an independent study with me, Robin investigated ways of motivating young children (ages 5 to 7 years old) to complete activities during empirical studies. Her initial explorations showed that this age group found the tasks boring and tedious, even though they had been done by older kids and adults without a problem. ‘Gamifying’ the tasks by adding a points-based reward structure along with physical prizes encouraged the kids to enthusiastically complete the activities. We recommend considering such gamification components for empirical studies with this age group. You can read the abstract below. For more details, see the paper. Come check out our poster if you’ll be at the conference!

In this paper, we describe the challenges we encountered and solutions we developed while collecting mobile touch and gesture interaction data in laboratory conditions from children ages 5 to 7 years old. We identify several challenges of conducting empirical studies with young children, including study length, motivation, and environment. We then propose and validate techniques for designing study protocols for this age group, focusing on the use of gamification components to better engage children in laboratory studies. The use of gamification increased our study task completion rates from 73% to 97%. This research contributes a better understanding of how to design study protocols for young children when lab studies are needed or preferred. Research with younger age groups alongside older children, adults, and special populations can lead to  more sound guidelines for universal usability of mobile applications.

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