The Magazine of the Usability Professionals' Association
By Juan Pablo Hourcade, Natasha Bullock-Rest, and Heidi Schelhowe
When designing technologies for children, we are designing for a small minority of the world’s children, mainly those belonging to dominant social, economic, and political groups. According to UNICEF, most children are not so fortunate. Half the children in the world live in poverty and not just in developing nations. Marginalization can also occur in rich countries. In the United States, roughly one in five children live in poverty, including about one-third of black and Hispanic children. The result of marginalization is that these children will grow up with restricted opportunities to fully participate in economic, social, and political processes.
Information and communication technologies provide great opportunities and challenges for marginalized children. Digital technologies can provide a boost to children’s education and economic prospects. This makes it easier to develop the skills necessary to participate in the knowledge economy and in civic engagement, including digital-age literacy, inventive thinking, and effective communication. Projects like One Laptop per Child have sought to accomplish this by providing children in developing regions with unprecedented access to information, as well as the tools to create their own digital content.
In three workshops on Digital Technologies and Marginalized Youth, we have seen many examples of projects focused on positively impacting the lives of marginalized children both in developed and developing regions. Here are four lessons learned from these projects:
In the end, helping children in marginalized communities is all about providing equal opportunity to all the children in the world. We hope our views on this topic will open new perspectives, provide new insights, inspire, and inform future work.UX
Juan Pablo Hourcade is an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Iowa. His main area of research is human-computer interaction, with a concentration on technologies that support creativity, collaboration, and information access for a variety of users.
Natasha Bullock-Rest is a research assistant in the Speech and Psycholinguistics Lab at Brown University. She was previously a research assistant at the University of Iowa conducting research in human-computer interaction with a focus on technologies for children.
Heidi Schelhowe is a professor at the Computer Science Department of the University of Bremen and member of the Center for Computing Technologies. Her main research is in the design of digital media for youth and adults’ learning.
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User Experience Magazine is by and about usability professionals, featuring significant and unique articles dealing with the broad field of usability and the user experience.
This article was originally printed in User Experience Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 1, 2011.
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