Sociometric Technologies for children
United Nations recently declared equal access to education as a basic human right. This has reignited interest in inclusive education, an approach that seeks ‘education for all’ by supporting schools to respond successfully to the diverse needs of all learners. However, despite the increased attention to this educational approach, researchers have criticized the lack of empirical evidence on how social exclusion is manifested in children’s behaviors.
Through the establishment of strong partnerships with regional schools of the island of Madeira we have been able to study our technologies and receive feedback from school communities, while contributing to their ongoing school development.
How do children’s social relationships look like?
In order to study children’s social relationships, we invited 3rd graders (8-9 years) of a local primary school to talk about their friendships by using the drawing telling method. Children created their personal social maps by placing their home in the middle and drawing a village around it by positioning all classmates’ homes in the landscape. Towards the end of the activity, they were asked to describe their drawings. The distance among each child’s own home and these of their peers revealed patterns of social relationships among them. In fact, the children’s narratives illuminated reasons for social proximity, which, in turn, enabled us to understand motives for peer rejection and group exclusion at this particular age group.
How can sociometric technologies measure actual behaviors and affect pro-social habits?
With an increasing interest in the social inclusion of all children in schools, HCI researchers have proposed technologies that support children at risk of social exclusion in their interactions with peers. However, much of this work has focused on the child at risk of social exclusion, disregarding the fact that social exclusion is a group-phenomenon that often originates in children’s negative stereotyping. In this work, we report on children’s practices of social rejection and argue for persuasive sociometric technologies that sense their social relations and provide persuasive feedback for supporting pro-social behaviors. Based on a correlation of children’s social status and relative popularity with factors of diversity, which have been documented to affect educational and social participation, we conducted a Wizard of Oz study that aimed at motivating children in engaging in empathic dialogues with
each other. The Wizard provided real-time feedback, reinforcing positive social interactions. Our study suggested that sociometric persuasive technologies are a helpful tool for eliminating discriminatory behaviors by stimulating positive social experiences, thus combating prejudices and cultivating mutual understanding.
How can we design playful technologies for engaging children in measuring their behaviors longitudinally?
One of the most common challenges, when attempting to measure children’s behaviors, is maintaining their engagement for a long time. Playful Booth is a system that engages children in playful photo taking practices with the goal of capturing their social interactions over prolonged periods of time, thus gathering longitudinal data on their social interactions. Our 4-week-long deployment of Playful Booth with 70 participating children of a local primary school in Madeira revealed five aspects of the system that contributed to sustaining children’s engagement with the system over a long period of time: a sense of magic induced by the RFID infrastructure, the system’s expressive physical interactions, the social practices of photo-taking, a sense of exclusiveness induced by a limited deployment to only selected classes of the school, and the sense of attachment to children’s personalized wrist-watches. These aspects combined with the system’s playfulness, its non-intrusive character and the stability of the technology suggest that it is a viable tool for longitudinal studies with children.