Don’t know what a triangle looks like? Play CamQuest!

Jennie and Cathrine holding an iPad with CamQuest open and camera showing a round lamp inside the app's circle.

Game-apps for preschoolers can skip storylines and big goals and can benefit from enabling two kids to play together. These where two of my take aways from a paper presentation about the app CamQuest.

The second day of SIDeR14 had a paper session with “Children” as it’s theme and I really liked the work in the paper “CamQuest: Design and Evaluation of a Tablet Application for Educational Use in Preschools” by Jennie Berggren and Catherine Hedler.

CamQuest is an iPad app which is yet to be released to Apple’s AppStore. In the app the kids can choose one of four geometric shapes (square, triangle, circle, rectangle) which is overlaid on top of the live image from the iPad’s camera. The kids should then investigate their environment and take photos of objects that have the same shape as the chosen one.

Jennie and Cathrine holding an iPad with CamQuest open and camera showing a round lamp inside the app's circle.
Catherine and Jennie found a circle!

Jennie and Catherine did usability tests in a preschool class with a low tech prototype (transparencies taped to an iPad) as well as with the (almost) finished app. They also interviewed the kids about their app usage.

The interviews turned out to be difficult – kids this young have a difficult time discussing past experiences. Jennie and Catherine also interviewed the kids in pairs which was a mistake since people in general, and kids especially, often influence each other when answering questions in pairs.

My experience from testing with 300+ preschool kids is that they can answer questions about their experience while they are using an artefact. My method is therefore:

  1. Test with one kid at a time
  2. Introduce yourself, ask for their name and perhaps ask one more general question to build a connection
  3. Let the kid use the artefact in a guided scenario
  4. Observe closely and ask questions when you can not “see” the kid’s thoughts

Jennie and Catherine’s observations of kids using the app gave interesting findings about kids’ behaviour. Some of the things I will integrate into my practice are:

  • Preschoolers can have fun using an app in pairs. Many of the kids used CamQuest in pairs and had fun together finding circles, squares and triangles in their environment.
  • Apps for preschools can benefit from being the central part in an activity lead by the teacher. For the CamQuest tests the class’s teacher introduced the app and gave the kids their task. The kids then went off and used the app. The activity was concluded with the teacher showing taken photos to the whole class and discussing the different shapes. I am certain the kids still know what a triangle is!
  • Apps for preschoolers can be open ended. CamQuest has no backstory, big goal or correct answers – three game dynamics that are super important in games for older kids. The activity and interaction in itself is instead the reward for the kids.

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