With over 200 papers published annually in conferences, and an increasing interest in Child-Computer Interaction as an academic field it is important to consider how we might better prepare adults for HCI work with children. Good preparation has two main advantages; 1. It ensures that the work we do is beneficial and productive and 2. It ensures that the children we work with are left with a good experience. Working with children is not something that comes naturally to everyone. In 2006, Alissa Antle [1] gained a fair bit of interest in the IDC community when she talked about how she helped male software engineers learn about children, but such discussion is rare. A recent paper by Roldan et al., [11] explored the experiences of 14 students who had completed co-design project work with children. There are suggestions that it was not all plain sailing. For example, they write ‘some students successfully implemented strategies to connect with users and gather rich insights’, which hints at different levels of competence in communication, they also write that ‘successful teams demonstrated empathy when children struggled with their prototypes.’, which again suggests that some teams were less successful. Practical difficulties that were recorded included that ‘designers were not sure how to pay attention to quieter users’ and the participants in the study were aware of their own limitations in so far as they knew they could have done better. "So, now looking back, I mean I still don’t know what’s the best way to communicate with her (child). I would have wished we could have done that better. To get her engaged… It was really hard to balance because we have such little time."

Too often when we read academic papers, we are left without any sense of what might have been learned, or of what might have gone better. Few papers talk about things that went wrong; exceptions we found included Malinverni and Pares [7] who critiqued their own choice of assessment tools in their work on full body interaction and Gaver et al., [4] who wrote a paper which unpicked why a design went wrong. To avoid or limit mistakes, one solution is better preparation / training or tutoring. Checklists and published guidelines can mitigate against problems [9], [3], [6] but when an individual comes into contact with children, even well planned activities can come unstuck. Work in CCI is often done by students with no formal training in CCI work; even if they have come from a HCI course, training on interaction with people, is not seen in the majority of courses [12]. Training individuals to work with people needs time and can include setting expectations, working alongside and then working alone with reflection and support being critical [8], [5]. Much can be learnt from observing experts and learning from others’ mistakes [10], [2]. However, many CCI researchers work in contexts where there is not a great deal of local expertise in CCI and for these individuals learning in this way is not easy.

Given that a) students can face difficulties and b) experienced staff also make mistakes, we are interested to ask the question ‘What can we ‘teach’ CCI folk? What cannot be learned except on the job? What mistakes have others made that other people can learn from? Where do we, as CCI researchers, fail?


[1] Alissa Antle. 2006. Child Personas: Fact or Fiction? In DIS 2006. University Park, Penn. ACM Press, 22 - 30.

[2] Marcela Borge, Dhvani Toprani, Shulong Yan and Yu Xia. 2020. Embedded design: engaging students as active participants in the learning of human-centered design practices. Computer Science Education, 30, 1 (2020), 47-71.

[3] Allison Druin. 1999. The Design of Children's technology. Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, Inc,

[4] William Gaver, John Bowers, Tobie Kerridge, Andy Boucher and Nadine Jarvis. 2009. Anatomy of a failure: how we knew when our design went wrong, and what we learned from it. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. (2009), 2213-2222.

[5] Guiseppe Getto and Fred Beecher. 2016. Toward a model of UX education: Training UX designers within the academy. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 59, 2 (2016), 153-164.

[6] L Hanna, K Risden and K Alexander, J. 1997. Guidelines for usability testing with children. Interactions, 1997, 5 (1997), 9-14.

[7] Laura Malinverni and Narcis Pares. 2017. Learning from failures in designing and evaluating full-body interaction learning environments. In Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems. (2017), 1065-1074.

[8] Tina Øvad, Nis Bornoe, Lars Bo Larsen and Jan Stage. 2015. Teaching software developers to perform UX tasks. In Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Australian Special Interest Group for Computer Human Interaction. (2015), 397-406.

[9] Janet C. Read, Matthew Horton, Gavin Sim, Peggy Gregory, Daniel Fitton and Brendan Cassidy.2013. CHECk: a tool to inform and encourage ethical practice in participatory design with children. In CHI '13 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems. Paris, France. ACM, 187-192. DOI:10.1145/2468356.2468391

[10] Judy Robertson, Andrew Macvean, Samantha Fawkner, Graham Baker and Ruth G Jepson. 2018. Savouring our mistakes: Learning from the FitQuest project. International journal of child-computer interaction, 16 (2018), 55-67.

[11] Wendy Roldan, Xin Gao, Allison Marie Hishikawa, Tiffany Ku, Ziyue Li, Echo Zhang, Jon E. Froehlich and Jason Yip 2020. Opportunities and Challenges in Involving Users in Project-Based HCI Education. Association for Computing Machinery, 1–15. DOI:10.1145/3313831.3376530

[12] Lauren Wilcox, Betsy DiSalvo, Dick Henneman and Qiaosi Wang. 2019. Design in the HCI classroom: Setting a research agenda. In Proceedings of the 2019 on Designing Interactive Systems Conference. (2019), 871-883.