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Designing multiplayer technology to foster learning, engagement and social interaction amongst children in informal settings

, University of California, Berkeley, United States

University of California, Berkeley . Awarded


To better understand how practitioners can effectively design multiplayer technologies that both educate and engage children in informal settings, this study explores the relationships between features of an exhibit and learning, engagement and social interaction of child-only groups. Utilizing a design-based research approach, four variations of an inquiry exhibit were developed according to educational and motivational theory. The variations explore how different features of a multiplayer exhibit either foster or limit activity in groups based on the task goal (discovery versus interpretation) and participation structure (consensus versus individual). Audio and observational data were gathered from 120 groups of two or three children (303 individuals), aged eight to fourteen, who voluntarily chose to use the exhibit during their natural exploration of a science center. Each group was assessed for learning processes (e.g., explaining and reasoning), engagement (e.g., time on task and affective talk), and social interaction (e.g., instructing and help-seeking).

Results show that different features of the exhibit affect group activity in measurable ways. Data suggest engagement increases with more participants, decreases with age, and that some features are more engaging than others depending on the groups' gender. Data show over 70% of all groups, including those with children as young as eight, reason effectively about data in a free-choice activity. When the goal of the activity is to interpret content rather than "discover" a predetermined answer, groups engage in a wider range of learning talk throughout their process, reason more effectively, and are more likely to extend the length and quality of their conversation at the end. While consensus features push groups to talk and reason in more effective ways than groups allowed individual choices, data suggest that an individual participation structure fosters higher engagement.

Principles and guidelines for designers of multiplayer educational technologies are discussed. This study has broad, practical implications for designers who seek to both educate and engage children, such as informal practitioners, learner-centered curriculum developers, or designers of educational games and toys.


Stafford, C.L.R. Designing multiplayer technology to foster learning, engagement and social interaction amongst children in informal settings. Ph.D. thesis, University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved November 12, 2019 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

Citation reproduced with permission of ProQuest LLC.

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