Karen Hart of Picsterbooks and I were in New York City last week attending the Interaction Design for Children 2013 conference held at the New School. Here’s a recap of our takeaways and a video of our presentation at the Interactive eBooks for Children workshop. More pictures are on our facebook page.
Our demo paper, “Using Demibooks Composer to create remedial learning apps for the profoundly deaf” can be found here.
For the last 6 months Karen has been involved with the iDeaf School in South Africa, and we’ve collaborated on creating reading apps with Demibooks Composer. For Karen, this is her first publication, so congrats! Co-authoring the paper across several time zones while I was in London and then Bologna for the Children’s Book Fair in March was quite hectic. We have to thank Frank Bentley of Yahoo Labs for his valuable, just-in-time review comments including the infamous “this reads like a corporate advertisement” a few hours before the deadline! Somehow we got it done and were elated when accepted. What followed was the bemusing ACM paper process to get it publication ready, a ton of travel planning for Karen, and finally a 14,000 km journey for her from Pretoria, South Africa to Chicago and then NYC.
The Interactive eBooks for Children workshop organizers (Nadia Mana, Ornella Mich, Antonella de Angeli and Alison Druin) requested we provide Composer Pro for the hands-on part of the workshop. Picsterbooks’ Afrikaans version of the Gingerbread Man was one of the ebooks selected for analysis. The workshop was a convergence of many different studies and people interested in exploring what and how ebooks/interactive books/digital media can help create a better learning environment for children.
What we took away from the workshop was that apps can not be produced in isolation. Karen noted “As a developer so often I think that the book app that I am developing is only for a specific target group, but in the workshop I learnt that with a few small tweaks I can make the content more accessible to a wider special needs communities.”
We particularly enjoyed the input and the enthusiasm form the Gallaudet University speakers – invaluable connections in the community of app developers for the deaf. A point they highlighted was the need to consult with people with disabilities while building applications intend for their use. The school’s Science Learning Center has a great set up for design research, but developers with lesser means can be innovative by making connections to other practitioners and researchers in the field.
I also found the work by David Nunez an MIT Media Labs on collecting data across apps interesting. The workshop hopefully benefited from our discussion on the new COPPA laws effective July 1 that restrict what user data you can collect from children’s apps.
Presenting the workshop on Demibooks Composer was a fantastic experience showing people in the industry that there are easier, cost effective ways to produce application for the iPad, directly on the device. At the workshop we were pleased to find app developers who would now swap from using coding based development tools to Demibooks Composer to develop both story book as well as an education applications for deaf children.
We also had the chance to do the 25 second “Demo Madness” pitch that ACM conferences are known for. It was definitely madness, and we were awed by the full scale productions that some of the pitches were. Despite me forgetting to hit the next button to start our pitch in time, and 25 seconds to present an overview of your paper being pretty short, but we did it. The actual demo sessions at the New School was a great oppertunity to showcase iDeaf project apps, show off Composer in action as well as run our new demo reel of apps which we will release soon.
That’s it for now, check out the presentation video and have a great holiday weekend if you are in the US!