Creating Web Portals with Children as Designers: Bonded Design and the Zone of Proximal Development

By Large, Andrew; Bowler, Leanne et al. | McGill Journal of Education (Online), Winter 2007 | Go to article overview

Creating Web Portals with Children as Designers: Bonded Design and the Zone of Proximal Development


Large, Andrew, Bowler, Leanne, Beheshti, Jamshid, Nesset, Valerie, McGill Journal of Education (Online)


ABSTRACT. The article presents a new technology design methodology that the authors have termed "Bonded Design" and that was applied by two intergenerational teams comprising adults and grade-three elementary school students in one case, and adults and grade-six students in a second case. The objective of each team was to design a low-tech web portal prototype that elementary school students could use to find information on Canadian history to support class-based projects. The relationship between Bonded Design and Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) theory is explored, and the success of Bonded Design is explained in part by its use of the ZPD as a conceptual framework for the development of a community of designers.

CRÉATION DE PORTAILS WEB AVEC LES ENFANTS COMME CONCEPTEURS : CONCEPTION COLLABORATIVE ET LA ZONE DE DÉVELOPPEMENT PROXIMAL

RÉSUMÉ. L'article présente une nouvelle méthodologie de conception technologique que les auteurs ont appelée Bonded Design ou conception collaborative et qui a été appliquée par deux équipes intergénérationnelles composées d'adultes et d'élèves de troisième année du primaire dans un cas, et d'adultes et d'élèves de sixième année du primaire dans un deuxième cas. L'objectif de chaque équipe était de concevoir un prototype de portail Web d'une faible technicité que des élèves du primaire pourraient utiliser pour trouver de l'information sur l'histoire du Canada, afin de soutenir les projets en classe. La relation entre la conception collaborative et la théorie de Vygotsky sur la zone de développement proximal (ZDP) est explorée, et le succès de la conception collaborative s'explique en partie par son utilisation de la zone de développement proximal comme cadre conceptuel pour le développement d'une communautée de concepteurs.

INTRODUCTION

The Web is an open-ended information environment used by students as a place for exploration, discovery, and learning. In the context of project-based learning, the Web is an important resource, providing both the means and content needed to complete school projects. Indeed, for many young people who have access to the Web, it is their preferred source for information resources.

Children, like adults, largely rely upon web portals (also called search engines) to identify and retrieve relevant web sites. A growing number of studies, however, are finding that primary and middle school students, although typically enthusiastic users of web portals, encounter problems in finding information to support their class projects and assignments (Schacter, Chung, & Dorr, 1998; Fidel et al., 1999; Hirsh, 1999; Large, Beheshti, & Moukdad, 1999; Wallace et al., 2000; Large & Beheshti, 2000; Bowler, Large & Rejskind, 2001). The barriers children face using web portals are many. The Web is a complex environment providing access to information from a variety of inconsistent and incompatible sources, the overwhelming majority of which are explicitly intended for adults. When searching, children typically encounter difficulties in selecting (and correctly spelling) appropriate keywords, formulating these keywords into search statements (which often requires a familiarity with Boolean logic), and revising a search strategy that fails to produce the desired results. When browsing menus or hyperlinks children often encounter navigational problems and become disoriented (Large, 2004).

The design of the web portal, its usability, can also contribute to the difficulties children face. Although there are many competing definitions, most experts would agree that usability describes the ability of the user to easily and intuitively understand, and then successfully navigate through, the components of an interface (Rubin, 1994; Rose, Shneiderman, & Plaisan, 1995; Head, 1997; Neilsen, 2000). Achieving usability is the task of the designer, not the user, and it therefore behooves the design community to explore methods to accomplish this. …

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