From Play to Progress: Co-Designing Technology for Early Learners

Holly Tootell, Mark Freeman, Grant Ellmers

Research output: Contribution to conference (non-published works)Paperpeer-review


In the last decade, the pervasive integration of computers, tablets, and mobile devices has transformed how both children and adults engage with technology. While the potential for digital tools to reshape education is widely recognized, their practical implementation in classrooms, especially for pre-schoolers, remains limited (Blackwell et al., 2014). This discrepancy between available technology and its meaningful use underscores the importance of designing developmentally appropriate applications that cater to preschool children’s cognitive abilities and motor skills. To this end, the concept of co-design, involving children as active contributors to the design process, has gained traction.
Incorporating technology into preschool education requires a nuanced understanding of young children’s communication abilities and cognitive development (Ertmer et al., 2011). Traditional design methodologies often fail to elicit valuable input from pre-schoolers due to challenges in articulating thoughts and preferences (Druin, 2002). Thus, the methods must be adapted to accommodate how children express themselves and respond to stimuli (Berggren & Hedler, 2014). Engaging other influential figures in pre-schoolers’ lives, such as educators and parents, can further enrich the design process.
Co-design empowers children by granting them a platform to influence technological development. Unlike previous methods that relied heavily on adult perspectives, co-design
shifts the power dynamic, letting children’s insights and ideas take centre stage (Sanders & Stappers, 2008). This methodology has yielded innovative and impactful results, particularly in technologies designed for primary school children and adolescents. However, its application in the context of preschool children has been limited due to their different comprehension levels and shorter attention spans.
This research explores existing technology and design environments aimed at pre-schoolers, emphasizing co- design and participatory design practices. By assessing the methodologies and techniques used in designing and evaluating technology for young children, this research uncovers the extent of the application of co-design in preschool-aged contexts. The article underscores the significance of addressing the unique challenges posed by preschool-aged children’s cognitive development and communication skills.
In summary, as digital devices become increasingly integrated into modern life, their potential to revolutionize preschool education is clear. However, harnessing this potential requires overcoming the barriers inherent in designing for young children. Co-design presents as a promising solution, bridging the gap between technology and meaningful educational experiences for pre-schoolers.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 22 Nov 2023
EventFifth JSPSAAA Annual Symposium: Australia-Japan Science and Innovation - The Shine Dome, Australian Academy of Science, Canberra, Australia
Duration: 22 Nov 202323 Nov 2023


ConferenceFifth JSPSAAA Annual Symposium


Dive into the research topics of 'From Play to Progress: Co-Designing Technology for Early Learners'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this