littleBits onboarding workshop @ IDC 2016



Call for Participation CfP
“A high quality computing education equips pupils to use computational thinking and creativity to understand and change the world” – taken from the National Curriculum. Simply understanding how to consume technology is no longer acceptable, having the ability to express creativity through the design and creation of their own technology projects is what we are moving towards. From the likes of the Raspberry Pi and the BBC micro:bit, to crowdfunded projects this sector is developing platforms in silos without any considerations to how a child/adult decides which platform is a suitable starting point.

If this resonates with you, then this is the workshop you should attend! We are looking for participants to join us in a full day’s workshop where we will be deigning for children with children. Through a mix of academics, creative facilitators, children and delegates of the IDC 2016 conference. We invite you with your enthusiastic inspirational minds to work with children sharing knowledge, insights and experiences with emerging technologies to stimulate a child’s mind. This will be for some a first, hands on experience with littleBits, which will be fun, interactive and will teach you the basics of coding and electronics. The day will start with an introduction to the platform and presenting the unveiling of customary software built by the Media Innovation Studio (UCLan) creating an onboarding experience to the platform. Followed by simple exercises to get to grips with the bits, stimulating your imagination of the potential of what’s possible. Preceded by free-to-play and challenges in the afternoon. At the end of the day, you will share your experiences and evaluations through Remerge to help shape the platform and our research around onboarding and blended learning to push the creative minds of the future.

Come along to IDC 2016, Media City, Manchester – during the 21 – 24 June 2016

‘Children should learn to code’, it’s a simple message that in recent years, has come to dominate much of the discussion around the development of the computing and technology curriculum. A range of government, public and privately funded initiatives have highlighted the value of introducing children to coding and computer science. Its role in the broader agenda of encouraging better engagement with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). As a result of this increased focus, a number of products have emerged onto the market that blend hardware, software, creative thinking and play as a key learning mechanism. This echoes a broader call to encourage more interdisciplinary and creative thinking, initially driven by the video games industry, turning the STEM debate, to STEAM with the addition of the Arts. This workshop introduces a playful learning technology product, ‘littleBits’. The product is quickly attracting a growing following in schools, particularly in the US. However, the products pricing means that kitting out a classroom with sufficient ‘bits’ to ensure a good experience for all students does represent a significant financial investment. This workshop proposes, testing a way of onboarding users to their first experience with littleBits through a tablet based companion app. The app has been developed to simulate the process of introducing a user to the technology, mitigating some of the issues of access to the product itself. It also allows us to determine to what extent participants learn from the app; first as a tool to simulate the experience and secondly, as a way of determining learning through a gamified experience.

During the workshop key questions will be raised and captured around the following discussions;

  • What learning outcomes come from playing with the littleBits platform?
  • To what extent should onboarding be used in blended learning environments?
  • Do children need this onboarding experience before graduating to physical maker kits?
  • How do we measure a child’s curiosity whilst engaged with a digital product and does this curiosity transfer into the physical object?
  • Does having a gamified approach encourage participation over time, and is it useful beyond mastering the platform?
  • Are their similar traits seen within other platforms?
  • Can we draw upon knowledge from other simulated experiences?

Although the workshop is to be held during the IDC 2016 conference and open to delegates attending, we propose that we invite 15-20 children from a secondary school in years 7-9 to partake in the activities. Delegates who have an active interest in working with children to design interactions will be interested in the workshop for its ice-breaking method using building blocks to open a child’s mind in the creative process. The full day workshop will be split in two; the first part of the day consists of onboarding the littleBits platform and the latter half of the day a more free-to-play experience (with some rules) coupled with household recyclable similar to those seen on Blue Peter.

  • am: Bridging the digital and physical through onboarding and recreating recipes using the companion app.
    • Evaluating the onboarding experience with lessons learnt from using the tool and determining to what extent these skills are transferable with the physical objects.
  • pm: Free-to-play and challenges
    • After lunch, teams will form and be allotted a set amount of time to play with the littleBits platform, experimenting with all the bits in order to help them in the team challenges. Teams must then come up with their own solutions to a set of challenges, in a similar style to the ‘Great British Bake Off’.

Just like Bdeir states, littleBits is just another material like pens, paper, cardboard etc., we encourage attendees to build products with a range of household waste products like washing up bottles, cereal and egg boxes etc., collected by mentors and their families over the last few months.

The workshop will bring together children and academics from interaction whom are designing for children. Coupled with researchers from UCLan whose expertise’s are in teaching, creative facilitation, LEGO serious play, technology design and community building. Attendees will take part in the first Manchester littleBits chapter workshop, getting the chance to explore what a companion app with a gameful design, can do in assisting users in the onboarding process in making with electronics. Participants will also get first hand experience with a large collection of littleBits. At the end of the day, attendees will be welcomed to share their experiences through a bespoke piece of software called ‘Remerge’ that captures the sharing of anonymous opinions and displayed via a large screen for a wider audience overview. Typical questions to include will be aimed around self evaluation, for example, the child will evaluate their older partner and vice versa. The researchers will use this data in the design process for further iterations of the companion app and help shape future workshops of littleBits. The next instalment of the chapters workshop is taking place at the Lancashire Science Festival (30 June – 1 July 2016) and within a makerspace at the local museum. With a possibility of running such workshops within a local primary school’s STEAM week. Furthermore, the data and experiences gained from the workshop will assist in conducting further studies of using the companion app as an onboarding exercise for littleBits.

Who are we?
The workshop will be led by three members of the Media Innovation Studio; Dr Mark Lochrie, Prof Paul Egglestone and Andy Dickinson and also from UCLan, Onno Baudouin from Innovation and Enterprise complimented by Ph.D. student, Adrian Gradinar.

Mark, is a research associate and creative technologist at the Media Innovation Studio, UCLan. He has been working on delivering a range of technical solutions for varied audiences. His work demonstrates how technology can be used to encourage participation within communities, through the use of mobile and web technologies, he has designed and developed a range of applications to evaluate the impact citizens have whilst occupying spaces from Location Based Games to physical checkin mechanisms. Most recently he has worked on the DataMakers project, across a range of data driven and physical sensing projects from the Sir Ranulph Fiennes’s Data Dashboard representing his Marathon des Sables experience, to mobiles games that allow school children to capture air quality data. This work into designing for children has generated a new passion, of designing for making. In particular, with littleBits; enabling children to express their creativity through the means of creating and sharing electronics projects.

Paul is Director of Research and Innovation for the College of Culture and Creative Industries, Chair of Digital and Creative Technology and Director of the Media Innovation Studio at the University of Central Lancashire. He is a founding member of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WANIFRA) Global Alliance for Media Innovation. Paul’s work in media spans national and international organisations from the BBC and Sky TV; to Haymarket Media, Johnston Press and Trinity Mirror, to The Independent, The Times and the Guardian. Previously, he led the NESTA strategic partnership for the College and is a regular peer reviewer for the Arts and Humanities Research Council and several journals. His work uniting communities, technologists and content creators began some time before the ensuing discourse surrounding what is now referred to as the Maker Movement. His current research interests focus on issues surrounding the creation and use of information technologies to both empower individual citizens and promote democratic ideals recognising the potential that ever-more affordable media technologies bring to democratising access to public debate as they connect people in new and interesting ways.

Andy is a researcher at the Media Innovation Studio and a senior lecturer in journalism, where he specialises in digital journalism. He has worked extensively as a trainer and consultant on digital innovation and facilitated a number of workshops with high profile media organisations helping them get hands-on with new technologies. As well as being part of the Media Innovation Studio’s DataMakers project he is currently involved in number of projects which explore the intersection of storytelling, technology and community. This includes an InnovateUK/Nesta funded project to explore the opportunities for open data and related technologies at a hyperlocal level. He has written on the importance of making data tangible; exploring the opportunities of sensors and physical objects to make data accessible and relevant. Andy’s background is in TV production and the web where his first qualifications in electronics and electrical engineering met creative technology and artistic thinking head on. It’s a mix he has been passionate to preserve in everything he does in particular with DataMakers, through delivering workshops with children and games designers and the use of creative technologies like littleBits.

Onno bringing a range of skills that range from having worked in all-round design agency, through a short-lived but intense interactive arts career, to becoming a fully fledged creative facilitator. Onno has helped to design, deliver and improve thousands of workshops over the last 15 years. Trusting that the right people are in the room and using any number of tools such as Lego Serious Play to custom development of facilitation software. Onno always aims to get the maximum out of the precious time people have committed to working together acting as catalyst and/or agitator when required. Concluding the team, is Adrian Gradinar, a 3rd year Ph.D. student at Lancaster University’s Creative Exchange. He brings knowledge of Internet of Things platforms and particular research interests in Digital Public Spaces. His technological background and research complements the team’s array of disciplines.

littleBits Chapters leader

IDC 2016 workshops