MindScribe is a research project founded by Layne Jackson Hubbard. Layne is a PhD student in computer science at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her work is funded by a fellowship in Human-Computer Interaction from the National Science Foundation. She is advised by Dr. Tom Yeh.
MindScribe began in Spring 2016 as Layne reflected on how she could combine her backgrounds in early childhood education, neuroscience, and computer science.
Dr. Yeh encouraged Layne to focus on her continuous core interests: supporting the needs of young children during critical periods of challenge and change. Layne knew that she wanted to include children as collaborators in her design process, and she also knew that her designs must provide value to the children’s families as well.
As Layne was reading a research paper on co-designing new technologies with preschool children, she saw how the researchers encouraged children to sketch their observations of their classroom and then sketch their ideas for new classroom inventions.
To help children make sense of their sketches, the researchers sat 1:1 with each child and asked them questions about their drawings. However, the researchers noted that this process was quite resource intensive, and they had to limit the number of children they included in their collaboration as a result.
“Ah,” thought Layne, “This reminds me of my time teaching preschool!”
While teaching, Layne often sat with children and asked them questions about their creations. As they spoke, she wrote down their words so that they could be saved and shared.
Sometimes, when Layne was able to devote an extended amount of time, she would invite them to “tell a story” about their creations. Again, she would write down their words so that they could share their stories with their classroom and with their families.
Layne reflected that this, too, was a laborious undertaking as it required a teacher’s full attention and expertise. Thus, these storytelling interactions were both precious and rare.
But these stories provided such great benefit! For not only did each child get a chance to speak their mind and communicate their ideas, the stories also served as a tangible understanding of the child’s development, skills, interests, and needs. Teachers and parents alike found that the stories helped them better connect and respond to the child’s emerging self.
Layne wondered how she could empower more children to tell more stories more often.
And, as a technologist, she had an idea.