How HCI addresses the challenges of children-driven Parent Involvement in school



What notions of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) are the most interesting to me, and how they have strong implications for my research? What values of HCI are well-fitted for my own research interest? What particular methodologies in HCI can be of benefits to determining proper research direction and its process? Through this blogpost, I primarily reviewed several papers dealt in and out of the coursework to explore better research methodologies for my own research, as a part of response to the questions above. During the coursework, I was able to draw a big picture of the field of HCI via reading a lot of papers. Through the readings, firstly, I learned several categories of HCI such as Ubicomp and tangible interface, experience design. Furthermore, I have got some chances to think about the elements that should be contained in HCI such as ambiguity, multi-interpretation and democratization, the roles of designers, researchers, and users. My understanding of HCI can be summarised as the following: an advanced technology is not everything. It should be applied appropriately in terms of people (users) and offers adequate usability. In other words, HCI research plays a mediating role between the rapid technological developments and people’s adaptability.

Thanks to the coursework, I was able to adjust the direction of my PhD research and draw more ideas from HCI. Before reviewing the papers, I would like to briefly introduce my research interest and how it has changed. After that, I will list some of the challenges I face, and try to explore the notions of HCI that I might find useful. There are three areas of HCI that inform some of my challenges: participatory design, tangible interface and Ubicomp. And I mainly reviewed the papers listed below:

  • Staying Open to Interpretation: Engaging Multiple Meanings in Design and Evaluation
  • Participatory Design and “democratizing innovation”
  • Do Tangible Interfaces Enhance Learning?
  • Identity Crisis of Ubicomp? Mapping 15 years of the Field’s Development and Paradigm Change
  • TalkBetter: Family-driven Mobile Intervention Care for Children with Language Delay

What is my research interest?

스크린샷 2016-01-10 04.02.47

Image 1. Previous perspective on my research

My point of view on the issue of my own research area changed after taking part in the course. Before taking the coursework, my research centred around the problem of children with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). During that period, I solely focused on the educational developmental issues of the children with ADHD themselves, such as their behavioural differences with other children, challenges and limitations of current treatment (meditation and behaviour therapy), what are the possible factors we can facilitate as a solution, and so on.

스크린샷 2016-01-10 04.02.56

Image 2. current perspective on my research

However, by reflecting on the notion of Digital Civics and the Social Model of Disability, my point of view changed. According to the social model of disability, disability is caused by the way society is organised. It focuses on removing barriers to make people who have impairments more independent and equal in the society [5]. In other words, they are not inherently disabled but labelled by us (the society) as disabled people. As for my research, the point is that the society needs to be changed rather than children with ADHD themselves. Such understanding shed lights on the issues around the children and their school life, and I found that there are restricted relationships between the parents and the teachers. The children who are young as primary schoolers need special care from both their parents and the teachers, whether they suffer from developmental issues or not. Parent Involvement (PI) can be understood in terms of children’s behaviour, healthcare, academic development and so on. Particularly, it has been shown through many studies that PI has strong influences on children’s educational success and social competence (e.g. Epstein, 1991; Reynolds, 1992; Barnard, 2004) [6]. In addition, parent’s early intervention has positive impacts on not only children’s academic success, but also their motivations for engaging in school activities. According to Gonzalez-De Hass et al., students are motivated when they perceive that their parents have an active interest in their schooling [4].

Challenges of Parent Involvement

 스크린샷 2016-01-10 05.27.15

Image 3. Key challenges of Parent involvement

 PI has become a strong interest among researchers in the field of HCI over the past 20 years. However, there are several negative factors which can obstruct active PI. The most important factor is ungrounded predictions between the teachers and the parents. According to a study conducted by Johns Hopkins University, there are some cases where the schools don’t engage the parents because they do not think the parents want to be involved in school [8]. On the other hand, the parents often tend to think that there is no point to be involved in schools because the school won’t change anyway [16]. Furthermore, many parents have negative impressions of teachers because of their experiences of unfriendly and hostile interactions with them [7]. Secondly, many parents complain about work- and scheduling-related issues. Kohl et al.’s paper states that the parents who are divorced (single-parent) generally have fewer resources of money, time, and social supports to take care of their children’s development compared to two-parents [6]. In addition, children often tend to have negative views towards PI, because their parents usually visit and talk with their teachers on the occasions that they have done something wrong [9]. Furthermore, poor communication channel between the schools and the parents, the parent’s bad impressions of the school, and lack of confidence in their skills or knowledge are also noted as contributing factors towards low PI [7]. To sum up the challenges, these can be listed as below:

  • The teacher and the parent have different interpretation with each other.
  • Most of parents complain of their busy life.
  • The children have negative point of view towards PI because of its passiveness.
  • Lack of communication channel might make misunderstanding and conflict with each other.
  • Target’s (children, parents and teachers) different levels of skillset for using technology

Paper reviews

Therefore, in this blog post, I reviewed several papers in the field of HCI to address the challenges above. I found interesting papers and focused on the value of multi-interpretation and user’s usability. In addition, I investigated better research directions for gaining not only understanding about core issues of parent involvement in school, but also appropriate domains for active participation. The papers are reviewed based on two important phases: the first one is to find proper methodologies to obtain better understanding about the core issue around PI, and another purpose is to explore appropriate domains for effective user’s participation and their usability.

  • Participatory design


Being open to have multi-interpretation is very important to understand what people really need and want. Without it, we cannot offer an appropriate way of interaction between users and the system. Unfortunately, according to Senger et al’s paper [10], Staying Open to Interpretation, Interpretation has not always been foregrounded because of circumscribing both problems and solutions. This is because designers (or researchers) have a prejudice that the problem and solution should be mutually dependent. In other words, they often keep away from other interpretations, different from their preferred insights. It brings a very good point that we need to recognise preferred result can obscure the researchers’ understanding about what users really think and feel. To offer well-fitted system for users, researchers need to focus on process-oriented research rather than result-oriented one. This notion of interpretation is deeply related to participatory design. Participatory design means designing a system with users, rather than designing for user [12]. Bjorgvinsson et al’s paper [11], participatory design and “democratizing innovation”, talks about a new meaning of participatory design. In addition, it tries to answer the questions as follow. What does the democratic innovation mean? What factors the researchers need to consider for active participation and developing new social relation? According to the paper, a “new” meaning of participatory design emerged while the public sphere is increasingly engaged in the design field. In addition, thanks to the new media, the boundary of the meaning of participatory design has been expanded from solely considering work-based productive activities to leisure and pleasure engagements. The new media often blur the borders among citizens, companies, the public domain and academia. Therefore, the authors describe this as a movement towards a participatory design in open spaces. Because of this change, participatory design-related researchers should consider the open innovation model, which is user-driven innovation.

According to Eric von Hippel, innovation has become democratized because of user-centered information and tools [1]. In other words, individuals have more chances to show their perspectives and have more abilities to innovate. Naturally, it stresses the notion of democratizing. Elizabeth et al argue that central to the whole notion of user participation is the right of people to have a direct influence on matters. In other words, all the participants could have different thoughts on the same issue. This is a challenge of the participatory design, but at the same time, it is considered as its productivity [12]. Bjorgvinsson et al argue that this agonistic struggle is the core of vibrant democracy, and the main goals of democratic design is to empower a multiplicity of voices in the struggle of hegemony and at the same time find constitutions that help transform antagonism into agonism. If so, how can we manage different user’s interpretations of a system? How can we maintain the balance among them? According to Senger et al’s paper, the designers need to identify appropriate interpretation among users, designers and the system, even though they all have different interpretations with each other. In addition, there are different levels of interpretation, the highest level of it contains users’ personal perspectives and the social trends. There is no doubt that it is too complex to be reaching a single interpretation by the designers themselves. Thus, they argue that we need new design strategies or tools as alternative ways to obtain and manage user’s thoughts. If the system leads individual users to participate in the system design, individuals can make their own definition of the system based on their personal meanings and prior knowledge. Through the papers, I have learned the importance of having multiple interpretations and its effectiveness to offer successful relationship between users and the system. Furthermore, I had the opportunity to consider the user’s role as a designer. In terms of my research, the system I might need to design will be used by several groups of users such as children, the parents and school teachers. All of them might have different points of views on the issue, so I need to consider all of their interpretations to obtain better insights for the system design. As a solution, offering user-driven situation and make users become active participants would be a good way to understand multi-interpretation.

If so, which domains can be suitable for my project? During the coursework, I was interested in two types of domains, Tangible interface and mobile-based ubiquitous computing system. Actually these two types of domains are a bit different from each other. Tangible interface involves more physical hardware, whereas Ubicomp is more embedded in our lives. However, both of them can be suitable for my research.

 (b) Tangible Interface

iconfr_3    Strawbies-square-1024x1024

When Marshall was writing the paper, Do Tangible Interfaces Enhance Learning [13], the researches of tangible interface had focused mainly on the production of descriptive framework such as mapping out the possible technologies for application and providing a terminology to ground discussion. This paper was published in 2007, and looked at the area of learning in tangible interface.

Do tangible interfaces enhance learning? What factors contribute to positive influence on learning? This paper investigated the six perspectives on learning with tangible interfaces, including possible learning benefits. According to Marshall, there are a number of reasons why using tangible interfaces can have positive impacts on learning. First of all, it engages children in playful learning. Children can interact with the system through haptic physical objects, and they can learn something via their actions. The links between physical actions and digital effects can lead to their engagement and reflection on learning [2]. Secondly, tangible interfaces might be suitable for collaborative learning. The learning system can be designed for shared space, and allow children to look at each other’s performance. In addition, they can monitor each other’s gaze to achieve interaction more easily than solely interacting with a graphical representation on a display. In other words, it allows children to obtain concurrent interaction with other people.

The paper also explored other possible properties of physical objects as a future direction of tangible interface. According to the paper, tangible interfaces might support children’s exploratory learning and expressive activities. It offers more natural and intuitive interfaces, so children can gain rapid feedbacks from the system. In addition, by recording aspects of learner’s interactions with the objects, it can enable children to construct expressive representation. I found that this tangible interfaces are of benefit to children’s education especially when they are primary schoolers. Children can access playful learning by collaborating with their peers, and they can easily apply what they learn to their real life. In addition, it might lead to children-driven parent’s involvement, making children the mediators between their parents and teachers via playful activities.

(d) Mobile-based Ubiquitous Computing


According to Liu et al.’s paper, Identity Crisis of Ubicomp? Mapping 15 years of the Field’s Development and Paradigm Change [14], Ubiquitous Computing (Ubicomp) is increasingly focusing on mobile devices, and has become more cohesive in the past 15 years [3]. It is a fact that the domain of the smartphone has significantly been extended due to increasing population of smartphone users all over the world. Based on this trend, a mobile phone might be suitable to apply to my own research area. Therefore, I looked at papers, which are related to mobile-based project to enhance the parent’s participation, under the rubric of Ubicomp.

스크린샷 2016-01-10 04.51.24

Image 4. Example of Mobile-based Ubicomp (TalkBetter)

How smartphone can be pervasive in our daily life to enhance the conversation between parent and children? What factors should we consider to design the system to lead to better parent’s participation? Does it really impact on children’s development issues? Hwang el al’s paper [15] tries to address the questions above through the system called TalkBetter, a mobile in-situ intervention service to help parents in daily parent-child conversations via real-time analysis of ongoing conversations. This example would help me to understand the implication of mobile-based system to encourage parent-child participation. Therefore, I carefully look at their research process and methodologies. In order to define the issues of parent-child conversation, they conducted semi-structured interviews with SLPs clinical experts and parents who have children with language disorders. Afterwards, they designed and evaluated the system through observing the system usability of parents and children. This is a part of participatory design method, and they found many issues around parent-child conversation. First of all, even though SLPs provide specific parent training guidelines to the parents for better conversation with their children, parents often complained about difficulties to follow the guidelines. Secondly, most parents are busy and tired after work (similar situation with my research), thus they couldn’t carefully follow the guidelines. Thirdly, parents are often unaware of their own faults, including talking fast and interrupting children’s words. And most interestingly, they often don’t understand their children’s true developmental status. TalkBetter contains both Bluetooth microphone and headset, one for children and another for parents. The microphone and headset record the parent-child conversation, and the system analyse the conversation and send real-time feedbacks to the parents through a Bluetooth headset. Thanks to them, the parents can manage their conversation without deeply taking care of the guidelines while having an in-situ conversation with their children. Through the paper, I understand that the smartphone has great impacts on our lives with a bit of investment. One of the key reasons is that the smartphone can easily be embedded in our life. Therefore, using smartphone can offer an opportunity to address the issues of people’s complicated life pattern. If I said the tangible interface is more suitable for engaging children’s participants, I would say this mobile-based system is more suitable for engaging participation of both parents and teachers. Thus, it can be a challenge for me to integrate tangible interface and mobile-based system.


Through the coursework, I was able to see the bigger picture in HCI. Especially, I was able to understand the importance of having multiple interpretations of the users, as a way of participatory design. Again, it is valuable to obtain better understanding of what users really think. Furthermore, I found two different fields of HCI, tangible interface and mobile-based system, which might be suitable domains for my research. These two domains have different characteristics with each other. For example, in terms of educating children, tangible interface could be more suitable with the use of intuitive physical objects. On the other hands, for active parent’s participation, mobile-based system might be more suitable because of its pervasive benefits. Thanks to these broad understanding about HCI, I could narrow down the boundaries of HCI-based research methodologies to find better direction.


[1] Von Hippel, E. Democratizing Innovation. The MIT Press Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2003.

[2] Rogers, Y., Scaife, M., Gabrielli, S., Smith, H. and Harris, E. A Conceptual Framework for Mixed Reality Environments: Designing Novel Learning Activities for Young Children. Presence: Teleoperators & Virtual Environments, 11 (6). 677-686.

[3] Liu, Y., Goncalves, J., Ferreira, D., Hosio, S., & Kostakos, V. (2014, September). Identity crisis of ubicomp?: mapping 15 years of the field’s development and paradigm change. In Proceedings of the 2014 ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing (pp. 75-86). ACM.

[4] Gonzalez-DeHass, A. R., Willems, P. P., & Holbein, M. F. D. (2005). Examining the relationship between parental involvement and student motivation. Educational psychology review, 17(2), 99-123.

[5] Carson, G. (2009). The social model of disability. Norwich: TSO.

[6] Kohl, G. O., Lengua, L. J., & McMahon, R. J. (2000). Parent involvement in school conceptualizing multiple dimensions and their relations with family and demographic risk factors. Journal of school psychology, 38(6), 501-523.

[8] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Parent Engagement: Strategies for Involving Parents in School Health. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2012

[9] Barnard, W. M. (2004). Parent involvement in elementary school and educational attainment. Children and youth services review, 26(1), 39-62.

[10] Sengers, P., & Gaver, B. (2006, June). Staying open to interpretation: engaging multiple meanings in design and evaluation. In Proceedings of the 6th conference on Designing Interactive systems (pp. 99-108). ACM

[11] Björgvinsson, E., Ehn, P., & Hillgren, P. A. (2010, November). Participatory design and democratizing innovation. In Proceedings of the 11th Biennial Participatory Design Conference (pp. 41-50). ACM.

[12] Sanders, E. B. N. (2002). From user-centered to participatory design approaches. Design and the social sciences: Making connections, 1-8.

[13] Marshall, P. (2007, February). Do tangible interfaces enhance learning?. In Proceedings of the 1st international conference on Tangible and embedded interaction (pp. 163-170). ACM.

[14] Liu, Y., Goncalves, J., Ferreira, D., Hosio, S., & Kostakos, V. (2014, September). Identity crisis of ubicomp?: mapping 15 years of the field’s development and paradigm change. In Proceedings of the 2014 ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing (pp. 75-86). ACM.

[15] Hwang, I., Yoo, C., Hwang, C., Yim, D., Lee, Y., Min, C., … & Song, J. (2014, February). TalkBetter: family-driven mobile intervention care for children with language delay. In Proceedings of the 17th ACM conference on Computer supported cooperative work & social computing (pp. 1283-1296). ACM.

[16] Kh, S. “School Meals and Parent Involvement.” Personal interview. 1 Dec. 2015.

Leave a Reply