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KidsQuestions: Assisting Children’s Digital Information Seeking

The work presented in this thesis aims at supporting children’s digital information seeking. Children are known to have difficulties effectively using the information technologies that are available to them. We hypothesize that an interaction model specifically designed to align with the inquiry-based pedagogies common in education today would be beneficial for children’s digital information search. This thesis verifies this hypothesis by considering the example of the New Zealand education system. Within this context, a requirements analysis is undertaken involving children, parents, and teachers. Through a range of user studies, we identify the information seeking practices and the issues school children encounter when using contemporary digital information seeking technology. We found that contemporary internet search engines are used regularly during daily educational pursuits, and identify children’s issues constructing and reconstructing search queries, identifying websites that will contain relevant information, and mistaken repeat visiting of websites. Internet search engines do not align with how children are taught to search for information. In particular, inquiry-based learning approaches taught in schools, are not appropriately supported by the available information search systems. We begin addressing our hypothesis by identifying a target age range of children for which support for information seeking could be improved. We also analyse the interfaces of current commercial internet search engines to highlight the design decisions and to assist with the development of requirements. Activity theory is used as a lens to analyse the results of our studies in order to develop a list of requirements for an interaction model for children’s information seeking. These requirements are then used to design our interaction model. To examine this interaction model we developed an interface prototype, KidsQuestions. A final user study evaluates the effectiveness of our interaction model by exploring school children’s use of our KidsQuestions prototype. Our approach to designing a child-oriented interaction model differs from the common approach of using child-specific design devices such as colour, avatars, or results list simplification. Instead, our interaction model explores the requirements for children’s information seeking by aligning with appropriate phases of the inquiry-based learning frameworks children are taught. By addressing the inquiry practices of children through interface elements that support query construction, query reconstruction, along with search planning tools, KidsQuestions can assist children’s digital information seeking. While our interaction model and interface prototype are developed and designed particularly with children in mind, KidsQuestions is not a system that should be considered solely a children’s search engine. We believe that its features can be beneficial to children and adults alike, and future work will investigate the use of our prototype with a wider audience.
Type of thesis
Vanderschantz, N. R. (2016). KidsQuestions: Assisting Children’s Digital Information Seeking (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/10811
University of Waikato
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