ASIST AM 03 2003 START ConferenceManager    

Designing Digital Information Technologies for Children

Allison Druin; Claire McInerney; Linda Z. Cooper; June Abbas

Presented at ASIST 2003 Annual Meeting -- Humanizing Information Technology: From Ideas to Bits and Back (ASIST AM 03 2003), Westin Long Beach, Long Beach, California, October 20 - 23, 2003


Designing Digital Information Technologies for Children

Sponsored by SIG USE, SIG DL

Dania Bilal (Moderator) School of Information Sciences, University of Tennessee, 451 Communications Bldg. Knoxville, TN 37996. E-mail:

Allison Druin University of Maryland College of Information Studies and Institute for Advanced Computer Studies. College Park, Maryland 20742. E-mail:

Claire McInerney School of Communication, Information and Library Studies, Rutgers University, 4 Huntington St. Office 330. New Brunswick, NJ 08901. E-mail:

Linda Z. Cooper School of Information and Library Science, Pratt Institute, 144 West 14th St. New York, NY 10011. E-mail:

June Abbas School of Informatics. University at Buffalo. State University of New York 528 Baldy Hall. Buffalo. New York. 14260-1020. E-mail:

Developing digital information technologies appropriate for children can be challenging, particularly since young people have their own interests, abilities, curiosities, and information needs that can be continually changing. Young people are not “just short adults” but an entirely different user population with their own culture, norms and complexities. With the emergence of children as important consumers of digital information, their role in the design of new technologies has been maximized. This panel will explore national and international digital libraries that have been designed for children using innovative applications of technologies. In addition, the panel will discuss challenges and issues in designing digital information for young people.

The Challenges and Opportunities of Designing a Digital Library for Children, With Children by Allison Druin, Ph.D

Since 1999, a team of computer scientists, information scientists, educators, artists, and psychologists have been developing and evaluating visual interfaces that support children in querying, browsing, and organizing multimedia information. This ongoing work has led to The International Children's Digital Library (ICDL - On November 18, 2002, this library was launched and currently includes 181 books from 14 countries (including, Egypt, Croatia, Singapore, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the United States) in 20 languages. A unique aspect of this research is the process of collaboration and partnership that has been established. The team of interdisciplinary experts has worked together with children (ages 7-11) to design this new library. This presentation will discuss the unique technology design methods we have used in partnering with children, librarians, educators, and computer scientists. A live demonstration of the prototype technologies will be presented.

Wired Ennis – Youth in an Information Age Town by Claire McInerney

Ennis, Ireland has become the Information Age Town of the country after Eircom, the Irish telephone company, brought this Town of 18,000 into the information age by implementing digital communication and information access and use. Of all the projects launched by the Information Age Town, the introduction of high-end information and communication technologies to students in primary and secondary schools was the most successful. The role young people and school librarians played in designing and implemented these technologies will be discussed.

Issues in the Design and Use of Digital Information for Young Children by Linda Z. Cooper

Many children are non-readers, beginning readers, or emergent readers. The ability to read and move between a series of computer screens is affected by both physical abilities such as fine motor coordination and eye movement, and cognitive abilities such as vocabulary comprehension and understanding of syntax. Development in the socio-cultural domain influences the meaning a child gleans from written language, icons, graphics, or colors used in the digital environment. Choices regarding complexity of graphics, screen cluttering, spelling, pictorial literacy, vocabulary, context, sequencing, and categorization are main factors that impact children’s ability to use and enjoy a digital information system. Issues and challenges in children’s use of digital information will be addressed from the perspectives of theorists in the area of child psychology (e.g., Piaget, Vygotsky, Erikson, and Rosch), as well as researchers in the area of library and information science.

The ARTEMIS Digital Library: Usability and design issues by June Abbas

Digital libraries provide researchers with a rich environment to examine issues of information retrieval, representation schemes, resource discovery, interface design and user interaction. Representation of objects contained in an information system is a key to retrieval. This presentation outlines research into information representation and retrieval obstacles within a digital library designed for use by middle school children, the ARTEMIS Digital Library. The speaker will demonstrate ARTEMIS and focus on obstacles encountered by children when using it. Usability, and usage, and system design issues to consider when designing digital libraries for children will be discussed.

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