I messaged the Digital Innovations team back in December after thinking of an idea for a children’s app whilst participating on their Tech For Good workshop (The Shed, 6/12/16). We have been going back and forth since then until finally Paul contacted me to apologise as they have been spread so thinly. He then set a meeting up between Laurie Cooper and I where we met to discuss whether my idea had any legs.
I want to create an app which helps children to believe that any future vocation is possible regardless of gender. I came up with the storyboard during the workshop after we discussed the reasons behind women being under-represented in tech. It was suggested that girls need to visibly see role models in the industry before being able to see themselves. As I discussed my aim with Laurie he asked if I wanted to create the app to empower girls, I said it needs to be inclusive for everyone, not just girls.
Admittedly, I had not done any research as yet as i didn’t think the meeting would happen and I was in the midst of my practice deadline. My partner and I searched children’s apps over the weekend to see if there was anything on the market that was doing the same. We found something with a similar idea about showing many job-roles and you built your own character which looked a little androgynous, but it was a little messy compared to what I have in mind. There was also one that links children around the world and gives a day in the life story in different countries. I really like this concept.
As I searched through, I became quite disturbed by how many pregnancy surgery and plastic surgery apps there are. I’m not sure why there is a need for this? Are they trying to appeal to girls to be interested in the science and medical side to giving birth or are they trying to put girls off surgery by showing what can go wrong? There is room for more research here on my part.
There are so many apps that are trying to interest girls in science or engineering, but just as I saw in the toy stores, it’s as if everything needs to be pink to get them interested or the intention has to be linked to something associated with femininity; make up, baking, etc. One of the ones that appealed to me was an app called Fix It Girls where a female team fix things in the home. I really don’t remember things being so pink when I was a child, I don’t remember things having to be a certain colour to feel like they appealed to me. I remember not being interested in certain toys or subjects and looking at what my favourite things were then, seeing how they are not typically feminine and how I felt more ‘tomboy-ish’, but I don’t remember the colour being a determiner.
There are an excellent group called Tinybop who are developing educational apps in a visually beautiful way that encourages play. They are different to what I have in mind, however, I wish that they were around when I was a child as I would have been a lot more interested. These are going to appeal to the visual and kinaesthetic learners that could otherwise be lost when using text books and text-book diagrams.
At first I was thinking of aiming it at 4-7 year olds but as we were going through the details we found it may be better to aim at the youngest children possible. Laurie drew on how his daughter is obsessed with pink and he and his wife don’t know where this has come from. They guess it could have been nursery as they both went back to work when she was at a young age. We discussed other options, for example, if we aimed at 7-8 year old we could go into more detail regarding the vocations and refer to government legislation on education in schools about job possibilities, but we would be relying on the child having a certain amount of reading capabilities in order to skip the parents. If we aimed at 4 year-olds, the children would have to have a much simpler content, but if we are aiming young and they need help setting up the app at first, why not start even younger and say 1-4/5 years old?
When speaking about his daughter and his experience that pink does appeal to girls and form a part of their identity, Laurie suggested entering the child’s gender. I do not want this. I would rather a child enter their favourite colour so they feel the app is personally tailored to them and rather than expecting a girl to prefer pink, this gives more flexibility. All children can try the app in different colour combinations and choose the one that represents them the most. To invest the child even further they will be asked to draw something for the background and enter their name and age. Ethical implications were debated and we are sure we have the best ways to carry out the task whilst protecting the child.
Details and thoughts are all collated in the notebooks and the summary email. As advised, I have spoken to a friend who is a deputy manager of a nursery and she is interested in being involved in the design print stage. Laurie has given me a quote for the design spring so I now need to research where to apply for funding or sponsorship. The design sprint will run across 4 1/2 days. We would meet with Natalie for a half day workshop were we would discuss the logistics and see if Natalie’s experience highlights anything we have missed. I would then meet with the digital team and work with the artists to get some wire frames made to show how the app would look visually. There will then be a further quote to get the app up and running.
I am enthusiastic about this and truly believe it could be successful. It would be a great personal experience to work with others who are passionate about what the app stands for as Laurie does. Sometimes it would be helpful to me to have someone else who is on the same page to bounce ideas off rather than going around the ones in your own mind over and over.