Foss, E., Guha, M., Papadatos, P., Clegg, T., Yip, J., Walsh, G. (December 2012)
Cooperative Inquiry is a method of developing technology in which children and adults are partners in the design process. Cooperative Inquiry is used to empower children in the design of their own technology and to design technology that is specific to children’s needs and wants. As Cooperative Inquiry is continually evolving and expanding, we need to consider how researchers can extend this inclusive design approach to working with populations of children with developmental, behavioral, or learning disabilities. In a semester-long case study, we explored the use of Cooperative Inquiry techniques in a classroom setting with middle school age boys with special learning needs, including mild to moderate autism, dyslexia, and attention deficits. The participating class of 10 boys ages 11-12 designed a browser-based computer game using Cooperative Inquiry techniques over the course of seven design sessions. Findings include that Cooperative Inquiry techniques require few modifications for use by the population of children with special learning needs. The recommendations to employ Cooperative Inquiry in a special education classroom include modifications to session structure and planning, adding informal time during the sessions, maintaining a high adult-to child ratio, giving instructions using many modalities, and planning for high engagement. Through this work, we believe that Cooperative Inquiry’s applicability is broadened to a new population in a classroom setting, and can be used to design more effective technologies for populations of children with special leaning needs in the future.