Kids Design the Future  




*Introduction    *Project    *Example    *Goals    *Design Process    *Potential Applications    *Papers    *Videos


KidPad Version 1.0 is now available for free download for non-commercial use!


KidPad is a collaborative story authoring tool for children. It provides basic drawing functionality on a zooming canvas enabled by Jazz. The narrative structure of a story is defined by creating spatial hyperlinks between objects on the canvas. Instead of using a standard WIMP (Windows, Icons, Menus, Pointer) user interface, KidPad uses local tools that can be picked up, used and dropped anywhere on the drawing surface. The local tools interface and MID, a Java library developed at the University of Maryland, allows KidPad to support shoulder-to-shoulder collaboration. If multiple USB mice are connected to the computer each mouse will control a tool in KidPad, making it possible to let several children simultaneously create a story together!   


One goal of KidPad is to enable children to create non-linear stories to express their thoughts visually, in a more natural way than linear storytelling allows.  KidPad supports collaboration between children because it can be used with multiple mice on the same computer.  Certain tools in KidPad encourage collaboration because they enable two children to perform a task that they would be unable to perform alone.  For example, if a child wants to draw in orange she must work with another child.  There is no orange crayon but if the red and yellow crayons are put together the colors mix and two mice can draw in orange.

KidPad was developed by Juan Pablo Hourcade, Ben Bederson, Gustav Taxen and Allison Druin at the University of Maryland. Design ideas and feedback were provided by children and adults in Maryland, USA, Stockholm, Sweden, and Nottingham, Great Britain, as part of a European Union's Experimental School Environments Initiative funded project called KidStory. KidStory was a research partnership between The University of Nottingham (UK), The Royal Institute of Technology (Sweden) and The Swedish Institute of Computer Science (Sweden). 


Below is a short example from a story created with KidPad.  The "Local Tools" used by children  range from different color crayons to the wiggle tool.

Screen Shot

KidPad screen with story, local tools and hyperlink


Screen Shot

The end location of the hyperlink is zoomed to fill the screen.


Screen Shot

This is the next screen in the story. The magic wand tool is being
 used to draw a hyperlink from the sun to the island. The toolboxes
 have been closed to hide tools that aren't being used.


  • Develop tools that support visual and verbal literacy

  • Support collaborative learning experiences for children

  • Provide expressive storytelling tools for young children

Design Process

KidPad research began in 1995 at the University of New Mexico.  There children played with Pad++ a zoomable computer environment created for adults by researchers at New York University and the The University of New Mexico.  Although Pad++ was not designed for children, they were immediately excited by the visual zooming environment.  Data was collected from notes made by children and adults and video recordings  of the children playing with Pad++.  Based on this data, "local tools" were developed for children.  Children used these tools and then brainstormed new ideas for KidPad using participatory design techniques. 

In 1998 KidPad came to the University of Maryland, led by professors Ben Bederson and Allison Druin.  Since that time, over 100 children in Sweden and England have influenced the development of KidPad.  In primary school classrooms children and adults have used cooperative inquiry techniques to develop new tools and interfaces. 

Potential Applications

We have used KidPad as the base on which to build other technologies.  One example is our work on digital libraries. We feel that KidPad's zoomable interactive environment can be used  as a foundation for other programs that foster collaboration and creativity between children.


Hourcade, J.P., Bederson, B.B., Druin, A., Taxen, G. (2002).
KidPad: Collaborative Storytelling for Children.
In Extended Abstracts of Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2002).

Boltman, A. and Druin, A. (November 2001).
Children's storytelling technologies: Differences in elaboration and recall
HCIL-2001-25, CS-TR-4310, UMIACS-TR-2001-87. (Submitted to Journal of Educational Psychology).

Boltman, A. (October 2001).
Children's Storytelling Technologies: Differences in Elaboration and Recall
HCIL-2001-24 , CS-TR-4305 , UMIACS-TR-2001-82. (Ph.D. Dissertation).

Benford, S., Bederson, B., Akesson., K., Bayon, V., Druin, D., Hansson, P., Hourcade, J., Ingram, R., Neale, H., O'Malley, C., Simsarian, K., Stanton, D., Sundblad, Y., and Taxen, G. (2000)
Designing Storytelling Technologies to Encourage Collaboration Between Young Children
In Proceedings of ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2000), pp. 556-563.

Druin, A., Stewart, J., Proft, D., Bederson, B.B., Hollan, J.D (1997).
KidPad: A Design Collaboration Between Children, Technologists, and Educators
In Proceedings of ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 1997), pp 463-470.

Bederson, B., Stewart, J. and Druin, A. (November 1999)
Single Display Groupware
Tech Report CS-TR-4086, UMIACS-TR-99-75.


KidPad: A Collaborative Storytelling Environment for Children [00:03:10] (Download from Open Video)


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