KE Research Sabbatical Case Study

Project title - "Exploring a blueprint for co-production with young children in educational digital game design"

I cannot recommend this funding stream highly enough. Thanks to this sabbatical, I now have better understanding of the working practices of a digital games company and how they respond to client briefs to develop videogames with educational content for children.

Dr Dylan Yamada-Rice

Project partners

Dr Dylan Yamada-Rice
School of Education

Dubit Ltd


Overview

A KE Industrial Research Sabbatical has enabled mutually beneficial knowledge exchange. The Sabbatical scheme supports researchers to develop new relationships and collaborative activity with partners in industry, promoting a deeper understanding of culture and needs.

Early years researcher Dr Yamada-Rice spent a total of three months working part-time with researchers and staff at the Leeds headquarters of Dubit Ltd, a leading SME developing children's digital play research, strategy and products. She shared her knowledge of young children’s use of iPad story apps and learned much about the challenges faced in educational game development. The partnership also explored the potential of children’s input into game design.

Activities

Involving six children aged between 5 and 7 in two groups, each with three workshops, the project investigated what young children wanted in an app. In the first workshop, the children were given iPads that recorded online and offline play at home. The second introduced the children to a range of apps themed to a chosen topic, which they then tested over a longer period of time, discussing in the final workshop what they liked or didn’t like about them. Observing how the children interacted with the games gave the team insight into their proficiency with touch-screen technology.

Through the partnership, Dr Yamada-Rice learned more about aspects of app development, from character production and movement to gaming platforms and in-app purchases. Both partners benefitted from an alternative perspective on children as both learners and consumers.

Next Steps

From the research activities undertaken together, the partners have developed new ways to involve children in game design that they can now share at industry conferences. The partnership has led to a new ESRC project, already underway. This collaboration with The University of Edinburgh, CBeebies, children’s television production company Foundling Bird, Dubit and Monteney Primary School in Sheffield is exploring the potential that tablet apps have to foster play and creativity in pre-schoolers.

Dr Yamada-Rice said: “I cannot recommend this funding stream highly enough. Thanks to this sabbatical, I now have better understanding of the working practices of a digital games company and how they respond to client briefs to develop videogames with educational content for children.”