Facilitation Tools and Techniques for Distributed Online Co-Design with
NordiCHI Conference 2022 Workshop
In an attempt to promote wider participation of children across the globe in co-designing, we need to establish enabling distributed online facilitation techniques and tools. In this seven-hour-hybrid workshop, we will work in an online design space that was co-designed with 62 children from Namibia, Malaysia and Finland. Participants will share challenging experiences, and develop strategical solutions in teams. Furthermore, participants will have the chance to co-facilitate a design session with children from across the globe and reflect on their experiences. We hope to create new connections between researchers and practitioners, to exchange techniques and tools, even after the workshop.
The child-computer interaction research community has established effective tools, techniques and theories for co-located contexts , with genuine participation of children . However, while co-designing with children in the virtual space, we have realized constraints of existing online collaboration tools, and challenges of applying familiar design facilitation techniques [2, 4, 6, 8, 11]. Facilitation strategies and co-design methods need to be adjusted to the online context , as well as new affordances, offered by digital technologies, need to be explored to enhance online interactions . As we are promoting a wider participation of geographically distributed children, we strive to co-design for the pluriverse , or a “world where many worlds fit” as described by Escobar . We postulate that the facilitator’s main task is to synthesize children’s different perspectives and proposals, while maintaining a transcultural dialogue in a conducive virtual design space, where contributions and social interactions are encouraged . Considering that designing with children, especially in the virtual space, often takes an unpredictable path, Lee et al.  have resorted to improvisation techniques, operating with an understanding of interdependence, reflexivity, transgression, tension, and listening. Van Mechelen et al.  postulate that team building activities help children embrace their designer role and increase their motivation to help each other. Constantin et al.  propose the use of cultural probes and games to enhance social cohesion to encourage team work. In our experience of co-designing online with children from Finland and Namibia, we recognize that more facilitation efforts are required to equalize language and technical skill competencies as well as to cater for children’s different communication preferences . Rötkönen et al.  explored non-moderated pair interactions in skype and VR, as well as facilitated inter-group design sessions, yielding in distinct design contributions. All participating children expressed appreciation for the facilitation of the design process as well as pride of their individual contribution to the joint design of the final prototype. Yet individual children commented on the experienced differences of communication behaviours, such as non-responsiveness, as well as the pace of design activities being too slow for some and challenging for others . Reflecting on these observations, in the subsequent project with Namibian, Malaysian and Finish children, we introduced tailor made ice-breakers in an attempt to bring all participants in the same “rhythm” while also developing strategies and tools with the children to solve identified online communication challenges . The designed communication cards have been incorporated in the third project which yielded in the co-creation of a fully functional design space, open for further developments and improvements.
With these few examples it has become obvious that a larger pool of learnings has to be built based on empirical studies of online co-design with children. Meanwhile authors have identified research areas for further investigation. Constantin et al.  ascertain opportunities and challenges around seven themes, namely participation; maintaining engagement; sense of togetherness; accessibility, diversity and inclusion; power dynamics; developing skills; administration and logistics. Rötkönen et al.  further propose to concentrate on multilingual design, social cohesion and design negotiations, individual contributions, facilitation roles, and the development of adequate online technologies to enable the co-design process.
Considering the number of open questions and research topics to further explore, the goal of the workshop is to share experiences, strategies and reflections in order to join forces in the development of strategies, tools and techniques to enhance distributed on-line co-design with children.
*Source from IDC 2021 paper presentation