Inclusion is an approach, commonly known within education, in which individuals with and without disabilities participate in the same setting. Inclusive programs for children operate based on the theory that engaging children with and without disabilities together is not only socially just but will also positively affect all children. Positive outcomes for children, including social and emotional development and appreciation for diversity, can spread through the community to help families form inclusive relationships as well.
My primary research involves understanding how interactive technology might help increase opportunities for inclusion in early childhood, such that all children with and without disabilities can equally, actively, and meaningfully participate in the same setting. As I work with young children (age 4-6) in this research, I have specifically focused on how technology can support children with inclusive play, or play among children with diverse abilities and needs. I strongly believe that every child has the right to play and participate equally in play.
Based on formative research in which I volunteered in an inclusive kindergarten classroom, ran design workshops with children with diverse needs, and surveyed and interviewed parents and early childhood educators, I designed* and developed an interactive, cooperative photography-based tablet application that aims to support children with inclusive play. This application, called Incloodle, prompts children to play together and talk about their emotions, likes, and dislikes to learn about each other and their similarities and differences. It involves photography because of how it can be used as a tool to model different emotions and as a tool for reflection.
Using Incloodle, I investigated how specific design features (i.e., technology-enforced cooperation, in-app characters, and joint photography) can support children with inclusive play in a short-term laboratory study. I am in the process of iterating on the design of Incloodle, and soon I will deploy the application into inclusive classrooms to study its use in situ.
You can watch another short video on how Incloodle works here:
You can also check out a longer presentation I gave on Incloodle as part of the UW College of Education and Haring Center DUBs Talks (Develop, Understand Build).
*Incloodle art / visual design by Lucas Colusso, ©Liz Aragon, & myself.