Sep 062011

After the last few years, GIS and geospatial awareness has come into our lives more and more. A number of the current jiscGEO funded projects are working to make it easier for geospatial informattion to be utilised by other disciplines or the average person.
G3 looked at the “Child of Ten standard” meaning that a 10 year-old should be able to learn to do something useful with a system in 10 minutes. It makes me really wonder what a child would do with a professional GIS program such as ArcGIS. I was in a university class where it took a lot of students 2 to 3 of the 2-hour workshops before they understood even the basics of creating and exporting/printing a map. G3 also performed a much-appreciated user-experience study of the OpenStreetMap Potlatch editor, discovering a lot of common hurdles for new users trying to get started in making basic edits to the map.

The GEMMA project recently walked through creating a map of the main London airports without specialised software or knowledge. It seemed their child of 10 might struggle to make an acceptable image, despite trying a number of options. They hope that GEMMA will provide an adequate solution when complete.

Though they are the two projects specically looking to making easier non-expert tools for GIS work, ELO Geo is creating a framework and a repository for sharing lessons and teaching material for students wishing to use GIS. The Nature Locator and GeoSciTeach are using the medium of mobile apps to make it easier for work to have a geospatial context.

Some might say GIS is a complex beast, that should only be worked with by experts otherwise mistakes and false conclusions could be made. But I’m excited about the idea that everyone could become geospatially aware, or use educational apps that are aware of the location they’re in. It empowers people to know about the world around them, and can also result in more geospatial data to be used by those experts who really know and love looking at such things.
If a child of 10 can do something in 10 minutes, then there’s not likely to be problems for anyone older. How easily would a child of 10 use the other projects, and would they find any needed instructions/tutorials without them being given? What couldn’t they do without the work of the project, or what would they have done instead (e.g. taken ages, or a flawed work around)?

 September 6, 2011  Posted by at 5:52 pm JISCG3 Tagged with: , , ,

  7 Responses to “Child of 10 using GIS”

  1. Actually, no project within the JISC Geo form should be pass the test, as JISC is intended for higher education! I also disagree with the assumption that what is easy to a child is by necessity easy to everyone older. Children are different users, and are happy to explore, and not concerned with failure or skills etc. Adults, on the other hand, get into their heads all sort of concepts such as the false assumption that there is a gender difference in map use, or that you can break things and it is your fault…

    In Mapping for Change, the social enterprise that we’re running from UCL, we do work with young children – – but the approach is different, as well as learning objectives and the design of the activities. Children do manage to use mashups and Google Earth, but the core question with this age group is what geographical concepts we want them to understand and construct.

    Indeed, GIS are hard to use – and there are some good reasons for it in the high end of its application (see my slides at ). However, that doesn’t mean that simple tasks for people who want to do basic things shouldn’t be made simple and easy to use. That is the area that most desktop GIS fail. A fantastic example for an intelligent way to help users understand their data can be seen in the way that GeoCommons integrated wizards into their tools, although these are aimed at more sophisticated users. This is a subtle way to provide tutorials just in time

  2. Whether GIS tools should pass the ‘child of 10’ rule will depend on the aim of the tool and to what degree you want the user to become proficient, or whether just engaging with one aspect is sufficient to pass the ‘rule’.

    In GeoSciTeach we discovered that children aged 11-12 were easily able to use the mobile application developed to facilitate engagement with geospatial ideas in their outdoor science learning. In fact a trial of the app suggested there was overall a faster uptake and learning curve for pupils, as shown in this transcription with a fully qualified teacher:
    Interviewer: How long do you think it would take the kids to learn it?
    Participant: Five minutes
    Interviewer: Five minutes. That’s really interesting because everyone has said five.
    Participant: How long did I take? I think I took fifteen, which means the children will take five.
    (Participant & Interviewer laugh)

    Trainee teachers seemed to have to work harder when using the app, not necessarily in terms of ‘interface usability’, but more because their use of the application involves the need to integrate notions of geospatial into their science teaching. In this sense they were having to think at a different level of abstraction from the children – the student teachers have a more complex task as they are not only having to think about supporting science-based fieldwork activity for their students, but at the same time are developing an awareness of geospatial notions in science, and how they might effectively use these to strengthen their pupils activity and learning in science.

    However, during our trial at Kew an interview with one 12 year old pupil who used the app for longer than 10 minutes suggested that the app promoted location-awareness:
    Interviewer: So what did you think then of using the app?
    Participant: Um I thought it was really helpful.
    Interviewer: How?
    Participant: Um because it was telling me where it had come from and what part of the world, and what country.

    So if we’re looking beyond interface usability, perhaps its not simply a question of whether ‘what is easy to a child is by necessity easy to everyone older’, but more a question of whether appropriate pathways to the different ways in which the tool might be used are available for the different user (age) groups. In our example, the way the application is used by teachers is distinctly different from how it might initially be used by children, which comes back to the initial point, that at the level of interface and functional usability GeoSciTeach might well pass the ‘child of 10’ rule, but in terms of explicitly raising awareness of and developing insight into geospatial ideas in science is most likely to require repeated use, and in the case of children, some degree of teacher input.

  3. Thanks to Greg and other project team for their comments on the usability issues.

    Reading this post I became interested to see the details and origin of the “child of 10” rule-of-thumb. Googling that term along with “usability” doesn’t show much background and usage of this rule after when this had been firstly used in a speech by Al-Gore in 1992. I would say the usability is much more comprehensive and context-sensitive to be fit in this rule. Other critiques have been made by Muki which I agree too. Because Google Earth has been mentioned as a case here, let me say that my son (8 years old) has a very deep understanding of Google Earth, mostly because he has played (and grown-up) with it over the past 3-4 years! His understanding I can say is deeper than an average adult so I think it is not right time to say “there’s not likely to be problems for anyone older”. True for the other way round too.

    ELOGeo as mentioned is designed to be a source of help for non_GIS experts to be able to work with open geospatial tools. The usability of ELOGeo repository is very much depends on what the user wants to achieve and I assume that my n0n_GIS expert has a goal in his mind before exploring the repository. That goal must come from a real requirement and is not necessarily something that I can dictate to a child. It’s good to test the usability under this rule but the result may be out-of-context.


  4. As earlier posts have indicated any consideration regarding the adoption of ‘Child of 10’ approach will be dependent upon knowledge of topic /concept (be it background or otherwise) being visualised in a spatial sense. Building a tool that a 10 year old child can use could well be quite different to building a tool that a ten year old child can understand. The energy data matrices that underpin the STEEV project and the relative complexity of their interaction in terms of affecting energy efficiency across both geograpahy and time may well be an engaging way to explore or highlight climate change, green energy, decarbonisation (which a child of 10 may appreciate in conceptual terms) however I’d reserve judgement on whether building such a GIS tool specifically with those aims in mind would do justice to the subject matter. On the otherhand one could argue that any interaction a ten year old child has with a GIS tool or utility should improve their sense of spatial awareness and understanding of geographic concepts.

  5. […] #jiscgeo communications have invited comment on the ‘child of ten standard’ as applied to our project deliverables – i.e. […]

  6. […] #jiscgeo communications have invited comment on the ‘child of ten standard’ as applied to our project deliverables – i.e. […]

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