Play, learn, and get school-ready with dinos!
O Dinos is a transmedia product that aims to support families in kindergarten preparation and scaffold children’s social and cognitive development through accompanying activities. O Dinos uses family-friendly dinosaurs in reimagining popular movie storylines to engage both parents and children aged 3-6. The stories not only foster cognitive and social development but also strengthen the parent-child bond. The app adds an extra learning layer by offering prompts and tips to parents to support their child's school readiness journey. O Dinos is a fun and impactful way to prepare for school.
I developed the product from scratch going through the entire product design cycle with Janet Liu during my time at Learning Design and Technology program at Stanford University.
Sept 2022 - July 2023
User Research, Prototyping, User Testing, UI/UX Design
The challenge of ensuring school readiness skills in U.S. children has emerged as a pressing concern in the educational landscape. School readiness skills, which include fundamental cognitive, socio-emotional, and physical abilities, form the foundation for a child's academic journey. Yet, statistics indicate a worrying trend: 52% of children from low SES (socioeconomic status) backgrounds and 25% from medium-high SES backgrounds are not school-ready. This disparity underscores the need to address the underlying factors that impede the development of these crucial skills.
Phase 1: Understanding the Problem and the Users
The phase 1 of the design process began with understanding the different dimensions of school-readiness and the various aspects of parenting such as parental aspirations and challenges. The needfinding process involved the following:
- Extensive literature review on school-readiness and parenting
- Parenting surveys to learn about parenting from multiple perspectives
- Interviewing parents in playgrounds and observing their interactions with their children through homevisits
- School-readiness skills can be nurtured through very simple yet intentional activities with children.
- Parent-Child Engagement plays a very significant role in the development of school-readiness skills.
- Many parents have a guilt of not spending enough quality time with their children.
- Most families with young children have dedicated story reading time as part of their routines.
- Two learning mechanims could be effectively leveraged for children's learning:
- Joint Media Engagement: The shared experience between caregivers and children while interacting with media to enhance learning and development.
- Guided Participation: The collaborative interactions between a child and a more knowledgeable person to facilitate the child's learning and mastery of skills.
Phase 2: Learning through Prototypes
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The phase 2 of the design process primarily focussed on answering the question, 'What is the best way to facilitate parent-child engagement to support the children's learning?'. In order to answer this question, our team developed different prototypes and experimented with families. We also experimented with generative AI to provide rich customizations to the overall experience. Through the process, we learned the different affordances that could be leveraged to improve the engagement between parents and children. By the end of the phase 2, our team had gathered the following insights:
- Children had a strong preference for stories with Dinosaur characters.
- For young children aged 3-6, families had a strong preference for tangible physical products over digital products.
- First-time voters cared more about the promises and the candidates than the history of the party.
- Embedding interactive activities inside an experience led to higher engagement.
- Parental engagement was high if they found the content to be personally engaging.
Phase 3: Building an engaging solution
With the insights from Phase 1 and Phase 2, our team ventured into Phase 3 with a goal of designing a storybook that is enjoyable for parents and children.
After a lot of ideation and prototyping, we realized the power of Nostalgia in creating captivating experiences for adults. We decided to leverage this feature into our storybooks by incorporating elements from classical movies from the parent's generation.
We ventured into building the high-fidelity prototype. We worked on developing the storylines by incorporating nostalgic elements. Then, by leveraging the power of generative AI, we created our own in-house AI image generator to create the background setting of the illustrations.
Janet, my project partner, then drew the characters strong to our storyline. This gave us the flexibility to generate rich illustrations leveraging AI while maintaining the consistency in characters.
Drag the slider to see the AI-generated images with and without characters
With that, we had our first high-fidelity prototype ready.
Simultaneously, we also developed a companion app prototype using a no-code platform for the parents to help them understand the different school readiness skills with tips backed by research.
O Dinos is a transmedia product comprising of storybooks and a companion mobile app that aims to support families in kindergarten preparation and scaffold children’s social and cognitive development through accompanying activities. The storybooks are designed to be fun for both parents and children.
These elements, like this classical Titanic pose here, serve as little easter eggs to keep parents engaged in the storybook.
Talking Nudges stimulates parents and children to engage in short discussions.
Tasks For Children
Tasks For Children provides an opportunity for parents to provide scaffolding for children and facilitate guided participation.
Companion Web App
Parents can learn more about different school-readiness themes and pro-tips through the web app companion.
With the storybook and mobile app prototype, we had our MVP ready and we ventured into testing it with families. We had divided the playtesting process into two stages to test the effectiveness of the product in achieving the goals.
- Pre-intervention: We used a survey to gauge the parents current story reading practices and also their understanding of school readiness.
- Playtesting and Post-intervention: We observed the behaviors of the families during the playtesting process to test for engagement. In the post-intervention stage, we used a survey to understand the overall experience of the product and if it had achieved the intended learning goals.
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Through the playtesting process, we found the following insights aboou the product.
- Both parents and children loved the interactive nature of the product.
- Parents found the storybook to be more engaging for them when compared to the other storybooks they read to their children.
- Parents learnt more about their children through the prompts and activities.
- None of the families voluntarily used the companion web app.
- More than 50% of the participants performed all the integrated tasks and activities.
The project was well-received by various stakeholders including families, educational researchers, and children's media specialists.
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