Author, illustrator and researcher Betty Sargeant spells out her love for children's content and providing engaging experiences for young minds in the digital world.
What is your current research focus?
I am investigating the ways in which mobile applications can encourage children to be more physically active.
What is your goal - what do you seek to learn?
Over the past four years I have investigated how mobile apps can further engage children in their literature, and how apps can encourage children to be more socially active.
What is your approach in your work?
I conduct transdisciplinary research that combines humanities and scientific methods. I am a practitioner and researcher. As such, I analyse existing design approaches and artefacts, and I create new designs and new design approaches.
Explain the impact of your research - who will it affect and how?
My work is applicable to researchers and designers who are interested in the ways in which mobile content can foster social and physical interaction. Much of my research is published and publically available; my design work can be accessed online and is available to children and adults alike. As such, children can read and experience my work and this may impact the ways in which audiences engage with digital literature.
What drew you to this specific field?
I love making and analysing children’s content. I particularly enjoy distilling a complex idea so that young preschool children can understand it. When making a story I aim to involve adult as well as child audiences; adults often read books and watch films alongside younger children. For this reason, I layer my work with content that may appeal to a wide age range.
How has your work developed over the years?
My children’s stories have been produced in many different formats; picture books, activity books, activity programs, theatrical productions, musicals, CD’s and apps. Currently my work has a digital focus. I primarily seek to entertain audiences, yet my work also has a strong educational component.
Why did you feel it important to produce children's book apps?
Children in Western cultures have increased access to mobile devices and evidence shows that they are spending extended amounts of time engaged with game and entertainment apps. Children are spending less time reading for pleasure. As a consequence, there are some concerns that children’s interest in mobile content may impact child literary development. There are also concerns regarding the immersive qualities of mobile content; there is some evidence that when children engage with mobile content, they can exhibit antisocial behaviour. Through my work I aim to use the immersive and appealing qualities of animation and interactivity to further engage children in their literature. I also investigate how book apps can encourage children to engage in social and physical activities.
What has been the proudest moment in your research career so far?
I was thrilled that my children’s storybook app, How Far is UP, was a finalist in the 2014 Premiers Design Awards, that it achieved a 2015 AIMIA finalist award (an Australian digital industry award), and that it was selected for inclusion in an international showcase of innovative technologies (CHI Interactivity 2014, Toronto).