PhD projects

The body at the heart of learning leveraging digital technology: exploring a new paradigm for early childhood education

PhD student: Marion Voillot

Supervisors: Frédéric Bevilacqua (IRCAM-STMS), Joël Chevrier (CRI Paris, University of Paris) Guillian Graves (Center for Research in Design ENS/ENSCI)

Faced with the massive arrival of mobile interfaces in the lives of very young children, families and early childhood professionals face difficulties and reduce digital tools to screen-based interfaces only. However, since the beginning of the 21st century, the field of child-computer interaction has seen the emergence of many projects based on tangible interaction. Through multimodal interactions, these interactive devices designed for early childhood promote the mobilization of body and mind. They enrich and establish the field of  “embodied child-computer interaction” research supporting children to play, learn and interact. 


In considering this knowledge about early childhood development, the following question can be asked : How to design technology interaction promoting holistic development of the child ? In a design research process, we develop tangible and digital interfaces, included in pedagogical scenarios, for young children (between 2 and 5 years old). These devices make it possible to place the body as a medium for interaction with technology by promoting multimodal interactions, i.e. the senses (hearing, sight, touch) as well as movement and gestures.

In collaboration with childhood specialists in health and education, as well as designers and engineers, we have developed 3 pedagogical scenarios : 

  •, an application for telling sound stories in motion (based on the technology developed by the Interaction Sound Music Movement team at IRCAM)

  • Learning Matters, electronic textile devices promoting hand gesture interaction with electronic circuit components (in collaboration with Claire Eliot, e-textile designer, Motion Lab)

  • egloo, an interactive and tangible space that invites the child to move, feel and interact with several manipulatives (supported by Lab Premiers Cris team). 

In an ecological approach, all these scenarios are tested in several kindergartens in the Parisian region. 

This PhD project is also part of the Lab Premiers Cris, an exploratory research lab on early childhood, at the interface between Science and Design.

Neuromotor prerequisites for handwriting in children : contribution of new digital tools 

PhD student: Ana Phelippeau

Supervisors:  Emmanuelle Pouydebat (CNRS, MNHN UMR 7179 MECADEV équipe FUNEVOL), Laurence Vaivre-Douret : INSERM, Unité Neuro-développement et troubles des apprentissages, Hôpital Necker-Enfants Malades, Université de Paris et Collège de France, Joël Chevrier (CRI Paris, University of Paris)

Questions about the grasping development and manipulation abilities on children are oftenly focused on handwriting development. Besides, handwriting is an important issue for scholar activities. Handwriting difficulties are frequent reasons for school-age children to consult an psychomotor therapist, event at a very young age. It is important to distinguish if the poor motor skills are the result of a lack of neurological maturity or a real pathology ? This questions remains poorly investigated : 1. what are the neurological and motor requirements for handwriting and 2. how we can analyze this requirements from an ecological and non-invasive way (with environmental, socio-economic and cultural factors) and 3. how can we ease the early detection and diagnostic of grasping difficulties. To do so, we will use new digital tools (sensors). This disposals will allow us to collect a high variability of data, individualy for each child, with a large sample. This research, at the crossroad of psychomotricity, neuro-development, ethology and biomecanics, will aim to obtain measures with a great accuracy, never considered before. Therefore, I will be able to adapt the data analysis to every concerned recipients (scientists from several disciplines, parents, medical and paramedical teams). 

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