Becca Rose is an artist, designer, and educator. In 2015 she started to explore ways to connect paper pages with sounds and animations on a tablet and has since developed an app for creating and sharing children’s stories across digital and physical spaces. 

The app Bear Abouts was recently awarded Innovate UK’s “art and technology” fund, which has led Becca to develop work in a new way. She has been working with technologist Mark Wonnacott, producer Sarah Warden, and artists Emma Powell, Amy Rose, and Liv Bargman to take the app in a new direction. The lunchtime talk outlined Becca’s approach to developing creative educational technologies, as well as sharing the team’s insight into the making process.

Five Things I Learned

1. The two year project is Becca's first foyer into app development. The children’s storytelling app is not only an interactive picture book, but can also be used as a publishing platform for artists and kids to create their own content. The app includes a story making kit aimed at kids between 7-11, comprised of physical objects such as paper and materials to overlay onto the tablet, which the app then can respond with music and playful animations.

2. Previously Becca has run shadow puppets workshops with children and she enjoyed the process of making and creating collaboratively. Inspired she started thinking about how she could take the big performative element of shadow puppetry out of the equation in favour of a smaller and more personal performance that could involve objects that we all have access to at home. 

3. January of this year was the start of a new phase of development; Becca worked alongside a group of artists including studio resident Amy Rose, pop up book maker Emma Powell and Liv Bardman who is a traditional children’s illustrator. Becca worked alongside them to develop the app using a programme called Unity, which was both a powerful and complex tool and rather than tasking the artists to learn an entirely new programme she created her own user friendly platform, working on the front-end development with a back end programmer. 

4. Becca ran several creative labs with the aim of having everyone to contribute in the development process and three stories emerged. The Book of Keys by Amy Rose explores the chemicals that are inside tablets much like a modern day bestiary of the mobile phone. Liv Bargman’s This Mine is Mine is the story of explorer who digs down and down exploring the idea of the bottomless tablet. The Search by Emma Powell explores a map using real periscopes and kaleidoscopes to connect the flat space into the physical space. 

5. Becca believes that most educational apps designed for children take a very behaviourist stance to learning through box ticking style exercises with an emphasis on outcomes. Becca is interested in exploring social learning, based on Lev Vygotsky’s ideas. She uses the image of a fried egg to illustrate social learning; the egg yolk represents what people learn on their own, whereas the white represents what is learned with more knowledgeable others. Younger kids tend to use mobile devices as a solitary activity, and she is asking what social learning looks like if the device is the knowledgeable other? 

Becca has partnered with Filton Avenue Primary School to examine how kids engage with the app and each other while using it. So far she has found that when kids work in groups they fill in the gaps through conversations and her research is on going. Visit Becca’s website to find out more about her app development.

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