Mica’s concept is based on the metaphor of how a conch shell captures the sound of the ocean. The portable device syncs with an iPad app that provides an archive and sound map for children to collect and reflect on their experiences.
The process of collecting has both emotional and educational benefits for children. It exercises critical, imaginative, and cognitive skills and can help create a sense of identity.
"Listening is a skill that we’re in danger of losing in a world of digital distraction and information overload. And yet we dare not lose it. Because listening tunes our brain to the patterns of our environment faster than any other sense." - The NY Times
Luna helped us through our entire design process. When we first asked her about sounds in her environment she seemed confused, and it quickly became clear that sound wasn't something she ever thought of as its own entity. We took her around our campus with an iPhone and had her record sounds in her environment. After her first recording, she played it back and her face immediately lit up. She excitedly showed her dad the recording and then continued to capture more sounds. Observing her during this process was very insightful. The more sounds she recorded, the more aware she became of all the different noises around her. She even started making her own sounds, comparing the way her feet sounded walking on the concrete versus walking on the grass.
Another important observation, was that Luna would forget to create a new recording each time she wanted to record something, so her sound bite would just add onto the previous recording. Then, when she went to play the sound back, she'd have to listen from the very beginning again. This created immense frustration for her, and she continued to make the same mistake the rest of the time. This insight lead to some important aspects of our device: time-limited recordings, and the automatic creation of a new sound file after each recording.
We interviewed a host of people that work with children aged 6-8, including teachers, parents, and nannys. The woman on the right, Kayla Willoughby is a teacher at the Pacific First Montessori School in Seattle. She not only provided useful insights into the way her Montessori School teaches children about their senses, but also expressed great enthusiasm for our concept:
"We try to get [children] to really listen, and they're very into it. I think that the kids would love this...It's also such a great segway for the parent or teacher to explain to them where [a sound comes] from. "
relevant research articles and sources:
Folsom, Joseph K. (1915). The Scientific Play World of a Child. The Pedagogical Seminary 22(2): 161-182.
Howe, Elizabeth. (May, 1906). Can the Collecting Instinct Be Utilized in Teaching? The Elementary School Teacher. 6(9): 466-471.
Stacey Menzel Baker and James W. Gentry (1996) ,"Kids As Collectors: a Phenomenological Study of First and Fifth Graders", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 23, eds.
Kim P. Corfman and John G. Lynch Jr., Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 132-137.