My PhD in brief

My PhD research was concerned with the design of new technologies for homework. It involved working closely with the people who use such technologies - families and schools - to understand the impact that IT can have on home life, and what it can and can't achieve.

Examples of my work can be found in the Pervasive Computing Conference in Canada in 2007, where I presented a paper Trust, privacy and relationships in 'pervasive education': Families' views on homework and technologies and at the Interaction Design and Children Conference in Finland in 2006, which presents a briefer and less design focused account of the same study, and can be downloaded from the ACM Digital Library.

My research took place at the University of Nottingham in their Learning Sciences Research Institute. The LSRI is an interdisciplinary team - promoting joint research across the areas of Psychology, Computer Science and Education, and my work therefore took place under two supervisors - Claire O'Malley from the Psychology department, and Tom Rodden from the Computer Science department. As my research investigated the design of technologies to support home-school connections and homework, it touched on all three schools' areas of interest, and I was lucky enough to receive support and input from staff across all three schools.

The full text of the thesis is available from the University of Nottingham thesis repository at

Nabaztag interactive rabbit My academic background involves a long-term interest in the design of everyday technologies, starting with my undergraduate project into the 'affordances' of packaging, and its effect on consumers, and progressing with my MSc Occupational Psychology research which attempted to evaluate a series of e-learning programmes at a local adult learning centre. During this work my interests have diversified from a more traditional Psychological approach to an interest in the social, cultural and contextual factors surrounding technology use.

In my PhD I drew upon and critiqued approaches to home, homework, technology use, and family from across the literature. Examples of contrasts in perspective include viewing the child and the family as a social group, as knowledge workers, as ludic (playful) users or as consumers. My PhD asked how the interaction between the social and physical nature of the home, and how the contrasts between home and school may affect communication between the two. Lastly, it was engaged with the implications of these contexts for design - for example, of ubiquitous, mobile or tangible technologies.

The broad range of this research can be gathered by looking at the technologies I considered, including the humble home PC, mobile location services, sensors and phidgets, wireless technologies, laptops, mobile devices, the Mixed Reality Architecture and an ambient awareness rabbit called the Nabaztag, pictured on the left.