Children and Adults Working as Design Partners

Making technology for kids without working directly with them is “like making clothes for someone you don’t know the size of.

Thomas, KidsTeam Child Design Partner Alumni


The child and adult members of KidsTeam work together at the University of Maryland’s Human-Computer Interaction Lab (HCIL) to co-design technologies that support children’s learning and play. KidsTeam research enhances our understanding of intergenerational design techniques and our efforts to co-design technologies that are more relevant to children’s interests and needs.

The University of Maryland’s KidsTeam is the first intergenerational Cooperative Inquiry design team. Not long after the original KidsTeam celebrated its first decade, more intergenerational Cooperative Inquiry design teams began to proliferate beyond Maryland, to include research institutions like the University of Baltimore and the University of Washington, and industry organizations such as Pearson Learning.

Twice a week throughout the academic year, KidsTeam brings together children (ages 7-11) and adult researchers, practitioners, and technologists from diverse backgrounds. Together, they collaborate to design technologies for children. Because of their long tenure, Kidsteam kids are experts in more than being kids: they are experts in working with adults and other kids, in prototyping techniques, and in communicating their ideas and the importance of their ideas.

KidsTeam and the Cooperative Inquiry Method

In 1998, Dr. Allison Druin adapted various Participatory Design and field research approaches such as Contextual Inquiry/Design [4] and in-situ low fidelity prototyping [5,6] to create the Cooperative Inquiry approach for designing new technologies with children [1,2,3]. That very same year, she established KidsTeam at the HCIL. The KidsTeam Cooperative Inquiry design team asks for a long-term partnership between its adult and child team members and offers a set of techniques that foster intergenerational communication and provide actionable design feedback. This feedback can be used in all stages of development, from early brainstorming to late-stage testing, and across technology platforms. Over the past two decades, design teams in universities and corporations around the world have employed the Cooperative Inquiry method.

Interested in joining or working with KidTeam?

Contact Beth Bonsignore, Director of KidsTeam, at for more information.

Join KidsTeam as one of our adult design partners, industry or non-profit partner, or as a visiting scholar to learn more about the Cooperative Inquiry method of design.

Program Highlights

Kidsteam at the Lincoln Memorial. In August 2016, KidsTeam was invited to help the National Park Service co-design the future of the Lincoln Memorial’s visitor experience. We worked with children and adults from places such as the Pentagon, Sesame Workshop, Yahoo, Ford’s Theatre, AARP, and various parts of the National Park Service to envision the future of this iconic monument.
KidsTeam at the White House. In May 2015, KidsTeam visited the White House to prototype the online Every Kid in a Park experience with local 4th graders, members of the Department of the Interior, and of the National Park Service. 
Emmy-Winning Interactions. Nickelodeon won the 2013 Emmy for Outstanding Creative Achievement In Interactive Media – User Experience And Visual Design for their Nick App, which features the “Do Not Touch” button that was developed with KidsTeam. The button was recognized for its “array of disruptive comedy and surprises.”

[1.] Druin, A. (1999). Cooperative inquiry: developing new technologies for children with children. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems (CHI ’99) (pp. 592–599). Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States.

[2.] Druin, A. (2002). The role of children in the design of new technology. Behaviour & Information Technology, 21(1), 1–25. 10.1080/01449290110108659 10.1080/01449290110108659

[3.] Guha, M. L., Druin, A., & Fails, J. A. (2013). Cooperative Inquiry revisited: Reflections of the past and guidelines for the future of intergenerational co-design. International Journal of Child-Computer Interaction, 1(1), 14–23.

[4.] Holtzblatt, K., & Jones, S. (1993). Contextual Inquiry: A Participatory Technique for System Design. In D. Schuler (Ed.), Participatory design: principles and practices (pp. 177–210). Hillsdale N.J.: L. Erlbaum Associates.

[5.] Muller, M. (2008). Participatory Design: The Third Space in HCI. In A. Sears & J. Jacko (Eds.), The human-computer interaction handbook: fundamentals, evolving technologies, and emerging applications (2nd ed, pp. 1061–1082). New York: Taylor & Francis.

[6.] Nardi, B. A. (1996). Studying context: a comparison of activity theory, situated action models, and distributed cognition. In Context and consciousness (pp. 69–102). Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.