1.3 Cultural Probe

The goal of our cultural probes was to extract information from other students to get other perspectives and opinions related to our topic. We were not aware that we rather should’ve gone to a school and put our cultural probes into action there, we thought we only could give it to fellow students, so we were advised to mention this. The aim is to figure out if there is a demand for digital tools in everyday school life – more specifically in class. We want to explore if traditional classroom teaching if sufficient for the students to feel accomplished or get the feeling that they were taught something after each class. As well as following up on students that wants help.

We thought our probes could expand our mindset a little as our Literature Review and our Interview showed us that the general opinion are all over the place, people are divided on the issue that digital media and tools should be in the classroom every day but the concerns are rather similar.

We started with a simple and easy diary in a fabric bag with a question and another page set aside for the answer. The question was «What is my biggest concern if kids start using digital media in their class? The question is broad but at the same time simple. The goal was to get opinions we could compare to our research, the testers write their thoughts.

The second probe was an experiment using sponge dices and markers where students were asked to rank from 1 to 10 how often they feel the need to look up information during lectures. For fun a bonus was added where they could try use the soft sponge as an anti-stress tool and then write down their experience. The goal was to get an idea of how often a student would use Google or similar during class.

The third and final probe was two different cardboard boxes. One of them contained a question and three different answers with a checkbox, and each question was related to how the student used digital media outside and inside of school. The goal was to gather information in an engaging, fun and quick way as the user group only have to check the box they relate to.


Collage of probes: top left is probe 1, top right is probe 2 and bottom left is probe 3.

We collected the probes back, thanked the participants and read through what the students said. The main points were that they had high scores using google as a supplement when they do not understand the class, and that they were concerned about the internet not being safe enough and teachers not being competent in digital learning.

What was most insightful or inspirational?

We were excited about how the results from the probes looked like the students were relying on digital tools to get through school, and this opens doors for us to build something digitally. We were inspired to explore further if children could use apps in school since they use internet in school already –  we gathered this information  through the probes.

Probe 1 and 3 weren’t as relevant since the answers are from older students. One might argue that the answers we got from the students would be similar to younger children who are familiar with using the web to acquire desired knowledge.

What surprised you the most?
The rating the students gave, it showed us that our testers look up things during lectures more often than we anticipated. We were also surprised that no one put a rating under 7 out of 10.

Another surprising finding is that the users prioritized security online, which is contrasting to our assumption beforehand that students are more careless online than in real life. This sparked an idea that we need a safe platform for kids to be able to ask for help from teachers without risking getting bullied.


What probe results will help you with future designs?
Definitely the findings from probe 2, it’s such a fun concept and we will use this to target our current group to get more results to this particular project from the correct user group. The fact that students choose to use Google instead of asking the teacher is a challenge and a blessing in itself since it promotes self learning, but keeps them from facing conflicts or asking questions in class. Maybe we could make our own teacher being Google somehow? Or a chat? Furthermore, the probe gave us insight into what digital tools they use today, and gave us a few ideas on how we can develop them further. Maybe get children to use apps likewise as social media apps they use in their spare time?

Susanne asked us to mention that we misunderstood which groups we could use and that’s why some of the answers aren’t included though we are psyched to get some elementary school kids working on these. We struggled a bit with figuring out questions that could give us HOW-feedback, and promoting not just one sentence from the users.

The probes were designed like a journal and some games with boxes and sponges – we found all the materials at Makerspace and found inspiration as we rummaged through all the equipment there. When we got the materials we needed, we brainstormed a bit how the probes could feel playful. It was very fun to see the reactions to the probes when we handed them out and how they interpreted the questions we made.