1.3 Cultural Probes


Our design goal would be to create a way/tool in which one could benefit from games in learning, for example through a diverse learning platform with various activities for students to do. There is a clear tendency among students to use «illegal» programs, apps or games in the classroom. Many students play games in class, use social media or other types of software while in class. This tool we would most likely be the most beneficial for teachers who are having these issues in their classes, to get a better hold of what’s actually going on behind the screens; if it’s games, notes or social media for example. It would be able to monitor the student’s activity, to see whether they’re inside the tool or not. Hopefully such a tool could provide useful insight for teachers turning the computer into a more diverse tool for school usage.

Our focus group will be students in this case, as they will be the ones to take advantage of our probes. We want to find out through our probe what students use their computers for in the school hours and why they do so? What makes them use the programs they use and how do they feel about the programs or games they use and about the general computer usage at school? This information can provide the us with more insight in what we can do to make the computer a more interesting part of the lectures and also get knowledge of what’s actually going on behind the screens.


For this task we we’re supposed to make minimum 3-4 probes for our participants. We’ve made a total of three different probes and will be describing them in detail in separate paragraphs. Our probes will help us get closer to our design goal through systematic tracking of computer habits through pictures, a custom grading scale, the written word of students and their feelings toward computer usage in the classroom and lastly a box with some popsicles in it. With this data we’re able to get a better picture of student behavior in the classroom, which ultimately will help us in finding out a way to create a tool which can make the computer a more interesting and versatile part of students lives.

Measurement paper

We have made a writing task for the students. This task is one we want done over the course of three days. The students will receive a paper and on it they would have a total of two different tasks for them to do. First one being a measurement paper for them in which they could write down what they’re doing on the computers in the classroom throughout the day. It shall contain a total of five different columns. This measurement paper will contain options for:

  • Programs used for schoolwork or creative tasks (e.g. Office 365)
  • Social media (e.g. Facebook)
  • School related websites or services (e.g. Canvas)
  • Games or mobile games (e.g. Minecraft)
  • A box in which they can write freely other things they have used.

This task requires them only to either circle around the programs we’ve listed or put an «x» next to it in the sheet, or write down a program they’ve used which has not been covered by our provided options.This task also goes along with another activity.
We have a grading system where we’ve set three different smileys; a frowney face, a neutral face and lastly a smiley face. These smileys are meant to indicate the feelings the students feel in coordination with the answers they gave in the prior task. They are to mark one of three smileys going along with the programs they’ve used, for example if they felt good when playing games they’ll note down in the game column that they played the game alongside the smiley face. Simple and quick executable task.

Picture probe

On our measurement paper we’ve also (at the bottom of the page) given them a secondary task which asks them to take pictures of their computer screens at school. This task was asked to be repeated for three days, the same sample size as for our measurement paper. The reason for the probe asking for pictures is to give realistic views of student computer habits at school. If we get to see what programs they use, it will give a better perspective of students computer habits in the classroom. Each student were asked to take a picture each day for three days of their computer screens in a class/learning setting and email it to us so we could implement it in our task.

Our box of popsicles were one we made at the school’s MakerSpace. Here we found some different materials to play around with and brainstormed some ideas after our guidance meeting with Klaudia. As our main task for the blog is game related, we could show this through our probe. Here we wanted to know what our fellow students thought of games in learning, or rather; what game genres they thought would be the most useful in learning situations. Our box was made out of foam plate and glued together with hot glue. We used some copper tape to keep the box more steady as foam plate is quite brittle, this was also used for the lid of the box to make it stick (so it could be opened and closed properly). We also put a hole in the lid for our popsicles to be planted. The popsicles we made was more a type of flags. These popsicles were made out of a popsicle handle, a piece of wrapping cardboard, glue and paper. We used the wrapping paper as the base for our

Box of popsicle flags

piece of paper to be on (so it would be more stable). This was glued together into small popsicles / flags. On the papers was the important information relating to this probe’s task; being what game genre the students thought was the most beneficial in learning. The box contained the five most popular game genres. The flags answers were:

  • RPG
    Short for role playing games. This is a broad genre that involves a lot of different elements such as action, adventure and fantasy. RPGs due to their broad nature they can give a lot of different knowledge to the player, a good example here is the Assasin’s Creed series which takes places in a lot of different historical eras.
  • FPS
    Short for first person shooter. Shooting games are quite violent of nature, but do often have a historical value to them as they’re often based around different historical eras (generally the 1700s and up to today, or even further). 
  • RTS
    Short for real time strategy. Strategy games teaches the player tactics and often is based on real events. For example the TOTAL:WAR series which is a well-established RTS franchise mainly based in historical eras of older history (such as the Roman times).
    Not short for anything, but contains games about normal sports such as FIFA or motorsports. Keeps you updated on the latest players in the different sports and also cars or motor vehicles. Also includes games designed for vehicle simulation which are used in the training of pilots, astronauts and more.
    Sandbox games are ones that let the player take more control of their environments, it’s essentially a playground for the player in which they can create or do what they want with the tools given to them by the developer.


We will have a sample size of five people, giving it to the student council representative (preferably) and four random students we will select. As we did not find our student council representative we gave our probes out to students in our class, both in the subject of Designmetoder and Teknologi og Samfunn. We already knew these students and have relations to them so it was easier asking for a little help from them, than giving it out to the ones we actually wanted to give them out to (being a proper middle school / high school class). This was our original plan, but the feasibility of this in a slim time period is one we’ve chosen not to follow.

Our probes were given to anonymous students in our classes, only we know their identities. In order to follow-up our probe we will stay in contact with the students we have given our probes to. Our probes tasks are easy to complete, but require them to actively check it each day for three days (at least for the measurement paper and the picture tasks).Our co-students will write down on our measurement paper each day for three days and alongside it they should send pictures to us daily of their computer in the classroom. The pictures will flow naturally on the email each day, but our paper sheet will not be handed back until three days have passed, giving them some breathing room. Our box of popsicles was completed quick as it was an easy task to complete. The boxes we made we collected more or less within five minutes of handing them out, as all students wasn’t sure what all the different genres meant or included. On friday the 4th of October we went around and collected the measurement papers from our fellow students for analysis and comparison.


The probes results were interesting to say the least. We did not expect that there would be such a positive relation between all the school related websites and the users going by our experience so far, not to mention that we expected more users to be using more «illegal» type of programs such as games, reddit or youtube. That was the most surprising factor for us really, as we’ve seen that games and other more «illegal» websites are not used by our participants. For readability we’re splitting each probes’ results in a paragraph to easier see the results they gave.


Here we had five different columns:



All of our participants have used the office package and were mostly happy with their usage of it in school. The office package is a good one for creative work and school work. One of our participants did write down that she was feeling good using office, yet she felt stressed due to a lot of assignments and hand-ins. In the office package the most used programs were: Word, OneNote and PowerPoint.



All of our participants have also used different types of social media each day while in class. The responses to the usage of social media in class were mostly positive, besides one participant who didn’t really too much about their social media usage. The programs they used the most was as follows: Facebook, Snapchat and lastly Instagram.



All of our participants have used the various websites that are school related. This one was a bit more mixed, some were happy with it others not too much. The reason behind the different answers here can be caused by annoyance with the different websites, the design of the websites and how the students are supposed to interact with it. Many students have complained about the oddity of our weekly school schedules, and this might be why some weren’t pleased with the usage of the school related websites. The most popular school related website was Canvas, followed up by any site under the HIOF.no domain and with StudentWeb being all the way at the bottom with only one user.



Only one of our participants have written down that they used computer games / mobile games in class. This person has not got a good relationship with games seemingly as all the days they’ve used it they’ve also not felt good using them, maybe a bit guilty for not paying attention in class?



The other programs that have been noted are: Spotify, Calender, Scorecloud, VSCODE, Chrome, VG and Dagbladet. With these other programs most have been happy with their usage of them. These are of course a bit more secluded from our main categories which means their more closely related to our participants interests, which should explain the happiness factor here. Spotify being a music program lets the user listen to music  they like, or explore new music. Calender might refer to two different things here, either our school’s calender or just the standard one that comes along with the PC. VSCODE is a coding program used mainly for websites, a free software used in classes at HIOF. Scorecloud is a program that turn any song into music sheet notes. Chrome is a standard web browser that eats up all your RAM. VG and Dagbladet are two Norwegian newspapers, being the two most popular ones at that. The one participant who used the two newspapers in class seemingly wasn’t too satisfied when he read the news each day, it varied every time. Might have stumbled across some news he did not enjoy, or a story that might’ve been fabricated to get you to click on it.


This task was only meant to show the computer screens in class to showcase the program usage. Will only show a few of these pictures as many of them were the same day to day, e.g. Office being used by essentially everyone.

Here you can see the program VSCODE in action.

A participant using Canvas in class.

A student using Word and Google Translate to work on an assignment.


Our boxes was quite simple; after choosing which game genre you found to be the most beneficial in learning situations (out of a given five), choose the correlating popsicle and plant it on the top of the box. We ended up having three people answering with the more creative type of sandbox games, while two others decided to go with FPS and RTS. Sandbox games are already quite established in the learning community in comparison to RTS and FPS as they’re generally more traditional entertainment value games (not to say that sandbox aren’t, but the nature of a sandbox game enables more types of gameplay than your traditional RTS / FPS). It seems that our peers are quite on board with the sandbox type of games for learning as it allows for more creative work and it does not really have a limit which other game genres can have in a learning sense. The participants who did not choose the sandbox type most likely thought of the historic value these games can have. A FPS or a RTS can showcase how war in older time periods were or even how civilizations were and how they developed.


Click image for full size


We’ve overall found this part of the design method process to be a rather hard one, but quite useful as well. We struggled at the beginning finding a proper defined problem statement that related to the different topics we could choose from, be it health, museum or education. We originally just brainstormed before the literature search began and came up with a problem statement for making the everyday lives of retail workers easier through a systematic tracking of dates (for foods). As this did not fit inside what our teachers had in mind we had to change it to something relevant to either of the three main themes of the task; so we ended up at education. Specifically, games and their uses in education based on our own interests. We thought it was rather dull at times to only sit and listen to lectures all day and that sparked our idea of integrating games in education. This is a rather new concept in the terms of traditional school learning, and has just in recent years been adapted into some test projects in schools around the world (in the case of video game learning that is). Quite a bit of our inspiration for this task actually came from a lecture held by our lovely interview subject Tina Bunæs who showed us how she had used games in learning previously briefly in the class.
For our cultural probes we feel as if they weren’t really good enough, we had a hard time being creative with them as we didn’t really understand their purpose until we had already completed them. We thought of them to be a form of getting user data, like a questionnaire, but that’s rather far from what they actually are supposed to be. It’s more about understanding others’ feelings in correlation to the probes. As this is the empathize phase we want to get into our participants heads and try to get a hold of what they like and don’t like about what we present them with and use that information to help our next phase being the define phase.
After our testing phase we have also come back to this part of our blog to restructure and clarify more what our idea has become, rather than what it originally was. As it first was meant more or less exclusively to be a way for teachers to monitor screen activitity in the classroom, but now it’s become a diverse learning platform with focus on games and activities which enables student and teacher interaction and learning.




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