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Designing for Diverse Audiences: K-12 Research as a Model

JCDL 2004 Workshop

Paper Submission Contact: Bethany Carlson
Please submit papers by May 5, 2004


Participation is open to those who have experience designing or developing digital resources. Participants are invited to submit a position paper describing their experience developing digital resources and offering topics to seed discussion. Papers should specify features of their resources which may appeal to diverse audiences and their justification. Papers submitted by May 5, 2004 will be peer reviewed; selected authors will be asked to present their papers. Please submit papers and suggested topics as an attachment to bcarlson@edc.org . Electronic submissions in PDF format only. There will be a limit of 25 participants to ensure that focused discussion is possible.


Many digital library collections and search mechanisms were not created for the K-12 audience and present a number of challenges to educators and students. These challenges include the overwhelming variety and scope of the collections; the fragmentary nature of material; search engines not designed for K-12 needs; teachers' lack of experience in using non-textual resource; and the ongoing tension between in-depth inquiry and curriculum breadth [1]. In addition, the voices, perspectives, and interests of women, people of color, and other under-represented groups are not often reflected in the design and development of Web-based educational resources. [2] Using the results from two NSF-funded digital library projects as a springboard, this workshop will give developers of digital libraries and services the opportunity to expand their capacity to use audience needs to inform their product design and plan for future efforts.


According to the research findings of two National Science Digital Library (NSDL) projects, Effective Access and CaREN , a rift exists between the technical and informational needs of diverse audiences and the tools currently available. Effective Access is a research project examining how high school STEM teachers find and use digital resources. CaREN ( Career Resources Education Network) is a digital library of career resources for middle school students currently being developed; the design of the CaREN's interface and content is informed by the ongoing contributions of middle school students. Organizers will present research findings from these projects and engage participants in interactive discussions and group design exercises so that participants are able to leverage the findings to benefit their own work.


The aim of this workshop is to share our recent digital library research findings and use the implications of those findings to inform participants' future designs. Participants will relate these research findings to their own work through a series of interactive activities. We will examine how the design of digital resources can be enhanced through a comprehensive understanding of the needs and desires of end users. As a result of this workshop, participants will increase their capacity to develop digital library resources for diverse audiences.


3.1 Who Is Your Audience?

First, attendees will develop clear descriptions of typical visitors to their digital resources and explanations of specific site features and characteristics created to attract these typical visitors. Once attendees have explored how their designs serve their audiences, they will analyze selected Web sites for audience appeal. Then, organizers will present research findings from user surveys analyzing the same Web sites, and the group will discuss how the similarities and differences between the attendee analysis and user feedback could impact their own designs.

3.2 Collaborative Design

Participants will be presented with selected findings from the Effective Access and CaREN projects that highlight the digital library needs and preferences of high school STEM teachers and middle school students. These findings will be used as a springboard for a collaborative design activity during which participants apply the research findings to the design of hypothetical digital resources for a variety of audiences.

3.3 Assessing Impact and Next Steps

The attendees will have an opportunity to brainstorm together how this new information could be incorporated into their work so that their resulting products more effectively serve targeted audiences. Lastly, attendees will be given resource packets containing Effective Access and CaREN findings, as well as examples of how other digital libraries have creatively met the needs of diverse audiences.


Half-day workshop including facilitated reflection, interactive discussion, and small group collaborative design in response to selected provocative research findings.


This interactive workshop will allow attendees to examine the intersection of the diverse K-12 education community with their own digital library creations, and we anticipate 20-25 people to attend. We expect that this workshop will be beneficial to teams developing digital libraries, digital library tools, or e-learning environments for students and teachers and to people who wish to attract members of the K-12 community to their existing digital libraries.

The workshop announcement will be disseminated through relevant list servs and professional networks, for example, the National Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Digital Library (NSDL) program's Whiteboard Report, mailing lists for ACM, IEEE, ASIS&T, DELOS, and the digital divide network. The workshop size must be limited to maintain its personalized, interactive nature. If more than 25 people are interested, participation would be decided on a first come, first serve basis on the day of the workshop.


Katherine Hanson is the Director of the Gender, Diversities, and Technology Institute at EDC. She is Principal Investigator of three NSDL projects, as well as three other NSF projects focused on diversity and technology. She has written extensively about diversity and equity in STEM education.

Sarita Nair is a Project Director with the Gender, Diversities &Technology Institute at EDC. Ms. Nair has presented nationally and internationally on digital library development and the use of technology to leverage the power of diversity in improving education and work. Prior to joining EDC held several positions in the software industry

Bethany Carlson is a Research Associate at the Gender, Diversities, and Technology Institute at EDC. She brings experience in both engineering and urban middle schools science classrooms to her research. Her current projects include Effective Access and CaREN.

Sharon Reidy is a Technology Associate at the Gender, Diversities, and Technology Institute at EDC. Her work currently focuses on the design and development of digital libraries which encourage the participation of underrepresented populations in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education and careers.


[1] Hawkins, J. Panush, E.M. & Spielvogel, R. National Study Tour of District Technology Integration (Summary Report). New York : Center for Children and Technology, Education Development Center , December 1999.
[2] ITAA Task Force Reports. Building the 21 st Century Information Technology Workforce: Underrepresented Groups in the Information Technology Workforce