Assistive Technology: Unexotic Underclass

As technology advances, it becomes more ubiquitous. Whether you are rich or poor, happy or sad, male or female: it exists. But does it exist to help those in need? Furthermore, can we push it to help not just those who are in need but those who are ignored by society? My team was challenged to select a niche group of people who wouldn't normally get the time of day and explore how they may benefit from assistive technology in their lives.


Target a group and dig deep

Since this was our final project in IDP, we knew we had to give it our all. Choosing a group from the CHI prompt was no easy task though. All of us had different ideas of who to work with from mothers in prison to undocumented citizens. However, we all seemed attracted to one common theme: teachers - specifically in high poverty areas.

Myself and another team member both had connections to teachers who have worked in that environment, so the team compiled some questions after sifting through secondary research, and I conducted a phone interview with a published teacher and Freedom Writers Foundation member. 


Insight analysis

After grouping all of the newfound primary research, we began to notice a trend in how children's behavior in schools had to be addressed not only through punishment but through empathy and understanding as well. We found that a large percentage of children in high poverty areas lack adult presence in there lives for a number of reasons (single parent home, double shift workers, incarceration, etc.). This meant that the teachers fill a parental figure role. While they are happy to do this in most cases, they also have many kids to focus on.

Through these insights, we found that when children lack parental guidance at home, it can cause emotional distress that can carry through to their social and academic life. If the teacher however, is too busy to notice subtleties from the child, this can lead to behavioral issues that end up involving suspension or expulsion in the long run. Considering the high school statistics of urban Indiana school systems, we knew we had to start at the beginning - elementary school.


we discovered our core:

"Develop a way for teachers to know when to intervene with a student before behavioral issues occur."


sketching & Initial Design

While the sketching phase for our interface seemed to take many tries, we attempted a newly introduced method called "round robin" that allowed every team member to draw for 2 minutes and then move their papers to the left, and so on. By adding on each idea with more ideas, we were able to pick out what we really liked. This method proved to be the most efficient after we made several attempts to sketch as individuals and failed. Ultimately this exercise brought us what would be the final design.


Complete Design

To the left is our complete design in the form of a software made for teachers to use in order to track their students emotional patterns. The teacher does this by asking simple questions throughout the day in which students can answer on a remote clicker one of several emotional faces. Should an unordinary negative trend begin to occur within a student's responses, the software will notify the teacher allowing he or she to look back on previous recordings in order to confirm that the student needs to have a one-on-one. This system is especially helpful for students who wish to stay anonymous amongst friends about emotions but still need someone to talk to and support.


Team: Hannah Jones, Stephy Mathew, Sean Warsaw and Nava Teja Tummalapalli

Mentor: Micah Nethery