Ecosystem: design and evaluating a Full-Body Interaction Learning Environment

EcoSystem is a Full-Body Interaction Learning Environment for children aimed at supporting learning about environmental relationships through embodied interaction

My role

I led the design of the EcoSystem project as part of my PhD in the Full-Body Interaction Lab of University Pompeu Fabra. In this project I’ve been in charge of conducting interviews with experts, designing and carry out Participatory Design workshops with children, defining design requirements, analyzing and interpreting quantitative and qualitative data. The project has been realized in collaboration with Marie Monique Schaper.

The challenges

EcoSystem is a Full-Body Interaction Learning Environment for children aimed at supporting learning about environmental relationships through embodied interaction. The main challenges of the projects were related to:

  • Defining appropriate learning goals
  • Designing an environment based on Full-Body Interaction  that can serve as an effective complement to traditional educational methods
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the learning environment

The design process


The design process was structured in three stages:

  1.     Stage 1: Children as co-designers

This first stage of the study had the goal of defining the educational needs through the use of Participatory Design methods.  

  1. Stage 2: Children as informants

The second stage of the study had the goal of analyzing children’s interaction and interpretation of the first prototype.

  1. Stage 3: Children as testers

The third stage of the study aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of the designed FUBILE in supporting learning and comparing its use with traditional instructional methods.  

Stage 1: Children as co-designers

Midterm_Presentation.indd final_presentation_marie_donnerstag-5

Goal: The goal of the first stage was to define specific learning goals according to experts’ requirements and children’s understandings, previous knowledge and representations of concepts related to environmental education.


  • Open-ended interviews with experts
  • Participatory Design (PD) workshop with children, using methods based on the Pictonary Activity and on Game Design activities.
  • Instruments: video-analysis


  • Understanding of children’s previous knowledge
  • Definition of bridging concepts (concepts that can bridge the gap between what children already know and novel knowledge)
  • Identification of misconceptions and knowledge gaps


  • Definition of learning goals related to the system dynamics of the relation between the amount of pollution and the resources available to reduce or augment it.
  • Design of an initial prototype
First prototype: The EcoSystem Project


Einfaches RGB

Children were presented with a large floor projection of the interactive environment. They have to teduce the amount of air-pollution in the environment.  To do that they can assume different roles:

  1.     Wind power: producing wind energy to replace the energy produced by a steam power station and hence reduce air-pollution,
  2.     Plants: growing plants and vegetables to facilitate CO2 absorption and contribute to the consumption of local foods,
  3.     Recycling: recycling and producing compost to increase the growth of plants and reduce waste that would otherwise end up incinerated and hence increasing combustion.

Air-pollution was visualized as a cloud covering the game ground. Thus, as pollution increased, the amount of space available for playing decreased. In order to make the cloud decrease children needed to understand the relation between the elements present in the game and properly collaborate with other players.

Stage 2: Children as informants




  • Analyze how children interact with the prototype and understand it
  • Define design refinements


  • Video analysis of children’s interactions while playing  with a Wizard of Oz prototype of the system
  • Retrospective analysis of children’s understanding of the system
  • Instruments: video-analysis, open-ended questionnaire, conceptual map, semi-structured group discussion and a short essay.


  • Identification of misconceptions provoked by the design of the system
  • Identification of core meanings that guided children understandings
  • Identification of intuitive actions for embodied interaction  


  • Definition of design refinements: changes in the spatial layout, change in visualization of interactive elements, definition of gestures for interactions

Stage 3: Children as testers

Goals: evaluating whether the designed FUBILE supports learning and testing whether it could be effective to complement Traditional Instructional Methods (TIM).

Methods: Between-subject experimental design:

1) Experimental condition: combined use of the system and traditional text-based learning materials

2) Control condition: use of text-based learning materials alone

Instruments: pre and post-test conceptual maps


  • Significant learning gains for both conditions between pre and posttest for both conditions
  • Significant different between the two conditions in posttests results: children in the experimental condition reported significantly greater scores than children assigned to the control condition


Lessons Learned

  • Importance of carefully structure iterative design processes
  • Importance of methods to understand children previos knowledge, representations and core meanings
  • Relevance of experiential learning


Related publications

Malinverni, L., Schaper, M.-M.,  and Pares, N. (2016). An evaluation-driven design approach to develop learning environments based on full-body interaction. Educational Technology Research and Development. DOI=http://dx.doi:10.1007/s11423-016-9468-z

Schaper, M.-M., Malinverni, L. and Pares, N. (2015). Sketching through the body: child-generated gestures in Full-Body Interaction Design. In Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Interaction Design and Children (IDC ’15). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 255-258. DOI=

Schaper, M.-M., Malinverni, L. and Pares, N.  (2014). Participatory design methods to define educational goals for full-body interaction. In Proceedings of the 11th Conference on Advances in Computer Entertainment Technology (ACE ’14). ACM, New York, NY, USA, Article 50. DOI=