Growing Up in New Zealand kids in co-design workshop

Growing Up children at workshop

Growing Up in New Zealand is leading the way in working with its young participants to co-design new digital ways of collecting information which will then be analysed using machine learning. 

Growing Up in New Zealand is leading the way in working with its young participants to co-design new digital ways of collecting information which will then be analysed using machine learning. 

The new project, called Our Voices, is funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) through a five-year Endeavour Fund grant.  

Our Voices will look at new and innovative ways of collecting information by working with study children to develop a digital interface, such as an app, that will appeal to adolescents and their experience of the digital world.  

The project will also develop novel machine learning techniques to analyse the wealth of information collected.  

Machine learning will enable large and complex sets of information to be analysed quickly so evidence can be provided more rapidly to inform wellbeing.  This cutting-edge technology will also allow for a broader range of information to be analysed, meaning responses such as video, drawings, or creative writing etc can also be incorporated into the longitudinal data resource.  

The principal investigator for Our Voices, Professor Susan Morton, says the study is breaking new ground in working with children directly to develop new technology and gather information. 

“Usually, it is the researchers who decide what sort of questions are asked in longitudinal studies like Growing Up in New Zealand, but we want to hear directly from the children so they can tell us what it is important to measure.  

“We want their help to determine what we should ask to get a better understanding of what wellbeing means to them and what might help them to build better futures for themselves and all of us in New Zealand,” she says. 

A group of 25 Growing Up in New Zealand children met in January this year to take part in the first phase of the project and spent an action-packed four days working in teams with researchers and technology experts in a “co-design” process. 

As budding researchers, they explored the things that make their lives great and designed questions to ask children in the study. 

The children then helped to develop five different concepts for an app.  Key features were music, friendly avatars, and epic journeys of discovery which the children felt would help users of the app feel safe, curious and engaged. 

The children relished the opportunity to be leaders, saying “I felt like my mahi, opinions, and thoughts were contributing to something beyond myself and I loved being part of a nationwide study that could potentially benefit other children.”

Researchers and design experts will use the co-designed concepts to create a digital interface that asks children the questions that matter to them in a secure and fun way.

The new digital application will be piloted with children who choose to take part from the Leading Light: Te Roopu Piata group in late 2021.  The tool will then be shared with everyone in the Growing Up in New Zealand Study in late 2022.

The Growing Up in New Zealand and Our Voices teams are grateful to the whānau who shared their time and wisdom over the week at the co-design workshops, and look forward to creating even more opportunities for children to be leaders in the study. 

If you’d like to learn more about this part of the study you can contact us at contact@growingup.co.nz