FireFlies

This work was part of my PhD research at TU/e, supervised by Elise van den Hoven and Berry Eggen


FireFlies is developed to explore 'peripheral interaction' for primary school teachers. FireFlies consists of a small lamp on each child's desk and an interactive device with which the teacher can set the colors of these lamps. FireFlies was used in four primary school classrooms for six weeks. The teachers used it to send short messages to the children. For example 'you can quietly discuss', 'you are working well!', or 'you can work on the computer'.

The purpose of FireFlies is open-ended: it is not predefined for which goals and at which moments FireFlies should be used, this can be chosen by teacher. A fully functioning prototype of FireFlies was deployed in four different primary school classrooms for six weeks each. Participating teachers used FireFlies to indicate what the children were expected to do (e.g. to work independently on a task or to collaborate with their neighbors) and to communicate short messages to individual children (e.g. calling a child to the teacher, sending a child to work on the computer, giving a child a compliment).

With the straightforward design of FireFlies, the teachers could easily organize their class and, at the same time, stay involved with the children during busy moments. For example, while a teacher was giving instructions to one child, she could send another child to the computer or give another child a compliment. The teachers liked using FireFlies: it allowed them to communicate without interrupting the instruction or the activities of the children. Also, by looking into the classroom, the teachers easily remained aware of what was going on, for example which children already had their turn.

Related publications:

Bakker, S., Hoven, E. van den, and Eggen, B. (2014). Evaluating Peripheral Interaction Design. Human-Computer Interaction. Access online

Bakker, S., Hoven, E. van den, and Eggen, B. (2013). FireFlies: Physical Peripheral Interaction Design for the Everyday Routine of Primary School Teachers. In Proceedings of the TEI'13 Conference on Tangible, Embedded, and Embodied Interaction, pp. 57-64. Access online

Bakker, S., Hoven, E. van den, and Eggen, B. (2012). FireFlies: supporting primary school teachers through open-ended interaction design. In Proceedings of the OzCHI'12 Australian Computer-Human Interaction Conference, pp. 26-29. Access online