There’s hardly an article I read that’s computer related that doesn’t resonate with me on many levels. I’m not a computer geek but I somehow clearly see a relationship between what we hope to find in our user experience on the web or in apps, and my world, which is Early Childhood Development.

Cohesive User Experience (User Experience is abbreviated as UX), is what Cameron Moll wrote about here (he has graciously granted me permission to quote from his article):

http://24ways.com/2014/cohesive-ux/

In my work I refer to it as ‘Continuity of Care’.

A smoothly operating website works right every time you visit.

That’s what I believe a child needs as they grow up – you, their carer (parent, grandparent, or caregiver in a facility), should ‘operate smoothly’, be predictable; offer a pattern of care day after day that a child can depend upon and trust. When they trust you and their environment they are free to learn about the world they live in.

When a carer is not predictable and dependable (even when it’s a relative) a child tends to cry and whine more often than not, or even completely shut down (fail to speak/communicate in any way, or worse, they sit or lay on the floor without any emotion, or with minimal or repetitive activity - things I’ve observed on too many occasions to count!).

With Continuity of Care crying and whining only occur when there is a real discernible reason and it is then the carer’s job to work out what the problem is. Shutting down shouldn’t even happen.

Just as a computer geek will troubleshoot problems on a website or with an app, when I’m with a baby or young child I troubleshoot all the time. I am searching for whatever might be an issue and if I can preemptively offer care – like a diaper change or a bottle or even a welcome lap – then life goes much more smoothly, for us both. With a toddler I make sure they know where I am, that I’m available should they need me.

As with computer design, these skills are developed over time and based on lengthy experience in the field.

In the world of daycare, when staff are absolutely in sync all the babies and children know it, and days run smoothly. It takes just one adult to choose not to truly understand the needs of young children and virtually every child spends a good part of their day crying, appearing hyperactive, or worse, shut down!

When a computer geek designs a website he expects his back-end developers to enable his design to function as he planned. When back-end developers don’t see the whole picture: the design, their development work PLUS the functionality from the end-user’s/consumer’s vantage point – virtually at first attempt the site is dysfunctional.

Everyone needs to be in sync for a Cohesive UX.

Cameron Moll explains things clearly in his article (RWD stands for Responsive Web Design):

“RWD!=Cohesive Experience”

THIS!: “unifying all touch points for the entire user experience…”

“Toward A Unified Whole”

“..the goal of UX is to deliver a consistent, unified user experience regardless of where the experience begins, continues, and ends”

From my perspective working with babies in my home, the child’s home or in a group care facility:

“1. Function and form” = space and materials matter
“2. Data symmetry” = what children ‘get’ from their total environment

Cameron gives an example, on page 3, of a phone user comparing a website with the same site on his desktop. He is confused because everything looks different. He then doesn’t trust the site.

Children likewise look to trust the facility they are in and when the facility acts confused (as in: there are constant changes of staff, even room environment) they are unable to trust. They don’t feel safe even though their parents tell them each day that they’ll have a wonderful time(!). Instinctively (and a young child’s instinct is very powerful, even though we tend to ignore it!) the children know that this is not a place they should trust. Heck, I’ve worked in such places and I didn’t trust many of the staff!

I quote Cameron again:

“When the holistic experience is cohesive………users’ mental models and even muscle memory are preserved”; “…the experience is roughly the same…”

“It’s important to avoid mindless replication of aesthetics and functionality for the sake of cohesion…the goal is a unified whole not a carbon copy. Affordances and concessions should be made as context and intuition require”

From a childcare perspective this says to me (based on my experience): “We should not be providing numerous Montessori materials (as one example), shelves etc., ‘for looks’, especially if they don’t in fact serve the needs of the children, the space or the staff.”

“Data Symmetry”

Cameron says: “Data symmetry involves the repetition, continuity or synchronicity of data across screens, devices and platforms”

In childcare there should be continuity in all ways across the various classrooms. No child should feel ‘out of sync’ with his new classroom or teachers.

“Things to Consider”

“Inventory the elements that comprise your product experience and cohesify them.”

Categorize things needed in daycare: outdoor space and access, indoor space to move around, safety, materials that are essential to the daily running of the facility. Learn from staff what items are frequently out of stock and work on a plan to have reserves.

In my opinion: The greatest consideration is knowing who is your end user!

When on the computer – you are the person who matters; the ordinary person, non-geek like me but with a reasonable brain. My opinion matters but I have only been asked my opinion of how a website works…once!

In the case of a childcare facility the ‘end user’ is not the parent (even though they are providers of the $$) it is the child.

A few years ago I did an informal assessment of the children who had attended the daycare where I worked for several years. When I reached a point where 80% of the children who had attended had experienced mistreatment and neglect at the hands of the very inexperienced staff, I stopped my study. After four years I left the facility, very discouraged and very pessimistic about group care in early childhood.

In trying to assess the ‘whys’ I counted up the number of different staff over a four-year period and arrived at twenty; that’s twenty new faces during the years most children attended! When I evaluated the work ethic of those staff members including attitude and experience, a high percentage weren’t even remotely equipped to do a job, which in my mind is one of the poorest paid and yet most important in a child’s life.

I’m becoming more and more convinced that this total lack of Cohesive User Experience in childcare institutions (and on occasion in at-home care) is the reason for the burgeoning number of developmental delays in every category.

These issues will not be resolved by pouring more money into childcare. Nor can it be resolved by paying staff more, nor by a facility presenting the façade of being exclusive by virtue of the name it carries across its front door - as in Montessori or Reggio Emilia, for example; two relatively unregulated (in the US) educational philosophies.

To my knowledge the only facility that has reflected and comprehensively documented Cohesive User Experience (commonly known as Continuity of Care in the childcare world) with regard to early childhood care for many decades, is Emmi Pikler’s post-WWII Loczy orphanage in Hungary.

Those who have studied there in the 21st Century are genuinely striving to uphold Pikler values back in their home countries. In the US the work of Magda Gerber and her Educaring Approach, known as RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers), strives to impart what Magda learned from Emmi Pikler, her own pediatrician, to parents, and their children from birth to 2 years of age. There are a handful of early care facilities in the US which strive to replicate Pikler and Gerber’s philosophy. Elsewhere in the world New Zealand seems to be working hard at providing educational opportunities for its early care staff and raising the level of care for babies and young children. In England Pikler’s work is being combined with a Steiner/Waldorf education for the care of young children.

My gratitude to Cameron Moll for permitting me to use his article as a tool to explain how daycares can better make provision for the true and natural mental and physical development of young children.

Find his work at:

www.cameronmoll.com/
 https://authenticjobs.com/

Read more about Cameron here:

https://thegreatdiscontent.com/interview/cameron-moll

Links to RIE, Magda Gerber’s work and respectful care practices for infants and young children:

RIE’s website: rie.org
A tribute site to Magda Gerber and her work: magdagerber.org
Janet Lansbury’s Elevating Childcare RIE blog: janetlansbury.com
Lisa Sunbury Gerber’s RIE blog: regardingbaby.org

Links to Emmi Pikler’s work around the world:

Pikler UK site: thepiklercollection.weebly.com
Pikler/Loczy Fund USA site: pikler.org