In recent years, research in Child–ComputerInteraction has shifted the focus from design with children, giving them a voice in the design process, to design by children to bring child participants different benefits, such as engagement and learning. However, design workshops, encompassing different stages, are challenging in terms of engagement and learning, e.g., they require prolonged commitment and concentration. They are potentially more challenging when held at a distance, as in recent years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This paper explores at-a-distance smart-thing design by children, how it can engage different children and support their learning in programming.
The paper reports a series of design workshops with 20 children, aged from 8 to 16 years old, all held at a distance. They were all organised with the DigiSNaP design framework and toolkit. The first workshop enabled children to explore what smart things are, to start ideating their own smart things and to scaffold their programming. The other workshops enabled children to evolve their own smart-thing ideas and programs. Data were gathered in relation to children’s engagement and learning from different sources. Results are promising for future editions of smart-thing design at a distance or in a hybrid modality. They are discussed along with guidelines for smart-thing design by children at a distance.