Improving Wearable Mindfulness App Through Participatory Design

Educators embracing technology to promote social-emotional learning (SEL) are rising in discourse.
Successful SEL programs struggle to scale. Such technologies seek to broaden reach and improve quality
through feedback, tracking, and guided practice. Despite generating behavioral and neurological changes,
previous interventions have been based on practicing skills in a thin social context and are disliked by youth.
Using participatory design, we redeveloped an SEL into a wearable technology. In collaborative workshops,
youth revealed their interests in and models of self-regulation that we incorporated into a smartwatch app.
Redesigning the application resulted in higher levels of satisfaction and more frequent use. A tension emerged around youth’s desire for tools to increase self-regulation without adding stress. While youth valued breath counting, they reported development of self-regulation through pursuits such as gaming. An interest-driven approach may leverage breath counting as attention-focus practice but competes with activities (sports, hobbies, academics) for youth time.

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