Talkin' About User Experience
On November 2, 2017 The Learning Counsel held our annual end-of-the-year event, The Gathering. During this event we looked back on the developments of the past year as well as focused forward to ensuring steady footing on the path ahead. As part of this event, our Learning Groups got together to discuss their specific topics in-depth. These discussions brought up many important points and questions regarding the shift to digital curriculum.
UX Learning Group
Hosted by Group Chairmen Janell McClure, Director of Digital & Multimedia Learning, Cobb County School District, Atlanta, GA, and Robin Gonzales, President of ZIA Learning, Chicago, IL.
Evident at this year’s discussion meeting was that the topic of User Experience (UX) amongst educators is still fairly undefined and a hot new conversation. UX is the study of how individuals interact with and feel about their experiences with a technological product. There are many factors influencing UX such as usability, effectiveness, aesthetics, accessibility and performance. These factors contribute to the overall reaction an individual has towards digital learning tools. UX reaches far past the general content and look of a digital tool; it encompasses the users total experience and reaction to a certain technological tool or groupings of tools.
UX is a critical component to consider when determining which technologies to employ in an educational curriculum. The ability for students and educators to not only gain utility from an application, but enjoy using the application, can make all the difference in ensuring that the individual users, as well as educational institutions, gain the most benefit from its use.
In-attendance contributing members of the large group included:
- Jeff Plaman, Online and Digital Learning Specialist, Minnesota DOE
- Brian Seymour, EdTech Director, Pickerington, Ohio ISD
- Mike Mattingly, Assistant Superintendent, Dallas, Texas ISD
- Madeline Thomas, Principal, Diocese of San Bernardino, California
- Kahle Charles, Executive Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Digital Learning, St. Vrain Valley Schools, Longmont, Colorado
- Matthew Vendryes, Blended Learning Instructor, Joint Unified SD, Davis, California
- Beth Perisic, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Unified SD, Poway, South Dakota
- Dr. Sharon Johnson-Shirley, Superintendent, Lake Ridge New Tech Schools, Gary, Indiana
- Cynthia Mose-Trevino, Principal, Calumet New Tech High School, Gary, Indiana
Janell McClure, with over twenty-three years of experience in her field, led the discussion on how to positively impact teaching and learning through UX. McClure brought up many important points and posed questions that educators and administrators should consider when implementing appropriate technologies in terms of UX.
“Educators need to be dynamic in their considerations of which technologies
are most appropriate for a specific situation or subject.”
Janelle noted that a red-flag pointing towards a need to further consider UX is if all digital technologies are the same in all classrooms. To effectively determine the appropriate pedagogy for students and educators she shared three main areas to consider.
- First there must be consideration of the best educational tech systems and structure.
- Secondly administrators and educators should be aware how these systems will interact with and influence the current curriculums and how these frameworks may need to be adjusted.
- Lastly, she emphasized that schools must be aware of and make any necessary changes in pedagogy regarding professional development and training for educators. With focus on these three areas, educators and administrators can determine and implement effective technologies resulting in excellent UX for all involved.
Alongside McClure’s exemplary leadership, the UX group was further informed from the extensive experience and expertise of Robin Gonzales, President of ZIA Learning. Robin’s over fifteen years of experience in public education, and work with ZIA Learning, puts her in constant contact assisting educators and students in their mastery of the individualized learning experience. Robin noted that “Because of the shift in education towards comprehensive digital curriculum, the learning experience is becoming more autonomous and individualized. This has resulted in an exponential increase in the amount of choices and options available to students and teachers. These educational options, while potentially highly beneficial and seen time-and-time-again to achieve superior results, necessitate allowance and support in offering essential training and education on digital learning tools. With knowledge and mastery of the digital applications being utilized, UX is improved dramatically.”
In the UX groups’ discussion, it was apparent that many school districts are picking up momentum in their adoption of digital learning tools. It is also clear that there are a lot of questions regarding how to determine which technologies will serve best in varying educational situations. Notably, Superintendent Dr. Sharon Johnson-Shirley pointed out that a roadblock in the appropriate advancement of digital curriculum stems from the direction that educators receive in colleges. With the speed of advancement and burgeoning availability of educational technologies, it has proved a challenge across the board in the educational community to catch up in preparing students to appropriately utilize new technologies. With this in mind it is clear that education professionals must reach out for assistance and direction on their journeys navigating the technological seas.
Jeff Plaman, of the Minnesota Department of Education, noted that “Good UX is an individualized, unique experience. When excellent UX strategies are put in place it makes an individual feel known and offers personalized involvement in education.” He also mentioned that, “To assist students in achieving their potential, educators must be aware of how UX defines and facilitates their success in these increasingly personalized environments.”
Director of IT with the Pickerton SD, Brian Seymour added to this, pointing out that “In the modern world of education, schools need to think in terms of ‘if students would choose to attend if given the choice’.” Brain further illustrated how school administrations responsibilities are rapidly changing , principals have only needed to focus on management of their institutions in a more physical sense. In these modern times of digital curriculum adoption, they are fast becoming leaders in the instructional areas. Principals should be educated and informed on UX and lead in the formulation of tactics to roll out appropriate technologies.
Clearly there is a lot of excitement and discussion on UX and how to properly consider its effects on digital curriculum. With the myriad of potential applications and synergies between them, the UX discussions that occurred during The Gathering provided educators with essential information and direction to assist navigating the present and future of this great technological transition in education.
This meeting of the UX Learning Group was the first in-person meet-up. Watch for future conference calls convening the ongoing discussion in Knowstory.com of this outstanding group.
Existing members in this Group in Knowstory include:
Shawn Fortin, Belchertown Public Schools
Ellen Palmer, Pomona Unified School District
Vickie Vallet-McWilliams, Pasadena ISD
Janell McClure, Cobb County Schools
Ryan Grusenski, Marquette University High School
Robb Christopherson, Clovis Unified School District
Justin Ellsworth, Farmington Public Schools
Patrick Shipway, Medford Public Schools
Maria Lopez, NYC DOE
Lisa McMillan, Fortbend ISD
Pamela Wilson, Duncanville ISD
Klayton Wyckoff, West Valley School District
Jacob Standish, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools
Janel Johnson, South Carolina DOE
Jonathan Decker, Palm Beach Schools
Lynn Gill, El Paso Independent School District
Dr. Allegra McGrew, Fort Bend ISD
Keith George, Alabama State DOE
Lisa Watkins, Gwinnett County Public Schools
Brad Breedlove, Union County Public Schools
Laura Spencer, Lakeside Union Elementary
Peter Servidio, St. Dominic Academy
Shari Kauffman, Voorhees Middle School
Daniel Alston, Middletown Township School District
Jorge Cavazos, Alief ISD
Dave Blanchard, Cambridge-Isanti Public School District
Brenda Quintanilla, Houston ISD
Joanne Najarian , Andover School District
Dewayne McClary, District of Colombia Public Schools
Dr. Drew Hinds, Silver Falls School District
Brad Owen, Burkburnett ISD
Sakon Kieh, District of Columbia Public Schools
Chris Delehanty, Del Mar Union Elementary
Phillip Chavez, Edgewood ISD
David Henson, Grand Prairie ISD
Kevin Whaley, Lee's Summit R-7 Schools
Mike Mattingly, Denton ISD
Josh Hirsch, Mapleton Public Schools
Linda Bernard, Buckley Country Day School
Matthew Vendryes, Davis Joint Unified School District
Andrea Pritchett, Rockdale County Public Schools
Jennifer Currie, San Diego County Office of Education
Tracy Cindric, Ohio DOE
Jeff Plaman, Minnesota DOE
Jen Berezewski, ZIA Learning
Robin Gonzales, ZIA Learning
Danielle Saunders, Eclasstic
Dawniell Black, Elk Grove USD