Talkin' About User Experience

The Groups Get Together
Troy Starr, Learning Counsel Writer

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 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

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