1:1 K-8 Educational Tablet & Classroom Facilitation Tool
An opportunity to let teachers and students take back the classroom
Education Industry, North America
Customized Android Tablet Operating System for Teachers and Students
The Amplify Tablet system was a division of Amplify Education Inc. that defined an integrated 1:1 device solution for K-8 classrooms. Through custom software and a ruggedized tablet hardware design, the company’s vision was to make learning a hands-on adventure through methods of active learning and teaching. I served as the Director of User Experience as I oversaw designers spanned across 6 squad development teams. The platform is a custom build of Android optimized for tablets that greets users with notebooks of activities & feeds for each class they are registered for. We worked in a Lean & Kanban fashion to design and manage the deployment of the software experience for daily classroom use by both teachers and students. I also worked with our Director of Research to facilitate feedback needs and to help translate insights from our users into strategic enchancements to our product and service.
Highlights of what I did:
I implemented a Google Design Sprint style workshopping step for every initaitve that made it on the roadmap. I began by hosting these workshops myself and then eventually trained the rest of the design team to drive the facilitation. These workshops involved the engingeering team, research & product leads.
The design teams went on-site to a number of schools and performed shadow research of the tablet in use in class. Upon getting back from each of these sessions, I would facilitate a learnings readout and synthesize our insights for sharing with the product team. These learnings were crucial towards shaping concepts that appeared on the roadmap the following quarter.
Some of the squads I oversaw operated in a goal-based fashion; Feedback, Manage & Create. Within these squads, I worked with the design team to develop guiding design principles to help ensure each concept was working towards achieving each goal.
The Amplify tablet software was a robust and fully customized operating system, there were constantly a large number of moving parts and maintaining consistency within the interface system was a difficult task to manage. I began an intiative to standardize and maintain a library of global elements in an accessable way for the engineering teams to utilize. This eventually began to include newer and larger features as well.
Transforming learning into a hands-on adventure
Identifying and addressing the problem at hand:
• Our research indicated that classroom management was the top need of our teacher’s to meet inorder to achieve buy-in to our platform.
• For the students, supporting social interaction during class & helping them stay organized were the two needs that provided the largest adoption from our audience.
• Existing school IT infastructure and adequate IT staff were persistent impediments to a seamless delivery of our 1:1 service and required a great deal of support & workaround.
• The Education realm is a grab bag of conflicting approaches, tools and plagued by rigidity. New solutions face the challenge of needing to be able to easily integrate with at least a dozen other tools in order to be considered by stakeholders.
• During my tenure there, we were able to secure one of our biggest contracts with a school district in North Carolina with over 16,000 students.
• Two of the features my teams were responsbile for, User Avatars & Class Discussion were the two most used features of the platform.
• Our research speaking with teachers and hearing their beliefs on the importance of high quality content & curricula material prompted the leadership team to dedicate resources towards a content and course management component of the service.
Making Learning More Social
Our research indicated the students had an immense desire to interact with one another through the tablets. We went to schools to observe and partner with teachers and concepted structured evalutation moments within the platform that were also social.
Student Participatory Workshops
Students believed in ways to connect with their friends and show off their learning abilities. From our the workshops we facilitated, we learned about their existing behaviors of consuming learning via peer videos and affinity towards sharing on video profile pages.
Providing room for expression, representation & individuality
Looping research insights back into the product
Testing a Robust Notfication System
On the teacher’s side, the large amount of activity being exchanged back and forth during one class provided challenges to support teacher goals of ultimate control. We tested various solutions with teachers in order to shape a well received solution.
A focus on improving the implementation process each time we release
The engineering team was on a daily release schedule. The design team took the opportunity to work with them on adding micro-tasks to the pipeline – very small design tweaks and interface improvements. These were welcomed because they were very small and contained tasks. Once released, they vastly improved the quality of the product and were seen as high-impact.
A Close Integration Process
The implementation approach I worked with my team on was to pair with a developer when it came time to build out a feature. This made for a much more efficient information exchange and higher quality output.
Tying it all together
The Amplify tablet operating system was a product of constant improvement of the Class Feed and Teacher Control Panel, pictured below. As we gained more and more insight on the complexitites of what teachers were trying to manage in their day to day tasks, as well as what students were responding to, we were able for a time, to quickly turn the insights into concepts, and then features in the system. Working on a tool that served to improve the educational experience was a unique and heartfelt challenge that I welcomed.