UX and U

School Workshop


A DAY In The Life

The term 'User Experience', or 'UX', is often used by designers and programmers working with digital interfaces as a way to think about the way that users experience the technology they are interacting with. For example, what is the 'User Experience' (from now on I'll refer to this as UX) of something using an iPhone, what sort of things need to be considered to enhance the usability, the accessibility and the pleasure provided in the interaction between the user and the product. I'm interested in how this idea of UX plays out in the school environment, and I think there are ways we can workshop together to think about what the UX is for families and children who attend our school. 


For example - for our students, what is their UX across the day? What if we were to break down a day in the life of our students into a few key UX areas, such as:

  • Arrival at school
  • Morning Circle session in the classroom
  • Lunch and Recess eating
  • Playground sessions
  • Afternoon reflection on the school day

If we think about these areas from a UX perspective, we might use three key prompts to reflect on how students engage with these sessions: i) Teacher Design, ii) Accessibility, iii) Pleasure.

I'll give two examples of how you could apply these prompts to the areas of the school day mentioned above.

Morning Circle Session

i) Teacher Design

Let's think of questions we need to consider regarding how we design this session - How is morning circle set up? What is the routine? What are the expectations for the students? What are the goals we are wanting students to achieve in this session? 

Think about how you have previously done Morning Circle, and ways that you could design it in a completely different way to be more effective - for example, if you have previously been using YouTube videos on the Interactive Whiteboard to display songs regarding months of the year and the weather, consider if this is really the best way you could be designing this session - might it not be a more engaging, interactive session if the students were looking at you while you sing a song? Are students just expected to sit and listen, or do you want to get them involved? How would you do this? Bring in some instruments, use sock puppets, change the seating arrangements? Is the goal for students in morning circle to just sit and listen to songs being sung, or are there bigger goals that relate to students individual plans that could be more effectively realised with a redesign of the session?


ii) Accessibility

When you consider what it is that you'd like students to achieve in this session, are there any accessibility barriers in the way? For example, are there communication needs that your students have that they might not have the right tools for to express themselves in the way that might need to in this session? Is there a way you could set the Interactive Whiteboard up as a big visual communicator to assist students in expressing themselves in a different way than you've previously been doing? Are there visuals you might place on the ground or in students hands to enhance with their receptivity of the session? Consider any access needs your students have and how you might design solutions for this.


iii) Pleasure

Pleasure and the quality of life gained from a positive school experience is not to be taken lightly, it is most often the core feedback we receive from students about whether we are providing an appropriate educational experience for them or not. This does not mean that everything we do needs to be for the pleasure of the student - we know that there are times we need to orchestra strategically uncomfortable situations to help students to find success outside of their comfort zone. What this is about, rather, is the idea that we should reflect on what students find enjoyable about an activity from a standpoint of recognising we are Edutainers who need to be actively engaging the attention and passions and special interests of our students.  

With regards to Morning Circle, what is enjoyable about this to students? Do they like the songs, talking about the weather, the days of the week? How much do they enjoy these things? Has it become too routine, are the students still really engaged, or are they just following the routine because it has become comfortable - and if it has become comfortable, what are we doing to ensure our students stretch outside of this comfort zone towards their goals? Consider these ideas and how you might redesign Morning Circle for 2017 to address these UX considerations. 

Playground Session

i) Teacher Design

What do you need to get ready in order to help the playground session at recess or lunch be a successful one? What resources are required? What goals do you have for students during this session - collaboration goals, social goals, play based gross motor goals? Rethink what you would usually do here and think differently about ways in which you could design new experiences for students on the playground this year.


ii) Accessibility

Say students need to use the bathroom, what do they do to communicate this to you? Are there the appropriate visuals around the playground for students to use to communicate with someone they are not familiar with? 

Say students want to play a game with a peer, to take turns, but they don't have mastery over the appropriate turn taking skills yet - what supports are in place to support turn taking, do you need to create visuals to have hanging near particular equipment? Do you need a folder of play based social stories on hand for staff and students to access to support these goals?


iii) Pleasure

Is there enough for students to access on the playground to foster an enjoyable atmosphere that keeps them socially and physically engaged? What sort of structured games can you teach your students to play with each other - think about games like Duck Duck Goose, or Orienteering, or similar, have you taught those games, are they enjoyable? Are there other play based experiences you could set up for students - mud kitchens, maker spaces, cardboard construction areas? 

Workshop Task

Your task now is to get into small groups with colleagues working in a similar environment to yours (base staff, satellite staff, infants, primary, high) and choose two areas of student or family user experience to focus on. As noted above, this could include:

Student UX: Drop off time, Morning Circle, Literacy Sessions, Recess and Lunch, Playground, Afternoon Sessions, Community Outings, Social Skill Sessions, Goal Setting Sessions, and More.

Family UX: Drop off time, Individual Planning Meetings, Communication Book dialogues, Padlet dialogues, Ways to Further Engage Parents in Learning Experiences at School, Afternoon Pick Up, Parent Workshops, and More. 

Once you have chosen two areas of UX to focus on, break down each area into prompts around i) Teacher Design, ii) Accessibility and iii) Pleasure to think differently about how you could design learning experiences your students and families engage in for the benefit of better delivering effective UX. 

Take notes on an iPad, and once you are done with your two areas join up with another group of staff and share your ideas with them, and ask for feedback on what you have considered. Add this feedback to your notes, and make these notes part of your professional goals for the year ahead.