Teachers are, by necessity, masters of improv.
As in improv, teachers say “yes, and … .” As in, yes, I forgot my review handout and I will hold an open Q&A session instead. Yes, someone pulled the fire alarm and we will continue our discussion on the quad, and so on.
Then there is Academic Year 2020/21, which turned classroom improv into theater of the absurd: Yes, school is postponed indefinitely and … now it’s entirely virtual!
Like so many teachers, I said Yes to online education. I earned Coursera and LinkedIn certificates. I flipped, blended and gamified my old-school language classes. And … I bombed. I got lost in empty breakout rooms. I shared frozen screens. I de-bugged and re-bugged my interactive activities. “Señora,” my students pleaded. “Can you just, like, lecture?” (1)
Now, many instructional designers say that teachers like me need more training (2). But I got training, and what I learned was that educational technology isn’t designed for teachers. After all, if it were, we wouldn’t need training!
Think about your phone. Did you attend an off-site session to learn how to set it up? Take a webinar with experts to select the best apps to download? Of course not! If that were the case, you would have returned the phone and given it a terrible Google review. It’s the same way with teachers: if it’s not easy to use, we’re not using it.
In developer-speak, technology that’s easy to use offers good “user experience,” or “U/X.” Steve Krug is the undisputed U/X guru, and his seminal work is Don’t Make Me Think (3). That’s the goal for other kinds of developers: software that doesn’t require thinking, let alone training. We need a better teacher-user experience from our digital tools. We need T/UX!
Following AY 2020-21, I took an unpaid leave from my position as a faculty associate and course coordinator to join my husband on his sabbatical in Spain. While here, I decided to create instructional tools that would allow teachers to focus on what’s most important: exploring their course topic with their students. I develop plug-and-play lessons, comprehensive e-texts, tailor-made LMS pages. But to best serve educators’ needs, we designers first need to know what those needs are. Only then will our online content offer great T/UX!
So, educators, I invite you to share your own experiences, ideas and wish-lists below. What does “great T/UX” mean for you?
(2) See, for example, Technological Horizons in Education, the International Society for Technology in Education, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, and the United States Department of Education.
(3) Steve Krug’s website is sensible.com. A Google search for “influential Steve Krug quotes” will deliver you about 250,000 entries! My favorite: “Usability is about people and how they understand and use things, not about technology.” In other words, usable technology doesn’t require the user to know anything about the actual technology.