Today's blog post comes from Sara Trice, a pivotal member of the Wowzers Web Development team. Sara is a proponent of affording teachers the ability to easily and effectively customize curriculum and math content for each student. Read on to learn more about how this push for teacher autonomy has helped shape the Wowzers user experience features.
Its raining today outside our office in Chicago, and a multitude of umbrellas are bobbing past my window in every color of the rainbow. The great thing about umbrellas is that they dont require training or instructions; hand any adult an umbrella, regardless of their language or country of origin, and they will quickly work out the trigger mechanism and pop open their own personal rain shield.
At Wowzers, we feel the educator user experience should operate with that same universal ease found in everyday umbrellas. That's why creating intuitive, easy-to-use steps is always my goal when developing new features or improving existing ones for the Wowzers Classroom Management System (CMS). Ideally, each feature is designed to contain a logical progression of steps, and either the task should be completely intuitive (Slide this umbrella open until it clicks in place) or have a clear directive (Push this button to open the umbrella).
From Simple Student Enrollment to In-depth Curriculum Customization
The Wowzers Classroom Management Systems original intuitive purpose was to simply manage student enrollment. Over time, it has grown to provide teachers the option to customize individual curriculum, group students into multiple classrooms via Custom Groups, as well as offer real-time views of student scores, activities, time spent, standards mastery, and much more.
To develop and expand the Wowzers CMS, our Web Development team utilizes a system called Agile Development. First, we determine what features our software needs. Do teachers need a way to reorganize classrooms, to customize curriculum content, to view a students mastery of standards, etc.?
Next, we create sketches of how we think the feature will work within the CMS and what it will look like on the screen. After discussion, I write the code for the feature, test it, and implement it. As we receive feedback from our teachers, I adjust the feature to make it more useable.
Providing Unique Learning Experiences to Each and Every Student
Customizing each students Wowzers experience is paramount to what we do, and it also turned out to be one of our greatest challenges. The question we faced was, How do we provide custom curriculum for students, individual or groups, that is easy to assemble and makes sense? The solution we created developed into our Custom Playlists feature.
Custom Playlists allow educators to assemble a set of sections from any grade level in a drag and drop interface so the student can play the content in a progression that makes sense to their learning style and current level of ability. This way, a teacher can personalize the Wowzers curriculum to each individual students learning needs. It also provides students needing more reinforcement or enrichment the option to access content from grade levels other than their own.
At the end of the day, each Wowzers CMS feature is designed to provide an easy, intuitive way to facilitate student learning. After all, there isnt much use for an umbrella that wont open or that doesnt keep the rain off of you.