Thinking

Creating Educational Tools that Meet Classroom Needs
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By Jackie Ricords, Senior Educational Strategist March 16, 2018

As a content provider, you want to create meaningful tools to impact education and bring learning to life for students. But before you begin, you need to consider some key factors to make your project successful in the classroom.

Solve Educator Pain Points

We all know that teachers have many demands for time and limited resources. How will your digital product become the trusted digital learning destination that educators will keep returning to use? First, be very clear about what you are providing and think about how educators will utilize the materials.

Remember to not lose sight of the main problem the tool is trying to solve. For the past year, d’Vinci and the non-profit organization, Reading Is Fundamental, have partnered to create a suite of digital literacy tools for teachers, parents and students. At each step, we used a five-question check-list to remind us if we were hitting the key items that would encourage reading and literacy. How will your educational tool help students better understand content? Will it push them to a deeper understanding that could not have been achieved without the tool?

Engage Students

Your goal in creating educational tools is to keep the learning at the forefront, but to add enough student engagement to retain interest without being distracting.

When any teacher brings technology into the classroom, he or she will no longer be the center of attention. We focus on creating educational tools that are not overly complicated and provide guides or embedded features to educators/parents to help them lead effective student use of the materials. This begins with the user experience definition and responsive user interface planning, and then we consider how to add interactivity and rewards.

In our work with publisher Demme Learning, we examined how students use their physical Math-U-See manipulative blocks and are working to provide a complementary online version that can be used in a browser or App.

Avoid Barriers

For every educational technology tool, there are items that can stop it from getting into use. Identify these items early and make sure to address them thoroughly. For many of our partners these barriers are aligning clearly to relevant standards, ensuring the search/filter is easy to use, and creating educator guides and student certificates.

One recent example is d’Vinci’s current partnership with the for-profit company, Media4Math, to create a new interactive algebra and geometry product, Media4Math Classroom, for middle and high school teachers and students. We developed two key tools within the product to help overcome barriers:

  • Common Core math standards are crucial for the educators using this product. d’Vinci developed a way for the standards and links to the relevant Common Core webpages to incorporated into the CMS, which will appear as a chart on the teacher lesson plans. State-specific standards will be added as needed.
  • Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) compliance limitations around handling personal account information for users under age thirteen. We developed a custom share feature to allow teachers to create a unique shareable link to deliver interactive modules to students bypassing the need for students to create an account.

Overall, the best advice is to involve the educational community in the creation of these tools and keep them involved once it is launched. Want to learn more about making your next educational tool a success? Contact me at JRicords@dvinci.com.

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