User Study Findings
My design process was documented through several design books.
- Identify problem
- Conduct research
- Brainstorm possible solutions
- Evaluate possible solutions
- Revisit design goals and constraints
- Conduct user studies
- Design a solution
- Create user profiles
- Work through interaction scenarios
- Conduct continued user studies
Communities of Practice
A community of practice is "the idea that learning is constituted through the sharing or purposeful, patterned activity" (Lave & Wenger, 1989). Such a community of practice begins with coordinated use of tools in order to share experiences and devise resolutions (Roschelle, 1995). Other features of a community of practice might include "collective problem solving, displaying multiple roles, confronting ineffective strategies and misconceptions, and providing collaborative work skills." Constant discussion and reflection tie these threads of community together thus creating a community intelligence among the practitioners (Brown, Collins & Duguid, 1989).
While a community of practice means more than merely a group of practitioners working in the same location or within the same occupation, a community of practice may exist in any walk of life. For example, simply having a number of high school teachers under the same roof does not constitute a community of practice, but such a community can be established to the benefit of all participants in a school. "New roles [teacher leader, peer advisor, teacher researcher] and support structures for teachers help establish a professional culture in schools that generates ongoing development and continuous improvement. Gradually, learning together becomes expected behavior; time for teacher learning gains more prominence in scheduling. Teachers expect to be studying some aspect of practice, comparing notes on implementation, and seeking new ideas or programs--and their working arrangements increasingly accommodate these activities. Formerly mundane activities become opportunities for learning and reflection" (CPRE, 1995). The new structure described here is a community of practice.
Situated learning occurs within a community of practice. This theory offers the perspective that learning in isolation is not the most effective way to develop knowledge and understanding. According to Brown, Collins & Duguid (1989), activities serve to situate learning and cognition. "A concept, for example, will continually evolve with each new occasion of use, because new situations, negotiations, and activities inevitably recast it in a new, more densely textured form. So a concept, like the meaning of a word, is always under construction" (Brown, Collins & Duguid, 1989). As a result of these renegotiations, narratives are created which increase the collective knowledge of all members of the community.
Teachers, like any other learners, "must be actively involved in learning and must have opportunities to discuss, reflect upon, try out, hone better instructional approaches. Professional development strategies also must take into account the importance of support and the time required to implement improvement" (CPRE, 1995). To achieve these ends, the means of teacher professional development resides in situated learning within a community of practice. According to Darling-Hammond and McLaughlin (1995), "teachers need professional development that extends far beyond the one-shot workshop; they need opportunities to learn how to question, analyze, and change instruction to teach challenging content." The National Staff Development Council (1999) has also adopted the stance of situated learning in their call for teacher professional development to be "embedded in teachers' daily work and more closely linked to improving student learning." Situating continued teacher learning in the classroom "may be the first real step towards higher standards for all children" (CPRE, 1995).
Cognitive apprenticeship is one way to initiate learners into authentic practices through activity and social interaction and is an important part of situated learning within a community of practice. This idea has roots in the successful methods employed in craft apprenticeship. "Apprenticeship and coaching in a domain begin by providing modeling in situ and scaffolding for students to get started in an authentic activity. As the students gain more self-confidence and control, they move into a more autonomous phase of collaborative learning where they begin to participate consciously in the culture" (Brown, Collins & Duguid, 1989).
Jeremy Roschelle (1995) posits that "a collaborative technology can be defined in reference to a more encompassing and powerful goal: the construction of communal ways of seeing, acting, and knowing. A collaborative technology is a tool that enables individuals to jointly engage in active production of shared knowledge. . . Shared practices of collaborative technology use builds communal understanding." Through collaborative technologies, users can extend a shared experience into one which can become a part of the workings of an entire community. As a part of these shared experiences, the collaborative technology takes on a highly visible role and becomes "an instrument of mutual knowledge construction for a group of people. It is through the skillful deployment of collaborative technologies that communities of practices can grow and learn" (Roschelle 1995).
"Designs that encalm and inform meet two human needs not usually met together. Information technology is more often the enemy of calm. Pagers, cellphones, newservices, the World-Wide-Web, email, TV, and radio bombard us frenetically." Calm technology works within a typical multi-tasking paradigm by moving "easily from the periphery of our attention, to the center, and back" (Weiser & Brown, 1995). Calm technology is designed to encalm and inform by giving the user the control to move the focus easily from her periphery to her center of attention. Since humans have the ability to see large amounts of data and also the ability to focus on small pieces of that data, calm technology makes the most of the space around a user (Winograd, 1998). By making the most of the periphery, a user can attune to more things than if everything demanded to be in the center. Also, the control that the user exerts to center and recenter technology makes a powerful and calming experience for the user. A simple example of a calm technology would be a window between an office and the hallway. The worker in the office has the perceptual control to receive clues from the larger environment outside the office while remaining connected to the nearby world (Weiser & Brown, 1995). Since the periphery is highly tuned to motion, a heads-up display can also serve as a calm technology by assisting users in moving data from the center to the periphery while maintaining the big picture of all the data (Winograd, 1998).
The primary principal of ubiquitous computing is explained as "a less-traveled path . . . the 'invisible'; its highest ideal is to make a computer so imbedded, so fitting, so natural, that we use it without even thinking about it . . . we [Xerox PARC] believe that people live through their practices and tacit knowledge so that the most powerful things are those that are effectively invisible in use" (Weiser 1996). The future that Marc Weiser described is a place in which computers inhabit most things. Furthermore, he believed that rather than interacting with computers, users must dwell with them. His semantic choice implies that computers "have their place, and we ours, and we co-exist comfortably." These ubiquitous computers "will provide us with constant clues about our environment, . . . our own past, the objects around us and the world beyond our home. Computers will act like books, windows, walks around the block, phone calls. . . They won't replace these, but augment them, make them easier, more fun" (Weiser, 1996). The idea of ubiquitous computing relies also on the idea that freeing our minds from tedious, work-related details will lead us to deeper understandings. "It is commonly believed that thinking makes one smart. But it's frequently the opposite: in many situations, the less you have to think about the smarter you are. Who's smarter, the beginning piano student who thinks about each note, or the artist who thinks about the music and lets the notes take care of themselves? The expert can think about *less* because long practice has made it unnecessary to attend to the details" (Weiser, 1996). As computers become ubiquitous in our lives we can become more expert in our work and our lives.
Technological determinism proposes that the technology we use shapes our behaviors. Langdon Winner (1980) defines technological determinism as "the claim that the machines, structures, and systems of modern material culture can be accurately judged not only for their contributions of efficiency and productivity, not merely for their positive and negative environmental side effects, but also for the ways in which they can embody specific forms of power and authority." As a result, designers and users must be aware that there will be politics attached to any technology. A designer must be social responsible in her design choices: "the adoption of a given technical system unavoidably brings with it conditions for human relationships that have a distinctive political cast - for example, centralized or decentralized, egalitarian or inegalitarian, repressive or liberating" (Winner, 1980). A designer of technology must be especially mindful of technological determinism because "in our times people are often willing to make drastic changes in the way they live to accord with technological innovation at the same time they would resist similar kinds of changes justified on political grounds" (Winner, 1980).
User Centered Design
User centered design is a process in which the intended users play a valuable role in the design process. Don Norman provides a list of basic principles for user centered design which help the designer to create a clear interface for her users. Norman insists that designers make the most of given constraints, strive for visibility, provide feedback for users, and rely on natural mapping. Designers should develop a conceptual model based on "knowledge in the world and knowledge in the head" (Norman, 1988), paying particular attention that their knowledge matches that of their users. By paying attention to these principles, designers will make their systems easier and more pleasant for the user. Many times though designers are not able to make every design choice in favor of the user and, according to Norman (1988), must make tradeoffs among features and constraints.
User Study Findings
Collegiality -- (SIELT Survey)
Most teachers use email to communicate with colleagues.
Yet few surveyed mentioned that they spend their free time throughout the school day reading, writing, or answering email.
"My preference is by e-mail."
- "Directly--face-to-face; however, more than ever I am increasingly communicating with them via e-mail."
This begs the question: how much communication among colleagues is actually taking place on a daily basis?
"Planning for the next teaching period; often, zipping through the Internet for ideas."
- "If I have free time, I will use the Internet to find assignments or to communicate with my colleagues."
"I have held various jobs for the last ten years and don't feel the teaching community is one I want to remain a cemented part of. My view of teachers is . . . they hoard information which should be shared, unopen to change or new inventions."
Teacher Professional Development -- (SIELT Survey)
The activities which the respondents identified as teacher professional development (TPD) are extremely limited in scope (e.g. only technology use) and are very structured events.
The exception seemed to be available activities that support teacher use of technology integrated into current lesson plans, but this was only the case with two of the eight schools.
- "We offer workshops to teachers at the end of the school day, but participation is generally low."
- "Staff Development days (six this year) have been held on site. All of these days have been devoted to preparing for our WASC review."
Sadly, two schools reported that no teacher professional development activities were available at their schools. No respondents mentioned activities of a collegial nature.
"Teachers can have drop in [computer] training to go with a project."
- "Any computer-type training is available whenever a teacher/student requests it--and happens quite often."
The teachers who responded varied in both the amount of time per week spent on TPD activities and the types of activities in which they personally participated.
- "Maybe one or two hours of reading different periodicals."
- "I would guess that I spend about 5 or 6 hours per week on my own doing research or attending meetings that strengthen my professional growth."
- "One night per week unless I'm taking a class or giving a talk at a conference."
Communication -- (site visit to Castilleja School)
Most teachers use whiteboards to communicate with students. Many have divided their board into various sections depending on the information they are trying to communicate. Many use different color markers to also distinguish among types of information. For example, teachers tend to separate assignments from reference materials from informal notes to one or more students.
In some cases, student writing was evident on the whiteboard. This implies an environment where students are allowed to communicate information to the class as well as the teacher.
Two observed whiteboards were marked "save" and "Do Not Erase" by the teachers. Finally, most teachers used the whiteboards to help communicate something besides classwork - personality. There was a wide array of items like magnets, posters, maps, and stuffed animals either attached to the board itself, leaning in the marker tray, or hanging around the edges.
Facilities -- (site visit to Castilleja School)
Teachers have very few ways to contact each other from classroom to classroom. There are no telephones in these classrooms and the school's intercom system is used strictly for delivering whole school messages.
Instructionally speaking, each classroom is equipped with one computer which has internet access. Teachers can choose to check out a cart which contains either a computer presentation station (television to connect with the computer) or a television and vcr.
Additionally, all rooms have at least one whiteboard for communication or instructional purposes -- many have two.
Features -- (informal focus groups with members of SUSE)
Teachers should have easy access to peripheral components which would assist in communicating various types of information, such as journal articles, which may not already be digitized.
The product should have many abilities to help teachers in their daily activities.
- scanner or document camera
A few specific technical specifications arose from these conversations.
- send and receive information from home
- use during face to face meetings
- facilitate use by students for classroom collaborations
- annotate documents before sending them
- privacy mode (this was suggested by some but overall was seen as not necessary)
- internal clock and calendar to locate users
- system commands for locating people during the school day
Brown, J.S., Collins, A. & Duguid, P. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational Researcher 18(1):32-42.
Consortium for Policy Research in Eduction (CPRE). (1995). Helping Teachers Teach Well: Transforming Professional Development. U.S. Dept. of Education. [Online] Available: http://www.ed.gov/pubs/CPRE/t61/
Darling-Hammond, L. & McLaughlin, M. W. (1995). Policies that support professional development in an era of reform. Phi Delta Kappan. 76(8).
Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1989). Situated Learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. (Report No. IRL-89-0013). Palo Alto, CA: Institute for Research on Learning.
Norman, D. (1988). The Design of Everyday Things. New York: Doubleday.
Roschelle, J. (1995). What Should Collaborative Technology Be? A Perspective From Dewey and Situated Learning. CSCL. [Online]. Available: http://www-cscl95.indiana.edu/cscl95/outlook/39_roschelle.html
Weiser, M. & Brown, J.S. (1995). Designing Calm Technology. Xerox PARC. [Online]. Available: http://www.ubiq.com/hypertext/weiser/calmtech/calmtech.htm
Weiser, M.. (1996). Ubiquitous Computing. [Online]. Available: http://www.ubiq.com/hypertext/weiser/UbiHome.html
Weiser, M. (1996). Open House. Review. Tisch School of the Arts. New York University. [Online]. Available: http://www.itp.tsoa.nyu.edu/~review/current/focus2/open00.html
Winner, Langdon. (1980). Do Artifacts Have Politics? Daedalus. Winter 1980. American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Winograd, T. (1998). Topic 7: Control Design. Lecture for CS147 course. Stanford University.
Design of a Real Time Network for Teacher Collaboration
© 1999 Courtney S. Glazer