A little while ago I wrote this blog post on creating resources for teachers that they will actually find useful (summary below). It was partly based on research I carried out for Teach Your Monster to Read, a game from the Usborne Foundation for teachers and parents to help teach phonics to kids. Usborne wanted to know if there were other tools, games, videos or other content they could create that would make teachers’ jobs easier.
Very wisely, rather than guess at what these might be, they commissioned me to talk to teachers in the UK and US and find out more about how they teach the subject and what might help them. It was hugely instructive, we learned a lot about what teachers might and might not use, and the research results were used as the direct inspiration for a set of ideas that have now been turned into reality. Just launched on the TYMTR site are mini games, flashcards, videos and printable resources (teachers love to be able to print stuff and make it their own!). They are lovely things.
I know this user centred, research based design process isn’t new, but unfortunately in my experience people don’t always see the value, or ignore the research results when they don’t fit their preconceptions. For the teacher audience, who have very specific needs and little time, this is especially likely to result in a product that fails.
So, if you’re thinking of doing something similar, please read my previous post. The tl;dr version below:
Make life easy for teachers. They work hard, they don’t have much time or budget. Make it easy, and they are much more likely to use your resources.
- Make online resources easy to find. Put them where teachers already go.
- The benefits must be easy to see. Make it clear what it is, who it’s for, show images of it being used.
- Be mindful of the time of year. Teachers are insanely busy at certain times of year, and more or less likely to be planning ahead at other times of year.
- Make it flexible and modular. Teachers will want to adapt it.
- Don’t try and break the mould, make it fit with teachers’ existing practice. Don’t expect them to start changing the way they have always done things overnight.
- Make it beautiful, easy, and solve a problem.
And I would also add, test it heavily with teachers in the environment in which it will be used.