I’ve been debugging the new teacher share site for the past month and it’s been going well. The most valuable information I've received about the site came from several focus groups with trusted testers. Absolutely nothing beats watching people use a system when you want to learn how to make it better. This is what I learned:
- The directions needed to be better. They needed to be clear, have multiple levels of depth, and yes, be printable. I added multi-level directions to the “share something” page - I still think they could be better, but it’s a start.
- Each grade level needed a “Special Education” and “Technology" subcategory. I had originally thought these items would fold into regular curriculum subcategories. After all, it’s not the technology, it’s what you do with the technology, right? While this may be true, people wanted to use these categories when they searched for, and shared, resources. This was a tedious fix because all of the conditional questions on the form also needed to be updated.
- There needed to be a K-5 category. It was WAY too onerous to add a file to each grade level manually. This was an involved fix because the HTML template needed to accommodate the new category. It was an important addition, though, as evidenced by the dull expression left by folks who tried to add resources k-5, one grade at a time.
- There needed be a "Teacher Planning" sub category. Several times someone had something to share that didn’t fit into a curriculum bucket. Meeting minutes is an example of this - it will be a nice place to keep curriculum committee notes in one place.
Bottom line, focus groups and watching people use your system is such an important way to learn strengths and weaknesses. It’s a little bit of humble pie when you watch someone struggle to use what you've built, but I can’t think of better way to make something better.