Education – User “In” Experience

It’s not uncommon for us to ignore the impact of poor UX on our daily routine. A poorly designed app might make us miss a bus. A poorly designed door might make us look foolish. Often the effort required to right the wrong outweighs the cost. But in the case of education, a poorly designed experience has left millions of students disenfranchised, the nation with $1.5 Trillion in growing student loan debt, and employers with under-qualified candidates in the workforce. In this episode, we speak with four influencers who are fighting the battle on all fronts. In Discovery, they describe a problem that stretches from primary school, thru college, and right into the workplace. In Definition, we’ll isolate the players and their challenges. And finally, in Ideation, we’ll look at some ways to improve the UX of education in the future.

Parents, students, educators, and employers all stand to gain from an improved UX in education.

Our Contributors

00:01:53

Dr. James Chitwood

 

Hiromi: So first we talked to Dr. James Chitwood.

Chitwood: Dr. James Chitwood. I worked in higher education for 20 years.

Hiromi: And basically he said that students are walking blindly into college without any real plan.

Chitwood: I’ve seen over my couple decades, so many students pursuing college without a really good idea of why they’re going. Really schools should be offering these kids guidance, but you know, in high schools right now the number of students to college and career advisors is just horrific. And so, many people are being left by the wayside without any real guidance.

Hiromi: And without that guidance, they don’t understand the impact that all this debt is going to have on the life of the student.

Chitwood: I don’t think any parent of a recent high school graduate would say to their child, “Oh, that’s a good idea, go purchase that $80,000 car on a payment plan.” I don’t know very many parents who would say that.

Hiromi: But that’s essentially what we’re doing.

Chitwood: When I talk to people who are recently out of college, who are paying down their debt, they all say the exact same thing. That had they known what they know now, they would have done the path differently.

Hiromi: But it kind of stems, in his opinion, from this message that’s become very popular in recent years, that you should pursue your passion.

Chitwood: Most people I talk to who are having difficulties in life, it’s not because they’re not following their passion. It’s because they’re struggling financially. And the worst thing in the world can happen, which is somebody’s passion becomes a burden. And now they’ve lost this spark of joy and hope and happiness that they had because they tried to rely upon that as an income source, and it’s just not there for them. Versus if they had chosen a career that might have paid them better, and kept the passion as something they did as a hobby or an interest. Then it can always hold that magic for them.

Hiromi: So that’s part of it. What is your goal for this education? And then the other part is, how can I pursue the education in the most financially responsible way?

Chitwood: The vast majority of Institutions cap their tuition at X number of credits. So typically it’s 12 credits. For some of the elites, it’s eight credits. They still schedule you for 12 to 16. But what they don’t tell you is that those credits above 12, so let’s just use that, are technically free. The schools aren’t having those conversations with students that say, “Oh, by the way, signing up full time, you’re now going to do five years instead of four. To do it in four you have to take 15 to 18 credits every semester. Oh, and by the way, you will probably save yourself twenty-five to fifty thousand dollars if you do it this way.”

Hiromi: A lot of people will go to school, and to help pay for the school they think, “Well, I’ll work while I go to school so that I can help pay for it part-time. I’ll also sign up for all kinds of extracurricular activities so I can make the best of that education.”

Chitwood: Okay, extracurricular activities may or may not be a good move depending on your financial situation, and I can appreciate working. But doing the return on investment, or return on effort I should say, between taking one or two extra courses and making part-time wage income, you know, if they’re not making $50,000 a year, it might make more sense to just to buckle down and take one or two more extra courses a semester.

“The average wage difference between a 45-year-old who pursued a trade vs university is $1,000.”

Hiromi: If kids are not pursuing the right kind of education shouldn’t employers be offering more guidance?

Chitwood: Yeah, I would say so. And and I would say you’re seeing examples of that now with all the conversations about STEM fields. There’s a significant drive in interest in programming as employers are reaching out and holding workshops and boot camps to create that type of awareness.

Hiromi: So some larger corporations like a Google for example have bootcamps and workshops that help kids to get interested in programming before they choose and education path and that’s great. But if you’re like Joe’s mechanic shop, you may not have the resources to devote to grooming people through their college. And he said that’s kind of a shame too, because there’s no shame in pursuing trade school.

Chitwood: You know, the the average earnings of a 45 year old who pursued a trade path, and the average earnings of an individual who chose the university path… The difference literally is $1,000.

Hiromi: Which is kind of amazing, right? Yeah, that’s not the perception. There’s a total branding problem with the trade school path. He says that in Europe, it’s not that way. You have standard education through your middle school years, but then by the end of middle school, they’re watching your aptitudes.

Chitwood: And then they pursue a high school that’s either a vocational school or University track school. And the vocational school is, an extra two years yet when they graduate, they graduate with a skill and a trade, and can go get a very good paying job and have a great career the rest of their life.

Hiromi: But currently, the way that the education system is set up, you need to be educated about education before you can get educated. And that’s a shame.

Rob: There’s something interesting about the idea that people are engaging in something that they know very little about just because society has pushed them to that place. Especially considering that idea about trade versus University and how if you go to university or spending much more money. If the difference in amount earned is a thousand dollars a year, that’s not a very good business move. If you think about your job career as a business, then you know, that’s not very smart.

Aaron: It’s just reminded me. I made a website for an association of landscapers like 10 years ago and the website is still live. I can’t believe it. thelandlovers.org. It was made for students to look into a career in landscaping. There are all these different careers that they can pursue that pay well and that are understaffed. And so associations sometimes get together and say, “We can’t do anything at scale by ourselves.” But they get together and they say, “Okay. Let’s try to reach out to students and say, hey don’t forget about us!” Maybe that’s like a job fair, or education fair. They go in there and say, “Hey, maybe you shouldn’t become a psych major. You should become a landscape architect.”

Paul: Yeah, it’s funny. There are a lot of successful people who have these careers where they have just an education from life in general. Like my brother. You know, he was a landscape architect for like 40 years and he made a pretty decent living, and he led a happy life, and he didn’t have a degree.

Rob: Yeah, I think there’s a perception that University will equate to a high-paying job. I found this report from CNBC that says, “Graduates of the class of 2018 are heading into a job market with the lowest unemployment and 17 years and higher starting salaries. However, employers plan to hire fewer new grads than recent years.” And then it goes on to say, “As a result nearly four in ten recent graduates do not think it’s likely they’ll be able to pay off their student loan debt within 10 years.” So when you start to think about the amount of people who are coming out of college and the amount of people that have debt from that—it’s 1.5 trillion dollars of debt that people in the US have from school loans, and some 40% may default on their loans by 2023. It’s a pretty big problem. It’s bigger than the real estate mortgage crisis of 2007/2008. There’s a bubble that’s about to be popped.

Hiromi: Yeah, it’s true.

00:11:05

Ed Sanderson

 

Rob: All right, let’s talk about Ed.

Sanderson: Yes, so Ed Sanderson. I’m one of the co-founders of a company called Ducerus, a company that helps families navigate the challenges associated with admissions, career planning, and financial aid.

Rob: He helped us to appreciate how big of a financial commitment college is.

Sanderson: The country as a whole has 1.5 trillion dollars in student loan debt.

Rob: And it’s uncollateralized debt, which most people are familiar with, but this debt is very hard to get rid of. Bankruptcy does nothing towards it. A lot of times the interest rates are so high, that the amount of debt increases even though you’re making your minimum payments.

Sanderson: It’s a noose around people’s neck, and they’ll never be able to afford retirement because they’re going to be paying on this debt indefinitely. Yeah, we got a big problem on our hands.

Rob: Even though a lot of people feel that a college education is good, the decisions that people make on what they go to college for, and what they decide to do with that education is important it matters.

Sanderson: You know, you might have a situation where a student wants to be an educator. They want to become a teacher. Well in the course of doing that they’ve spent $150,000 – $170,000 in education investment, but that career is only going to pay them $45,000 a year.

Rob: And no one seems to be teaching kids the impact of their decisions.

Sanderson: I’ve said this before. It’s like giving kids the keys to a brand new Mercedes-Benz every single year, letting them crash it into a wall, and then giving them the keys to a new Mercedes-Benz the next year.

Rob: It’s a huge waste of money. You obviously wouldn’t do that, so why would you just go to college without knowing what you want to go to college for.

Sanderson: When you talk to employers, the first thing they will tell you is that the skill set that they need to have successful companies is not being taught in college. We want people to be able to come out problem-solvers and to be able to work together. They want collaboration and they want skill sets that advanced the profitability of an institution.

Rob: And so Ed encourages the idea of exploring what career you want to engage in before actually making the decision, starting down the path of a major that you’re not specifically interested in, or really want to commit to for the rest of your life.

Sanderson: No disrespect, but I’m not interested in paying $200,000 for a social experiment, for them to find out how they feel about something. Because we’re talking about real dollars in real cents. And at the end of the day, we want to make the best investment that we possibly can.

It’s like giving kids the keys to a brand new Mercedes-Benz every single year.

Rob: I enjoyed talking to Ed because he has a very pragmatic view of how students should be thinking about college. So here are a few statistics from Consumer Reports. It says that 45 percent of people with student loan debt said that college was not worth the cost. Then of that 45%, 38% didn’t graduate, 69% have had trouble making loan payments, 78% earn less than $50,000 a year, and 43% didn’t get help from parents making financial decisions.

Sanderson: Financial literacy. Nobody’s telling them what the impact of a $150,000 in student loans is going to have on them. There’s a hole there, which is, “Hey, can we help you figure out a way to monetize this degree? So that if we’re making an investment up front, we have an ROI that justifies that move?”

Aaron: It’s so amazing to me that it’s so common to not know what you’re going to school for. You’d think that people would do more research ahead of time. College is valuable for certain things. A doctor needs in-depth education, a lawyer needs in-depth education, but the fact that colleges have become this adulthood incubator… It is a poor use of funds. When the majority of jobs out there don’t require the level of education that they couldn’t get on on the job or through skill training. It’s just a facade. They say, “Come here to get an education,” when everyone says, “No, it’s just where I became an adult.” It’s where explored myself for $80,000.

Paul: So I went to a technical high school. And you don’t pick a major right away. For your first year, they have trades, and they call each trade a shop. Electronics, electrical, auto maintenance, graphics, culinary arts, drafting, plumbing, and carpentry. And all of the freshmen for their entire first year spent a few weeks in each trade. And by the time you get to your sophomore year, it’s expected that you’re going to choose a trade to go into. It’s like you have an entire year to explore everything. And for me, you know not having any kind of muscular structure to speak of I chose electronics. And here we are today. But the thing is, I’m still in an industry that’s loosely related to what I studied. I went to college for communications, like video production and radio production, and that didn’t really get me anywhere.

Aaron: Um, you are on a podcast right now.

Paul: Okay fair point.

Rob: I appreciated that about Ed. He wasn’t saying that college is useless, or it’s not valuable. He was simply trying to encourage this exploratory phase beforehand. You know, it’s not like kids are going to college with not having had any education. You have kids going through 12 or 13 years of school with not much to show it except for some basic knowledge of how to read and write and do some arithmetic. Why is public schooling failing these children so much?

00:17:07

Ivan Cheng

 

Hiromi: That’s a nice segue into our next interview.

Cheng: Hello. My name is Ivan Cheng, and I’m currently a professor at California State University Northridge.

Hiromi: And Ivan travels all over the country trying to change the way Public Schools educate students.

Cheng: Teaching sometimes gets in the way of learning and I find that to be disturbing, to say the least. We alienate many students, capable students, brilliant students, and they are turned off by our schools. They don’t buy into the system that we’re trying to provide for them and they drop out. And once kids drop out that leads to a whole host of societal issues.

Hiromi: So education is an economic problem. The fact that schools are failing means that we’re all failing on some degree. And he said well, there is a UX problem with education.

Cheng: This gets to the user experience if you will. If teachers are teaching only to reach the 10%, the kids who are aligned with the teacher’s style and personality, then there’s something wrong with what we’re doing. But no one thinks about changing it because it’s an Unwritten script. I’m gonna pause for a moment and just talk about Unwritten scripts. There are different kinds of restaurants, right? We go into a fast food restaurant, we look up because there’s a menu up there. And then we go up to the counter and we tell the cashier what we want. We pay them, and then they either give us a number, or they hand us the food right away. We go into an upscale restaurant. We do not look up for a menu. We expect a nicely dressed person to greet us, and to take our names, and perhaps make us wait, and then at some point escort us to a table. At which point another nicely dressed person will come and ask us for our preferences of drinks and food. And then they bring it out to you. That’s a very different script. And the behavior that we exhibit in each environment is unwritten.

Hiromi: And he says that the unwritten script of Education where there’s this one person behind a Podium just like talking forever. All the kids are in rows Behind These desks—that’s been unchanged for centuries.

Cheng: Our current system is modeled after the factories. They have bells, and they have times, and there’s a break time, and then there’s a lunchtime, and then there’s the quitting time, and you clock in and clock out.

Hiromi: You know, it’s based on grooming children to work in factories. We’re teaching them how to regurgitate information and spit it back out on some test. If you’re going to go work in a factory, that’s the skill you need, right? You need to just do what you’re told.

Cheng: That is not sufficient for 2018 because we now need people who can think, who can reason, who can make decisions.

Hiromi: And that is not what we’re teaching our kids to Do.

Cheng: We Begin by giving kids a ton of symbols, equations, formulas, definitions. They have no idea what those things really, really mean. And that gets at the UI and the UX, right? You’re thinking about the user, the learner, and what it takes for them to learn something. Whatever that something is, it all gets filtered through our current experiences.

Hiromi: He thinks that Educators need to craft activities that Empower kids to think, and solve problems, and learn, really, on their own.

Our current system was designed to groom children to work in factories.

Cheng: You know, my daughter came home one day when she was in third grade, I think, and I said, “What are you guys learning today in school?” And she said, “Oh, yeah, we learned about fractions.” And that’s great. “Um, so what did you learn about fractions?” And she said, “fractions are when you have two numbers with a subtraction sign between them.” So she was thinking of fractions purely in terms of the symbols and not in terms of what it really means. Ironically that very morning there were three granola bars on the table, and I have four kids, and they were asking me how they were going to be able to divide it up fairly among the four of them. So ultimately, they came up with this idea of, what if we cut each bar into four pieces, then they’ll take one from each bar. So they’ve just done 3/4. That’s a fraction. They didn’t realize it. This was a real experience that they were able to work through the mathematics without being taught any rules, or even using any particular symbols. If you have ever experienced bowling—I’m a pretty lousy bowler, so my balls end up going down the gutter. Okay, you know, it’s fun and you laugh about it, but after a few times, it’s not fun anymore because like why do I keep playing, right? That’s the experience that our kids have when they’re trying to do the math, right? They’re throwing gutter balls. So as you’re training them how to do this, you put the bumper guards up so that when they throw the ball, there are times when they’ll hit the bumper guard, but at least they’ll stay in and hit some pins. And that’s how you get to perfect your bowling and still get some sense of accomplishment. Teaching maths can be the same way. So what I do is I help teachers develop bumper guards for their lessons. We call that Guided Discovery.

Hiromi: So he uses a lot of physical objects in his teaching for teaching kids, you know, how to understand mathematic principles by use of real-world examples.

Paul: It’s like you’re throwing them into the deep end of the pool, but with a safety harness so they won’t drown. And then just swim around and figure it out.

Rob: One of the most interesting things I got from that was this ‘intuitive to 10%’. I started thinking about that—how many students finish school at a high rate of success? It’s probably ten percent. You know, like there’s a TED Talk by Sal Khan of Khan Academy, but he said it’s probably a matter of timing and a way of teaching that we’re all here today. It’s like when you start to think about the idea that you only were successful because the circumstance was right for you and not necessarily everyone else that you went to school with. That’s kind of a sobering thought, you know?

Aaron: Yes that word intuitive—people throw it around a lot. And I was recently reminded that when someone says, “That’s intuitive,” they really mean, “That’s what I’m used to, or what I would expect.” And that’s a dangerous mindset to be in as user experience designers—to assume that how we perceive things is how others will, or how they’ll use them. And that’s why education it’s so prescriptive. They said, “This is the way that we teach, and it’s intuitive to 10%.” If you build an interface that’s made for someone else’s mindset, you’re not going to be able to figure it out, or it will take you longer to figure it out, and you’ve wasted a lot of time.

Cheng: A while ago Paul Simon had a song called “Kodachrome” where he said, “When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school, it’s a wonder I can think at all.” And that is obviously what keeps me up at night. How do we change the way we do things so that we can have a more productive and just Society?

00:24:52

Steven Monroe, Ph.D.

 

Aaron: So that makes me think of our other interview with Dr. Steve Monroe.

Monroe: Yeah, Steve Monroe. I am the Regional training director for air gas North Pacific. Our company is focused on selling and distributing gases. I focus on the education of some 500 folks and I try to do it to the best of my ability to help them get the knowledge they need to do better at work.

Aaron: So talking to him really brought it in too about teaching and training outside of maybe this institutional conversation. I mean, how do you guys think—if you’re a salesperson, and you’re going to be selling nuts, and bolts, and welding supplies, how do you think that training is held?

Rob: I mean, I don’t know, I would expect to get to touch, and feel, and see what those things are. Maybe have a comparison to competitors products, to see how they differ, and what areas are valuable to show to a person that potentially would buy that.

Monroe: I was in the Navy for 10 years in the 80s, right, and I can remember sitting in training. And you have the trainers standing up and delivering. Right? Stand and Deliver. They don’t move from behind the podium. They read the screens full of words, you know, not a lot of questions. It was just a whole lot of telling.

Aaron: So he had come to realize that our willingness to sit and take in facts like that has changed.

Monroe: I truly believe stand and deliver is dead. We cannot use that methodology anymore because we lose our audience.

Aaron: So because of our phones, social media, modern television—we all have a short attention span. So we need to be stimulated now to learn—visually, physically, and even emotionally. And Dr. Monroe found that part of this method had to be talking less.

Monroe: They need to take ownership of what they’re going to learn today, which requires me to stop talking and let them talk. Let them self-discover what it is that’s being taught today.

Aaron: Not only do you have to own it, but you also have to see its practical value.

Monroe: Because they need to think that they own the material so that when they go back to the workplace they can use it. And what that requires is the trainer to stop training, and start facilitating.

Aaron: So that’s that’s not really new. Part of the reason I’m terrible at math is that I decided that it wasn’t going to be worth my mental energy in school. I’m never going to use the surface area of a triangle. I’m not listening.

Monroe: For example, we have branches that sell welding supplies, right? So you have the individual in the welding class. They’ve never welded a day in their life. They’ve read the books. They have seen the videos. But their brains haven’t really cataloged it much more than just an ancillary piece of information. Now you take them down into the lab. And then they go to strike their first arc. The fire, the explosion, that in your face, “oh, we’re gonna die” feeling—and so your brain is like, “what did I just see?!” Right? So what’s happening in the brain, right, is the brain is going, “Okay. All right. We’re gonna need to catalog this one. This needs its own neuron.” All right.

They’re going to walk away with 10%.

Aaron: So you’re convinced that it has value. You’re convinced that you can use it. You’re excited about it. But Dr. Monroe said something interesting.

Monroe: Here’s the truth. They’re gonna walk away with ten percent. Period. No matter what you say, no matter how much fun you make it, no matter how much facilitation you do, six months from now they will still only, maybe, own 10%.

Rob: Wait wait, he said 10% of the Stand and Deliver method, or of any method?

Aaron: Any method. He said no matter what you’re doing, they’re gonna forget most of it.

Rob: Oh, come on.

Aaron: You know believe that?

Rob: No, not at all. Why how is it true? Like, there’s no way that that’s true.

Aaron: How much do you remember of that Ted Talk that you just watched?

Rob: I don’t remember who gave it.

Aaron: Yeah, so there is a sliding scale. The truth is that you are going to forget a large amount of information. Even if you are glued to it, and you are enthralled by the presentation of the experience, our brains just forget. So when we go through and experience, there are different parts of our brain that’s lighting up. And that includes external things like vision, sound, smell, or senses, and then internal things like emotions. And our hippocampus decodes all that information and stores it. So later on your senses take in something, a smell, and maybe internal things that you don’t notice, and all of a sudden it just digs up this memory. I’m sure that you’ve had that happen before where all of a sudden this vivid memory comes back to you. Well, that’s because our brains are decoding and they’re looking for matches all the time for information. That’s how we retrieve memories. But there are all these things working against memory. There are a few theories of why that happens—displacement, interference, and decay. So displacement is saying our brain is like RAM on your computer. It has a maximum capacity. It fills up. And then as new things come in the older things, or what it deems less important, is pushed out. So you’re trying to remember a number and then someone tells you another number, and it pushes it out of there. Even if you really want to remember that number. That’s the displacement theory. The interference theory is saying that it’s coding all this different information and putting into a sequence. Right? So let’s say it notices part of that sequence and then it brings back that memory. That’s because different sequences would have shared information, or to be similar. So what happens is, when there is similar information, the brain will cancel it out. It’ll say, “This is too similar to something else,” and it’ll just say, “That’s not important and I’m gonna forget it.” And then there’s also interference with similar information where you may be learning a new task, or a new way of doing things. It’ll either prevent you from learning the new thing because the old thing’s holding on, or the other way, it’s retroactive, in that when you learn that new task, you forget the old one, and you might have wanted to hold on to that one too. That’s the interference theory. And the last one is Decay Theory, which is time. That if we’re not reinforcing a memory, it weakens over time because those pathways are not accessed. So how can we make sure that the information that we’re being educated about is deemed by your brain as important? How can we make it unique enough to avoid interference and displacement and make sure it’s retained over time without decaying?

Hiromi: So these are all—these are three theories about why we forget stuff?

Aaron: Yeah.

Hiromi: Um and what you’re saying is they’re not mutually exclusive. It’s not that one is true, or the other. They’re all true. Maybe you have to fight all three.

Aaron: Exactly.

00:32:50

Ideation

 

Hiromi: Okay. Okay, cool. So let’s ideate! I don’t know, Rob do you want to start?

Rob: Um, yeah. I think we’re too focused on memorizing and reading about things, instead of doing things. Students learn in a variety of different ways. Some of the teachers are not very good at the standard way of teaching students—this lecture-based classroom thing. So I think teachers need to be given more tools to teach in different ways. And we’re at a point in technology where that’s possible. Khan Academy provides video tutorials on how to do a variety of different things. And what’s interesting about their approach is that they flipped the classroom from being a lecture-based teacher setting, and they let each student go through their video tutorials on their own individually, and then the teacher can go around the room and tutor individual students as they see them failing in this dashboard.

Hiromi: It’s like I’m in imagining Khan Academy is doing a great job at that already. Right? But what if you want to teach something like a custom curriculum? What if you want to teach electrical engineering, or you want to teach crocheting, or you want to teach scuba diving—whatever it is? There’s a certain amount of in-class activity that needs to happen. So it’s almost like we need to templatize learning. We could allow teachers to create custom lessons, share, modify those lessons, and capitalize on their strengths, right?

Rob: Yeah, I think so and I think the templatization of that is a thing that could be used not only in grade school, but also in universities, and in continued education in businesses.

Hiromi: Awesome, Okay. Well, let me let me riff off that for just a second then. Because I like where you’re going with that. When I was listening to these interviews, I thought there were a handful of problems that kept bubbling up across the board. One was that students and parents don’t know what tracks to pursue to get to their goal. And what’s their goal? To get a good job, right? The high schools are underfunded to provide the guidance. The colleges just want to sell programs. And the employers are not getting qualified graduates into their Workforce. So I feel like the employers need to get involved sooner. And we talked about how that’s not possible, maybe for Joe’s Tire Shop, or dicks bookstore, or whatever. But, that said, could we take Aaron’s suggestion of the landscape association, and create industries within a platform where the employers could register an account? They might be monetarily involved to have a say in the future of their workforce. They associate their business with an industry and then communicate what they want their future workforce to learn. In fact, they might be the ones to create some of these custom curriculums. And then the high schools could get a kickback from the fees that we’re imposing on the association’s and the employers—maybe even the colleges. At that point, we’ll get a clear sense of where their aptitudes lie, and we can guide them through a college, or trade school path that will lead them into a career that they’ll be qualified to contribute to down the road. Does that make sense?

Rob: Yeah, I think so.

Hiromi: Yeah. All right. Aaron, what do you have?

Aaron: Yeah, so obviously I was thinking a lot about memory. So how do you get the students to retain the information that they need to hold on to, to be successful? And when you were talking about having the industry set a curriculum, or setting goals, that really stood out to me, you know, thinking of teachers more as implementers and facilitators for those goals. So my solution is really more student-focused in that it’s a learning calendar. Now, there’s already self-guided learning out there. But my proposal for this problem of retention is to not have a textbook but to have a self-determined calendar. So, because our brains forget over time, that things decay, the student would take all those things that the industry wants them to learn—they say, “You have to learn these things over this period of time.” And then they’re given options. Maybe they can do video. Maybe they can do on the job training. Maybe you can read a textbook. Maybe they can listen to a lecture. Choose that, and they say, “I’m going to do that on June 1st. And then on August 1st, I’m going to reinforce that either by taking a test,” which is the least interesting way. Or how about teaching a new student what they learn on June 1st. So not only are they reinforcing it by talking about it again, they’re doing it at a much later time. So they’re building these pathways and solidifying these memories of facts and Core Concepts. This can be talking about high school students, middle school students—we could be talking about adults that are on a career path. And they can take this calendar, and make sure that they’re learning new things and retaining what they learn.

Improving the UX of Education
Ideation on a platform to improve the UX of education.

Hiromi: Oh now I get it. Is it basically like a curriculum approach to that flashcard method?

Aaron: Yeah graduated interval recall.

Hiromi: Yeah Leitner system, right? Is that what you’re saying?

Paul: Yeah, like the Duolingo app, which is like a language teaching app, basically keeps track of when you learn something, and then it makes you revisit that after a certain period of time.

Aaron: Absolutely

Hiromi: Okay, cool. So we have this curriculum creation tool that has templates for teachers to be able to create lessons that will address the needs of different learning styles for students, and different teaching styles of the teachers. We have a method where prospective employers of various Industries can contribute to those curriculums and communicate what types of qualities, or types of information, or skills that they would find valuable for future workers in their industry to learn. And we have a calendaring system that allows for graduated recall of the things that they’re learning over time.

Rob: Imagine if that tool was used from kindergarten through University, maybe into the workplace. Right? Like I mean, you’re talking about a real like holistic approach here, but you could trace back their understanding of something to its core, and make sure that they have gotten the proper tree of knowledge for that thing that you want them to do.

Aaron: That’s exactly it. And the second I graduated from high school I freed myself to admit that summer break is the worst invention of all time. I loved it—I loved it as a student. But it is the worst thing for education. Because you forget everything.—For parents and for society as a whole—all these kids unleashed on the poor community. But the first three months of your next grade was, okay, now, let’s teach you algebra all over again because you forgot.

Rob: Yeah. Well, I mean the fact of the matter is that if this was like a thing that you got to take with you all the time, like this interactive textbook application, whatever that would be like right, maybe if it was engaging enough and interesting enough—you know, you could keep the summer break, but now kids are exploring on their own.

Hiromi: Yeah, let them let them be away from school for large swaths of time if you want, but you could still hold them accountable to keep that knowledge fresh in their mind remotely, right?

How could we improve the user experience of education?

  1. Let’s empower educators with a tool to build custom curriculums.
  2. The tool could templatize curriculum building for different styles of teaching and learning.
  3. A calendar based on graduated interval recall could ensure things learned stay learned.
  4. Leaders of industry should be invited to contribute to curriculums and help shape tomorrow’s workforce.

We’d like to thank our contributors for sharing their insights with us this week, and as always we’re very interested in your insights as well! Please leave us a review on iTunes, hit us up on Twitter @ideateTeam, or drop us an email. We look forward to hearing from you!

Hiromi loves creative challenges — anything that involves beautifying, building, making, solving or overcoming obstacles. He's toured in a band, done art installations, produced short films and facilitated maker events. Hiromi currently lives and works in Sacramento, CA with his wife and English Bulldog.

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