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Problem Statement

As part of the interview process for an Interaction Designer position at Google, I completed the following challenge:

At the beginning of each new semester or school year, teachers are faced with the challenge of remembering names for a large number of new students. Design an experience to help an educator match faces to names, with the goal of shortening the time needed to reach complete un-aided accuracy. Provide a high-fidelity mock for at least one step of this experience.

This challenge took me a total of approximately 10-11 hours to complete. Following this design exercise, I was flown out to Mountain View for an onsite interview at Google HQ.

core problem analysis and brainstorming

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In order to guide the initial research for this project, I dissected the brief a little further to identify the problem behind it. Based on the prompt, the specific problem faced by teachers is that they have a difficult time remembering names for a large number of new students. Yet what exactly contributes to that? I wrote down the following questions in order to identify the core problem behind the prompt:


Why is it that teachers have trouble remembering faces/names?
Does it depend on the type of learner that you are?
How do teachers currently remember student names?
Why do teachers want to remember student names?
What time constraints do teachers face when it comes to memorizing names?
Why is there a need for an experience that helps teachers match faces to names?

 

Based on these questions I wrote down a list of items that would guide my research:

  • Motivations behind name memorization (from a teacher’s perspective)
  • Current solutions to help teachers remember new student names
  • What are the positive aspects and challenges of these solutions?
  • Are there other outside factors to be taken into consideration? (Available time that the teacher can spend memorizing, number of classes the teacher has at the beginning of each semester, age of teacher, etc.)
  • Memorization techniques
  • Learning styles

 

research

The questions I posed during the problem analysis stage lead me to research and dig deeper into the following areas:

Motivations:
Recognize student’s individuality
Create positive classroom climate
Give student a sense of importance, that they matter
"ask yourself: who is the one teacher in your entire life who made the biggest difference for you--who taught you so well that you still think about him or her as your best teacher. I bet that for almost all of us, that best teacher was someone who knew you by name"  (Glenz 2014)

 

Memorization techniques:

Taken from Northern Michigan University:

  1. Associations
    • Linking information to be memorized to familiar concepts
    • Association can be visual or associated to a personal memory
  2. Repetition
    • Flashcards
    • Read out loud
    • Repeat in chunks
    • Take breaks in-between
  3. Create Acronym/Acrostic
    • E.g. SOHCAHTOA in math
  4. Make a Rhyme/Song

 

Learning styles:

Seven learning styles

  • Visual (spatial): You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
  • Aural (auditory-musical): You prefer using sound and music.
  • Verbal (linguistic): You prefer using words, both in speech and writing.
  • Physical (kinesthetic): You prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch.
  • Logical (mathematical): You prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.
  • Social (interpersonal): You prefer to learn in groups or with other people.
  • Solitary (intrapersonal): You prefer to work alone and use self-study.

 

Current Solutions:

Teacher quotes taken from Scholastic:

“Before school starts, I make a list of all my students, in alphabetical order by first name. By opening day, I have most names down pat, and then I just have to put names to faces”
“I look at the yearbook pages from the grade before off and on all summer. By fall I have about 80 percent committed to memory”
“The first class writing assignment is for students to write about how they got their names.”
“Alliteration. On the first day, I have the students’ names memorized.”
“When the children arrive and when they leave, I sing each one of their names in a little song I’ve made up.”

 

Common solutions utilized by teachers to get to know their students' names:

  • In-class activities
  • Visual cues
  • Review list of student names
  • Creating seating chart

 

Applications that deal with name memorization:

Name That Student

Uses student images to help the teacher match them with names. Uses a quiz format (multiple choice, flashcards) to reinforce learning and also uses text-to-speech in order to learn by hearing names.

Pros:

  • uses combination of learning techniques and sensory output (visual + auditory) to reinforce learning.
  • Possibility of organizing students based on classrooms, sections, etc.

Cons:

  • Having to take pictures of every student is inconvenient
  • Taking quizzes can be time consuming and teachers may not have time to do so (having an option that isn’t a quiz form could be useful)

 

Name Shark

Uses multiple quiz formats (faces quiz, names quiz, details quiz) and self practice to match faces with names. Ability to create groups of people for better organization and to password protect them for privacy

Pros:

  • uses combination of learning techniques to reinforce learning.
  • Possibility of organizing students based on classrooms, sections, etc.
  • Takes into consideration the privacy of the people on lists

Cons:

  • Having to take pictures of every student is inconvenient
  • Taking quizzes can be time consuming and teachers may not have time to do so (having an option that isn’t a quiz form could be useful)

 

Namerick

Using repetition and mnemonics. Through a step-by-step process, Namerick allows you to type a person’s name and gradually enter more information about them and learn them through mnemonics. The app also reminds you of this information through timed alerts.

Pros:

  • Uses scientifically tested memorization techniques (mnemonics, repetition, etc.)
  • Possibility of classifying and organizing information
  • Organically fits into the individual’s routine, isn’t time consuming

Cons:

  • It’s for use with contacts on the phone (privacy concern)
  • Constant notifications may deter teacher from continuing using application
  • You have to set up by entering the person’s name (therefore assumes that you have already remembered the name to begin with)

 

Research Summary /Takeaways

Based on what I discovered through this research, it is important to take the following elements into consideration for the experience:

  • Every individual has different learning styles (visual, auditory, etc.)
  • Having a way to quickly memorize names is important
  • Combine a variety of memorization techniques (mnemonics, memorization)
  • Incentivize a positive classroom climate
  • Ability to neatly manage/keep track of a high number of classes/students
  • Ability to automatically import roster in order to reduce user’s cognitive load
  • Keep user incentivized to use experience to memorize names (this seems to be important because this research showed that most popular memorization methods used by teachers are more in- or pre-class activity based than technological)

 

goals and solution

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After an analysis of the problem and research to uncover these assumptions, these are the following goals that the experience should accomplish:

  • Give students control and incentivize a positive classroom environment
  • Allow for flexibility in learning styles and memorization techniques
  • Make memorization process fun, quick, and engaging

 

Interface perspectives

Teacher View:

  • Import roster
  • Create classes
  • Questionnaire creation
  • Complete activities
  • Track own progress

 

Student View:

  • Answer questionnaire
  • Complete assignment
  • Upload picture

 

Potential Google Integrations

  • Google Classroom
  • Gmail
  • Google Assistant
  • Google Calendar

 

As a result of my research, I designed RememberMe, a collaborative memorization application that helps teachers remember their new students’ names. Through RememberMe, not only will the teacher be able to quickly learn every student’s name in a fun way, but they will also be able to use this as an engaging class assignment that empowers students to express their individuality and feel more connected to the class. RememberMe allows the teacher to use this application to create and send activities to their classes. Through these activities, the teacher asks students “ice breaker” questions and then students submit their answers through the application. These responses are then used to quiz the teacher on student names through association with the student answers. The teacher also has the option to memorize names through a more traditional method (matching names with pictures), creating rhymes related to student names, and memorize names through audio recordings.

 

INITIAL SKETCHES AND FLOWS

I started the sketching process by creating flows for the teacher and student sides of the experience. While I had considered both student and teacher perspectives in the flows, I only sketched out the teacher experience in order to illustrate my solution for this specific challenge, which focuses on the teacher as the primary user.

 

 

low fidelity wireframes

After visualizing the main idea through paper sketches, I proceeded to create low fidelity wireframes in Sketch. The main navigation consists of four views: home, classes, activities, recordings. I opted for a bottom navigation as there is a small number of views and this format also allows for a more accessible, quick method of navigation across views.

Each of these views take into account aural, verbal (recordings), and visual (activities) learning styles. The “Classes” view allows for an organized overview of the classes a teacher might have during a semester. Through the Classes view, the teacher is also able to study student names and faces, listen to recordings, or complete activities. In the “Home” view, the teacher can also keep track of their recent activity and quickly access all quizzes.

Below is a complete flow of the teacher experience along with the onboarding experience.

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Onboarding

The onboarding experience provides the teacher with a simple step-by-step process to quickly get started using the app. The teacher is able to create a class group and upload an existing roster (this roster could potentially be pulled from an external application like Google Classroom). The onboarding process is crucial for this application (without going through onboarding, there would be no data that could be used in the quizzes). For this reason, the user is required to complete this step before entering the main views. The goal of this onboarding experience is to be able to get started as quickly as possible without any complications. In order to achieve this goal, I distributed the process across four screens. This reduces the cognitive load of the user and decreases the possibility of user error.

The final step in this onboarding process prompts the user to immediately start using the app on their own terms (if the user has already been looking at the roster, they can try a simple photo-to-name matching quiz. Otherwise they can start studying student profiles with the first class group they created). The user might be more prone to continue utilizing RememberMe if they are given flexibility and control over the experience from the get-go.

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accessing quizzes to practice student names

Most of the competitors I analyzed during the research stage of this project display student information in the “Home” view. While it is important to have access to student information first in order to study it, I believe that these applications do not take into account the user’s behavior beyond first-time app use. What occurs during the second or third times that the teacher opens the app? Will they still want to take a look at student profiles first and then take quizzes? Or are they confident enough to take a quiz first? While these questions are best answered through user testing, I made the assumption (for the sake of time) that the latter is true for the most advanced user. For this reason, the teacher is able to access personalized quizzes in the “Home” view. Not only can the teacher immediately start a new quiz, but they can also continue taking a quiz they haven’t finished. This design choice would fulfill the third goal of this application, which is to make the memorization process quick and engaging.

In order to account for most users’ differing preference in memorization techniques, there are a variety of available quizzes: a more simple quiz in which the user has to match a student name with their picture, another quiz that uses student responses to the activities that the teacher created in order to provide the teacher with a “hint”, and a third quiz in which the teacher is given a word that rhymes with the student’s name as a hint. The quizzes vary in difficulty levels in order to consider users with varying levels of memorization ability.

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studying a student's profile

Student profiles can be studied in a variety of ways: by making audio recordings, memorizing rhymes, or reviewing more information on the student. The student profile view provides the user with all these different learning methods in one space. Additionally, aural learners have the option to access recordings for a specific student in that student’s profile view or to directly go to the “Recordings” view in the bottom navigation. This allows for quick access to all recordings which can be studied and listened to by the teacher on the go. This gives the teacher flexibility to choose the learning style that best fits their needs and thus accomplishes the second goal of RememberMe (to allow for flexibility in learning styles and memorization techniques). In order to achieve the first goal of this application (to give students control and incentivize a positive classroom environment), the following content in the student’s profile is managed by the student:

  • Profile image
  • Preferred name
  • Responses to activity questions

Having the student define what information the teacher learns about them can help personalize the learning experience in the classroom and create a stronger bond between teacher and students.

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Creating new activities for students

In order to incentivize this collaboration process between the teacher and students (and thus fulfill the first goal of RememberMe), the teacher is able to create “ice-breaker” activities and submit them to the classes of their choice directly within the application. The responses to these activities will then be added to the student profiles in order to give the teacher additional context to easily remember the student’s name through mnemonics.  

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high fidelity wireframes

I created high fidelity wireframes for three key user journey scenarios:

  1. Teacher studies student information.
  2. Teacher creates and activity to be sent to students in a class
  3. Teacher completes a quiz to learn student names.

For these wireframes, I referenced Google's Material Design Guidelines (which I am very familiar with) and designed with accessibility in mind.

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current limitations and future goals

One limitation of this solution is that it mainly consists of quizzes in order to practice student names. While this can be seen as a fun and engaging solution, the reality is that oftentimes teachers may not have enough free time or patience to complete quizzes. Ideally, this memorization experience should be seamlessly integrated in the teacher’s daily routine.

In a future with no technical constraints, RememberMe could take the form of an augmented reality application that can be experienced through a wearable device. This wearable would take on the form of subtle glasses that the teacher can wear during lectures. Through computer vision, RememberMe would be able to identify students and display their names in real time. Over time, the teacher will be able to match student faces with names without the help of RememberMe.

Additionally, it would be beneficial to conduct further research and usability testing on this application in order to learn the following:

  • Does the user engage with the "Activities" feature?
  • How do memorization times vary across the population? (How long would it take the average user to fully remember their students' names?)
  • Conduct an in-depth analysis of usage habits (gathering information of how the user interacts with the interface over time to learn which features are used the most by experienced users)

 

references

https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/how-i-do-it-learn-students-names/

http://teachingonpurpose.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Glenz-T.-2014.-The-importance-of-learning-students-names.pdf