From Teaching to Design-an Educator’s Intro to the UX Design Process
So what led you to become interested in UX/UI design?
“COVID!” (In my Pauly D voice, yes Jersey Shore is my not-so-guilty-pleasure).
But let me explain…
When the announcement was made in the Fall of 2020 that distance learning was going to be the new normal, there were many tears shed from students and educators alike. In a matter of days, I had to become a Google Classroom pro, a Zoom whiz, and more importantly a digital product creator. I knew that simply scanning textbook pages with my phone, uploading them to my Google Classroom page, and then expecting my students to be excited about completing them was not happening.
This problem led me to understand the first step on the UX Design Thinking process-empathizing. After a few weeks of trial and error, I asked my students “So what suck’s about distance learning?.” Pain points were immediately clear: (1) Boring, due to lack of peer interaction, (2) Technical difficulties, connection lagging, (3) Monotonous, too many google docs, and not enough whiteboard-like teaching. I focused on pain points #1 and #3 because, quite honestly, #2 (sucky internet connection) was up to the interweb gods.
Defining the problem and my strategy to approach it was straightforward, I needed to figure out how to create lesson plans that mirrored the classroom environment which included lesson materials — in short, I needed pixie dust and magic ASAP. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the pixie dust required was in short supply, so I needed to make my own.
So, I began to ideate potential solutions which included some market research. I needed to see what was already available, and FREE (because…teacher’s salary). I found a lot of bright and colorful instructional units created with Google Slides (“Google what?!”). I presented my students with my findings, and was met with a resounding “Do THAT Mrs. Williams!”
However, Doing THAT essentially meant becoming a digital product creator. Once again, I became a student, and I utilized everything on Beyonce’s internet that I could find to help me conquer Google’s Slide! I spent countless off-the-clock hours prototyping my own teaching units with Google Slides. I created interactive assignments that were engaging instead of the old-fashioned “fill in the blank” questions. I had my students clicking and dragging all over the place. I also found out that I could use mirroring on my iPad while on Zoom, which allowed me to effectively use the app Goodnotes (my savior!) as a whiteboard!
User testing occurred daily! Sometimes my creations were masterful. One time, I got my students to complete a directed drawing of the structures of animal and plant cells that they were actually proud of. And other times, they sucked, so I had to go back to the drawing board. But, hey, that’s what teaching is. A constant flux of defining problems, ideating solutions, prototyping lesson materials, and testing solutions with the users/students who, in case you didn’t know, are EXPERT ego checkers.
But back to the topic, how did I arrive at design? Well, I realized I enjoyed the process of researching, creating, and testing. I didn’t mind the hours I spent creating digital lesson materials. I’d spent so many years teaching, that I didn’t think there was anything else I’d enjoy. I did a little digging, and to my surprise, I discovered there was a name for what I was doing, UX/UI Design. I was excited by the possibility of making a profession out of a process that I enjoyed. I began consuming everything I could about it, from Udemy to Coursera. But I wanted more. I found an awesome UX/UI BootCamp led by Ironhack (shout out to my fellow Ironhackers!) and enrolled in a university program to gain an in-depth knowledge of graphic design and web design.
So here I am, an educator turned designer, and I gotta say, I like it here!