Black History Month E-book

Educational e-product for teachers & young learners

Educational product • Teachers pay Teachers
Overview
As an educator, I had spent hours and hours looking for just the right book for my lesson. I slowly realized there were very few to no age-appropriate books developed for the early grades, especially for history, racism, and social justice issues.  This is the story of how one of my products came to life; Black History Month for early learners.
Project details
Duration: 3 months
My role: Conceptualization, UX Researcher, UX Designer, Author
Collaborated with: 1 illustrator, 1 visual designer, 1 consultant

Research

Competitive benchmarking
Tools used: Online research

Before touching pen and paper, at the very beginning of the project, I conducted online research on American best-selling children's books, nonfiction books, and teaching resources. I went online on Amazon, Teachers pay Teachers, Scholastic, and BookDepository. I had interacted on social media platforms with more than 50+ American colleagues; These sites were the most well-known and heavily visited by teachers in the US looking for books and teaching resources. I bought and downloaded the most highly rated books and resources and examined their format.

Competitive benchmarking
Competitive benchmarking. Click to enlarge and see more images
Findings
  • Teachers respond to products they can immediately print and use in the classroom.
  • They prefer to buy interactive activities to do with their students.
  • Books with concise text, vibrant images, and interesting characters are the most popular for young learners. As a teacher myself, I also knew they were the most appropriate developmentally as well.
Note-taking
Tools used: Pen and paper, Facebook teaching groups

While working as a student teacher, I was very interested in observing how veteran teachers read books to young learners. I made a habit of keeping detailed notes of my colleagues' goals, behaviors, and pain points while reading to the class and my own later. I also kept notes of the children's behaviors and questions. For this project, since I was part of many American Facebook groups of teachers, I decided to do qualitative research; Taking notes of points colleagues shared about teaching Black History Month on these particular groups.

Notes - Qualitative research on Facebook teaching groups
Findings
  • Books focused on social justice issues and historical events are non-existent for children 4-6 years old.
  • Books with rich illustrations keep the children more engaged.
  • There is too much text in many of the books recommended for kindergarten and first grade students.
  • Teachers had to filter the excess text out and read the most important parts.
  • Too much text and less images caused the children to be impatient.
  • Too much text did not motivate the children to later attempt to read the books themselves.
Online survey
Tools used: Survey Monkey

At this point, early in the research phase, I knew I needed more data to verify my assumptions and findings so far. I was looking for more quantitative as well as qualitative data regarding historical non-fiction books for early learners. As an online survey was easy to put together and share online, it was my go-to tool. I wrote a combination of open-ended and close-ended questions to make sure I would get both qualitative and quantitative data types, respectively. The insights I gained were valuable and added to the ones I had gathered from benchmarking and the Facebook groups' qualitative research (notes).

Responses to an open-ended question of the survey - Gaining qualitative data
Responses to a close-ended question of the survey - Gaining quantitative data
Findings
  • 59.1 % of teachers faced difficulties finding appropriate non-fiction books for students between 4-6 years old.
  • The existing books were not displaying information in an age-appropriate way for young learners (too much text, not enough illustrations, advanced language).
In-class usability tests & online reviews
Tools used: Classroom experience, online reviews

The fact that I was a school teacher when I started this project helped immensely as I could see my assumptions being validated before my eyes in the classroom. I have attempted to read books about Greek history to my students more times than I could remember. The same issues arose as the American colleagues and parents pointed out; Too much text, age-inappropriate vocabulary, not enough illustrations, no concise, easy to remember facts. For issues such as racism and diversity, the only (translated) books out there where fiction books.

The online reviews from buyers on well-known sites also provided me with valuable feedback from teachers and parents who have read non-fiction books on Black History at home and in their classroom.

I just don't think enough effort was put into the storytelling to make it more personal.
— Teacher
I like this more than my 4 year old. He loses interest and prefers Mae Among the Stars. But if you have older children (7+) I think the stories are the right length.
— Parent

Analysis

Affinity diagram
Tools used: Miro

The competitive benchmarking, online survey, note-taking, and usability tests have provided us with a large data volume. As an affinity diagram is the best method to analyze and organize a significant amount of data, I invited my fellow designer to help me with the analysis and get higher quality results through teamwork.

We used Miro as it is an exceptional online collaboration tool. Our affinity diagram was ready in two hours. The research data had now taken shape, and the issues with Black History Month books for young learners were evident.

Using an affinity diagram to make sense of the research data
Affinity diagram - Final grouping
Customer Journey Map
Tools used: Miro

The affinity diagram uncovered a comprehensive group of issues with Black History Month books on the market. It was now time to see the product through the customers' eyes. A customer journey map was the next logical step; It would help us visualize what customers, in this case, teachers, were experiencing; What were their emotions as they read Black History Month books to young students? Our research also included findings from parents who read relevant non-fiction books to their children in a homeschool environment or as a read-aloud of their choice.

Customer journey map - Use of Black history books in the classroom

Design

User flows
Tool used: Miro

Research and analysis phases were now complete, and I focused on a primary use case - a teacher buying a book to talk about racism and Black History Month. I was going to try and fix the issues I had uncovered during my research on other teaching resources on the subject matter. The customer journey map was shining a light on the problems.

What structure would ensure a smooth flow through our educational product for a teacher?

Customer flow
Sketches
Tools used: Ipad - Paper app

After deciding on the structure of the product, I began sketching the pages, creating a storyboard. Sketching for me is a great, inexpensive way to express ideas before prototyping. Did the solutions I had in my head made sense? I gathered my research findings and poured them into my sketches.

Early sketches of the product

Prototype

High-fidelity prototype
Tools used: Adobe InDesign, Professional printing

The solutions to social studies books' problems on the market were visible on the flow diagram and sketches. A prototype to test my solutions/designs was the next step. Were they addressing the teachers' issues with the nonfiction books for young learners effectively? A hi-fidelity prototype would answer the majority of the design team's concerns. We went ahead and printed a prototype, including all the copy and illustrations.

We conducted a usability test with a young learner with her parents' consent.

The future buyers/teachers would be offered the option to either print or read the story on a tablet, pc, laptop, or projector.

Printed high-fidelity prototype of the story • Testing the new educational product
High-fidelity prototypes of two activities • Testing the new educational product

Annotated Drafts

Hand-offs to the visual designer
Tools used: Figma

The final step was to make this product ready to build. I created detailed drafts with annotations to hand over to the visual designer, along with documents containing the research findings.

The annotations also included information for a printed version of the product as we were giving this option to our buyers as well.

Draft page for the educational e-product "Black History Month"
Draft of a hands-on activity

Conclusion & Results

This project has exhibited the issues teachers face in their classrooms regarding finding books on racism and social justice issues for young learners. In this case, I happened to be an "insider" and be well aware of the problems in teaching resources for 4-6-year-old children. However, it is essential always to remember we are not the target audience - we are not designing for ourselves but the end-users. I may have been a teacher at the time, but American teachers were the real design audience. As UX designers, we need to do our research and empathize as much as we can with the people we are designing for to provide products that solve a real problem while providing a great experience.

I was delighted to see that our efforts were rewarded with this product as buyers/teachers left more than 1,300 5/5 stars ratings, and it has been wish-listed 2,415 times!

Live reviews and statistics for our educational e-product
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