Usability (and utility) testing in GeoSciTeach

The focus of our project has been collectively on designing for and testing a) technical usability and learnability of the app (i.e. whether the functionality is clear, the app easy to learn to use in terms of steps through from one screen to another, menu bars etc…; its visual design – for clarity, meaning of functionality of buttons, how to move between different screens/ activities  – especially for non technical experts); b) the usefulness of the app for fostering geospatial awareness, particularly in science teaching; and c) its functionality in the field (how it is used on the ground).

From the very beginning of the project we have engaged with end users – a group of 5-8 pre-service teachers  – to work with, or test out, our application (GeoSciTeach) to inform the design of the app, and its utility within a science teaching context. This has been done in conjunction with experts in computer science, application design, science teaching, external representation design and design for pervasive technologies in various educational contexts.

We have employed the following methods:

  • A series of face to face design-based workshops with pre-service teachers, science teacher experts and technical developers, which included testing the app at various points in outdoor contexts – or in other words, in the wild.
  • Each design iteration has been made available to all participants (pre-service teachers and the project team) on the android market place, so that each iteration could be tested, reviewed and critiqued for the next iteration of development.
  • Participants have been able to feedback through the project blog (although uptake of this was low); e-mail; workshop sessions; and project team meetings
  • Field trials in the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew with pre-service teachers using the app as part of their training course, which involved an outdoor teaching experience with several groups of secondary school students (see earlier blog posts for more detail).

In the next 2-3 weeks we will be doing further user testing through:

  • A focus group meeting with all pre-service teachers (now newly qualified) who have taken part in the project to: explore the role of the app in geospatial skill development; usability of customisable app and linking to activity app; explore how the app supports teachers to develop example customisations for example science questions
  • Follow-up semi-structured interviews with teachers re current opinions/ thoughts re app and its potential for use in their teaching context
  • A series of ‘twilight’ sessions with science teachers in London school science department to provide feedback for design; development of activities for app use; development of geospatial concepts in science; information on geospatial skills development/ awareness

The next stage would be to test it more widely with more teachers in the school context, and in pre-service training courses, but this is beyond the scope of the current project.

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