This past weekend, Gradeable was selected to participate in Innovate NYC: an program which helps bring innovation and technology to underserved schools in New York City. The kickoff event introduced teachers and developers who will be working in team for the next five months to improve their classroom environment, and drive learning.
The first workshop was about developing empathy driven design skills. At Gradeable, understanding our users is something that has been a main focus from the beginning. Innovate NYC paired 12 products with 12 schools, each with about four teachers, to talk about the concerns, struggles, or tasks that these teachers deal with on a day to day basis. I sat down with my four teachers to tell them why we are developing Gradeable, our mission statement, and how we’re working to integrate our tool into the classroom.
Our teachers were awesome and deserve some serious bragging rights. Not only did they come out to the workshop on a Friday night and full Saturday after what was probably a crazy second week of school, but they asked amazing questions from the very beginning, and were completely engaged.
One thing struck me as odd, though, they kept apologizing for asking all these questions. Here’s the deal: when you ask a designer about their product, not only does it help feed our crazed hunger to talk about our product constantly as if it’s our newborn child, but it also helps us to get inside the minds of our users, hear their concerns, see what they’re most excited about, and often allows us to come up with new ideas and features that help make our product better.
What I loved about working with our teachers is that they had so many ideas and comments to make, that they felt bad for interrupting. Meanwhile, my reaction was “more please!” because I couldn’t wait to hear what else they had to say and was thrilled that they were so engaged. Product demos should never be a one way street. Developers and designers like me love to hear what their users have to say.
I am ecstatic to work with such invigorating and motivated individuals on a product that I care so much about it. Please keep your questions coming, and never be afraid to give us your opinion. After all: the point is to build a product that teachers love, and amazing and effective products can not flourish through one-sided conversations with users. Everything we do at Gradeable is for learning and that’s why I am looking forward to growing our relationship with the iZone and NYC schools.