EDU/X: Strategy

In melding my passion for education and design, I kept coming back to the idea of User Experience (U/X), how something performs or behaves in the real world when its being used. Many times in education, we make decisions based on research or ideas that we’ve heard other districts using that sound great in theory with perfect implementation and follow-through, but we are leaving out a key aspect of the process: considering how this decision will play out in the real world with our actual students, educators, and staff. We’ll call this the Education Experience (EDU/X). After all, we’re lucky in that we’ve know exactly who we are serving. It is a known variable.

Diving into this idea, we start with one of the foremost guideposts in U/X, Jesse James Garrett’s The Elements of User Experience. Widely seen as one of the most integral texts in the field of U/X, Garrett lays out a conceptual framework for addressing U/X. Without going too in depth, it’s primary organizational structure is layers organized from most abstract to most concrete: Strategy, Scope, Structure, Skeleton, and Surface. If you want to dive in deeper, go to his website or even better, buy the book! The basic diagram and description is below, but let’s start analyzing how this could impact education.

Strategy: anyone who has been in a school district within the past decade is acutely familiar with the idea of putting together a strategic plan. Garrett shares that there are two aspects to consider when working on the Strategy plane.

  1. What do we (the leadership) want to get out of our educational system? This is pretty straightforward and generally built with leaders, by leaders, and for leaders. We can and should involve more stakeholders in this part of the process, but more importantly we need to include the second aspect of the Strategy plane.
  2. What do our users (the students and staff) want to get out of our educational system? This is where we need to take a page from Garrett’s model to dive deep. While we may have a representative on a strategic committee, that’s not enough. After all, EDU/X is the idea that we must be intentional in our decision-making in education to keep the full experience of our students, teachers, and staff at heart. Decisions cannot be made in a vacuum. They don’t happen to ‘some people’- we know exactly who we must consider in our work. How does this vision/mission frame the decisions we make for James, a homeless student who attends East West High School? How can we use this strategy to chart a course that actually works for Liv, a student at North South Middle School with a documented history of depression? Once again, intentionally repeated, education in our district or our school doesn’t just happen to ‘some people’- we know exactly who we must consider in our work and have a duty to do so. To steal a phrase from Pete Gorman, an educational leadership consultant who I have the privilege of calling a friend, to not consider these ideas in our work “is educational malpractice.”

This is the first post in a series about education experience (EDU/X) addressing the layers from Jesse James Garrett’s The Elements of User Experience, a seminal work on User Experience (U/X), through the lens of an educator.