To find a answer to this ‘wicked problem’, my team and I started out with researching the competitors that were already on the market. Which digital tools were already on the market and were being used in schools?
In addition to researching the competition, I also conducted research into how digital teaching materials are made and used in education. I found out that there are a lot of tools and applications in use. Unfortunately, there are many usability and ICT problems in using these applications. Right now, the iPad replaces the analog textbook but has no noticeable added value in the classroom.
Based on our findings, I started the conversation with a large number of teachers from the target audience by doing normal interviews and conducting laddering interviews.
Here I learned that educational software often worked very badly and the applications used in the classes weren’t always optimized. We also found out that the students we interviewed often didn’t understand the material their teacher was talking about in class. It was too abstract. We wanted to solve this problem.
From here on, based on the user journey map I made, our focus changed and we formulated a new challenge for ourselves:
‘How can we make learning materials at (junior) high school less abstract and more engaging for both students and teachers?’
We tested our possible solutions with publishers of digital learning material and. After that we started working on one of the concepts: Holo-class.
Holo-class is a concept in which the learning materials from classes like Geography and Biology are replaced by holographic 3D models. With Holo-class, the teachers can teach their curriculum in a more simple and clearer way with the help of holograms.
For Holo-class, I started working on the control of the 3D models as an iPad-app. I had the clickable wireframes of the application tested by my target audience with printed images serving as 3D models. This showed me that, even though the technical skills of the teachers are not very high, they preferred to operate the 3D models with gestures instead of an iPad app. According to them, always needing an external device wasn’t practical in the classroom.
After gaining these new insights I started researching gesture-based interfaces. Then, together with another team member, I thought about the gestures needed to operate the hologram.
We started looking at which gestures people are using on touchscreens, and in gestures-based interfaces (enter: Minority Report, our biggest inspiration) and how they could be translated into real physical three-dimensional actions.
To prototype and test this, we used Leap Motion and an existing demo which came close to how we envisioned our concept . With the Leap Motion, I then started testing how the users dealt with the gestures. It turned out that the teachers, despite their low technical knowledge, were able to operate the 3D model and the Leap Motion fairly quickly.
They told me that they saw a lot of possibilities for 3D models and this type of interaction in education. In this way, they were better able to teach certain difficult subjects to the students and make them understand it. This is sometimes difficult with physically elaborated plastic models or videos.
With the Leap Motion, glass and a self-made wooden box, we then build a prototype of the hologram to show our concept.
The advantage of a stand-alone hologram is that the 3D models don’t have to be displayed on a computer screen. In this way, the teachers will be able to walk around freely during class, explain like never before and operate the 3D models with all the freedom they need to respond to the need for knowledge from their students.
One step in the right direction to a truly immersive ‘the classroom of the future’.