I was a teacher but also a UX designer.

How an early childhood teacher turned teaching experience into UX design.

A child engaging in an activity

“Design is everywhere. From the dress you’re wearing to the smartphone you’re holding, it’s design” — anonymous

This article discusses about how a teacher shifted her lessons and curriculum design experience into UX design.

I transitioned to UX from teaching. In my kindergarten classroom, I was working with 20+ children, supporting their most important early learning adventure. It allowed me to build strong relationships with children as well as parents and help each child’s learning identities.

Apart from cultural and linguistic diversity, a kindergarten classroom can often be neurodiverse. In this article, I will discuss a scenario where I designed creative lessons and incorporated technology to support neurodiversity in my classroom.

Children who belong to the autism spectrum have different learning styles, and these learning styles can be highly unique to the specific child. To help the child, it’s essential to buildup a secure relationship with them and their parents. Therefore, understanding the child and their behaviour is essential.

• Researching and understanding the autism spectrum

To design lessons, it was extremely important to understand what autism is. I used several methods, such as journal articles and government websites, to find information about autism. With my research, I understood that understanding, engaging & celebrating the strengths, interests & aspirations of children on the autism spectrum can elevate their learning.

• What methods are used in the industry

Often other schools, teachers share their methods of teaching online. I found a wealth of information using teachers’ forums, Facebook groups and Instagram accounts where teachers talk about different methods they use to teach a neurodiverse classroom.

• Using observations and interviews

I also used contextual inquiry methods such as taking observations of the children. These observations were used to understand the child’s likes/ dislikes and to identify what they love doing in class. I often took pictures of these children engaging in activities to understand their nonverbal clues. Also, I had discussions with the parents to get an idea about the child’s interests at home. They often brought pictures of activities these children enjoy at home. These were great resources to understand the child.

• Defining the information I gathered

In this specific scenario, I understood that the child loved doing things using his hands and was extremely focused when engaging in activities incorporating building. He didn’t like to read or look at the board during group time. However, he immensely enjoyed singing and music.

• Creating learning activities and incorporating technology

  1. I developed many sensory activities which indirectly focused on developing skills such as literacy and numeracy, self-control etc…
  2. I used visual supports in the classroom.
  3. Using technology to teach numbers and colours with sound.
Some activities that were developed

When I tell others that I became a UX designer, I often hear, “wow, isn’t it a big career change?” (or something similar). However, I know that my career change felt so natural to me because I was already solving problems in the classroom using creative ways.

Some other transferrable skills teachers bring into UX industry apart from the factors mentioned in the above scenario:

  • Managing projects to reach goals.

👩🏻‍💻 As a UX designer- Managing a project is an essential task in many jobs. UX designers take on different tasks of a given project and manage the tasks to meet specific project deadlines. UX designers use Trello and other project management tools in this endeavour.

👩🏻‍🏫 As a teacher — Each child’s learning journey is an essential project for a teacher. Teachers document children’s progress using different documentation methods such as creating learning stories, observations, and reports. The journey can be measured when the child reaches different learning goals.

  • Empathising with the user.

👩🏻‍💻 As a UX designer — UX designers always design solutions by empathising with the user. They always think from the user’s point of view, and this helps them to design human-centred solutions.

👩🏻‍🏫 As a teacher — Teachers design lessons by empathising with children. They observe children, interact with them and create learner-centred lessons.

👩🏻‍💻 As a UX designer — Better solutions need rigorous usability testing. Usability tests help designers understand friction points and identify design improvements.

👩🏻‍🏫 As a teacher — Teachers conduct usability tests every day. They use qualitative and quantitative data to analyse the success of their lessons and iterate lesson plans.

  • Collaborating and communicating with others

👩🏻‍💻 As a UX designer — UX designers have to collaborate with different stakeholders ranging from business teams to engineering teams. They also communicate to stakeholders at different phases of their design process.

👩🏻‍🏫 As a teacher — Teachers collaborate with students, parents, other educators and sometimes with the education department to provide better learning solutions to children. They also present children’s progress to parents and the education department stakeholders by creating reports and meetings.

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