Anjali and Kamal, Stanford and IIT grads respectively wanted to teach critical thinking to kids, at scale.
Critical thinking is not a part of the curriculum in India, so our app is unlikely to have the parental push enjoyed by the likes of Khan Academy and Byju’s.
However, if designed in a way that touches deeper desires in kids and parents, the product could become habit-forming and transform lives.
We had in-depth discussions with the founders to understand the problems they want to tackle. Through these conversations we synthesised their vision.
We used coding techniques from ethnographic research to derive them.
Given the product would be positioned in untested waters, we started with deep ethnographic research. We visited our potential users at the places where they were most likely to use this app: their homes. These contextual research sessions gave us some valuable insights.
We conducted research on pedagogy of critical thinking.
How do we get students to regularly engage -- without anyone asking them to -- with the app and learn the skills?
These were the pillars on which we designed the experience.
Attract, with stories they are awed by
During our sessions with kids, we were lucky enough to get a peek into their rooms. There was one clear pattern that we noticed – there were plenty of superhero images and artifacts.
When we asked these kids to imagine stories involving 21st-century goals, they naturally created stories involving ‘superheroes’ who have ‘powers’ rather than stories of ‘people’ having ‘skills’
Insight (from primary research): Kids think of ‘extraordinary skills’ as ‘powers’ when imagining narratives.
Decision : Weave an overall narrative that AugLi is an experience of building superpowers by completing challenges
Engage, with games and video
Once we attract the students with an interesting story like superpowers; it was necessary to cognitively engage them so that they get into the mood to learn.
Insight: Kids are highly engaged by video content. In fact, they were quite comfortable being convinced about doing something after watching a video.
Educate, through techniques from empirical learning sciences
For ed-tech products that are serious about the ‘ed’, it is important to decide upon a pedagogical principle that’s grounded in the learning sciences.
In this project, the principle was grounded in insights from a review of the literature.
Reward and build a habit, with leaderboards
At a strategy layer, here is how the insights from research helped:
It was a moment of joy for all of us when we finally held in our hands the developed version of this app – it was beautiful! We spared no time in taking it to the users and seeing what they think.
And that's when we realized we weren't there yet. There were some things that the users liked – and quite a few things that we could tell they didn’t.
We observed an issue : When the kids were asked to choose interests, many preferred not to choose interests such as science. Upon probing further, we realized that they would be quite interested in the content under these topics.
Through these probes, we found out the cause : The kids find the names of these interest areas not very relate-able. We then brainstormed how we could resolve this.
We designed a solution that works : Showing them some sample content from the topics and asking them whether they find this boring or interesting.
With this cycle of observation > cause-finding > solution design, we’re on a journey of constant improvement to make sure that the product gets aligned to the user's needs over time.
Methods: Treemouse Research & Design https://treemouse.com/methods/