Designing Software Tools for Students

While there is high interest in integrating technology in today's classrooms, many of the technologies used in schools are not always an appropriate fit for the kinds of learning activities students should engage. Many times, the technologies used in schools are either business-oriented tools that are not geared toward learning, or glorified flash cards and online books, using colorful graphics and multimedia to deliver the same rote and static content of print media. At hi-ce, we develop learner-centered software developed specifically for students, suing the power of computers to help learners actively solve problems and build conceptual understanding.

We develop software that integrates with our different curriculum efforts, which revolve primarily around different science inquiry activities, although we have also have also developed software tools for our history units. Given that our software supports different curricular activities, our software development follows a "learner-centered design" approach:

  • Understanding the classroom context, the student audience, and the learning activities and goals for students
  • Articulating the difficulties and obstacles those students may have in doing the specified learning activities
  • Designing software that supports (or scaffolds) learners with designs informed by research in education, psychology, and computer science so students can mindfully engage in the learning activities

Our learner-centered approach not only results in new software, but it gives us a platform to engage in research about the development of effective learning technologies.