STEPS is an online resource and community for educators. With lesson plan databases, member profiles, and a series of expandable integrated applications and devices. STEPS brings networking to K-12 education and allows innovative ideas to be shared beyond the classroom.
Presented at Microsoft Design Expo 2010,
Art Center College of Design Gallery 2010








Teacher Sharing Website

teachers can share knowledge and lesson plans among each other.

teachers can review students’ works.

teachers can update their daily schedule and synchronize with their tablets.


Bookshelf

various learning applications can be downloaded for use in the classroom.

teachers can build their reputation and earn money by creating new applications.

schools will be rewarded when the applications are downloaded.






Tablets for Teachers

teachers can update their lesson plans and schedules on the fly.

teachers can monitor the students’ progress in real time.

teachers can communicate with parents quickly and easily.


Tablets for Students

students can easily read, write, draw and paint digitally on the tablet
during class.

students can learn social skills from interacting with other students in
group activities such as puzzles.


Project Overview

In the beginning of 2010, Microsoft Research came to our interaction class at Art Center College of Design and proposed a design challenge—"service meets social". Our inspiration drew from our own state of California, whose system of public educational has been the victim of budget cuts, which has caused a divestment in it’s workforce, students being packed into classrooms, and outdated educational standards remaining a part of the curriculum. In light of these problems our group decided to create a product for an industry that desperately needs innovative solutions. Watching our family, friends, and community being negatively affected by the fiscal divestment from the educational system, we were motivated and inspired to develop an innovative solution to help provide aid to California’s professional education workforce.

We approached our project with the following questions: How do we update and integrate relevant technology into the classroom? How do we allow teachers to feel comfortable to share their ideas? Most importantly; How do we allow students to get the most out of their education

The solution that we came up with was STEPS. STEPS is an online resource and community for educators with lesson-plan databases, member profiles, and a series of expandable integrated applications and devices. STEPS brings networking to K-12 education and allows innovative ideas to be shared beyond the classroom.
Context

We had fourteen weeks to research, conceptualize, and propose a project idea that addressed the “Service meets social” design challenge that was issued by Microsoft. We decided to meld these these two concepts by creating a innovative solution that provided a service to the public sector. After some discussion on what subset of the public sector that we wanted to service, we decided upon K-12 education.

During the beginning of our project, the iPad was announced, which presented an opportunity to imagine how a tablet computer can exist in the classroom environment. One of the challenges we faced was how to reconcile the use of a tablet in the classroom with the use of traditional instructional tools. Within the allotted timeframe, we decided to focus on the youngest group of students our project allowed—5-year-olds—and conducted a use-case study on how kindergarteners orient and utilize tablets.

We also interviewed teachers and found that teachers weren’t sharing their ideas and lesson plans with other teachers. This finding compelled us to also develop a solution that would allow educators to easily share and collaborate on lesson plans.

By the end of the 14 weeks we were allotted to develop our project, our group was selected out of the 5 groups participating in the design challenge and was selected to present STEPS at the 2010 Microsoft Research Design Expo in Redmond Washington.


Impact

Steps is a project that aims to impact education—improve the classroom environment, help teachers become more comfortable with the system they work for as well as encourage young talented and passioned individuals to become teachers.

A component of STEPS, is an app store called Bookshelf. Bookshelf is the place for teachers to either buy or download apps which they can collect and organize into their lesson plan. Those who create and contribute to the development of the apps could either be the school district, school, teachers, as well as third-party developers. Bookshelf provides a space that can help generate revenue for the Steps system. Creating a successful app or lesson plan can also be an incentive for teachers because the more that their created app/lesson plan is downloaded, the more obvious the success is of their creation. With that, teachers who contribute back into the system can be rewarded through recognition.
Craft

STEPS has tablet app prototypes that were developed on the iPad and HP Touchsmart. The HP Touchsmart was used for the teacher’s tablet and the iPad app was for the students.

The tablets are used to demonstrate the classroom’s usage of tablets; however, teachers control the content of their tablets through the teacher’s social network: www.stepsforteachers.com. This website allows teachers to come either in the beginning or end of the day to review their lesson plans and then sync it to their tablets. Teachers can review and comment on their lesson plans as well as check up on other teacher’s lesson plans.

We imagined that the tablets would be made specifically for classroom use. To this end, students would have restrictions placed on their tablets and would not be allowed to stray away from lesson plans, however while teachers were prepping for the next lesson, students would be able to play a number of constructive educational-games.

Though, it is easy to hope that steps would have all teachers to share their ideas, the reality is Steps can only provide the interactive tools and encouragement for 21st century teacher to use 21st century social interaction.