Macmillan SmARtSpace

SmARtSpace is an ecosystem composed of three different key parts (Pen, Table, and AI) that come together to enable a richer learning experience. By integrating these ideas into college classroom environments, the goal is to improve the flow of students working with more support for better learning, while allowing more control and awareness for the professor and to improve retention.

Time 5 days
Team Emily Fath | Ryan Griggs | Cecilia Gutknecht
Project Brief Macmillan

Problem Space

How do we think about and design for better learning in college classrooms 5 years down the road?

Target Group College Students
Stakeholders Professors, Assistant Instructors, University Staff

Research

We began by looking into the areas of student motivation, modern efforts to integrate technology into schools, emerging technologies, how to quantify learning, and existing products. We were able to synthesize our research into several key findings.

Motivation (intrinsic, extrinsic) critically impacts students’ performances throughout K-12.

Not all feedback is equal; the sooner and more personalized the better.

Memory retention is better when material is written by hand instead of typed.

Educational technology should be integrated with a clear purpose.

Educational technology should not simply mimic traditional tools (i.e. smartboards).

Professors should feel like they have the appropriate amount of control over the technology.

Proper execution is a must for educational technologies to be successful.

“The teachers who want to use [technology in classrooms] are confused about how to use it. The teachers who don’t want to use it don’t want to use it. The teachers who would use it don’t because most educational products and games don’t give them a lot of control over how hard it is for different students.”

- Former Teacher/Current Game Designer

Modern solutions such as smartboards and tablets have not been proven to increase learning in classroom settings. Often times these solutions are implemented without a clear purpose and are abandoned due to their perceived rigidity and complicated nature.

Our Problem Statement

How can we leverage up and coming technology that is transparent and flexible enough to increase ease of learning in college classrooms?

Key Goals

Based on our research and revised problem statement, we came up with three goals for our design.

Motivation

Provide students with personalized projects and assignments based on interests or other courses, to help increase intrinsic motivation and connect learning across a broader spectrum.

Feedback

Provide feedback quickly and as often as possible, to help students learn constructively and with less roadblocks. This can help with faster reflection and deeper learning.

Retention

Allow students to retain more knowledge through physical action, such as handwriting, without the hassle of balancing physical and digital documents.

System Map

Current System

Currently there are two main paths for assignment completion: analog (paper) and digital (online).

The digital side is based off of online homework systems we looked at. Students receive instant feedback about the correctness of their answers, they are not given context. Sometimes they can't submit the assignment until all of their answers are correct. While this may lead to better grades, it could also lead to guessing and therefore submitting the assignment without truly understanding how to complete the material.

Analog assignments are hand-graded. Unfortunately, this often leads to delayed feedback, preventing students from being able to incorporate feedback in a timely manner.

smARtSpace System Map

Motivation

Individuals or groups of students receive personalized assignments from the smARt mentor based on their interests, field of study, or other coursework.

Retention

Students work on the assignment using the smARt pen and smARt space. This allows them to hand-write their assignments and submit the finished assignment directly from smARt space without having to type their answers or scan a piece of paper.

Feedback

Students receive rolling feedback from the smARt mentor; the professor may also review the assignment as an electronic file which can play back the progression of the assignment. This allows the professor to notice work patterns and mistakes to provide more personalized feedback.

smARtSpace Ecosystem

Toni is a software engineering student at Purdue, early in the first semester of sophomore year. Nervous, she heads to her programming class.

The class is collaborative, and the smARt mentor (AI) gave them an assignment based on their collective interests. Toni’s group is already working at one of the smARt Tables when she gets there.

Toni is a software engineering student at Purdue, early in the first semester of sophomore year. Nervous, she heads to her programming class.

The class is collaborative, and the smARt mentor (AI) gave them an assignment based on their collective interests. Toni’s group is already working at one of the smARt Tables when she gets there.

Toni checks out one of the smARt pens that they use in the lab. She puts her memory chip in it and heads to the workstation her team is at.

They’ve already had their turn so they let her take the lead. The professor wants them to take turns writing out the code, and if they don’t switch often enough, the smARt mentor reminds them.

Toni checks out one of the smARt pens that they use in the lab. She puts her memory chip in it and heads to the workstation her team is at.

They’ve already had their turn so they let her take the lead. The professor wants them to take turns writing out the code, and if they don’t switch often enough, the smARt mentor reminds them.

The professor keeps tabs on the groups from the updates the smARt mentor sends to his control panel.

He wants to add a challenge and make the students analyze the code from a different perspective...

 The professor rotates the code around the workstations with a twist of his wrist. The students aren’t thrilled, but they look at the new code and jump back in, grumbling under their breath.

The professor keeps tabs on the groups from the updates the smARt mentor sends to his control panel.

He wants to add a challenge and make the students analyze the code from a different perspective, so the professor rotates the code around the workstations with a twist of his wrist. The students aren’t thrilled, but they look at the new code and jump back in, grumbling under their breath.

They’re working hard when Toni forgets a semicolon and no one notices. The code compiler throws up an error and they don’t know why. After several minutes of fruitless debugging, they raise their hands to let the smARt mentor know they need help.

The AI is activated by their raised hands and gives them helpful suggestions to nudge them in the right direction until they figure it out.

They’re working hard when Toni forgets a semicolon and no one notices. The code compiler throws up an error and they don’t know why. After several minutes of fruitless debugging, they raise their hands to let the smARt mentor know they need help.

The AI is activated by their raised hands and gives them helpful suggestions to nudge them in the right direction until they figure it out.

At the end of the session, they check to make sure their code runs smoothly by writing “Run Code” and circling it. The smARt mentor helps compile all of the written code and runs it, critiquing and commenting as it runs. The comments are stored as commented out notations in their final code when it saves.

After it’s done, Toni and her team all save the code that was written through the pen and then write out “Submit.” The workstation sends the final assignment to the professor’s station and he can see that they submitted. He can view their assignment as an electronic file, and even play back their progression to see how they completed the assignment.

At the end of the session, they check to make sure their code runs smoothly by writing “Run Code” and circling it. The smARt mentor helps compile all of the written code and runs it, critiquing and commenting as it runs. The comments are stored as commented out notations in their final code when it saves.

After it’s done, Toni and her team all save the code that was written through the pen and then write out “Submit.” The workstation sends the final assignment to the professor’s station and he can see that they submitted. He can view their assignment as an electronic file, and even play back their progression to see how they completed the assignment.

Toni goes to turn the pen in and takes out the memory storage she put in. She can take it home and go over the processed code on her normal computer later.

It’s odd sometimes, writing code out, but it helps her remember better....

....and it saves as a text file at the end so she doesn’t have to worry about not having notes or the code.

Toni pockets the memory device and zips up her bag, heading out to her next class.

Toni goes to turn the pen in and takes out the memory storage she put in. She can take it home and go over the processed code on her normal computer later.

It’s odd sometimes, writing code out, but it helps her remember better and it saves as a text file at the end so she doesn’t have to worry about not having notes or the code.

Toni pockets the memory device and zips up her bag, heading out to her next class.

smARt Workstation

The smARt workstation is a table with two different curved sides where people can write, design, create, and collaborate. Each table in the same space is able to be connected, so sharing, instructor involvement, and synchronization are easier and allow for a better flow of collaborative learning.

smARt Pens

The smARt pens help to record and store your progress, and feed into the AI so that it can see what you’re doing and help you with whatever you need. With removable storage, the pens make transitioning from the classroom to the home easier.

These pens help give you optimal control over your smARt workstation and personal development in the classroom.

smARt AI

The smARt ecosystem has a built-in AI that acts as a mentor and assistant instructor for students. Depending on the course’s needs, the AI can help with grading, critiques, feedback, and real-time assistance.

The goal is for the mentor to learn from students, associate instructors, and professors, becoming a composite of useful advice, experiences, and insights. With each class and group of students, it becomes more tailored for the course.

Supporting Student Learning

Professors and teaching assistants can see the progression of an assignment through the pen's memory and view student’s electronic files. This helps to better understand each student's thought processes and what mistakes were being made, to provide more specific feedback and constructive critique.

Instant and continuous feedback allows students to correct their mistakes and adjust their work as they go. This provides them with the ability to learn faster and reflect as they work so that the learning process is smoother with less gaps or breaks.

The physical action of writing affords total engagement and helps with content retention, but with these tools allows for full assignments to be recorded and submitted without the intermediate steps of typing up the assignment.

5 Year Release Plan

Year 1 smARt Pen and Tablet

Submit written assignments directly from an electronic tablet using the smARt Pen, to allow students to familiarize themselves with the process.

Year 3 AI Mentor [3]

Instant and continuous feedback allows students to correct their mistakes and adjust their work as they go. This provides them with the ability to learn faster and reflect as they work so that the learning process is smoother with less gaps or breaks.

Year 5 Full smARt Space Implementation

The physical action of writing affords total engagement and helps with content retention, but with these tools allows for full assignments to be recorded and submitted without the intermediate steps of typing up the assignment [5].

Year 1 smARt Pen and Tablet

Submit written assignments directly from an electronic tablet using the smARt Pen, to allow students to familiarize themselves with the process.

Year 3 AI Mentor

Instant and continuous feedback allows students to correct their mistakes and adjust their work as they go. This provides them with the ability to learn faster and reflect as they work so that the learning process is smoother with less gaps or breaks.

Year 5 Full smARt Space Implementation

The physical action of writing affords total engagement and helps with content retention, but with these tools allows for full assignments to be recorded and submitted without the intermediate steps of typing up the assignment.

Reflection

Methods

We used this as a chance to try different methods. We interviewed a professor of education and a former high school teacher (now a game designer), but used affinity diagramming to help synthesize data collected and crazy 8 sketching for rapid iteration of design exploration. I think designers tend to get too comfortable with the methods we're familiar with, so it was a change, but a good one, trying new methods that my teammates brought to the table.

Passion for Design, and Communication

One of the reasons this was one of my favorite projects this semester was because of how much effort and energy I was able to put into it. For a lot of the semester, I was trying to teach myself to step back and reel in my intensity; I thought that it came across as overpowering and negatively affected the design space. This project was inspiring, and I could easily see how we could represent and visualize the designs. At one point, I tentatively brought up and pitched the ideas to my team, and they surprised me by being supportive and excited in turn. I was expecting pushback, and the inevitable, "We don't have time for that!" 

But my teammates listened to my proposal, I explained how we could accomplish and have the different parts for the deliverable on time, and they were on board. Apparently, it came down to communication and trust; we were pacing ourselves well and started off the project by discussing all of our strengths and weaknesses. So instead of balking at the design proposal I pitched, they knew what scope I could work with and trusted me to help give life to our ideas. This was one of the most freeing opportunities, and I pushed myself to create the storyboards and design visuals in a night because a) if I wanted to go the extra mile, I accepted that it was my responsibility to reach those goals, and b) my teammates support combined with the inspiration from our brainstorming and sketches fueled me and kept me driven.

What I learned was that I am who I am, and trying to stifle my energy doesn't help the design process. I also learned how important it is to be honest with your team and communicate well, because it helps instill trust and allows for everyone to feel enabled to push themselves and use their skills to the fullest. We all worked our hardest because we felt inspired and driven, not just by the project itself but by each other, and it was one of the best design experiences I have ever had.

Working Hard, and Working Fast

One of the reasons we were able to push ourselves and complete our project to the level at which we did was the fact that we didn't hesitate when we jumped in. I specifically remember the three of us checking in for our first meeting, and we were all sick or tired from external circumstances. We basically stated, "Here's where I'm at, this is what I'm dealing with, but I'm here and I'm 100% in." That gave us a platform to understand where each of us was coming from, and leave room for us to be human in the design space. From there, we came up with a research plan, schedule, goals, and design directions to explore.

Withing 24 hours, we realized (after an interview with the project team that gave us the brief) that there were constraints we hadn't addressed or realized were there. We met up immediately after class and were able to narrow down our design space and then generate a new list of feasible directions from there. But we didn't hesitate with research or brainstorming, we just took the shift in the design space and kept running with it.
Because we went in with open communication and established room for each other as designers and humans, we were able to connect as a team (really, really well) and that gave us the tools to shift with each new constraint or issue that came up. We were able to keep our pace as we continued to move forward, and we weren't shaken or stopped when we came across a problem.

This was one of the most seamless and amazing design scenarios I've ever been in, and I chalk it up to honesty, solid communication, and the mutual support that was built upon those points.