Start With Teachers
Why this project? Why is this important for the world?
This project is about making a difference in education, our passion for the topic brought about a solution we believe can change the lives of teachers everywhere. After conducting research we found the root of the problem is that teachers are the core of the education system and are not supported the way they should by being undervalued, underfunded, and underpaid. Our solution, the Start with Teachers application is a way to connect communities and allow them to support teachers and their children. Our mission is to help all teachers in order to lessen the burden of stress they have.
Working with a team of three, the task was to make a social impact to improve the education system using UX design and principles. Our solution resulted from ideation and concept development to high fidelity clickable prototype. We designed a mobile application created from scratch to support teachers, by donating school supplies to classrooms in need.
The enormous scope of the problem made us understand that we had to find a way to make a difference to the teachers at the most basic level. We came up with the idea to create an application similar to a wedding registry, where teachers can add materials on a wish list by taking a picture of the barcode or finding it online and allowing donors to connect to the ] application and donate supplies to specific teachers or classrooms of their choice.
In order to dive deep into their project we conducted extensive research, using the U.S. Census Data and Statistics on the education systems here and around the world, watched documentaries on education, in depth interviews with teachers, as well as surveying additional educators and parents.
We decided to conduct interviews by reaching out to local teachers in Los Angeles before creating a survey. We reached out to interview a local second grade school teacher first, she was extremely helpful and informative and shared with us critical information:
“I spent over $4,000 last school year putting together a leveled library for my students. If I hadn’t spent that money (out of pocket), my students would have suffered. I absolutely considered not spending that money, due to my salary, but did not want my salary to effect my teaching methods. I did what was best for my students, rather than what was best for myself.”
— Brandy Ackerson, 2nd grade teacher
Why does this matter?
Classroom materials are vital to learning, especially for the elementary level. Imagine trying to learn how to read without the right books, or ones that are falling apart. Another thing that Ms. Ackerson stated was that her students’ reading level ranged from kindergarten to 5th grade. The state disregards the fact each individual student has their own way of learning or may be on a different reading, writing math, and science level than the rest of the class. Regardless, each teacher must adjust the way she teaches, in order to assist the students with the help they need in order to fulfill state standardized testing. In order to fulfill the testing standards teachers commonly fund learning materials from their own pockets.
FACT: The average teacher pays anywhere from: $500 — $4,000 on school supplies every year.
The biggest take aways from the interviews made us realize that beyond the strict curriculum the teachers were suffering from exhaustion, financial stress, and pressure from the principal and government for better tests scores.
We uncovered that these teachers felt that they were constantly stressed about their income 70% of the time, in correlation to over half of respondents to have a negative impact on their teaching.
Competitive Comparative Advantage
How Are They Doing Things Around the World?
After comparing the leading countries in Education the United States falls short on giving teachers the respect and support they need to do their job well. According to documentary American Teacher some of the brightest minds in Finland pursue a career in teaching due to the prestige and competitive compensation.
“Perhaps if beginning teachers were paid higher salaries at the outset of their careers, that are competitive with today’s cost of living, more young, talented, and dedicated people would join the profession.”
— Marianne Pierce, 3rd grade teacher
Further analyzing we realized that the source of the problem roots to the fact that teachers are underfunded, underpaid & undervalued.
FACT: National Statistics indicated that 92% of teachers pay out-of-pocket for school supplies
Underfunded: Due to standardized testing certain schools are given more money by the government preventing schools from paying for more of the resources they need (school supplies, desks, books etc,).
Underpaid: There is a 50% turnover rate of American teachers after 5 years in the field to find more lucrative positions.
Undervalued: Teachers lose motivation and become stressed, negatively affecting the ways that they teach.
My salary means I have to tutor 6 days a week, I am EXHAUSTED and still in school debt that I will likely NEVER pay off. Let alone buy a house. I have never worked so hard for so little and feel trapped and belittled. The exhaustion from working 12 hours a day (between school, emailing parents-who contact until 10pm+, working after school on lessons, material prep and ALSO tutoring) means I am never my best self. It makes me feel like a failure and that whatever I do is not enough. 9–5 secretaries with no advanced degree make more and JUST work 9–5.
— Alison Michaels, 4th grade teacher
Ideating the values behind the cause
It took several days but then it was like a light turn on in my head after talking to several people about it over the weekend. I thought why not create a registry (like a wedding registry) but for school materials? After researching that donating money to the school directly can get lost in the system we decided that we needed to avoid any misplacement. By giving the teacher the chance to tell her community what she needs in order to give her students the best education.
- Ease of the financial stress of teachers
- Create community and outside support
- Create an easy process for teacher to use and people to donate
Meet Anthony P. 34 years old • Programmer • Married • Father of Two • Los Angeles, CA •
Background & Scenario: Anthony has two children in elementary school. He works many hours as a developer, but wants to be more involved as a parent since he cares a lot about his children. He is generous and tech savvy. He values education and would like to donate directly to his children’s teachers rather than to a school fund.
Pain Points: Wants to be more involved with his children's school but does not have time.
Devices: iPad / iPhone / Desktop
Meet Teacher Tasha • 38 years old • 3rd Grade Teacher • Single • Los Angeles, CA •
Background & Scenario: Young, energized and ambitious. Loves teaching elementary, wants to make an impact on her students. Comes from three generations of teaching. She has trouble paying off debt from her masters degree and is financially stressed. After checking classroom supplies she realizes she’s running low on arts and craft materials. Weighing out her options she remembers someone told her about a new app that helps donate classroom supplies to teachers in need and decides to try it out.
Pain Points: Does not get support from principal, struggles financially with salary, struggling to pay off school loans, limited teaching methods due to lack of materials, unable to expand classroom creativity because or curriculum
Sketches and User Flow
We sought out platforms that already had a registry option like Target, Amazon, and Zola. Seeking out the best practices, easy sign ups and user flow we were able to combine and create the 'Start with Teachers' application sketches. We decided to go with a mobile experience since the survey revealed that the majority of our users have cellphones compared to other devices. We quickly got to the white board and starting ideating functionality.
By using Balsamiq we were able to create a clickable prototype for user testing. We created two user flows for teachers to add materials on to their wish list and project fund. We all also added a donor flow to find teachers to donate to. On our first set of user testing we ran into several problems with nomenclature, unclear directions and explanations of features. This was the original teacher flow below:
We decided initially to make two flows for teachers to find materials in store or online to add their wish list or their project fund. For the donors we only created one flow to find specific teachers or find classrooms in certain places they would like to donate to. It was important for us to flush out the MVP rather than get caught up with scope creep by adding too many features.
Teacher flow Iterations:
- We had several remarks regarding the sign up, making sure that the indicators (name, address, school, etc) would not disappear as you typed it in so that users always know where they were.
- The registry and code page on our first user flow was unclear but through testing we were able to simplify it.
- We eliminated the ‘project fund’ options on the main page in order to focus on ‘add anything and barcode’ we did not want to add more features and scope creep making the final product unclear with too many features, making it more difficult to use.
- Process of elimination helped bring harmony and ease to the user flow (like moving the add button from the corner).
Donor Flow Iterations:
- Adding details on the donor flow, like the option to buy multiple items
- Added on boarding to introduce the app and facts to encourage donations
- Added a code to find a specific teacher, rather than search
- Edited the teacher and school search to allow people to donate to school, or teacher they want
We intend to create the Start With Teachers Foundation and bring awareness to their importance in the education system.
This project had a major effect on me and my teammates. Education is at the root of our country and we believe that the other way to grow healthy is by supporting the people who teach children. The next plans to update the application are to:
- Implement a social media campaign with several steps to bring awareness to this issue
- Create a website for the campaign
- Add Group Gifting and to assist donators who cannot afford to buy an entire gift
- Add Project Fund to give teachers the ability to pay for field trips, bigger art projects, and more to enhance her classroom’s education
- More Testing, for both teachers and donors
- Build out each user flow with more depth