FreshEd Annotator

The Fresh Ed Annotator is a musical annotation tool designed to accompany the Fresh Ed curriculum; a course for New York City School students who require extra support in order to pass their Regents exams to graduate. The Fresh Ed curriculum is used by teaching artists who are trained on how to use music to address the lack of student engagement and motivation in core competency areas such as English and History. Inline with the the curriculum's pedagogy, the Fresh Ed annotator takes a culturally responsive approach to engaging students by providing them a way to create animated annotations and record their own vocals to Fresh Ed songs written and recorded in a style that they can relate to.

PROJECT overview

The challenge for this project was to discover why Fresh Ed teachers were not using the annotator to support their lesson plans and to develop creative solutions that could help drive adoption.

Time: 4 Weeks

Team: This project was a collaboration between the NYU MusEd Lab and the Urban Arts Partnership. My role was to lead user research and design of a user-centered adoption strategy. 


User research, documentation, and working with design and development team to turn user research insights into creative solutions. 


Group User Session 

I joined the project upon the completion of the MVP. To ensure that user feedback was informing the development of the project all the way to adoption, I utilized the initial product demo at the teacher's professional development day to learn more about how the users saw themselves using the tool and any obstructions to implementation.

To get the teachers using and playing with the tool, I led a session in which the teachers made their own annotations and then shared creative strategies for how they would implement the tool in the classroom. This approach revealed the following insights: 

  1. 50% of the teachers were not comfortable enough with their technology skills to lead a classroom activity that centered around a media based web application. 
  2. 90% of the teachers reported an unreliable tech situation at their schools including a lack of internet and potentially only one working computer per class. 
  3. Teachers who were successfully using technology were only able to do so if they brought technology provided by the Urban Arts Partnership to the school. This meant that they would only bring lighter technologies like iPads which they could easily carry on public transportation. 
  4. Teachers were reluctant to incorporate technology into their lessons because it often required more work and resulted in unmeasureable outcomes. 

User Surveys

24 user surveys that were distributed and collected during the professional development session confirmed that although most of the teachers liked the idea of the product, that the technological obstructions that they experienced in their schools would likely dissuade them from using it altogether. Several users made the request that we make the product available offline or as an independent iPad application. 

Teacher Interviews

From the user surveys I was able to identify two teachers who were mostly likely to implement the product into their classroom. Through a series of in-depth interviews we discovered that in addition to the technical challenges presented, that they were unclear about how they would integrate the application in a meaningful way into their pre-existing curriculum. Additionally, they had little time to think about it and would welcome any additional materials that made lesson planning and implementation easier. 

design recommendations

Based on the information collected through user research I was able to work with both Urban Arts Partnership and the MusEd Lab to come up with a few design recommendations to address the problems identified. Below are some of the ideas that I proposed that are currently under development. 

Problem: Teachers aren't sure how to connect the tool to the curriculum that they are required to teach. 

Recommendation: Create an accompanying lesson plan guide that explicitly states which Common Core and state Regents exam requirements it is fulfilling.

Problem: Most schools have unreliable internet connections and stringent firewall policies which prevent teachers from being able to use web apps. 

Recommendation: The long term recommendation is to develop the application as a stand alone iPad App. In the interim, the I worked with the team to come up with a $25 Raspberry Pi computer or "MusEd Box," containing the Fresh Ed Annotator and other educational software developed by the MusEd Lab. The MusEd Box can wirelessly transmit the programs it hosts to up to 25 computers locally. 

Problem: Teachers perceive technology as requiring too much effort with little outcome. 

Recommendation: Continue ongoing on-site user research with participating teachers to fully understand the barriers to adoption.