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What would you do in a K-12 Parent Portal?

June 1st, 2008 · 19 Comments

Are you ready to participate in something different online? Normally this work would be done in a face to face session with very structured facilitation. In the IT world, we call it “gathering user requirements”. In this case it’s about understanding how parents, staff and trustees will want to use a K-12 Parent Portal.

One way to define requirements is to create a composite description or persona of the stakeholders from the output of that structured workshop. I’m a big believer in story telling, so that method resonated for me. I’d create a persona and story to represent the users of the Parent Portal. But I can’t do it alone. I need your help. I need you to participate in this online asynchronous workshop. I dont’ know that this has been done before in this way. I hope you find this as intriguing as I do!

This approach is grounded in theory and standards. ISO 18529 and the work of Timo Jokela underpin this approach to user-centred design. I’ve also looked to Maguire for the strategies to employ. I’ve devised a composite methodology that honours the voice of the users through story-telling. I’m planning narratives, descriptions and storyboards as part of the work. The Portal design will incorporate these voices.

What we will create is a composite persona to represent each of the major stakeholder groups. Of course the groups are not homogenous, but I’m looking for the common, significant characteristics. Having said that I am giong to create at least two parent personas, as I believe there is significant diversity within that group.

So here they are – Donna, Jon, Karl, Sally, George and Genevieve.
I’m introducing them all today, but I plan to have individual posts for each of them. I welcome your comments today on the approach and the personas, and will actively solicit your participation when I introduce them in depth in future posts.

Thanks!

Parent – Sally Barrett
Sally has three children aged four, eight and eleven. Her eldest child is in grade 6. Sally works four days a week as a chartered accountant. (click here for post about Sally)

Parent – George Wangari
George has two children aged ten and twelve. The family has lived in Canada for two years. The children speak English now; George’s English is limited. (click here for a post about George)

Parent – Alicia Delmorales
Alicia has two children aged fifteen and seventeen. The children are very active in extra-curricular activities. (click here for a post about Alicia)

Teacher – Jon Oyen
Jon teaches middle school. He has been teaching for ten years, primarily in grades three to eight. He is the science specialist in his school. (click here for a post about Jon)

Principal – Genevieve Larousse
Genevieve is an elementary school principal. She taught social studies in grade nine in her last teaching position. (click here for a post about Genevieve)

District Staff – Karl Fitsch
Karl works in the finance department. He is responsible for fee collection. (click here for a post about Karl)

Trustee – Donna Burke
Donna is serving her second term as a trustee. Her three children are graduates of the school system. click here for a post about Donna

Tags: Uncategorized

19 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Tom Whyte // Jun 1, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    Sounds great, what do you need?

    [Reply]

  • 2 Mindelei // Jun 1, 2008 at 9:58 pm

    This sounds really interesting. How can I be of assistance?

    [Reply]

  • 3 rdrunner // Jun 2, 2008 at 4:24 am

    Thanks everyone. I’ll be calling on you when we look at the individual groups.

    [Reply]

  • 4 Penny Lindballe // Jun 2, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    Hey Cindy — call on me as a parent when you are ready!!

    Penny

    Penny Lindballes last blog post..A fellow traveller’s guide….

    [Reply]

  • 5 Brian Kuhn // Jun 5, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    Hi Cindy – I’m somewhat familiar with this approach having done a user interface design course some years ago… happy to help!

    Brian

    [Reply]

  • 6 K-12 Parent Portal: The Parent Voice // Jul 16, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    [...] trying to build a composite persona for each of the stakeholders in a K-12 Parent Portal (see What would you do in a K-12 Parent Portal? for background information on this initiative and links to each of the matching posts as they are [...]

  • 7 K-12 Parent Portal: The Teacher Voice // Jul 21, 2008 at 10:36 am

    [...] trying to build a composite persona for each of the stakeholders in a K-12 Parent Portal (see What would you do in a K-12 Parent Portal? for background information on this initiative and links to each of the matching posts as they are [...]

  • 8 K-12 Parent Portal: The Trustee Voice // Jul 22, 2008 at 8:44 pm

    [...] trying to build a composite persona for each of the stakeholders in a K-12 Parent Portal (see What would you do in a K-12 Parent Portal? for background information on this initiative and links to each of the matching posts as they are [...]

  • 9 Parent Portal: The District Staff Voice // Jul 27, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    [...] now I hope you have had a chance to follow the postings about a K-12 Parent Portal. In that post you will find the background and links to each of the stakeholder posts. I’m [...]

  • 10 Frank Krasicki // Jul 27, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    Cindy,

    You’re taking an interesting approach to this but not one that I think will be particularly productive because you’re attempting to identify and satisfy archetypal personalities that don’t exist in the real world as the mean of people who might use such a portal.

    Our high school recently redesigned the web site and I offered a prototype based on Web 2.0 technologies that I thought would revolutionize the school site experience.

    My prototype is here, though dated:

    http://home.earthlink.net/~fkrasicki/eosmith/EOSHome.html

    The idea is simply to create sandbox portals for all of the important school categories (Lou is the principal, admins, parents and so on). And each is responsible for the blog entries that feed the portal. This prototype used either stubbed blogs or existing sites that were great examples.

    The school did a slight variation on the theme:

    http://eosmith.org

    In your case I think you want to distinguish elementary, middle and high school parents as distinct interest groups and assign them each a blog that parents can be enabled as authors on. Now doing something like this will result in far more diverse entries than the people you’re attempting to satisfy and that might be challenging.

    And maybe include a portal of critical information posts that all parents can contribute to (e.g. poison warnings, hazards, and so on).

    Frank Krasickis last blog post..Academic Referencing of Material

    [Reply]

  • 11 rdrunner // Jul 28, 2008 at 5:45 am

    Thanks Frank. I like your idea of distinguishing between elementary, middle and high school parents needs. The research supports a changing role for parents as children move through grade levels.

    This approach of creating personas to help identify requirements is tricky as you have suggested. The challenge is to create composites that allow a collection of stories to be told. These storyboards can then be used with focus groups to choose what to include in the website.

    I should also clarify that I am using the term “portal” to refer to a complete website – a collection of the various portals you have referenced (great ideas all). And that a parent portal would co-exist and be linked with portals focused for staff, students, and the general public.

    Your samples are very helpful. When you built the prototype, did you have a list of needs in mind? Do you know how the school decided what to keep in the final product?

    [Reply]

  • 12 K-12 Parent Portal: The High School Parent Voice // Jul 29, 2008 at 6:15 am

    [...] to Frank Krasicki’s comment I have added an additional parent voice to describe what parents would look for in a K-12 Parent [...]

  • 13 Frank Krasicki // Jul 30, 2008 at 8:49 am

    rdrunner:This approach of creating personas to help identify requirements is tricky as you have suggested. The challenge is to create composites that allow a collection of stories to be told. These storyboards can then be used with focus groups to choose what to include in the website.

    krasicki: The hardest thing for developers to understand is the idea that you have to lead not follow these days.

    Assuming everything goes right, your focus groups will describe what they see in the rear-view mirror. One of the most frustrating and unconstructive things that prevents progress from happening is the meme that our school can’t do anything until we finds out what everyone else is doing.

    Today and forever more, technology is advancing faster than society can keep up. Parents may be the most technologically deprived population group because their kids eat every spare dime. Generally speaking they cannot provide the feedback you are looking for.

    You development has to be driven by what is on a reachable horizon just to keep up.

    rdrunner: Your samples are very helpful. When you built the prototype, did you have a list of needs in mind? Do you know how the school decided what to keep in the final product?

    krasicki: Board members received complaints that parents were not getting the timely info they needed. The prototype is approximately two years old and the new website one school year old as of September.

    The old site was a static site with lots of links that were largely stale data aside from staff phone numbers. Lots of schools are still there at Web 1.0 – “Welcome to our site, go fish for whatever you need.” Let’s call this a pull-model, the person entering the site pulls information by finding it.

    The radical difference in the new model, technology aside, is that the administration and staff are pushing info out every day. The daily schedule is in your face on the front page updated. The critical notices are in your face updated asap.

    And if you dig just below the surface, you’ll find some traditional obligatory stuff but also teacher portals, class portals and so on.

    The list of needs was culled from Board recommendations such as my prototype, administration, parents, and teachers.

    However, at the end of the day, what was produced was a wonderful facelift of the school website that is, IMO, very, very good but…

    Our teachers and students are not yet blogging.

    No twitter feed of what’s casually happening in the school.

    Our yearbooks have not yet become digital lifebooks.

    Our students need to use netbooks in class and use collaborative webware to create assigned work with.

    Schools still get suckered into bad web software products like the clumsy and embarassingly bad eBoard crapware that somebody loves spending money on and no one seems capable of pulling the plug on.

    The scheduling software is garbage as well but is more crapware that no one can get rid of because the school invested in some silly stuff years ago that a few luddites in the system refuse to let go of.

    So, as I say, at the end of the day what you wind up with, even with the best of intentions and bright people who can do far more, is a Frankenstein mash-up of old, new, advanced, and sometimes glaringly and embarassingly dumb.

    I think a key thing for school sites is the perception their websites present. Schools are generally becoming self-obsolete by not keeping up with the look and feel of the digital revolution. So when the look of you school site has chalkboards – CHALKBOARDS! as a meme we’re embarrassing the school.

    Kids are sophisticated and the parents aren’t dumb but school site designers can’t depend on either to keep pace with the kind of future shock we’re in.

    The fact that you’re asking good questions in a forum is going to help a lot of people understand the critical necessity of creating a flexible web framework of portals that can be upgraded over time to extend and enhance the initial investment.

    My recommendation was and remains adopting Google’s school webware suite as a baseline technology [Too late for us but...]. Links can be found on my blog.

    Frank Krasickis last blog post..Punishing Students for Comparison Loan Shopping

    [Reply]

  • 14 Matt // Aug 1, 2008 at 10:24 am

    The comment about “sandbox portals” is interesting and an approach I really like. The problem is what happens when you’re activities cross 10 of these portals. You spend could spend half of your day just clicking around.

    I’m a co-founder of Convos (http://www.convos.com). We’ve built a tool that allows people to setup and interact with simple groups online and through email. We took the approach of having an experience more like desktop software (for productivity across multiple groups) and not like a traditional website.

    There have been a number of people using groups for classes, PTA, room parents, team parents, recreational sports teams, families.

    We didn’t focus too much on letting personas drive development and instead let real people actually use the tool to build the personas for us.

    [Reply]

  • 15 Frank Krasicki // Aug 1, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    @Matt –

    I’m not sure what you mean by activities that “cross ten portals”. The scope of blog entries can be as wide or constrained that any group might like.

    That said, you site which is essentially a social networking site for small groups looks very interesting for special interest groups within any organization.

    I’m going to test drive it soon but I like what I’m seeing.

    I have to warn you though that your description as a desktop app reminded me of Microsoft’s blunder called Microsoft Bob that attempted to map a physical office to applications. It was a bad idea then and it remains a bad idea now. Thankfully, your app dodges that GUI bullet.

    Frank Krasickis last blog post..Horse Penis Virus

    [Reply]

  • 16 K-12 Parent Portal: The Middle School Parent Voice // Aug 3, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    [...] What would you do in a K-12 Parent Portal? begins a series of posts that are attempting to describe the proposed content of an interactive web site through the eyes of each of the stakeholders. I want to use their stories to gain an understanding rather than the traditional description of functionality. There are several characters in the collective stories. This post is about a fictional middle-school parent George Wangari. [...]

  • 17 K-12 Parent Portal - Summary // Aug 3, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    [...] The initial posts for each of the players in the story of developing a K-12 Parent Portal are complete. The introductory post is here. [...]

  • 18 Parents as Partners Upcoming Fall Shows — Parents as Partners // Aug 21, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    [...] for the Calgary School Board. Cindy is currently designing a parent portal. Please go to her blog and Wiki and give your thoughts on setting up the [...]

  • 19 Parents as Partners Episode # 11 September 15, 2008 — Parents as Partners // Sep 15, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    [...] for the Calgary School Board. Cindy is currently designing a parent portal. Please go to her blog and Wiki and give your thoughts on setting up the [...]

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