IGOR KALENNYY - Practice Star

Overview

Educating children in subjects like music has always been beneficial but requires hard work from all involved. Yet, motivating them to practice in the modern-day environment full of distractions presents an even bigger challenge.


Credits: CreativeCommons.   https://www.monitorexpresso.com/inteligencia-los-ninos-puede-aumentar-aprendiendo-tocar-instrumento/ http://www.casoviklavira.com/category/klavir/


Problem space and definition

  • How many parents struggle to maintain their child’s motivation to practice the instrument?
  • How many can easily ensure the quality of their child’s practice homework if they never played an instrument?
  • How many of them have time to take their child to every lesson or talk to the teacher about the progress?
  • How many teachers have exactly the same way to communicate the homework?
Credits: Creative Commons. https://blogs.gazetaonline.com.br/blogdomaestro/589/vamos-estudar-musica/

The answer to those is “not many”.  Could we help keep the children be just a little more motivated, help parents feel just a little better about understanding the homework and help the teachers make their directions read just a little clearer?

Quick peek links:

    What exists now    Re-designed concept    Concept's video    Concept in action

Concept's introduction

What

Practice Star is a suite of two similar apps (teacher & student) that aims to motivate a consistent and responsible music practice for children ages 8 to 13 who take private studio lessons.

Why

By empowering them to track their own progress, provide for an incentive to earn the reward “star” points and awards for their practice to further encourage keeping a focus on success, which is challenging to achieve and maintain with children of that age.

Additionally , it adds tools to facilitate and simplify instant feedback between the students, parents and the teachers with a simple and standardized way to record and view assignments, track and monitor a student’s progress and be notified and view the teacher’s assessment of the homework.

An on-going problem

Breakdowns in communications

A problem slowly compounds and can cause long term issues

Addressing the problem using the "reward system"

The concept tries to encourage consistent practice by injecting the "motivational feedback loop" based on the rewards received upon finishing of the homework.

Concept in action

Video

See a quick video presentation of the concept shown as two complimentary apps - for a teacher and for a student.


Figure 3. Concept's video

Interactive Prototypes

Use your input device to interact with these prototypes

Teacher Side prototype

Student Side prototype


Note: In case the prototypes do not load immediately (a known InVision issue), here are direct links:
Teacher side    Student side


iOS iPhone App

No , I did not just stop at the prototype phase :) . I am fully capable to implement the design, and develop a tangible, intuitive, functioning and aesthetically pleasing product, even if this is just a first iteration.

iPhone App

Please, check out the fully-functional teacher and student proof-of-concept demo apps

Swift code

Freely download this product's code from the GitHub's project page. Open in X-Code and run.

Users and Audience

My primary resources were the teachers I interviewed. My teenage son has been taking music lessons for many years. Helping him practice was my task as a parent. Myself and many in my extended family are music professionals. I have observed them teaching students for many years. Being a parent myself and having interacted with other parents, I understand the parents who don't read music.

Teacher

Student

Parent


Figure 3. Personas   (Click on the images to enlarge)

Roles and Responsibilities


This side project was initiated and entirely done by myself, including but not limited to:
Idea generation, research / interviews, design, prototyping, development (Swift / iOS app).


The goal for this and other side projects was to seek out design opportunities and do it all by myself to gain the necessary overall experience from having an idea all the way to the implementation and refinement.

Scope and Constraints

Scope

This project started as a required assignment for an introductory course into iOS Swift Development I took at Indiana University. Consequently, I decided not only to approach it from a development perspective but make it into a design project which will be implemented as an app. Launch Practice Star Suite iOS app

For the sake of the class' requirements, my short-term goal for the course was to create a minimal viable product which can function with basic features.

Constraints / Challenges

  • Strict Timeline: 9 weeks
  • No prior experience with iOS, Swift or Mobile Development

Attention:

While limited by strict timeframe and specific class' requirements, I have kept a focus on my long-term and final objective - give the product an initial evaluation but expand its scope and goal approach it from a broader perspective and use the design process to continue to validate the idea, refine and further test the concept to make it into a sustainable and useful product.

Process

Primary Research / Interviews

In some way, the problem area for this concept was deeply influenced by my own education and experience. I received a graduate music education and had taught music to children in the past.  Furthermore, in my primary research, I have heavily relied on knowledge and experience of my wife and her family - several generations of music educators.

Additionally, I looked at a few businesses, such as Stafford Music Academy - a typical music school for children, located right in Bloomington, Indiana. I have spoken to a few teachers who shared their process.


These are examples of homework logs a student fills at home while practicing.

A few quick observations of those practice logs:

  • Where is the record of teacher’s validation of that homework?
  • Which tasks were done successfully? Which ones need improvements? How does the parent assess these results?
  • A current system of homework notation is unclear, rigid and only works for simple cases
  • There is simply no room provided for specifics
  • An established reward system is used


And the current means for the rewards?  Old-fashioned and not very exciting for the modern kid...

Rewards for good practice at home

Stickers for a task well done

Photos are courtesy of Stafford Academy, Bloomington, IN


Main breakdowns and bottlenecks summary

  • A need for an efficient communication between parents and a teacher
  • Parents often don’t know how to help a child with their practice if the homework is not clearly defined
  • Teacher often forgets what they assign since they don’t retain that record
  • Students often forget the specifics since the system is vague

Research Insights and Product Goals

The research yielded important insights. However, it is very important to let our personas' "voices" be heard and understood to meet their needs.

Student

  • I don’t always like to practice. I need some fun rewards
  • At times, it is difficult for my parents to understand the homework
  • I want clear directions and see my progress. I don’t want to “just practice”
  • Recording and measuring of my practice progress can be fun, too!

Parent

  • I need to help with motivating my child to practice when I am home or maintain their routine when I am away
  • I am not a musician but I want an immediate, understandable and brief feedback about my child’s progress
  • I am very busy. But I want to feel in control of my child’s progress even if I don't see the teacher after the lesson
  • I want to know when my child is successful but also know instantly when any problems arise

Teacher

  • I am often busy and cannot spend much time after the lesson explaining the homework to the parents. I am used to writing in the journal but I understand it may be unclear to anyone not familiar with music
  • I often need to buy stickers or toys to reward students. Can’t I adopt a common system which also lets me keep track of the rewards?
  • Some parents want to keep informed of the progress but it is time-consuming to convey details to everyone. It would be so nice if something would let me do it quickly.

Creative Commons. https://www.pexels.com/photo/portrait-of-smiling-man-325682/

Therefore...

To arrive at a successful product, the resulting concept will have to embody at least the following insights and goals in mind:

Common format to suit all but allow for flexibility

Instant progress report
Clear and specific assignment details
Track the progress but see the problems early on

Empathize with the needs of parents

Provide a quick and easy way to enter a feedback
Clear and specific assignment details
Decrease the need for long explanations when possible

Understanding of a child’s mentality

Need to feel successful, rewarded and supported
Needs constructive but positive reinforcement


Important points to understand

It is not a grading system but a student success monitor and an early warning mechanism
It simply fosters early feedback to minimize the impact of the late-found issues
The reward values point and award values are determined by the teacher and the parents
It does not replace any established communication ways between the parties but adds a common format to promote and simplify that
It can co-exist with and is only complementary to the existing processes

Brainstorming and Sketching

These are a few examples outlining my initial thinking and the vision

"Big Picture" thoughts

Establishing the flow

Reward system

High-Fidelity Prototypes

Practice your homework


Validate the student's progress


View and keep the results and earn rewards

How the concept extends to other areas

Chores? Homework? Rewards to the rescue!

The concept can easily be applied between a parent, sitter and a child of ages 8 to 13 to encourage and keep track of child's home chores and homework.

Outcomes and Lessons

Future product's roadmap

In the next version. More ways to communicate effectively!


  • Teachers can attach multimedia to the task to help with concrete examples of practicing
  • Students can attach their practice shots or audio to help teachers see any practice success or help with mistakes

Pictures

Videos

  Audio

Strategy and Vision

See how the concept is envisioned to expand, emerge as a viable and sustainable product and turn into a larger system in a long term.

What I have learned

  • Interest in the value of the concept and the ultimate success of both the current and proposed communication depends on the teacher, student, parents, and their goals, needs and motivations

  • A well-designed concept can be extended to more than one area of usage beyond the initial focus of your product

  • The interest and adoption of your concept depends solely on the interests, needs and specifics of your target audiences. The products success won’t always depend on a large body of users. You can still make a huge impact if you limit your audience and address their specific needs