Community-Driven Development: LabXchange Teacher Workshops

Ilyana Sawka/ August 31, 2019

For students and teachers alike, summer vacation flies by! But for us, it’s a perfect time to convene educators and harness their expertise. This summer, LabXchange hosted two teacher workshops for design evaluation and user testing. Educators are a critical group of end users for LabXchange – and their feedback is vital in helping us build, shape, and refine the platform.

A group of participants in the August 2019 LabXchange Teacher Workshop pose for a photograph on the Harvard campus.

August 2019 Teacher Workshop participants exploring the Harvard campus.

Sixteen educators from across Massachusetts joined us at Harvard for two week-long workshops. They were able to test early prototypes of the platform, which allowed participants to assess its effectiveness for more efficient and engaged instruction. They also recommended support and tutorial materials that educators would need to make use of the platform. Thanks to this feedback, we are working to design a series of how-to pathways for using LabXchange.

Speaking of pathways, the teachers who joined us for the workshop practiced creating their own pathways that would complement the curricula that they use in their classes. A standout group project was, “Should I buy a personal genetics testing kit?” This exercise also sparked wide-ranging discussions on bringing common classroom activities online. For example, how can LabXchange represent wet lab activities online? And how can users best support online conversations about challenging topics?

August 2019 LabXchange Teacher Workshop participants sit at a conference table with laptops and workshop materials.

August 2019 LabXchange Teacher Workshop participants Lindsey L’Ecuyer, David Mangus, and Scott Atkinson (l-r) discuss content differentiation.

Participants also contributed their expertise about differentiation: how to design learning content for different audiences. In a hands-on exercise, they helped write new scripts for LabXchange’s scrollable interactives that will help make them accessible to a wider variety of learners.

Science education experts from the local community also made appearances at the workshop, including our own faculty director Robert Lue, BioBuilder’s Natalie Kuldell, and Robin Bowman and Nadine Vincenten from the Personal Genetics Education Project. These guest speakers presented the content they are contributing to LabXchange. Workshop participants then strategized about ways to use and remix it into pathways.

In these action-packed workshops, teachers raised key questions, concerns, and ideas. As we make final iterations in advance of our upcoming launch, we’ll remain mindful of their suggestions. We’ll need to be thoughtful about leveling and support for a wide variety of learners. We’ll also have top-quality pathways lined up from the get-go. These will allow teachers to quickly grasp how they can maximize their use of the platform. And we’ll offer robust support documentation to help educators troubleshoot any issues that arise, technical or otherwise.

During the August 2019 Teacher Workshop, participants submitted words relevant to LabXchange for a word cloud. The word cloud includes words like platform, learning, online, students, and interactive.

A word cloud generated by participants in the August 2019 LabXchange Teacher Workshop.

We have plenty of work to do to make our platform accessible and relevant for a wide variety of learners and educators worldwide. Luckily, input from highly engaged, innovative teacher co-developers is a great place to start. We’re excited to roll out LabXchange in just a few short months!

Are you an education professional interested in implementing and testing LabXchange this fall? Let us know!