As we prepare to launch the next generation of SIMS for primary schools, we’d like to take you behind the scenes and show you some of the work that’s gone into creating SIMS Primary, which puts the teacher’s experience right at the heart of the system.
Focussing on the teacher’s use of SIMS Primary got us thinking long and hard about what teachers do every day in their jobs, taking us on a fascinating journey back to the drawing board.
Let’s first consider what a teacher does when they are not in their job. Why would a teacher who books a holiday, pays a bill or streams a movie with the greatest of ease expect anything less from their management information system (MIS)?
In our age of cloud technology, smartphone apps and digital viewing, we are used to doing things quickly and easily, 24/7. In fact, our expectations from IT, and its usability, have soared in recent years, mirroring the transformation that took place when we shifted from keyboard driven MS-DOS to the point and click interface of Microsoft Windows.
And these days, screens look better, programs work smarter, and we can manage our lives in a few simple taps, swipes and clicks because clever people design things that way.
The enjoyment factor
While we all expect our technology to be intuitive, the best IT is not just easy to use, it engages us and makes us want to explore it, to get more out of it. We all have a favourite app, one that’s a pleasure to use, and that’s what we wanted SIMS Primary to be for teachers.
If logging on and entering data is a positive experience rather than just another chore, teachers will be more likely to go further, to slide and swipe, drill and zoom, seeing patterns in behaviour, and spotting gaps in achievement, so they can intervene and make a difference to pupils’ lives.
But how did we make this happen?
We called in the experts. Specialists in the user experience – or UX – who look at how people do their jobs on a daily basis and see how technology can help them.
Our UX specialists sat at the back of classrooms and watched how teachers interacted with the children, and carried out tasks. Then each task was broken down into a process, such as taking the register, and we thought about what a teacher might want to do, such as marking everyone present in one go, logging the name of a latecomer or accessing the register of a sibling in another class to see if they are in school.
The research also showed us what pupil information teachers need while they’re working, such as checking which child has asthma before a PE lesson, or how many summer-born children there are in the class.
Then the UX team drew up sketches of screens designed to help teachers do tasks and find information. This sketch was an early design of SIMS Primary’s pupil log screen containing individual pupil data:
After that, ‘wireframes’ or sample layouts of a screen were created, such as this one for recording attendance:
These early concepts eventually became the finished article – the SIMS Primary pupil log:
and the register screen:
The UX research helped us build SIMS Primary with the features that make it so teacher-centred, such as the class log – a screen filled with pupil photos, from which teachers can enter and access information on attendance, achievement and behaviour.
Easy, engaging, and dare I say it, enjoyable to use.
We’ll be back to share more behind the scenes blogs on how SIMS Primary helps school leaders’ decision-making, and keeps schools’ data safe. In the meantime, if you would like more information visit our dedicated SIMS Primary microsite.