Founded in 1910, The Educational Company of Ireland is Ireland’s leading publisher and distributor of school textbooks, exam papers and resources for the Irish Curriculum.
Edco is quick to evaluate and embrace new technologies and has developed a host of digital material to complement it’s traditional publishing products. Working with Combined Media, Edco developed the the HearSay listening series, an interactive language resource distributed with its exam papers. The EDCO Exam Centre site (www.edcoexamcentre.ie) is an online resource of multiple choice and diagrammatic drag and drop revision exams, the student is presented with random tests which are instantly graded online.
The Digital Classroom
Interactive white boards and data projectors are becoming more the norm in the classroom. Edco wanted to make its range of schoolbooks available online in a format that the teacher could use on interactive white boards in the classroom. They further wanted to offer the teacher online resources to complement the text books, and also provide a facility for teacher to customise the resources by offering the facility to add,manage and easily access their own content.
The main reasoning behind displaying the books on whiteboards, was not for students to read through pages, but for teachers to use aspects of the book such as photos, diagrams, lists and so on, as visual cues for delivering the lesson.
Planning for ‘No lesson required’
Simplicity of use was obviously the key for this application. Teachers would be using the resource in front of a classroom of children, and fiddling around with a clumsy interface, of trying to work out functions and feature wasn’t an option. We opted for a very stripped-down, easy to use, but deceptively powerful interface. The buttons and features would be intuitive and self explanatory, and no one would need more that a cursory overview of the application before they understood fully how to use it.
School work - design & build
The site was broken into two main parts, resources and viewer. After logging in the teachers would navigate to their book of choice, there they could download a host of resources that complemented the book such as; class plans, teacher notes, revision questions, powerpoints and podcasts.
The viewer was the application developed to display the books. Each double page spread fills the white board fully with the navigation tools keep to a minimum. The teacher has a host of options for displaying and working with the book. The most powerful feature of the viewer is the ability to zoom up any part of the page and have it display sharply on-screen. This allows the teacher to select any part of the page for example a diagram or section of a diagram and use it as a bases for the lesson. Any page or part of a page effectively become a virtual poster for the lesson. The teacher can simply drag a zoomed in page to view another area, or use the tools to zoom in and out
The teacher has further tools for interacting with the onscreen image. The hiliter and pencil tools allow the user to draw on the screen to mark or hilite important areas.
Interpage linking is an important element of the application. The teacher can drag links onto any page of the page and create a link to another part of the book, so for example the current lesson can make reference back to a relevant topic cover earlier in the book.
The tool also allows the teacher add self titled bookmarks and notes to any book, all using a very simple tool pallette. The final part of the application is the file management panel, here teacher can upload and manage their own files. For example a teacher might upload a photo that is relevant to the course. this photo can then be displayed from the viewer by selecting it from a list.
Deploy manage & grow
The site and viewer where launched to very positive feedback from teachers, with simple but powerful being the key terms been given back to us. Edco is continuing to make it catalogue of school books available in this format.
The devil's in the detail. Various simple tweaks were made to the system based on user feedback. For example the side toolbar was made draggable, this allowed the toolbar appear on the other side of the page where the whiteboard was positioned near a side wall and the teacher would need to keep crossing in front of the board. The mini-viewer was move to the end of the screen to accommodate teachers who couldn’t reach it on top of the screen!
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