Persona research and development for a premier educational technology professional association.
The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) is creator and steward of the definitive education technology standards. They provide community, professional learning, advocacy and resources for their membership base along with hosting the world’s most comprehensive ed tech event.
Pinpoint was on-site at ISTE’s annual conference interviewing members and attendees. I joined the team during the secondary interview phase of the project, conducting phone interviews with educators and district leaders unfamiliar with ISTE. Together we analyzed the data, pulling insights and gathering those insights into critical themes. I facilitated a participatory design session with internal stakeholders, directed the visual design of the personas and lead a design thinking workshop to introduce the finished personas to the ISTE staff.
ISTE was undergoing a company-wide effort to get a better understanding of their users to help shape their future offerings. They wanted to ensure they were remaining ahead of the curve and offering what was most important and valuable to educators and administrators. Pinpoint was brought on to conduct interviews, analyze that data and provide personas that were data-driven and strategic.
Pinpoint conducted in-person interviews of pre-screened candidates with a script created in collaboration with ISTE. Our efforts were aimed at understanding mental models around the concepts of membership, professional organizations and educational technology. We asked users to walk us through a day in the life, how they make their decisions and the decision making power they had. Throughout the interview we were formulating our questions to reveal users’ values, motivators and goals both personal and professional.
We conducted 76 interviews total so we had approximately 76 hours of transcripts and recordings to evaluate. Our team of two researchers and one research assistant embarked on coding the transcripts with keywords. Early on in the process we pulled out what the scalars would be for the personas: Tech Savvy, Idealist, Big Picture, Risk Averse, Advocate. These, along with other key aspects such as values, motivators, goals were part of the keywording process. We also coded answers related to the mental models mentioned above.
Once everything was coded we began to take these insights and group them into critical themes such as: the role of technology, learning styles, teachers teaching teachers, decision making power, community, frustrations, goals and trusted sources. We had so many critical themes we decided to bring the ISTE team in for a participatory design session to determine what aspects would be most useful to them.
For our participatory design session, we walked the ISTE team through our initial findings and invited them to help us develop a content hierarchy for the personas. We prepared three different sized cards for each theme that had surfaced (about 17)—each size representing the level of importance. We broke out into smaller groups and each group decided which themes would become content areas on the final personas and how much weight each one should have on the page. From there, our groups gathered back together to discuss the similarities and differences between their boards. The team was surprised by how different each one was but we quickly saw that there were commonalities abound. In no time at all we were able to narrow it down to one board that became our final content hierarchy.
After throwing away quite a few well-loved hypotheses, we were able to narrow our field down to six personas: two from classroom, two from administration and two from district. We aren’t always so neat and tidy and, in fact, when we are we begin to second guess ourselves, but these personas proved true despite all our efforts to make them less tidy. There were clear distinctions between the personas on each level as well. Well, clear to us anyway. We were quickly reminded that being buried in that data for weeks on end had shifted our perspective. So. Now came the hard work of communicating our findings.
We were in close communication with the brilliant internal team at ISTE all along they way so they were privy to the evolution of these personas. However, this was an organization-wide effort so to ensure that everyone understood the impetus, the process and the final product, we were asked to come to their Staff Summit in October 2016. At the summit we presented our process to the entire organization and then held breakout sessions with the various internal teams to help familiarize them with the personas.
Using a Design Thinking methodology, we asked our participants first to empathize with a chosen persona. As we read through their goals, values and motivators, the ISTE team discussed and wrote sticky notes for opportunities they saw arising. From there we went around the room and talked about themes within these opportunities and what the deeper need was inside them. Time didn’t allow for a prototyping phase but we ended with translating those needs into How Might We’s.
This was a true collaboration in every sense of the word. Internally, each individual’s strengths were utilized in a complimentary way. Externally, communication was clear and consistent and both Pinpoint and ISTE felt the collaboration was seamless. Pinpoint quickly became an extension of the ISTE team and was given the trust necessary to do our best work. The team was flexible and agile. I jumped from researcher to analyst to creative director to facilitator on an as-needed basis and the end product came out beautifully.
WHAT I LEARNED
I learned how good communication and an egoless dedication to manifesting a shared vision produces a brilliant end product and a truly enjoyable process.
WHAT THEY SAID
I highly recommend Pinpoint. They are experts at what they do with keen sense for how to make their work relatable and usable for organizations not necessarily steeped in research and human-centered design. We especially appreciated the level of strategy and creative thinking that they brought to the work while still being very transparent and collaborative. ~ Tracee Aliotti, Chief Marketing Officer, ISTE