Nupedia was a revolutionary idea. Ever heard of it? I didn’t think so; because I had never heard of it either. It was started by Jimmy Wales, who later started . . . Wikipedia. I bet you’ve heard of that one. So, what led to Jimmy’s switch from Nupedia to Wikipedia?
Well, it’s something that educators can learn a lot from. So listen up.
Jimmy started Nupedia, “the free encyclopedia”, in 2000. But, after a year, it only had 21 articles on it. Why, when there are now millions of articles on Wikipedia, were there so few on its predecessor after 1 year? According to Jimmy on this episode of the How I Built This Podcast, he made the decision to do something that all educators should take note of. He realized “I just need to go through this process myself to see what’s wrong with it or how can we [sic] improve it.” I’ll let you listen to the podcast to find out what he discovered, but for us educators, the important lesson is this:
That was really the moment when I said, ‘Okay, look this isn’t going to work. This isn’t fun’ . . . So that was a really crucial moment, the moment when I tried to get something through the system.
The lesson for educators? Always, always, try it out before asking your students to do it. If it feels tedious, boring, torturous or needlessly difficult to you, imagine how it will feel to a kid. Do you feel empowered when you try out your lesson or activity? Do you feel engaged when you complete that assignment?
You don’t necessarily need to take a full walkthrough of an activity – and if you differentiate well, it might not be possible for you to do a full trial run of every activity or assignment – but you should be putting yourself in the shoes of your students with everything that you ask them to do.
In the world of design, this is referred to as User Experience (UX) Design. Simply put, this means that when you create something (an app, a website, a device, a classroom activity) you focus on the experience that your user will have. Always, always, keep your students’ experience in mind when designing your instruction!