We Listen, So We Can Build The Best

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Every day we hear from educators and students. And every day we listen -- to a tweet, an email supporting our team, a survey response, a comment on a resource at curriculumpathways.com, a review in the App Store, a rating in the Add-Ons for Google Docs, a comment on a Facebook post, a teacher-created YouTube video, an educator’s blog post, and myriad other messages in myriad other formats. It sounds like noise, but there is clarity amid all the chatter and feedback.


Teachers and students let us know when they find something we can fix or improve, they share ideas on how they use our resources in their classrooms, and they help us innovate in ways that serve educators around the world. We thrive on this feedback: it’s our number-one source for new improvements and features, and it helps us build technologies that align with current and best pedagogical practices, as well as with the ecosystems teachers and students use each day (e.g., Chromebooks, iPads, Learning Management Systems, Single Sign-On solutions).

Focus Groups

This focus group of classroom teachers provided feedback to the Crio development team.

But we don’t just rely on the many web-based communications described above. We also work closely with former and current educators on each project. Our curriculum development team -- all former master teachers across disciplines and grade levels -- fulfills the traditional software development role of product manager. With each new project kickoff, we include a focus group that works with teachers to review the project vision and determine features that are critical for classroom implementation. We don’t presume to know all the challenges or have all the answers. That’s why we reach out. These intensive workshops combined with research from the project team are essential to aligning our work with best practices in the classroom and ensuring we are addressing a real challenge.

Curriculum Pathways Teacher Institute

Focus groups are great and, by their very nature, target a single, new project. What about looking across projects and curricula? What about integration strategies or app smashing? To explore those possibilities, we just wrapped up our third Curriculum Pathways Teacher Institute -- a cohort of in-service teachers who work closely with the Curriculum Pathways team for 8 weeks each summer to critically evaluate our current products, consult on new features, and iterate on their own ideas for the next big edtech resource. This program has proven valuable to the development of Curriculum Pathways and, in turn, to the participants as they return to their classrooms. Embedding in-service teachers into the development process so they can see “how the sausage is made” personalizes the evaluation, feedback, and ideation -- thus improving the efficiency of integration into the product. See what participants have had to say about the Teacher Institute.

Incorporating Feedback

All of this feedback ensures that Curriculum Pathways will improve with each release. Below are three examples of how teacher and student feedback have changed the tools, resources, and apps we develop.

Writing Reviser

Writing Reviser was born from a discussion with in-service teachers focused on classroom challenges. A group of high school English teachers quickly focused on revision and the time-intensive process required to provide students with feedback.

As Writing Reviser was being implemented in classrooms, we learned how it was being smashed with other writing tools students were using. Teachers asked how we might support the entire writing process. So we developed the comprehensive Writing Navigator, which consists of tools for Planning, Drafting, Revising, and Publishing. Writing Navigator was soon available as an iPad app, a Chromebook app, and a website (writingnavigator.com). But we didn’t stop there.

Writing Reviser for Google Docs and Microsoft Word

As new tools have became readily available, teachers and students have changed where and how they write. Writing Reviser continues to evolve in ways that match this evolution. Call it behavioral feedback. Responding to the growth of Google Docs and Chromebooks in education, we released Writing Reviser as an Add-on for Google Docs in 2015, integrating the revision tool directly into a now popular platform for student writing. And most recently, we've also made Writing Reviser available as an Add-in for Microsoft Word. You can learn more about Writing Reviser for Google Docs and Microsoft Word in these blog posts. And we're still not done. We continue to listen and have plans for revolutionary new features. Stay tuned!

Flash Cards

The free SAS Flash Cards app began with the launch of Apple’s iPad, and each of our releases has incorporated teacher and student feedback. In 2010, Apple announced a new device that had significant implications for edtech and would eventually support the proliferation of Mobile Learning. The iPad -- combined with Apple’s support for third-party applications just a year-and-a-half earlier with iOS 2 -- provided a new platform for edtech development. This prompted us to build the first release of Flash Cards. 

Soon after the app was available, we began to hear from schools and teachers using iPads in the classroom. This is when our first requests came in: “We like the app and content, but we’d like to add our own.” So we listened. Version 1.2 allowed users to build their own decks of flash cards. This cycle of feedback followed by new-feature development became the norm. It produced features like quiz mode, an iPhone version, sharing, accessibility, audio, and ratings.

Tell Us What you Like, and What You Need

Our feedback cycle continues today across all our tools, resources, and apps. Since we launched Crio -- a free lesson building tool, in the summer of 2018 -- we've received great ideas for additional features from educators, both online and in professional development sessions. We've already started to implement their suggestions in Crio updates. 

Your input comes in many forms, but it all serves a unified purpose: helping us build resources that more effectively serve students and teachers. So keep contacting us. It's also easy to reach us on social media -- particularly on Twitter (@SASEducator) and on Facebook. We look forward to hearing from you, and we promise to listen. 

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About Author

Scott McQuiggan

Scott McQuiggan leads SAS® Curriculum Pathways®, an interdisciplinary team focused on the development of no-cost educational software in the core disciplines at SAS. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from North Carolina State University in 2009, where his research focused on affective reasoning in intelligent game-based learning environments. His research has been published in more than 30 journal articles and refereed conference proceedings, and been recognized through several best paper nominations including Best Student Paper Award at the International Conference on Affective Computing and Intelligent Interaction.

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