The only way to build any app is in collaboration with the people who will use it

CommBox & Narromine Public School join forces to build the daily planner app

It’s every product managers dream to have a highly engaged set of users, who actively want to participate throughout the product development process.

Customer validation and feedback is crucial if you want to develop an app that customers will love. As product managers we often struggle to find end users who will give up their time to attend discovery sessions, review and test prototypes or perform user acceptance testing. It is often difficult to find users from the right customer persona to ensure the validation for the feature set is valid.

At CommBox, we are extremely lucky to be able to work with highly engaged users groups who are just as passionate about using a CommBox as we are.  

We work extremely closely with teachers who use our CommBox Interactive Classic screens in the classroom everyday. We have revolutionised our agile product development processes to put the end user at the centre of our product roadmap particularly for our educational app tool rollout.  

Recently, our CEO Nicholas Hall, was visiting schools in rural NSW who have received a CommBox Classic as part of the NSW Department of Education, Rural Access Gap rollout of interactive touchscreens. The teachers were sharing with Nick about new tools they would love to have on the screen. Nick immediately identified several very cool new app ideas that could be added to our product roadmap. One stood out. We all saw the immediate value this app could add and agreed as a product team to pull this app into our roadmap for immediate discovery and delivery.  

The problem we set out to solve 

Nearly every classroom you visit, will have a daily planner of some kind. It will often be a set of laminated cards, made at the beginning of the school year. Each day the teacher or a handpicked student will make sure all the activities that are planned for the day are listed on the whiteboard or wall. It is important for students to understand what they will be doing during their school day. It helps to alleviate any anxiety or concerns. In other classrooms, the daily schedule maybe written on a whiteboard or interactive whiteboard. 

The laminated cards are good but have some limitations. They often go missing or fall off the wall. If new events or activities come up, its time consuming to create a new laminated card. If you want to add specific information about the activity for that day – there is no easy way to add this. If you want to showcase what different groups are doing during reading time for example, this is a little tricky as it is different every day.  

The teachers at Narromine, asked us to build an app that would allow them to have the daily schedule on the screen. They wanted it to be available on the screen all day, so that during the day they could simply open it to show the students what was coming up next.  

How we agreed to solve it 

The team at CommBox reached out to the teachers at Narromine to ask them if they would like to help us develop the app. The team at Narromine jumped at the chance. Sarah, the Assistant Principal responded with – “Wow how exciting. Sounds fabulous.” 

We agreed the process up front so that the teachers would be clear on the time commitment.  

  1. A quick 20 min session for the teachers to explain what they would like the app to do and how it will help them in the classroom 
  2. A quick 20 min session, approx. 1.5 weeks later for CommBox to walk Narromine through the prototype for the app and receive their feedback in order to finalise the features for the first release 
  3. An early release of the app for Narromine to test and provide feedback for refinement 

In the first session we did not want to be prescriptive. We asked a lot of open ended questions to help us to understand more clearly the problem we were trying to solve. The information from this session was a valuable input into the next step in our process.

Next we held an internal design session. We ran a mini design sprint to ensure that we clearly understood all the Jobs To Be Done by the app. This gave our team the opportunity to clearly understand all the needs of the end users. We developed a story map and did rapid prototyping on our CommBox Classic Interactive Whiteboard. To do this, we split the team into two groups. We each wireframed the new app on the CommBox Whiteboard. We then combined the features drawn by each team into a final wireframe. The wireframe was then designed in Adobe XD and we obtained feedback internally before we met with the teachers again.

After the internal design sessions, we produced a high fidelity prototype in Adobe XD with interactivity so that the teachers could understand clearly how the app will work. We met the teachers via Teams and walked them through the new app design. We received incredible feedback, “you managed to meet all our requests – in the first version, thank you!”. Seeing the app provides both the users and the product with an opportunity to see if anything has been missed before development begins. In this case, we had missed a really useful feature and we agreed to add it into the first iteration.

Customer validation is critical at all steps in the product development process. Our engineering team can now move forward more confidently into the development sprints knowing that the features we have included in the first iteration will meet the needs of our end user.

This story is to be continued……. 

We would love to hear from more schools. If you would like to see a particular feature added or there is a problem you really want to the screen to solve – reach out to us on any of our channels.  

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