The best thing one could possibly do with a prototype is to put it in front of a real potential user. I had the opportunity to do this with my fifth-grade cousin this past weekend. Joining her was her mother who is currently a third-grade teacher. The goal of these learnings will be to help shape future development of the prototype and guide more formal user testing sessions (with more users) in the future.
What I was testing
Version A: free-form note-taking
Version B: designated note-taking area
Note-taking: Designated space version preferred over free form version. The two versions of the prototype I created differed in the area designated for note-taking. Version A allowed for notes to be taken anywhere on the screen and Version B provided a shaded box for notes.
My cousin preferred the version with an area for note-taking. She implied that this is what she was used to and it made more sense. Her mom agreed, saying that students are used to having a designated space to 'show their work.' For question types that require students to show their work, this would be an important feature.
Still, limited screen real estate and large fingers proved problematic. My cousin–who is capable of doing the sample problem–had a difficult time working out the math because she ran out of space to show her work. She was using the marker tool and writing large. By providing a designated area for taking notes (version B), my cousin seemed more mindful of the limited space and wrote smaller in this version.
* A good experiment would measure students ability and speed of working out a set of problems on a tablet based on the space designated for note-taking.
* In future testing I should be sure to screenshot test pages after students have written on them.
The highlighter allows for atypical interaction with text because, at least in the state of my cousin and aunt, students are not allowed to write on state test material. The test booklets often get reused between students. For this reason, my aunt does not teach students test-taking strategies that involve highlighting. However, she wishes that she could and liked that a tool like this would allow for that.
The eraser width was too small. My cousin spent a long time trying to erase large portions of the problem. The small eraser caused frustration and made it difficult to do that for her quickly. The eraser width should be increased and a 'clear notes' button could added. The latter should be built with caution and make sure an undo button is present.
An accurate distinction couldn't be made between the marker and pencil tool. My cousin thought the marker tool (5px radius) would be best for working out problems and that the pencil tool (1px radius) would be best for written/essay responses. This in addition to the fact that the marker caused my cousin to use more space on the paper, an argument could be made for limiting students to just one tool.
Despite these frustrations and growth points, my fifth grade cousin still felt that she would perform better on the test if offered on a tablet. This may or may not be the case. She also said it would be more fun. If fun/enjoyment correlates with confidence, there's been evidence that says confidence correlates with success. I would hypothesize students perform better if they're in a test-taking mode that they find fun and not stressful.
After she viewed version A, I asked my cousin to draw what she thought the application should look like in my notebook. While she was surely influenced by the first version of the prototype, her sketch looked remarkably like version B.
My cousin using her preferred version of the interface