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Data Visualization for Color Accessibility

Data Visualization for Color Accessibility


Let’s talk about color accessibility — the ability to view all colors on a screen regardless of a reader’s visual ability. A crucial feature to low-visibility and colorblind readers, color accessibility can be achieved with good design and attention to color contrast. And it’s important to consider when designing any product, digital or physical — especially if that product relies on data visualization to carry out its purpose.

This is the story of how we addressed the design challenge of visualizing data for color accessibility at Kiddom.

New Product; New Design Challenge

Earlier this year we launched a K-12 school operating system for school and district administrators to measure and act upon classroom intelligence. Academy is our first enterprise product, supporting our free product for teachers and students (Kiddom for Classrooms) by connecting schools and districts to teachers and students on one operating system.

As we began working on Kiddom Academy, we saw an opportunity to define a new visual language. Prior to Academy, our classroom product had been tailored towards teachers and younger students who would be using the products to create, complete, assess, and communicate about assignments, so we optimized the design for these tasks, with some simple reporting and a color scheme that was based largely on the role using the product. For example, teachers had a blue theme, and students had a purple theme.

But, as Academy would stand as the highest-level dashboard for schools or districts to understand what was going on at every level (district, school, class, and student), the newest product would require a greater amount of data visualization.

So the challenge was to keep the visual design consistent and on brand while addressing a functional design change to work with more data — this meant more colors, and those colors needed to be accessible to all. It soon became clear to us that the new product would call for a radical redesign of our existing color palette.

Step One: Analyze the Starting Palette

For the first step, we put all of our color palettes together to analyze the overlap and discrepancies.

This was the palette at the start of our project. As you can see, it’s complex, has tons of overlap, and doesn’t address accessibility for the colorblind.

An overlap example: as you can see here, the colors quickly became muddled in the UI. The primary action color was conflated with the English subject color.

Let’s take a look at reports in the earlier versions of the product. As you see here, there were four colors in the Mastery chart, two of which were already being used in other contexts. There was also no logical progression to the color scheme (red-yellow-purple-green), making it hard to parse at a glance.

It was clear we would need to simplify, and we were beginning to gain a sense of our constraints, but before reinventing the wheel, we decided to check industry standards to see what norms existed in the education technology space.\

Step Two: Study Industry Norms

In our study of industry-specific norms, we would be looking at how others may have handled the color accessibility problem, as well as general color scheme; if teachers expected a particular color for their data, we’d be fighting an uphill battle by changing it.

In normal vision, these charts are pretty clear. The red is bad, green is good. However, turn on colorblind mode, and it’s not clear what each of the slices means. The difference between red and green just isn’t visible.

Let’s take a look at a wider palette that incorporates more colors.

In this example, the middle point isn’t overly obvious, and the ends of the spectrum, although contrasting from each other, are hard to pick out. Upon studying the norms, it became clear there were some common approaches, but no standard. We would have to make the call on what was best for our users.

Step Three: Define Constraints

Thanks to our analysis, we identified two constraints important to us, and a number of action items. As mentioned, our first constraint was color accessibility: Our colors should have enough contrast so that colorblind people can differentiate them from each other. This would be particularly important in any view that shows data reporting.

The second constraint was to reduce color overlap. This was simple enough, as we had a lot of similar colors used for totally different purposes. So, we decided it was clearly time to trim some fat.

It’s time for solutions!

Step Four: Determine Color Overlap

First, we looked at how much overlap we could remove. Let’s take a look at where each column’s colors were used in the product.

These colors were almost the same as our subject palette. Since our subjects were more integrated in the design, we chose to remove the content type.

As mentioned, our original intent was to theme the app depending on which role you were using. The available roles in the earlier products were Student, Teacher, and Parent.

However, with the addition of the Admin in Academy (green), we were adding a lot of complexity to this palette. So we made the decision to simplify by removing the overlaps of each role’s primary color.

Step Five: Improve Color Accessibility

To exemplify how we improved color accessibility for data visualization, we’ll use the example of our Student Mastery scale. On the surface, this design worked pretty well. With the exception of the purple, there was a clear progression. The middle point was extremely visible and the endpoints stood out nicely.

However, when we put our colorblind shades on, you’ll notice the contrast was super reduced. The mid point became almost invisible, and the ends were still visible, but only the “Exceeding” section really stands out. From here, we decided we could do better.

From here, a number of iterations followed. First, we tried red and green with higher contrast. This worked to highlight the ends of the spectrum, so users knew where to focus. The middle point was still obvious, but when we took a look in color blind mode… Sadly, although the middle point was still obvious, the ends of the spectrum were almost identical.

Then we tried an approach with more blue. This was the ‘hot and cold’ concept. And generally worked fine. However, we became concerned with the potential palette overlap with the Interaction Blue our buttons (mentioned below), so we tried a bit of purple. The purple gave us a similar issue, but overlapped with the purple in our Subject palette.

In the end, the teal approach was the most successful. We could have an obvious, contrasting middle point, while still highlighting the ends of the spectrum:

Step Six: Simplify Color Palette

Now let’s move back to the complex palette. Instead of predefining every variant of a color, every tint, every shade, we thought perhaps we could be smarter about the way we define our palette?

So we changed our approach and defined a layering system. There are now two layers: the primary color, and the overlay (tint).

By placing a tint on top of a primary color, we were able to create a consistent result, regardless of the primary color. This meant that Classroom and Academy could use the same system, but only differ by one color.

Of course we still needed a contrasting color for buttons and links, so we included a global ‘interaction’ color. To adhere to our constraints, we went for a loud blue that is AA+ accessible. And here’s the final color palette:

We hope you enjoyed learning about the discoveries along our process as much as we did, and we encourage you to check out our product for teachers to experience it for yourself!


If you have any comments, suggestions, or concerns, please let us know by sending them to info@kiddom.co. We are constantly iterating our product for teachers and for administrators, and your feedback is aways appreciated.

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Three Ways to Increase Collaboration in your Classroom or School

Three Ways to Increase Collaboration in your Classroom or School

Sarah Gantert

Sarah Gantert

Success Specialist, Kiddom

Sarah has 10 years of public education experience, including being a founding staff member of a STEM high school in Pennsylvania.

If you’re no stranger to Kiddom, you know that our curriculum sharing capabilities make working with colleagues easy, even if you can’t meet in person. The great news is that Kiddom isn’t just about sharing curriculum. There is a whole array of ways users can collaborate and share with teachers and students alike!

Here are three advanced collaboration techniques Kiddom helps you super-charge collaboration in your classroom  (feel free to mix and match based on your needs — and if you come up with a new way to collaborate and share using Kiddom, we’d love to hear from you!).  

 

Are you a faculty advisor for a student-run club? Give your student leaders editing access to the class so that they can post announcements, assignments, and other important information for their members.

Step 1: Set up a “teacher” account with Kiddom for your student leaders and add that account as a collaborator to your students’ club on Kiddom.

Step 2: Provide the credentials to your student club leaders.

Step 3: Step back and let your student-run club truly be student-governed! When students have the authority to create and post club information, it gives the ownership of the club back into the hands of those it belongs.

Calling all administrators, team leaders, and curriculum leads: Are you tired of the same old professional development days? Do you need to create a space for teachers to learn on their own time, at their own pace, without the need to always bring everyone together in a room to go over simple housekeeping items? Kiddom has you covered!  Create a PLC in Kiddom for your cohort and start uploading materials from Google Drive, your computer, the web, etc. It’s that simple!

    1. If you are a Drive user and want to continue using Google Docs to collaborate en masse, check out this article about the variety of ways you can use your Google Docs for assignments, using Kiddom.
  1.  2. If your school is on the MS O365 platform, you can easily link documents, .pptx files, and more by copying and pasting a link in the description of the assignment. From there, teachers can download and make copies of any materials you want to disseminate to them.

Not only will this help to disseminate information more quickly and efficiently, but you can also start using your face-to-face PD time for deeper inquiry and creation!

As educators, we know it’s important to meet with colleagues outside of our grade level so that we can plan scope and sequence for our content area. Kiddom makes it easy to share curriculum, lesson ideas and comments with colleagues teaching other grades.  

    1. Create a class that houses cross-grade level curriculum
    2. Add your colleagues as collaborators to your existing classes/curriculum
    3. Go further: Create a PLC for teachers across the district that teach your content area.

Once the PLC is created in your Kiddom account, the world of planning became a whole lot nicer. You won’t have to rely on monthly or quarterly district/school-wide content area meetings; you can plan and build ideas together without needing to be in the same room. It’s a great way to get a head start on those infrequent meetings with colleagues in different grade levels and schools.    

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Sarah Gantert

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Sarah has 10 years of public education experience, including being a founding staff member of a STEM high school in Pennsylvania.

If you are a Newsela user, you know it’s an amazing resource for your students. Having the ability to assign students articles based on their Lexile reading levels without having to do any re-writing yourself is a huge time saver. The grading features and quizzing in Newsela are really awesome, too.

But you know what would be great? If Newsela assignments could populate in the same place as all of your other course materials. When you have a reading for your students, you don’t want them to have to navigate between multiple apps and websites, right? That’s where Kiddom comes in to help.

Kiddom’s K-12 operating system helps by integrating a whole slew of third-party content providers in one place (bonus: you can grade in Kiddom, too). Newsela is no exception. In this article we’re going to share a great way to build a library of resources for your diverse levels of readers with Newsela and Kiddom.

 

Start a Playlist with Kiddom

  1. Head on over to your Planner in the class you want to create the reading playlist
  2. Create a playlist 

Build Curriculum From Your Favorite Newsela Content 

3. Click on “add an assignment” in your playlist and click on the Kiddom icon.

4. Filter for the grade levels you need by selecting “Newsela” in “sources” menu, then click enter to execute your search!

5. Once you find an article you want to use, select it and add it to your playlist (Tip: Label it with the Lexile Level at the front to help with sorting. Example: 890L: Article Title). 

6. Newsela creates multiple Lexile level readings for each article. Using the same keywords that you used to execute your first search, repeat steps 3-5 for each Lexile level you need to add to your playlist! (Note: Newsela changes article titles for different Lexile levels, so make sure you are looking out for similar titles, not exact titles, while you search different grade level readings.)

Time to Assign to Students!

7. Now that you have your playlist ready to go, you can drag and drop the assignments to the Timeline when you need them AND assign each Lexile level to the appropriate group of students.

 

The real bonus in all of this? The fact that your Newsela readings and assignments can now be a part of a more holistic assessment of student mastery. Newsela assignments can live beyond the Newsela app, with all the other assessments and assignments you’ve created throughout the school year.

This article is part of our Better Together Series, which investigates all the ways the Kiddom K-12 operating system helps to enhance the tech you are already using in your classroom. 

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The Evolution of EdTech — and What’s Next

The Evolution of EdTech — and What’s Next

Jason Katcher

Jason Katcher

VP of Sales, Kiddom

Education and SaaS technology leader with a passion for K12 edtech.

I have great respect for the past. If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going.

-Maya Angelou

How many times have you already looked at your phone today? You might’ve sent a few texts. Maybe you opened some emails. Perhaps you shared a document, or viewed a presentation. It’s easy to forget that just over ten years ago, none of these actions were simple or ubiquitous — the iPhone wasn’t launched until 2007, and most devices in the office (or classroom) were tethered to a desk, as the “cloud” had yet to take shape.

texts a day sent on average (Source: Text Request)

hours a day spent on smartphones (Source: Hackernoon)

To understand why the time is right for school systems to adopt their own “operating system,” let’s explore how technology has evolved over the past thirty years across six major waves.    
1980-2000s

Wave 1: The Closed OS

When people hear “operating system” they might think back to the early days of educational technology, when the ecosystems were closed; back then, you were either a loyal Microsoft or Apple user, and those were pretty much your only options.  As classrooms only had one option or the other, the computers subsequently ran Windows or MacOS. It was a binary landscape, to say the least. As a result, Apple and Microsoft dominated the education market for years.  During this time, most schools used on-premise servers to store all of their data (many still do). But this created numerous issues, including but not limited to limited collaboration, restricted mobility, and increased security risks. This lasted from the 1980s through the early 2000s. However, something called “the cloud” was brewing in the sky.

2004-2007

Wave 2: The Early Days of the Cloud

In 2004, something outrageous happened: you no longer needed to store emails in a local server. This was thanks to the release of “Gmail” by Google, a relatively new company then. One year later, Google purchased a company called Writely, which would ultimately become what is now known as Google Docs. With the ability to create and share content, Google secured a place to store it all in 2007. Originally called Platypus, this would later be known globally as Google Drive. These three pieces were built on the belief that the future was about the cloud — the ability to access anything, from anywhere, on any device — and it had a tremendous effect on the way education systems operated, from the classroom to the district. 

2007-2012

Wave 3: Enter Devices

The cloud was a disruptive force, but it wasn’t easily accessible, as laptops and computers were still rather expensive. While the original 2007 iPhone changed the game for what one could do on a phone, it was challenging to be productive, no matter how “smart” the device was. It wasn’t until 2012 that Google began to develop the first Chromebook, which caused the first major shakeup to the laptop ecosystem in years. Meanwhile, Apple stuck to their guns on a premium price point for Macs and iPads. During this time, Microsoft often stressed how much students needed to learn how to use Office, since that is what they would use in the “real world”. In the end, they were both impacted by an evolving market. Chromebooks delivered 90% of the functionality at a fraction of the cost, and by 2014, schools began to purchase them in bulk. Over the last four years, both Microsoft and Apple started to change their education model. Google’s lower price point for school devices significantly drove prices down and made them affordable to nearly everyone. This gave more and more school systems the opportunity to consider how technology might transform learning experiences with the goal of providing greater equity and accessibility. When any technology becomes a commodity, the end user wins.

2012-2014

Wave 4: Workflows

Years later the foundation Google has established paved the way for Google Apps for Education (now G-Suite). In the process, they effectively solved a major interoperability challenge: the offering was completely free, which challenged other players in the edtech space. While Microsoft and Apple ignored this paradigm shift for years, they were forced to evolve or be forgotten in the K-12 space. Office 365 was eventually launched, and although it was “free,” schools still needed to license Office, which was expensive. Apple’s iCloud simply never gained the traction it needed and as a result, Google continued to flourish and eat up more of the K-12 market share.

The one major challenge still facing Google was that the combination of GAFE and Drive together offered a clunky experience. This is likely because they were developed and housed in different parts of Google. They didn’t “talk” to each other well — a problem that often persists even with today’s apps. Teachers needed to ask their students to create an assignment in Docs, download a copy of that to a local folder on their desktop, upload it to Drive, and finally, move it to the teacher’s folder. That’s a lot of steps to take for every single assignment, not to mention, a lot of room for error.

While Microsoft and Apple were consumed with their device strategy, Google was solving this workflow problem. The answer soon arrived via Google Classroom: a way to enable Drive and GAFE to “talk” to each other directly. Classroom condensed those four steps into one seamless action and worked across all devices and operating systems. This simple solution simultaneously saved teachers time and helped us move towards classroom interoperability.

Microsoft has tried to launch their own version of Classroom, as has Apple, but both are inferior (and quite frankly, late-to-the-game) offerings. This is where the evolution and innovation of the LMS really hit a wall. The key advantage Canvas had, as it began to steal market share from the incumbent, Blackboard, was simply that they built a pure-SaaS product first and foremost. Blackboard got too comfortable and believed their loyal customer base would never leave.

Keep in mind as well that Classroom was never meant to be an LMS, or provide visibility for admins into the classroom. It was created to enable teachers to operate their classrooms more effectively. While this workflow was a huge value-add over the last four years, not much has happened since for K12, leaving the door open for new players.

2014-2018

Wave 5: Cross-Platform Applications

The next interoperability challenge was how to enable the various apps to run on any device in order to reduce the friction in schools who just wanted to teach and learn, and not worry about which device enabled it. For those who remember what happened with LAUSD in 2014, when content and curriculum cannot be accessed and used easily, technology fails. In the past few years, we can now operate Windows apps, like Powerpoint, Notes, et cetera, on a Chromebook or Android device. We can operate Android apps on Chromebooks, and we can even use Dropbox with Google or Microsoft as people seek their own custom, best-in-breed solution. We have now seen this convergence of enabling all types of applications to run across any device and OS. The focus on applications reduced the amount of friction for the end user, who just wants to access the content and does not care which OS or device they are using. It should just work.

2018+

Wave 6: Data Unification

The most important question for us today is, how does the data living across different applications speak to one another? And how do we make that data useful and meaningful for end-users of education technology? Schools can continue to work towards “personalization,” but the reality is that developing a holistic profile for every student across applications will be an absolute necessity to support individualized instruction. If classrooms are utilizing a learning management system, most of the achievement data will probably be with Google, Microsoft, or Schoology, to name a few. But regardless of any LMS’s collaboration features, their tools do not offer the ability to aggregate achievement data across applications for schools to make informed decisions about curriculum and instruction or resource allocation. As a result, the data necessary to make timely decisions and improve student outcomes currently lives scattered among a plethora of learning apps that don’t “speak” to one another. And this is where Kiddom comes in.  We approached the challenge by building for interoperability from the start. We considered all of the major stakeholders in the K-12 environment when we designed our analytics. Because Kiddom connects the dots between curriculum, instruction, and assessment, we effectively streamline the workflow necessary for educators and administrators to build student-centered instructional models.

Kiddom picks up where the LMS leaves off, offering an operating system for K-12 schools and districts to measure and act on classroom intelligence. We define a K-12 operating system as a set of interconnected tools to enable schools to operate more productively, increase student outcomes, and improve upon their respective instructional models. If you’re ready to see what the next wave of education technology can do for your school or district, let’s talk. As a former “Googler” who led the Chromebook initiative into schools and districts, I’d be happy to connect with you and your colleagues to address any challenges, fears, or questions you have about our incredibly useful tool for K12 education.

What People Are Saying

“Kiddom is great for assessing data and then assigning appropriate work based on individual student performance. I love that it’s very easy to attach standards and rubric to every assignment.”

Jackie Curts, Middle School Teacher

“Using Kiddom has made me stop and ask ‘Am I just letting this student repeat what they already know or am I really challenging them?’”

Ann Leghorn, High School Literacy Specialist

“I can see where my class and any student is at any moment in their educational journey. This way I can take action to assist them to work towards mastery.”

Mr. Albrecht, High School Teacher

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Kiddom Reports + Microsoft O365: Better Together, Pt 2

Kiddom Reports + Microsoft O365: Better Together, Pt 2

Sarah Gantert

Sarah Gantert

Success Specialist, Kiddom

Sarah has 10 years of public education experience, including being a founding staff member of a STEM high school in Pennsylvania.

This is part two of a two-part series. Did you miss last week’s Microsoft and Kiddom: Better Together article? Check it out here.

Using O365 to track student progress on group assignments is a great way to help keep your classroom organized and efficient so you can focus on working one-on-one with your students.

But the inevitable reality of teaching still exists: What about their grades? How can we show our students, their parents, and our administrators the data that indicates the progress we are seeing every day in our classrooms? What about standards alignment?

That’s where Kiddom comes in!

Our grade-book and reports help to create a holistic view of how your students are doing. Kiddom also allows you to customize your reports based on how your school’s grading system works (Are you a mastery-based school and not a percentage-based school? We have you covered!) .

 

Kiddom reports provide an added level of analysis to student progress: they don’t just give you a number–they provide you with a holistic picture of how students are doing. Even if you choose to view your students’ scores traditionally (as percentages), reports in Kiddom will still provide you with an overall skills (standards) assessment for each subject area. This provides parents with a more comprehensive view of their student’s progress beyond the numbers we typically see on grade reports.

 

Not only can you grade all the MS O365 assignments that your students have been completing, but you can also grade and report on the assignments that live outside of O365, as well.

Teachers can add an infinite number of assignment types: PDFs, pictures, paper documents you can scan and add to an assignment, articles from other resources… the list goes on!

Kiddom and Microsoft truly are, better together.

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