As part of my senior thesis project, I created Nejé Béneri. An educational online and offline cross-platform for teachers who work with indigenous communities in Mexico, providing access to cultural and linguistic resources, and enabling educators to build their own teacher-to-teacher knowledge hub.
Role and Approach
I went through a meticulous problem discovery phase, two rigorous research and iteration phases that led to prototyping and on-the-field user-testing with teachers.
Sketch, Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop & Premiere, InVision, Keynote.
Being from Mexico and having had access to education, in part due to being mestizo (of half Spanish and half indigenous decent), I wanted to use my privilege and my interaction design skills to empower Mexican indigenous youth achieve success.
8 (nonconsecutive) months
A massive underlying problem.
Out of the 15.7 million indigenous people living in Mexico, 80% of them live under poverty or extreme poverty.
Indigenous people are the most marginalized, underrepresented, and under-resourced group in Mexico.
The Mexican education system
serving indigenous communities is broken.
Out of the 2 million indigenous kids who start with primary education, only 4,252 graduate from high school.
The Mexican Secretary of Public Education created the National Teacher Professional Service. An online platform aimed at standardizing evaluation methods to assess the skills and abilities of those who aspire to become public teachers and to improve the methods to evaluate teacher performance.
Teachers are limited by deficient training that ignores the cultural and social dynamics of the indigenous communities they work with.
How might we help educate the educator?
(Translating to “I Teach”, in the indigenous Raramuri language)
An educational online and offline cross-platform for teachers who work with indigenous communities, providing access to cultural and linguistic resources while building a teacher-to-teacher knowledge hub.
I covered every aspect of the design process, from research to ideation to prototyping. I used IDEO’s design thinking methodology as a basis for my process.
As seniors, we were given the liberty to focus our thesis on any topic we deemed would create value. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to tackle and contribute to bettering an issue of my home country, Mexico.
It was challenging at first to wrap my head around the large, yet opportunity-rich problems I was passionate about. In order to identify a topic area of interest with an opportunity for change that I could realistically approach through interaction design, I conducted many individual and team ideation exercises; such as affinity and 4x4 mapping, force field analysis and journey mapping.
I also conducted Secondary Research at the beginning of the project to give me background and context on the topics before the primary research I’d do later on.
Who I talked to • Primary Research
Winner of 2017 CCA Impact Awards - Worked with Textile communities at Karachi, Pakistan
Border Phenomena, Diversity Studies Lecturer at CCA
Operational Director at Tarahumara Foundation Jose A. Llaguno
Director at Centro de Acopio para la Tarahumara, A.C.
Indigeneities, Diversity Studies Lecturer at CCA
I interviewed six individuals who had experience with and/or a perspective on indigenous peoples and the difficulties they face.
From my interviews I met Mariel, the director of Fundación Tarahumara José A. Llaguno. This NGO became a key partner in helping me conduct primary research with my users later on in my project by acting as the bridge between an indigenous community and I.
What I learned • Insights
1. There is value in a singular community.
There is value on focusing within a specific demographic and group of people given that each community is unique and diverse. There is an opportunity to focus on a specific Indigenous community, which will bring value specific to the them.
2. Giving back to own community.
There is an opportunity for Indigenous Tarahumara youth to give back to their community through giving them access to education, increasing the chances of them making a lasting change in their own community.
4. Offline technology access.
Inaccessibility to the internet hinders educational teaching and learning potential. Therefore, there is an opportunity to improve teaching and learning practices through offline technology access.
3. Specific learning tools for a specific community.
Inaccessibility to proper learning tools from an early age specific to the Tarahumara communities leads to high Illiteracy rates, therefore there is an opportunity to improve teaching and learning practices that are unique to the community through access to internet educational platforms.
5. Privilege as a tool for change.
By, 1) Identifying the root causes vs symptoms of the problem, 2) identifying one’s own privilege, and 3) working directly with the community rather than speaking for them, it would lead to an opportunity for a more empathetic dialogue with the community (using the NGO as a bridge), that would contribute to a way of measuring impact and success at the end.
To develop a system that improves teaching and/or learning opportunities will help Indigenous teenagers who want to want to pursue higher education and give back to their communities by providing access to offline technology platforms that are unique to the indigenous Tarahumara needs.
In order to generate ideas on the insights and opportunities I identified, I storyboarded, system mapped, created product molecules (people, problem, solution) and visually represented the opportunity spaces.
Meeting my user
Over winter break I traveled to Mexico with the purpose of meeting with my NGO partner and conducting ethnographic research at schools. Through the brainstorming session I facilitated to my NGO partner and the ethnographic research conducted, I gained deeper insights on my users, the problem space, and potential solutions.
I chose Optimizing Teaching because...
A student’s education cycle starts with the teacher. The teaching methodology that's used is key for rooting an impulse for change and contribution to one’s community.
- Final Design Presentation
Narrowing down the problem
As I moved from ideation to prototyping, I struggled in simplifying the problem space in optimizing teaching and how I could ethically, yet effectively intervene.
To help me solve this, I created a matrix of all the opportunity problems, my hypotheses, my proposed solutions, and how success would be measured. I was able to identify and develop three main product features that would go on to the first iteration of prototyping and user-testing.
I would build a platform for...
teachers - online and offline accessible. It would act as a tool to help optimize their teaching.
This tool would simply be an addition to a teacher’s existing ecosystem of tools for knowledge exchange.