Mouse is a New York City-based nonprofit that champions “technology with purpose.” Their curriculum empowers all students to use technology as a force for good. Mouse students learn across a variety of topics including coding, game design, sustainable technology, and visual literacy.
For over 12 years, Mouse and MOD-Lab have closely worked together to deliver innovative and compelling curriculum to classrooms.
The project finder is where all of Mouse's unique content can be browsed. Through a fast and faceted search, educators can find a great learning experience to add to their group's playlist. Mouse manages project content through a CraftCMS powered solution.
When Mouse first approached us in 2007, their curriculum was only available through on-site training. They wanted to expand their reach by moving to a Drupal platform and were searching for a partner who matched their passion for empowering the next generation with the technology skills they’ll need to thrive. Together we launched a dynamic and complex web application that allowed students to create computer science and STEM projects and upload their finished work. A popular gamification element with badges led to friendly competition among the students and drove engagement in the lessons. Mousesquad.org was a hit.
But MOD-Lab’s role went far beyond building the code. Mouse trusted us to bring their vision to life and embraced us with open arms as a de facto member of their team. Together we collaborated on all phases of planning, design, and evaluation.
Seth is basically a part of the Mouse team. It's like, ‘Oh, I'm meeting with my co-worker Seth now.’ His participation in the design process, in helping us hone our ideas to make it practical, to consider some of the limitations that any nonprofit has around budget, thinking about what works at schools, and what doesn't, just that back and forth helps make the tools that we released so much better.
-Meredith Summs, Senior Director of Learning Design and Interim Chief Learning Officer
But technology changes quickly, and it became evident that by 2013 Mousesquad.org was nearing the end of its effectiveness. For its successor, we recommended building a custom solution using open source technologies. After some careful planning Mouse Create was designed, developed, and released in beta.
The following is a great video produced by Mouse to introduce Mouse Create.
Marc Lesser, Mouse’s former Chief Learning Officer shares, “It’s important to know that you're working with a partner who has your best interest in mind. That relates both to budget and the tech you're developing. For instance, we've proposed solutions that would have been a lot more expensive, but MOD-Lab guided development in another direction.
We have to make a case for how we spend our budget related to technology development. I'm regularly asked to go out and do price comparisons. Knowing that the trust is there and that we can rely on MOD-Lab as a long-standing member of the team, I think it's hard to put a value on that.”
An essential part of building that trust was MOD-Lab opening up itself just as much as Mouse did. We embraced transparency by sharing tools and aligning our internal processes. Because of the mutual trust we established, rapid communication and collaboration flourished throughout development.
Today’s students are more sophisticated in their use of technology
than the students of even just five years ago. This means we’ve had to
evolve Mouse Create continually since its launch in 2016. The
flexibility of the technology used and the build we delivered enables us to adapt the
interface to match students’ expected experience of the platform.
Meredith tells us, “We moved from thinking of Mouse Create as something we offer to how we deliver all our programming. Coming up with what the next priorities are for the tool happens in design sessions with the rest of Mouse. Not just with members of our program team, but members of development and communications, too. Everyone comes to the table to discuss our work with MOD-Lab.”
Mouse Create embraces a number of modern expectations and best practices for a web application.
Speed - Performance matters and is something we continue to review and respond to. For example, over the past year our continuous improvement efforts have decreased the average page load time by over 50%.
User Experience - Mouse continually gathers feedback and observes use of Mouse Create. They share this knowledge to help us collectively prioritize and design improvements.
Accessibility - The site has been independently assessed for accessibility and performed favorably, validating our collective hard work.
Data Intelligence - Mouse uses data provided by Mouse Create to assess efforts and inform future decisions. For example, we set out to make some improvements to make it easier for Educators to review project work. This was inspired by wanting to improve the percentage of student work that had been reviewed by educators.
Iterative Design and Development - Continuous improvements including new, changed, and streamlined features are what helps Mouse Create remain relevant and valuable to Mouse's community. A smart workflow combined with systems and processes make this happen.
It's one thing to have great metrics like having over 11,000 student work submissions in each of 2 consecutive six month periods. It's a celebration to show that there was a 12% increasefrom one period to the next in the number of these submissions being
reviewed by educators because of user experience and interface
Mouse Create is designed to showcase the Mouse brand both in terms of its look but also in the way it functions.
Projects are presented step by step through intuitive and quick navigation options.
Project work showcase the text and images of work done as well as note the learners involved.
Student work also includes comments to allow those who have access to ask questions, share kudos, and discuss the work positively.
Badges can be awarded to students for successfully completing a series of related projects. Badging is powered by Credly through an integration with their API and Mouse Create. The badge designs are a template that we prepared for Mouse to allow them to flexibly create badge art that leveraged their brand assets.