Ariana White
UX Designer

Learning Technology UX/UI for Upper Elementary Science Curriculum

Crafting digital tools for increased desired learning

Learning Technology | UX
Play-testing results

Play-testing results

Creating digital science tools

In 2022 I led the user experience design of Science simulations for Texas curriculum while working with MITR media who led efforts to evolve user interface design elements.

In tandem with my work, I began to develop a concept for an inclusive digital science tool. The idea came from the acknowledgment of the data my team and I received from our user research synthesis with simulations.

Play-testing results

Play-testing results

Why go digital?

Most of our test subjects had no use of digital science tools in the classroom compared to math and reading supplements.

The lack there-of seemed linked to students disinterest and misunderstanding of science principles and experimentation causing the start of this design journey.

There are students and teachers who prefer paper notebooks, and journals opposed to digital resources based off of evidence learning, but the introduction of digital tools in the classroom is vital.

Digital tools in the classroom are dynamic and flexible for all learning types.

Problem: Digital Science tools are non-existent or undervalued in most curricula.

There are not many digital science tools tailored and designed into science curriculum. Science is an important part of the foundation of education for all children.

Learning technology in science education offers teachers more touch-points for assessments and the ability to monitor their student's performance with digital tools.

Digital tools help recognize and support individual learning styles.

Solution: Remapping Intuition & Implementation

Implementing a digital cloud-based educational tool to catalog and provide information regarding student's various interactions and exploration with scientific concepts.


By utilizing digital science tools, students practice science-related skills and processes, ultimately contributing to the transfer of scientific understandings.

Providing an inquiry record of findings can increase students sense of identity in science, self-efficacy in science work, and general affect toward science.

The average age of a gamer is 33 years old. The average US gamer has been playing for 14 years.

The average age of a gamer is 33 years old.
The average US gamer has been playing for 14 years.


At the discovery phase of my project, I conducted user interviews to get a better understanding of cognition in desired learning from a game-player perspective.

Understanding various pedagogy of play & gamification habits for replay-ability.

Single Player Focus Points:

  • Decision Making

  • Organization

  • Tact

Online Player Focus Points:

  • Communication

  • Teamwork

  • Tact

Questions asked in interviews with video game players.Full interview script available here.

Questions asked in interviews with video game players.

Full interview script available here.

Pedagogy of Play vs. Gamification

Pedagogy of Play:
is learning is based on by means of playful experiences under children's principles, choices, enjoyment, meaning, and interaction.

is adding game mechanics into non-game environments to increase participation.

Modeling and explaining science phenomena with digital science tools from game-player experiences, creates an immersive cognitive takeaway for visual, audio, and kinesthetic learners.

Empathy map created after interviews with video game players

Empathy map created after interviews with video game players

Based on grades 3-5

Based on grades 3-5


Based on the interviews I created two personas and referred to them throughout the entire product development process.

Qualitative Research:

  • “How”, “What”, or “Why” among multiple variables

  • Specifying independent and dependent variables

User Journey

I mapped out important interactions for students to experience with the most important goals of the product.


  • Grade levels

  • Goals in different stages of learning

    • Sensorimotor stage:
      Object permanence

    • Preoperational stage:
      Symbolic thought

    • Concrete operational:
      Operational thought

    • Formal operational stage:
      Abstract concepts

  • Principles of social constructivism

    • Knowledge constructed through human activity

    • Meaning through interaction

  • Child-Computer Interaction

  • Design impact

Important interactions for students to experience

Important interactions for students to experience

User Journey

Design Considerations:

  • Memory strategies
    elaboration, mental imagery, mnemonics, organization, and rehearsal

  • Screen time duration
    Recreational screen time increased during COVID-19 causing trends of compulsion mixed stimulation in students and users with digital devices and tools. Screen content that is not educational or informative greatly inhibits deeper reflections, critical thinking or autonomy to process the information displayed.

  • Learner autonomy

  • Assessment touchpoints

"The goal of education is not to increase the amount of knowledge but to create the possibilities for a child to invent and discover."

- Jean Piaget

Competitive research

Gauging grade-level appropriateness of designs and the pedagogy of play approach.

Resources for teachers:
Graphic organizers with interactive and editable notebook templates integrated into Google Slides.

  • Google Slides - Presentation program

  • Google Classroom - Blended learning platform educational institutions that aims to simplify creating, distributing, and grading assignments. 

Popular Education Apps:

  • Kahoot! - Game based learning platform for school, home, and work

  • Flip - Video discussion and video sharing app built for classrooms

  • Class Dojo - Multipurpose digital sharing platform

  • Quizlet - web-based tool that allows users to create study tools such as interactive flashcards, tests, and study games

Popular In-Game Companion Apps

Design Inspiration

A "data journal" resembling a cross between an in-game inventory and a multi-purpose working journal for science productivity.

Learning Technology | UX


I started the design process with low fidelity wireframes. to iterate through many design options quickly.

Design Inspirations:

  • In-game inventories

  • External game social applications

  • In-game social applications

  • Interactive flashcards, tests, and study games

    Main Features:
    1. Student login & landing screen
    2. Student assignments & notifications
    3. Visited locations
    4. Map view of locations
    5. Image on display
    6. Image catalog
    7 . Video catalog
    8. Samples catalog
    9. Graphs & chart maker
    10. Settings

Learning Technology | UX

Wireframes - 1st Iteration

Agile meets design thinking

Design Inspirations:

  • In-game inventories

  • Digital assessments

  • Digital journals

  • App integrations

  • Mood tracking

  • Social interactions

Learning Technology | UX

Wireframes - 2nd Iteration

Agile meets design thinking

Design Iterations:

  • Graph & chart making

Charts and graphs are important in science, because they provide visual images of observations making it easier to draw conclusions.

Learning Technology | UX

Wireframes - 3rd Iteration

Agile meets design thinking

Design Iterations:

  • Assessments embedded into the data journal

The design was implemented to highlight learning as an assessment so that students can assess what they know for new learning.

The data journal is shown in connection with a water cycle simulation concept featuring an embedded formative assessment.

Data JournalThe “Data Journal” is a digital cloud-based tool used to collect and catalog user and student data while encouraging exploration of scientific concepts and human-computer interaction in science curriculum.

Data Journal

The “Data Journal” is a digital cloud-based tool used to collect and catalog user and student data while encouraging exploration of scientific concepts and human-computer interaction in science curriculum.

UI Design

Once I tested out all usability mistakes, and education requirements I started designing the final screens in Figma.

I improved them by adding a few relevant images provided by the MITR team. At this stage, the designs were defined enough for possible user testing.

Design Considerations:

  • Quality of content

  • Quantity of educational content

  • Heuristics of usability

  • Human-computer interaction

  • Gamification

Key takeaways of tech use in learning

  • Inclusivity is the key to engagement

  • Technology has added value and can enhance school experiences and student's everyday lives.


This project was amazing to work on.

The data journal is one of many digital tool concepts for elementary science curriculum dedicated to desired learning and furthering productivity. The future of the data journal with simulations has not been confirmed but the research and case study will be used in tandem with 2023 science curriculum when simulations are set to resume.

Thank you for reading.