Elaina Boytor - Researcher
RESEARCH EXPERIENCE and INTERESTS
I am CUrrently working as an education researcher. With a background in Sociology and Human-Computer Interaction, I use my experience evaluating education environments, user-centered research methods, and storytelling to discover and share insights that deliver equitable education for all learners.
Sociology taught how me how to understand and have empathy for the impacts of social structures, inequities, and diversity on all individuals. Studying Human-Computer Interaction focused that perspective on evaluating ecosystems, recognizing the structures needed to implement change, and to putting the perspectives of individuals at the center of social science research. In my work, I've been able to carry these perspectives and skills into evaluating and improving educational environments for educators and learners.
Currently, I am a Research Analyst at LEAP Innovations, a Chicago-based non-profit that works with educators and innovators to create learning experiences, design environments and cultivate mindsets that are responsive to the interests, strengths, and needs of individual students. At LEAP, I collect and analyze data to evaluate and improve LEAP programs. Prior to LEAP, I was a Learning Experience Researcher at the Digital Youth Network then at DePaul University in Chicago where I focused on how educators and learners use blended learning as social and interactive mediums.
I earned a Master of Science degree in Human-Computer Interaction from DePaul University and Bachelor of Arts degrees in Sociology and English from Loyola University Chicago.
I also am drawn to research opportunities that involve assistive technologies, universal design, and other ways to improve accessibility for all users.
My goal is to always be conducting social science research that aligns my enthusiasm for technology integration and improving education ecosystems with my ability to discover and share knowledge through research, implementation, and recommendation.
Education RESEARCH PROJECTS
The following are summaries of research projects conducted as a Learning Experience Researcher with the Digital Youth Network and for my Human-Computer Interaction master's program at DePaul University.
One of the areas of interest in Digital Youth Network's Blended Learning Project, funded by the NSF, is how can peer-to-peer interactions help to create meaningful social learning? This presentation highlights the majors themes of social learning: face-to-face and online friendships, using peers as resources, how blended learning helps shy students, and the benefits of collaboration. The findings also call out design recommendations for improving blended-learning experiences. [Read on]
Mobile City Science is a project based out of University of Washington College of Education lead by Katie Headrick Taylor. The project introduces youth to mapping literacies and technologies through a series of outdoor, community-based activities. These activities helps students map the existing assets in their communities then identify assets they feel are needed from their perspective as young people. The program ran in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood during fall 2016 and in Queens during spring 2017. I served as a MCS implementer, and here is my blog post of that experience.
The demand for technology-integrated education exceeds the ability to implement effective programs. Educators take a trial-and-error approach in their classrooms to establish the best methods; however, in a world that rapidly increases reliance on technology, students cannot afford being on the error side of the process. Central to the issue of integrating technology into classrooms and curriculum is that teachers, administrators, parents and students lack the tools needed to determine what works and what needs to be improved. Without these tools, the needs of these users are not addressed. My aim in this paper is understand the requirements for assessing technology-integrated education by exploring existing evaluation practices and user-perspective assessments. [Read on]
EXPLORECHI APP: USER TESTING WITH STUDENTS
In my position as a Learning Experience Researcher with the Digital Youth Network, I support the software development team by conducting user tests on our education tech platforms. I conducted a user test of an app designed for youth in Chicago to find and share programs and activities based on their interests. The goal of the user test was to evaluate if students would understand how to use the social media features adapted for our platform. I compiled and analyzed the data to create design recommendations for the development team. My input ensured that the development team created a platform that matched their goals for the app’s use. [Download Presentation]
Human-Computer Interaction Research Projects
This formative research explores the challenges faced by users who are blind as they interact with graphs through usability tests of graph descriptions with varying levels of detail. We found that although screen readers are the tools primarily used to access graphs, some graphs are inaccessible by screen readers or have text alternatives that provide limited or no descriptions. Graph descriptions must include the graph type and attributes as well as the context of use for each graph. Descriptions must not burden users with remembering information or frustrate them with repetitive data. This paper proposes description guidelines for designers to create accessible graphs. [Read on]
The objective of this generative research is to help volunteers find opportunities that fit their interests, that have the kind of impact they want, and that are positive, worthwhile experiences. Our research team seeks to understand the behaviors of volunteers, including motivations and ulterior motives, how they find the activities, how time requirements factor into the scenario and what role technology plays. [Read on]
This project utilizes generative and formative research develop solutions for issues surrounding accessing secured areas. Taking the insights from user observations and interviews, we found that users are burdened by current security methods that require swipe cards or keypad codes. Based on these insights, the research team developed a paper prototype of a wearable device that interacts with a digital display mounted next to a door. This takes onus of accessing locked entrances off of the users. Design recommendations were created based on three iterations of user testing with the product. [Read on]
The primary objective of this usability test is to evaluate the effectiveness of certain Evite website features by observing users as they complete a set of prescribed tasks. The test sought to answer questions of whether or not users would be able to understand the onboarding procedure, create an invitation with pre-defined event details, add contacts to the Evite, and send it to guests. Additionally, the testing was used to identify the website’s key user experience strengths and weaknesses and to assess how they could be further improved to better meet the needs and expectations of the user. By observing users and recording any dialogue with participants, the test was able to uncover usability strengths and weaknesses, which were then categorized based on their impact to the user. [Read on]
A within-subjects summative usability test was performed on two of the most popular streaming video platforms: Hulu and Netflix. The test was created to see which of the two interfaces provided a better user experience and to see which interface allowed users to find and save movies in a way that was easy and efficient. [Read on]