Page 4: Creating the product
For the primary market, the computer has to be a curriculum tool. It would be pointless for RM to provide teachers with technology that is hard to understand and irrelevant to educational needs. As a result, and through working with teachers and other stakeholders, RM has concentrated its efforts on developing a user-friendly product - based on standards - which combines hardware sturdy enough for use in the classroom, and software which fits closely to the National Curriculum across many subject areas. The software is accessed through a child-friendly user-interface. This product is the RM Window Box.
The RM Window Box represents a series of values which RM targets at each of its customer groups (i.e. it is a branded proposition). The name ‘Window Box’ was chosen to balance the computer meaning of ‘Windows’ with approachability and softness. It implies user-friendliness and that the product comprises a range of resources for teachers to use in the classroom.
The RM Window Box comprises a PC with an integrated way of using the product to deliver IT across the primary curriculum. On a standard Microsoft® Windows® PC, the user has freedom to customise or personalise the desktop by changing the background, icons and many other features. Although this is useful for a standard user, it would present problems within a classroom.
Imagine the teacher’s dilemma when a young pupil throws important items into the Recycle Bin! RM took this into account by developing the RM ClassMate user interface on the RM Window Box which removes this problem. The package also comes with learning software which addresses the needs of the National Curriculum, as well as a training voucher, entitling the purchaser to a starter training session.
Over recent years, the RM Window Box has been refined to make the user interface even more child-friendly (and child-proof) and to map the software provided even more closely to educational needs and requirements. Today there are a number of RM Window Box products in a further segmented market, designed to match customer needs more closely. These products include RM Infant Window Box and RM Internet Window Box.
Consultation with those involved in education
The development of the RM Window Box closely involved various education stakeholder groups through processes of research, trialling and consultation. For example, the latest offspring from the range - the SchoolShare Network - went through significant user testing before release with RM bringing in various groups of prospective users to go through ‘out-of-box’ trials. They were given the product as it was intended to be delivered to schools and video-taped as they set it up.
The product dimensions
RM Window Box has a range of dimensions developed in partnership with education which are designed to integrate ICT into the curriculum. At the heart of all of these developments has been the relationship between teachers and RM. The company’s expertise is based on listening to and understanding educational needs. The RM Window Box represents a good understanding of the requirements of the primary classroom to provide supportive applications for every area of the curriculum. By adding to, and protecting, the standard Windows environment, RM has built a product that adds to the flexibility required by teachers in the classroom.
One key element in developing an ongoing relationship with teachers has been the composition of the communications mix.
- Regular mailshots are designed to provide teachers with advice and solutions to any problems they may have.
- Working with customers also means involving them in the ICT debate. This year, more than 7,000 representatives from primary schools have attended seminars and partnership days to provide an interchange of views.
- After-school events have involved many teachers with staff training and development sessions.
- Former teachers with an educational background and a knowledge of educational issues have been employed on telephone support hotlines so that their wider understanding can be used to help users meet classroom needs with RM products.
When schools make purchases which are likely to affect the quality of learning outcomes for years to come, it is important that they do not experience cognitive dissonance, i.e. guilt that they have made the wrong decision.
Developing a range of product dimensions to support the product’s use within the classroom reduces dissonance by providing purchasers with support and reassurance. By broadening the dimensions of the purchase, RM can also synthesise much of its own research, feedback from teachers and experience of classroom practice with other education professionals.