Educators often lack the time and resources to learn, integrate, and customize featurerich software applications for their classes, and many struggle to keep up with the latest educational technologies. This dissertation introduces Customizer, a novel customizationsharing platform designed to streamline how educators can discover, interactively experiment with, and appropriate examples of their colleagues' software customizations in a widely-used learning management system (LMS). To inform the design of Customizer, we carried out two studies that allowed us to gain a deeper understanding of educators' current approaches and challenges in learning and customizing their classroom software. In the first study, we conducted interviews with 20 K-12 teachers revealing the staggering variety of software tools being used in modern classrooms and highlighting the large extent to which educators rely on a social fabric of friends and colleagues for support with software usage and customization. In the second study, we analyzed posts from the Q&A forum for a popular LMS and found that educators' questions about more idiosyncratic customization needs frequently go unanswered. To mitigate the challenges educators face in customizing their LMS, we designed, built, and evaluated the Customizer platform allowing educators to "peek" at their colleagues' setups and "borrow" their customizations. Finally, we carried out a two-week field deployment of Customizer to 10 instructors, which shed light on how instructors might integrate such a tool into their day-to-day workflows to improve LMS feature awareness, test out potential changes, and streamline their knowledge-sharing routines. The central thesis of this dissertation is that providing educators with in-context access to colleague-recommended examples of software customizations, and the ability to interactively experiment with and appropriate those customizations, can provide a useful and usable means to overcome the challenge of learning to customize feature-rich classroom software.
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Thesis advisor: Chilana, Parmit
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