First of all, I successfully started a worklog on my website for all my degree project thinking, writing, and sketching. I’m glad it has a place to live for now as I consider how to “package” my “final process” piece. Anyway, I just basically modified my Tumblr layout. It took a lot more work than it looks like, and there were some hiccups, but everything appears to be smooth sailing for now.
The past two weeks have been pretty crucial for my degree project. No big revelations, no significant changes, but I think I’m making some good progress and finally moving beyond concept and on to execution, which is a relief.
Maria’s resources on the wiki have been helpful for beginning to plan the narrative for my user scenario (particularly The Narrative Storyboard from Sketching User Experiences). I have been thrilled with the high quality of rescources available on the interaction design process. Of course, the work of Bret Victor is mouth-wateringly brilliant. His website worrydream.com is an extended glance into the mind of a true genius. Magic Ink, Dynamic Pictures, and Explorable Explanations are fantastic examples of interaction criticsm. Also, I cannot recommend watching this lecture enough: Bret Victor — Inventing on Principle. There’s also anotherlecture I recently posted on my blog about protyping with Keynote that I’m super excited about. The lecture,Keynote Kung-Fu: How Ninjas Wireframe, is by a young interactive designer named Travis Isaacs. Isaacs published a “graphic toolkit” that Brian introduced us to in Information Architecture known as “Keynote Kung-Fu.” It’s like a framework for building interface prototypes, and it’s part of how I’ve been working on my degree project. Isaacs referred to Mark Kraemer’s High Fidelity Prototyping lecture, which is also a great read. Read more on Keynote Kung-Fu →
I have also picked up quite a few of my interactive process techniques from a surprisngly keen article on Smashing Magazine called The Messy Art of UX Sketching. The author recommends buying a quilting ruler, grey markers, and Post-Its. I swear that is the holy trinity of sketching interactive prototypes.
Here’s the closest Keynote prototype I have built out so far:
I am using Pictos for all my icons. Pictos are awesome. Check them out →
Another great resource I’ve come across recently was a 60 Minutes segment on the Kahn Academy that my girlfriend pointed me to. I’ve mentioned Kahn Academy several times, but I haven’t gone into too much detail. Salman Kahn’s mission statement is to provide “A free world-class education to anyone anywhere,” which is ambitious, but the guy seems to be doing it. One of the most interesting things I saw in the video was the idea of “flipping the classroom,” where students watch lectures and do what we traditionally think of as “learning” at home. In class they practice exercies and receive real-time help from their teachers as they do their “homework.” My platform does not adopt this extreme model. While I strongly support the idea, the education system is not there yet, so I want to create something that can serve both traditional and “flipped” classrooms. In fact, my platform would support a “flipped” classroom quite well in its focus on universal accessibility and being able to get the same information on any device at any time.
Also I was really inspired by some stuff Evernote has put up on their site about working with Evernote in schools. Several schools nationwide have adoped Evernote-as-a-notebook, and Evernote has featured a couple on their website. A lot of my “note” interface and thinking is related to Evernote — it’s a sucessful example, it works well, and I use it all the time for my own life (school, work, and personal). I think my platform can learn a lot from Evernote.
The most important recent breakthrough is the development of the “note taking” process. I’ve been struggling all along with how students input their own information into my platform. I knew from the start that my solution had to deal with “notes” — how the students took them and how and where they stored them. I’d played with systems that had multiple tools for “highlighting,” “note taking,” and “clipping,” but this felt very clunky, and Kat pointed out that this would be a nuisance in the classroom. If students are trying to take digital notes on a lecutre in class, it has to be super simple. With the help of my girlfriend Kat, I think we’ve come up with a very logical and elegant solution. The student takes notes with one tool. When a student selects the “add note” button, the first step is to select where the note will go. This acts as a highlighting feature. Students can select a passage of text, an image, a video, a headline, or anything else. Upon releasing the mouse (or finger depending on the device), a blank text box prompt immediately opens up for the student to take their appropriate note. They can look at all of these notes together in their Notebook, or see them in context as they have taken them on their material. I am excited to build this feature out into the interface.
I also had some interesting thoughts on privacy/sharing this past week. I’ve decided that anyone can share any note. I understand this is dangerous territory because you start getting into the “copying notes” issue that teachers regularly have at school, but I think we are talking about a new kind of learning where all sharing is positive. All sharing promotes discussion and furthing of the class material. Again, with the help of my girlfriend Kat, we decided all materials should be re-shareable. That is you could “re-pin” or “re-blog” anyone’s note into your notebook. It would always exist as distinctly “their” note, but I think sharing notes is really powerful. Instead of shaming or pushing those who copy notes, how about rewarding those whose notes are copied the most? My thoughts on this matter are still somewhat immature, but I believe I’m on the right path with this “universal sharing” direction.