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Putting People First

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January 2013
4 January 2013

Big Data, healthcare, and the human lens

francisb

Now and then somebody writes something that you don’t only wholeheartedly agree with, but that is so deliciously written that it’s a pure joy to read.

Ian Eslick, a PhD candidate at the MIT Media Laboratory and co-founder of Compass Labs blogs about health and “big data”. In this post he floors you with intensely well crafted statements as “We can only meet the challenge of other’s humanity through the lens of our own” or “There is no god in the machine, only pieces of a puzzle complex beyond our mathematics and the mind of any one of us.”

His main argument is this “Underlying much of the Big Data hype is an implicit, and dangerous belief that “feeding big data to algorithms will yield superior and actionable insight.” It ignores the subtle issues of context that dictates the utility of data and knowledge; the problem is that context is often uncomputable.”

To make his case he cites the 17th Century writings of Francis Bacon who described the four intellectual idols of his day which his methodology was intended to combat, and which remain surprisingly relevant today

Read and enjoy.

4 January 2013

Fitness by design

fitbit

Can data heal? Yes, argues Dan Hon, whose type 2 diabetes spurred him to embrace “personal informatics” devices such as the Nike FuelBand and the Fitbit. Yet as such devices become a part of everyday life, a new challenge emerges: the Balkanisation of health data across multiple platforms.

“What isn’t clear is the design process of ecosystems to support passive, wearable devices that are intensely personal and mix-and- match. We don’t worry about fashion being interoperable, about wardrobe-archive issues, or being able to use a piece of clothing from five years ago with another bought last week. Increasingly, we will. So the kind of battles being played out around interoperability, data sovereignty and social visibility in personal informatics represent a kind of avant-garde as core issues of the “Internet of things”. The principles of the much-hyped “smart cities” market, for instance, are being tested right before our eyes, as personal informatics goes up against the obesity epidemic.

Yet we don’t know much about the psychological or cultural impact of learning so much about ourselves, of seeing ourselves through the prism of performance metrics, never mind displaying that in a public form. This is perhaps the most intriguing aspect of personal informatics: it lets us know who we really are, whether we wanted it to or not.”

3 January 2013

Hertz president on the future of mobility

electriccars

A day after the announcement that the Avis Budget Group has agreed to acquire Zipcar, the world’s leading car sharing network, for approximately $500 million, Michel Taride, president of Hertz International and executive vice president of Hertz Corporation, presents his view on the future in an OpEd for the BBC website.

“With smartphone and other technologies making it easier to spontaneously chose between many different forms of urban transport, people no longer automatically associate mobility with owning a car,” he claims, stating the obvious.

So what does that mean for Hertz?

“Travel and transport providers have to be increasingly flexible and reactive to their consumers’ needs.

We cannot expect loyalty; we have to earn it.

Speed of response and customer service is what sets businesses apart, as people base their decisions upon ease and value.

Amidst all this technology, it is vital that customers can still interact with companies directly and face-to-face.

Convenience must also be balanced with a good customer experience. Companies simply cannot afford to lose that human element.”

3 January 2013

Research on the impact of tablets in secondary schools

tabletsforschools

Two months ago I wrote about what was then one of the first qualitative studies on the impact of tablets in schools:

“Carphone Warehouse (corporate site), a UK mobile phone retailer, recently commissioned the Family Kids and Youth research agency to conduct a qualitative study of schools situated in Belfast, Kent and Essex where children are already benefiting from tablet use. The aim of the research, which ran from April to July 2012, was to find out more about how tablets are actually being used in education.”

Now the full report (95 pages) of that study is online on a new Tablets for School website.

“The report summarises findings from an evaluation study that looked at the feasibility of giving pupils in secondary schools one-to-one tablets. Research was carried out between September 2011 and July 2012 and included a literature review, a review of global evaluation studies, and an evaluation of three secondary schools that had chosen to give pupils one-to-one tablets in September 2011. The three schools were in Belfast, Kent and Essex, with the main focus of the research on the Essex school, and included a nearby ‘control school’ that did not have one-to-one tablets, plus two feeder primary schools. Interviews with school leadership were carried out in all schools, plus observation of tablet learning in the three Tablet schools across a range of subjects. In addition eighteen focus groups were carried out with pupils, parents and teachers. Results suggest several benefits to learning including an increased motivation to learn; increased parental engagement; more efficient monitoring of progress between pupil and teacher; greater collaboration between teacher and pupil and between pupil and pupil. It appears that one-to-one Tablets offer a sense of inclusion that allow children, irrespective of socio-economic status or level of attainment, an opportunity to thrive through a new pedagogical model of pupil-led learning.”

The research summary page also lists separate downloads of the key findings (Word, 8 pages), executive summary (Word, 17 pages), and executive presentation (PowerPoint, 70 slides).

In the coming weeks a new, follow-up research project is about to start.

Most interestingly, the site also links to four other research studies that are worth exploring:

2011 Horizon Report for K12 Education (40 pages)
The NMC Horizon Report series is a research venture that identifies and describes emerging technologies likely to have a large impact over the coming five years in education around the globe.

Smart Classrooms, Queensland – Is the iPad suitable as a learning tool in schools? (51 pages)
A study in two schools on the use of the iPad, as part of the Queensland Department of Education and Training’s technology initiatives. Throughout the trial, participating students and teachers evaluated the iPad’s performance in a day-to-day school setting.

Project Red : The Technology Factor (180 pages)
A detailed report looking at the use of technology in the education sector. Project RED provides unprecedented scope, breadth, and depth, examining 997 schools to produce outputs for 11 diverse education success measures and 22 categories of independent variables (with many subcategories). These include demographic measures and the effects of various student-computer ratios (1:1, 2:1 etc).

Virginia Department of Education : Beyond Textbooks, Year One Report (29 pages)
In November 2009, the Virginia Department of Education launched a project to explore the implications of introducing traditional textbook alternatives into classrooms. The Beyond Textbooks pilot was part of Learning without Boundaries, an initiative of the Virginia Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology that incorporates wireless mobile handheld technology into teaching and learning.
This report shares findings from Phase 1 of the project. Fifteen classrooms — representing four school divisions — participated in the pilot. Using a design-based research approach, evaluators collected data through formal and informal interviews, direct observations, web site posts, and e-mail messages