Putting People First

Daily insights on user experience, experience design and people-centred innovation
Audience Business Culture Design Locations Media Methods Services Social Issues






















Experience design

Interaction design


Service design

Ubiquitous computing












Mobile phone


Virtual world






User experience

User research


Financial services


Public services



Urban development


Digital divide

Emerging markets


Social change


Posts in category 'Research'

3 November 2013

[Book] Changing Behaviours: On the Rise of the Psychological State


Changing Behaviours: On the Rise of the Psychological State
by Rhys Jones, Jessica Pykett and Mark Whitehead
Edward Elgar Publishers
2013, 240 pages
[Amazon link]

Changing Behaviours charts the emergence of the behaviour change agenda in UK based public policy making since the late 1990s.
By tracing the influence of the behavioural sciences on Whitehall policy makers, the authors explore a new psychological orthodoxy in the practices of governing. Drawing on original empirical material, chapters examine the impact of behaviour change policies in the fields of health, personal finance and the environment. This topical and insightful book analyses how the nature of the human subject itself is re-imagined through behaviour change, and develops an analytical framework for evaluating the ethics, efficacy and potential empowerment of behaviour change.
This unique book will be of interest to advanced undergraduates, postgraduates and academics in a range of different disciplines. In particular, its inter-disciplinary focus on key themes in the social sciences – the state, citizenship, the meaning and scope of government – will make it essential reading for students of political science, sociology, anthropology, geography, policy studies and public administration. In addition, the book’s focus on the practical use of psychological and behavioural insights by politicians and policy makers should lead to considerable interest in psychology and behavioural economics.

The authors
Rhys Jones, Professor of Human Geography, Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth University, UK
Jessica Pykett, Lecturer, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, UK
Mark Whitehead, Professor of Human Geography, Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth University, UK

The Changing Behaviours project
The authors of the book have now began a Changing Behaviours research project that is exploring emerging strategies for changing human behaviours. The project is being funded as part of the Economic and Social Research Council’s Transforming Social Science programme. The primary aim of thistheproject is to consider the ways in which the emerging insights of behavioural science (in particular behavioural psychology, behavioural economics, microeconomics, cognitive design, and neuroscience) are shaping the design of public policy. This project has been designed to provide the first large-scale, international comparative study of behaviour changing initiatives. In addition to studying the application of behaviour changing policies in different countries throughout the world, the team is also exploring the use of alternative, and perhaps, more neurologically empowering approaches to behaviour change (including mindfulness, connected conversations, and critical behavioural literacy). The project, which started in September 2013, will run until February 2015.

[The book was mentioned in this long piece by Evgeny Morozov for the MIT Technology Review]

25 September 2013

Simon Roberts (EPIC chair) reflects on Big Data, business and ethnography


Simon Roberts, the highly engaging, smart and easily approachable chair of the EPIC conference last week, was so absorbed with all the logistics that he didn’t find the concentration to speak his mind during the conference. Now that the conference is over (and well organised it was!), it took him less than a week to type out a long blog post to position his thoughts on Big Data. It’s a long read but very much worth it, and it starts off exactly with the right criticism:

“The discussion at EPIC 2013 disappointed me a little. It was either constrained by simplistic oppositions (big data good / nothing to fear vs. big data bad / end of our profession as we know it), impoverished by a general lack of ethnographic specificity and illustration, or absented to discuss the power relations that big data entails.

Most worrying for me of all of these was the lack of specificity in the discussion and the absence of discussion about power. “

Exactly my thinking as well. There is an asymmetry in power relations that requires serious reflection and analysis, and it was dearly missing, sometimes even actively sidelined – as if irrelevant for ethnographers. There is an ethical and even political side to Big Data, that we have to very aware of, as user researchers and as designers (i.e. the professionals that mediate the relations between corporations and people).

Very helpful are Simon’s four dimensions of Big Data which articulate this power imbalance in more detail:

  • Quantified self vs. Monitored Self — the difference between me assenting to monitor myself vs. being monitored
  • Asymmetries of exchange — the uneven nature of the exchange between provider and analysyer/reseller of data
  • Asymmetries of feedback — the importance of balanced feedback systems
  • Asymmetries of judgment — the difference between the big data creating ‘fact’ and being used to create value judgements

He uses the example of the driving style tracking device that an insurance company installed in his car to raise some very good questions.

His three challenges (on incentive structures, interaction design and business risks) are spot-on. Read, read, read!

16 February 2013

Tablet use in California and Ontario high schools – Field observations by Experientia collaborator


Francesca Salvadori (Italian blog) is an Italian high school teacher who runs a 1:1 iPad pilot program in her school, and collaborates with Experientia on the topic of digital publishing. A few weeks ago she visited five schools in California and Ontario. Putting People First provides an English translation of the first part of her Italian report:

How far along is the introduction of new technologies in American schools? How are tablets used in the classrooms of Silicon Valley and how easy was it for teachers to adapt to the use of these tools in their daily activities? Do tablets actually help students to learn better, or learn more?

A trip to California and Ontario became an opportunity to come to an initial understanding of how technology is being used in schools on the other side of the Atlantic.

The scope of the research

I did what was possible during a single trip and visited five schools in seven days (two of which I was down with the flu!). Notwithstanding the limited number of schools visited, the technical and educational findings are quite clear, and at least partly, generalizable beyond the schools observed.

The five schools are of course not representative of the “average” American school: they are private institutions located in an area where the use of technologies is probably more advanced than anywhere else. Moreover, the selection was not systematic: knowing that I was going to visit the Bay Area, I approached institutions that had published some information online on their 1:1 iPad programs, so it is entirely possible that there are other deployments in the area that I am not aware of and that may have implemented different ways of working.

However, the analogies between the current practices at the five schools were striking. There is clearly an emerging trend that is driven by a careful methodological preparation and a precise assessment of the objectives these schools set out to reach.

With such a clear trend, I think it will not take much for these practices to spread like wildfire.

Tablet use in Bay Area schools

The Saint Ignatius Preparatory High School of San Francisco was the first school I visited, thanks to the great support I received from its Educational Technologist, Eric Castro.

It is a private Jesuit school with 1,300 students and a 1:1 iPad program that started in 2009. It is in fact one of the largest iPad deployments in the Bay Area.

Eric is a real expert, with deep technological knowledge but also with a healthy critical approach that comes from his background in social sciences. Those interested in technologies in education should definitely explore his Restless Pedagogue blog.

I asked Eric how widespread tablet use is in Bay Area schools at the moment. The answer (confirmed the next day by Albert Boyle, Director of Technology of the San Francisco University High School) is that only 12 schools have 1:1 iPad deployments at the moment. They are all private, with yearly tuitions between 17,000 and 35,000 USD.

The State of California is financially nearly bankrupt and has great difficulties to guarantee the regular functioning of its public schools. I was told that it is therefore impossible for them to finance tablet based learning programs. Less populated States such as Maine are in a different situation.

But is money really the decisive factor? I thought of some of the tablet programs in Italian schools such as the Lussano Lyceum of Bergamo or the Majorana school in Brindisi, which are also public schools without huge funding. Yet they found a way to embark on tablet initiatives which are now systemic and involve nearly their entire student bodies.

How to manage the digital transition? The role of teacher training and Educational Technologists

One of the key goals of my trip was to understand the ways in which the transition to tablet based learning practices is actually managed. What training do the teachers get once the leadership of the school has decided to introduce iPads?

There are analogies with what is happening in Italy, but also deep differences.

All the people I spoke with told me that teachers obtained their iPads some considerable time before they were introduced in the classrooms, and could decide freely if and how they wanted to use them in their classes. There was no pressure how quickly they have to be introduced or on the way they ought to be used. In short, the approach was one of a gentle ‘invite’ to change.

Vince Delisi, Director of Technology and Innovation at the Holy Trinity School of Richmond Hill, Ontario, told me a story about one school that he knew where teachers who didn’t want to make the technological leap, were offered a golden handshake, with the suggestion that they might have to find themselves a new professional challenge in life. But this was clearly the exception to the rule.

All the schools I visited preferred a “soft” transition, taking into account the fundamental impact of this change and the importance of adapting the didactic practices of the school to the capabilities and styles of each of their teachers.

I didn’t find any evidence of substantial training support from the State or Federal Government. To be honest, Based on what I heard about the inclusive political initiatives spearheaded by Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education of the Obama administration, I was actually expecting a more widespread diffusion of technologies in California, also in its public schools – and the absence of such might also be the reason for the lack of widespread training support. Thus, the deep divides that characterize the American school system, exemplified by the profound hiatus between public and private schools, create a situation where those who are more informed and have more financial resources can de facto act in full autonomy.

This does not mean that teachers had no training.

All the schools that I visited, from Saint Ignatius with its 1,300 students to the Drew School which has “only” 350, have staff members whose role it is to support and help the teachers in this transition. A much more structural and long-term approach therefore, than the brief training sessions that textbook publishers tend to organize in schools when they want to sell their multimedia products (as is often the case in Italy), or than the afternoon sessions that schools organize for their teachers just to be able to say that they too train their teachers.

The support staff I met are real specialists in technology applied to education. They work full time in their schools and have a double role: they support teachers in achieving their educational objectives with these new digital tools, while also keeping them continuously informed on whatever becomes available in this rapidly developing market. The training is both serious and long lasting. It is lifelong learning in the field, based on research and constant updates, which allows teachers to make a smarter use of the technologies available to them.

Hail Mary! The difference is all in the mindset

But how did teachers react when they were asked by the management of their schools to change their ways of working and to question their established teaching practices?

All educational technologists – Eric, Albert, Tom, Kate and Vince – told me that in the end all teachers have shown interest, goodwill, and often enthusiasm to the idea of using tablets as part of their teaching. Yes, there were the occasional refusal, but in absolute numbers these were isolated cases.

Moreover, this openness to change is not affected by one’s age or the number of years one has been teaching: the best example was Mary McCarty, a powerhouse under a helmet of white hair, who has enthusiastically embraced the tablet in her late career.

With great ease she moves through the classroom with her iPad, demonstrating me the use of, an innovative site that integrates key Latin texts with an interlinear word list, that students are constantly referring to in their translation exercises.

Mary is the evidence in person of people’s capacity to adapt. She demonstrates that the desire to be effective in a transforming world is not based on age. It is not true, I think, that the young are more able and quick to adapt to the new and to welcome the challenges that technologies have to offer. It is, I think, all based on one’s mindset and adaptability. All that’s needed is a desire to continue learning, and the willingness to make mistakes and to take on the challenge to find new ways to communicate with students. A pragmatic and non ideological approach is also essential – which might be a challenge for Italian schools where teachers often have strong ideologically biased views on new technologies.

Understanding the difficulties

But what about the varied and sometimes unpredictable reactions of teachers? The most interesting insight on this came from Kate Miller, Instructional Technology Specialist at the Menlo School (Atherton, CA).

Menlo is the school of the 1%. Kate does the same work as Eric [Castro], but in an even more privileged environment.

We are at a stone’s throw from Palo Alto and Cupertino, in the heart of Silicon Valley. Menlo’s dream campus with its impressive and luminous spaces, its very advanced technologies (all devices are last generation Apple), and its highly professional teachers and staff bring it close to our – somewhat unreal – image of the “perfect school”.

Kate told me that she taught in environments that are far less exclusive. Probably because of that she has an empathy for those who are not so enamored by technology, and might even nurture resistance towards it or at least a profound detachment.

Despite her role as a technology “specialist,” Kate understands those who do not want to spend hours playing games on their iPads or try out the latest apps, but prefer to do something else (like reading a printed book). The challenge for those who support the digital transition, she thinks, is to understand the difficulties of those who are not so digitally adapt and have different mental models than those who design these devices and apps.

Teachers may never become real “technology experts,” but it is crucial that someone competent and sensitive is there to help them, someone who understands what is needed to make their professionalism more powerful. From that point of view, an intelligent psychological approach, such as Kate’s, is not the only determining factor. Equally important are solid technical expertise and the willingness to quickly find solutions to the practical problems that technology often creates for teachers.

Eric Spross, Director of Technology at the Menlo School, is gifted with this important combination, and gladly makes his insights available to those less technologically savvy, like myself. Even though I am not even working at his school, Eric gladly showed me which tools to use to replace Apple TV when the class uses different operating systems. In the end, I was able to return to Italy with a clear idea of what to do and what to buy. If I had to find and evaluate all the relevant technical info by myself, I would have spent much more time and energy.

After all, the rules of the game are that the technology has to be made available to us, and not the other way around…

How the use of tablets is changing teaching and learning

One of my main interests was to understand how teaching itself is changing with the use of the tablet. I had developed my own thoughts, based on my personal experiences using tablets in my classroom. Observing the work of colleagues who are working in a school and educational context that is so different from our own, brought the question even more to the fore.

Using a tablet in the classroom means first of all saying goodbye to frontal teaching, while providing space and guidance to students’ independent research, writing or other creative activities. In this new world, the classroom changes from a conference room to a practice room, which implies that pedagogical practices need to be inverted. The students I saw working away in their classrooms, had absorbed the lecture contents at home – through readings, videos, etc. – which at school were then elaborated upon by the teacher. The teachers’ role of the latter has changed fundamentally: they are mainly providing stimulation and guidance to the research and exercises of the students (the so-called “inverted classroom”).

But if students become researchers, the main teaching objective is to bring them to ask the right questions and to stimulate their critical thought. The classes that I was sitting in on struck me foremost because of their dialectic approach: the focus was never on the facts – interesting to notice how that transforms History teaching – but on the underlying questions. Students are asked to reflect upon these, but also to argue their proper point of view. This dialectic approach is of course not really new in the Anglo-Saxon educational context, but the use of technologies pushes it even more: the real issue is no longer finding the facts but selecting, understanding and interpreting them.

The end of the digital whiteboard

I didn’t see any interactive whiteboards. Anywhere. I asked why and the answer was always the same: “not useful and way too expensive.”

All classrooms are equipped with a projector that is connected wirelessly to the tablet of the teachers or the students – depending on the type of work – by means of a video streamer (e.g. an Apple TV) that projects its screen image onto a scroll-down screen, a whiteboard or a white wall.

No maintenance, no burnt-out bulbs, no walls that cannot be used for anything else. If you use tablets, you have no longer any need for interactive whiteboards. No need to throw them away, but we need to find ways to make them work with the new touch devices (a solution could lie in connecting them directly with a video streaming device, which seems to be possible, or through an Airplay mirroring app such as Reflector). And we should stop buying new ones.

The contents: an open challenge for schoolbook publishers

From Eric Castro to Shane Carter (History Teacher at the Drew School) to Stefanie Portman (History Instructor at the Menlo School) to Ohad Paran (English Teacher at the Menlo School): all have declared war on textbooks.

While it is certainly true that textbooks never had the central role in the American educational system that they have in our own, it is also true that I heard a unanimous choir of complaints on how publishing houses are reacting to the challenge of digitalization.

Teachers and school administrators underlined the inadequate offering of the publishing houses and their nearly hysterical obsession with the copyright of their products – which has made it nearly impossible in the USA to commercialize digital textbooks, without substantial limitations in their use. What’s more, they also point out that publishers simply do not understand the “open” nature of the web.

My observations herald a future that looks quite worrisome for publishers: teachers of various stripes and with various backgrounds, who only share the use of the tablet in their classrooms, have jointly decided to no longer use textbooks in their teaching practice. Instead they have opted for materials that they themselves have selected, assembled and shared, taking advantage of the immense archive of the web, including Open Educational Resources (OER) and whatever else can be useful in classroom activities.

The unsurmountable problem of textbooks lies in their lack of adaptability to a teaching practice that has become increasingly creative and personalized, thanks to digital tools. Hybrid solutions, which seek to salvage the old by packaging it as something new, have therefore little potential of success.

So should we sing the funeral mass for the publishing houses? I don’t think so. The “big three” in the USA – Pearson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and McGraw Hill – are preparing for the future by buying up or partnering with start-ups that are able to create contents of a new generation, and by building platforms that combine highly modularized copyrighted contents with OER materials.

The various directions will show their strengths and weaknesses very soon. The only certainty now is that the current wait-and-see approach of the publishing housesand the underlying unwillingness to deeply reconsider the role of their services and offerings, will only bring about a situation where teachers create their own books even more rapidly, exactly like they want them.

But does tablet use improve student performance?

No. Or at least, we don’t know yet.

Some iPad programs, like those at the Menlo School or the San Francisco University High School, are very new (initiated only this year), while others, e.g. those at Saint Ignatius or at the Holy Trinity School, are now in their second or third year.

Everyone told me that tablets are but a tool that no one should expect miracles of. Paul Molinelli (Director of Professional Development at Saint Ignatius College Preparatory School) said that the primary goal for the staff of Saint Ignatius, is not to raise the academic scores but to make the classes more “engaging”, closer to the language and the communication style of the students. With great honesty, Paul mentioned that the digital transition may even have created some setbacks: e.g. one class did less well than normal because students needed time to adapt to the new educational requirements and to the evaluation methods which had partly changed.

Also Vince Delisi insisted on the need for a bit of patience in evaluating the results. He underlined that it is still too early to evaluate the academic performance of tablets. We move ahead and wait, he said, because the praxis needs to be perfected and consolidated before we can see tangible results: the most encouraging fact at the moment is the enthusiasm of the students and their families.

The resources of the private school

We discussed earlier how the role of the Educational Technologists is fundamental. Their involvement is not something that came about by coincidence; there is a deeply rooted awareness in these schools of the digital revolution currently taking place, and of the importance to seriously commit to strong support to all protagonists in the educational process in this phase of digital transition. These schools understand that such a radical paradigm shift cannot be left to chance, but requires the involvement and the support of experts who know what they are talking about.

Of course, the extraordinary organization and the amount of resources that a private school system can avail itself of, cannot but impress an Italian teacher. Perhaps we need to reflect on the consequences of our (Italian) obsession with equality, that has created an educational system that will never have schools like Saint Ignatius and Menlo.

Notwithstanding the empty pre-election statements here in Italy or the feel-good declarations to make our public servants happy, we have to admit that no one really invests in our schools. Not the state. Not the private sector. The result is an old and somewhat marginal educational system, with occasional points of excellence, that are often due to the heroic efforts of individual teachers or headmasters.

Let’s push for leaders who are seriously committed to investing in our future.

I want to thank all those who have welcomed me through their writing, or by providing me with guidance, picking me up at train or metro stations, guiding me around, or being available for conversations or interviews during this very interesting journey. In particular I want to thank Eric Castro, Paul Molinelli, Tom Wadbrooke, Juna McDaid, Shane Carter, Kate Garret, Albert Boyle, Kate Miller, Eric Spross, Ohad Paran, Stefanie Portman, Vince Delisi, and John Edgecombe for their extraordinary availability.

13 February 2013

Report: Divided Brain, Divided World


Divided Brain, Divided World; Why the best part of us struggles to be heard is an RSA report that explores the practical significance of the scientific fact that the two hemispheres of our brains have radically different ‘world views’.

It argues that our failure to learn lessons from the financial crash, our continuing neglect of climate change, and the increase in mental health conditions may stem from a literal loss of perspective that we urgently need to regain.

The evidence-based case is that the abstract, articulate, instrumentalising world view of the left hemisphere is gradually usurping the more contextual, holistic but relatively tentative world view of the right hemisphere.

Divided Brain, Divided World examines how related issues are illuminated by the ideas developed in author and psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist’s critically acclaimed work: The Master and his Emissary. It features a dialogue between McGilchrist and Director of RSA’s Social Brain Centre, Dr Jonathan Rowson, which informed a workshop with policymakers, journalists and academics. This workshop led to a range of written reflections on the strength and significance of the ideas, including critique, clarification and illustrations of relevance in particular domains, including economics, behavioural economics, climate change, NGO campaigning, patent law, ethics, and art.

7 February 2013

Recent studies on the impact of tablet use in schools – an overview



One-to-one Tablets in Secondary Schools: An Evaluation Study
(see also here and here)
Dr Barbie Clarke and Siv Svanaes, Family Kids and Youth, UK, 2012
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 in Belfast, Kent and Essex that had chosen to give pupils one-to-one tablets in September 2011.

iPad Scotland Evaluation Study
(see also here)
Kevin Burden, Paul Hopkins, Dr Trevor Male, Dr Stewart Martin, Christine Trala, University of Hull, UK, 2012
Case study of mobile technology adoption from eight individual educational locations in Scotland that differ significantly in terms of demographics, infrastructure, the approach of the Local Authority and readiness to implement the use of tablet technology for learning and teaching.

Learning is Personal, Stories of Android Tablet Use in the 5th Grade
(see also here)
Marie Bjerede and Tzaddi Bondi, Learning Untethered, USA, 2012
Project explored the differences in student performance using tablets for writing versus using the more traditional netbooks, as well as the appropriateness of Android devices as an alternative to the popular iOS devices.

The iPad as a Tool for Education – A study on the introduction of iPads at Longfield Academy, Kent
Jan Webb, NAACE, UK, 2012
Research on how the use of tablets in a Kent school impacts teaching and learning.

Decoding Learning: The proof, promise and potential of digital education
Rosemary Luckin, Brett Bligh, Andrew Manches, Shaaron Ainsworth, Charles Crook, Richard Noss, NESTA, UK, 2012
Nesta commissioned the London Knowledge Lab (LKL) and Learning Sciences Research Institute (LSRI), University of Nottingham, to analyse how technology has been used in the UK education systems and lessons from around the world, in order to set a clear framework for better understanding the impact on learning experiences.

23 Monate #iPadKAS: Review 2012 und Perspektiven (in German)
A.J. Spang, Kaiserin Augusta Schule, Cologne, Germany, 2012
Report on a 23 month iPad program in a German school.

iPad Trial – Is the iPad suitable as a learning tool in schools?
Smart Classrooms, Department of Education and Training, Queensland Government, Australia, 2012
A study in two schools on the use of the iPad, as part of the Queensland Department of Education and Training’s technology initiatives.


Beyond Textbooks: Year One Report
Virgina Department of Education, USA, 2011
Findings on the implications of introducing traditional textbook alternatives into fifteen pilot classrooms

What do Students Think of Using iPads in Class? Pilot Survey Results
Sam Gliksman, School Director at Los Angeles High School and editor of iPadsInEducation, USA, 2011
Results of survey of 126 students.

“There’s an App for That”: A Study Using iPads in a United States History Classroom
Emily R. Carcia, USA, 2011
Study investigates the effect of Apple iPads on achievement in an eleventh grade U.S. history classroom. Spefically, the research explored the impact of the Explore 9/11 application on student achievement.

How are students actually using IT? An ethnographic study
Christopher Cooley, Thomas M. Malaby and David Stack, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, USA, 2011
An anthropological ethnographic analysis of student practices relating to the use of information technology on the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) campus.

2011 Horizon Report for K12 Education
Larry Johnson, Leslie Conery and Keith Krueger, New Media Consortium, USA, 2011
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.


The Technology Factor: Nine Keys to Student Achievement and Cost-Effectiveness
Thomas W. Greaves, Jeanne Hayes, Leslie Wilson, Michael Gielniak, and R. Peterson, Project RED, Pearson Foundation, USA, 2010
A detailed report looking at the use of technology in the education sector. The report examines 997 schools and produces outputs for 11 diverse education success measures and 22 categories of independent variables (with many subcategories).

Looking to the future: M-learning with the iPad
Karen Melhuish and Garry Falloon, New Zealand, 2010
Paper explores the potential affordances and limitations of the Apple iPad in the wider context of emergent mobile learning theory, and the social and economic drivers that fuel technology development.

The Effects of Tablets on Pedagogy
Jeremy Vrtis, National-Louis University, USA, 2010
The study examines the effects tablet computers have on the pedagogy of instructors, and students’ perspectives of the instructional uses of the tablet.

3 January 2013

Research on the impact of tablets in secondary schools


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

18 October 2012

Transforming Bodies & Lifestyles: Insights into Inspiring Behavior Change


Transforming Bodies & Lifestyles: Insights into Inspiring Behavior Change
Institute For The Future

Inspiring people to change their behaviors in order to become healthier remains one of the most intractable challenges. But it also remains one of the most significant. Fifty-percent of all deaths each year are the result of potentially preventable chronic diseases such as heart disease—costing hundreds of billions of dollars annually. To address these and other challenges, behavior change efforts will be central to shaping the future of health and health care.

This environmental scan, Transforming Bodies and Lifestyles: Insights into Inspiring Behavior Change, identifies key strategies that stakeholders throughout the global health economy can use to help people make lasting changes that promote long-term health. It takes a broad look at emerging theories of motivation to identify key insights in the form of opportunities to intervene to change unhealthy behaviors and enable people to build capacities to create health and well-being in their own lives. It also identifies critical emerging technologies that will shape our everyday health experiences. Combining insights from the social sciences and technology creates new opportunities to deliver more persuasive, personalized, and meaningful messages to promote healthier behaviors.

Expert interviewees:
Mary Jane Osmick, MD, Medical Director, American Specialty Health Network
Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, Health Economist, THINK-Health
Chris Bettinger, Sociologist
Derek Newell, Managing Director, HT3
William Polonsky, CEO, Behavioral Diabetes Institute
Steph Habif, Behavior Designer
Jeremy Bailenson, Founding Director, Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab and an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication, Stanford University
Kevin Clark, President and Founder, Content Evolution LLC
Mathias Crawford, Natron Baxter
Andy Donner, Director, Physic Ventures
Esther Dyson, EDventure Holdings
James Fowler, Professor of Medical Genetics and Political Science at the University of California, San Diego
Judy Hibbard, Health Policy Professor, University of Oregon
Michael Kim, CEO/Founder, Kairos Labs
Brad Kimler, Executive Vice President, Benefits Consulting Fidelity Employer Services
Kelly McGonigal, Health Psychologist, Stanford University
Paul Sas, Senior Manager, Director of Research, E*TRADE FINANCIAL
Sue Siegel, Partner, Mohr Davidow Ventures
Lisa Suennen, Co-founder and Managing Member, Psilos Group

6 September 2012

The new face of digital populism: The Netherlands


Ahead of next week’s Dutch election, the UK think tank Demos launched Populism in Europe: Netherlands, which analyses the rise of Geert Wilders’ Partij voor de Vrijheid, through an analysis of its Facebook fans.

Nationalist populist parties and movements are growing in support throughout Europe. These groups are known for their opposition to immigration, their ‘anti-establishment’ views and their concern for protecting national culture. Their rise in popularity has gone hand-in-hand with the advent of social media, and they are adept at using new technology to amplify their message, recruit and organise.

Geert Wilders and his Partij voor de Vrijheid (PVV) in the Netherlands are perhaps the best known of these new movements, enjoying steady growth since being founded in 2004. In the 2010 parliamentary election, the PVV won 24 seats, which made it the third largest party in the Netherlands, and gave it a keyrole in keeping the minority government of Mark Rutte in office. The PVV places strong emphasis on the need to address immigration and what it sees as a failed multicultural policy, with Wilders being well known for his often incendiary remarks about Islam. Recently, Wilders has been directing more of his attention toward the EU: opposing the deficit reduction plan, and Brussels more generally.

This report presents the results of a survey of Facebook fans of the PVV. It includes data on who they are, what they think, and what motivates them to shift from virtual to real-world activism. It also compares them with other similar parties in Western Europe, shedding light on their growing online support,and the relationship between their online and offline activities. This report is the fourth in a series of country specific briefings about the online supportof populist parties in 12 European countries, based on our survey of 13,000 Facebook fans of these groups.

The publication is part of the Demos investigation series into digital populism, which already launched previous reports on Hungary (January 2012) and Denmark (May 2012).

14 August 2012

Care at a Distance : On the Closeness of Technology


Care at a Distance : On the Closeness of Technology
By Jeannette Pols
Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam
2012, 204 pages

This widely researched study demonstrates convincingly that neither grandiose promises nor nightmare scenarios have much to do with actual care practices employing telecare.

Combining detailed ethnographic studies of nurses and patients involved in telecare with a broad theoretical frameworky from various disciplines, the author concludes that these practices leads to more rather than less intense caring relations, resulting from a spectacular raise in the frequency of contacts between nurses and patients.

Patients are much taken with this, not because they feel they are finally able to manage themselves, but because they can ‘leave things to the experts’. The patients find that caring is something that is best done for others.

The book frames urgent questions about the future of telecare and the ways in which innovative care practices can be built on facts rather than hopes, hypes or nightmares.

Jeannette Pols is a researcher at the Amsterdam Medical Centre, University of Amsterdam.

Download study (free)

7 June 2012

Computational user experiences at Microsoft Research


“The Computational User Experiences (CUE) group [at Microsoft Research] creates technologies that augment our personal and professional digital lives to enhance individual and collaborative pursuits. We apply expertise in machine learning, visualization, mobile computing, sensors and devices, and quantitative and qualitative evaluation techniques to improve the state of the art in physiological computing, healthcare, home technologies, computer-assisted creativity, and entertainment.”

(Check the projects and publications)

26 May 2012

The Smartphone Psychology Manifesto


In Perspectives on Psychological Science (May 2012 vol. 7), Geoffrey Miller publishes a “Smartphone Psychology Manifesto” with methodological suggestions for the use of smartphones in psychological research that could indeed have a huge impact on the study of cognition and culture.

By 2025, when most of today’s psychology undergraduates will be in their mid-30s, more than 5 billion people on our planet will be using ultra-broadband, sensor-rich smartphones far beyond the abilities of today’s iPhones, Androids, and Blackberries. Although smartphones were not designed for psychological research, they can collect vast amounts of ecologically valid data, easily and quickly, from large global samples. If participants download the right “psych apps,” smartphones can record where they are, what they are doing, and what they can see and hear and can run interactive surveys, tests, and experiments through touch screens and wireless connections to nearby screens, headsets, biosensors, and other peripherals. This article reviews previous behavioral research using mobile electronic devices, outlines what smartphones can do now and will be able to do in the near future, explains how a smartphone study could work practically given current technology (e.g., in studying ovulatory cycle effects on women’s sexuality), discusses some limitations and challenges of smartphone research, and compares smartphones to other research methods. Smartphone research will require new skills in app development and data analysis and will raise tough new ethical issues, but smartphones could transform psychology even more profoundly than PCs and brain imaging did.

Download manifesto

(via cognition and culture)

25 May 2012

Interview with and lecture by Daniel Kahnemann

Portrait Daniel Kahneman

Debunking the Myth of Intuition
Can doctors and investment advisers be trusted? And do we live more for experiences or memories? In a SPIEGEL interview, Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman discusses the innate weakness of human thought, deceptive memories and the misleading power of intuition.

Daniel Kahneman on the Trap of ‘Thinking That We Know’ (video)
The National Academy of Sciences did a great service to science early this week by holding a conference on “The Science of Science Communication.” A centerpiece of the two-day meeting was a lecture titled “Thinking That We Know,” delivered by Daniel Kahneman, the extraordinary behavioral scientist who was awarded a Nobel Prize in economics despite never having taken an economics class.
The talk is extraordinary for the clarity (and humor) with which he repeatedly illustrates the powerful ways in which the mind filters and shapes what we call information. He discusses how this relates to the challenge of communicating science in a way that might stick.
Please carve out the time to watch his slide-free, but image-rich, talk. It’s a shorthand route to some of the insights described in Kahneman’s remarkable book, “Thinking, Fast and Slow”.

11 May 2012

Neurologist: Mobile technology is literally changing the way we think


Leading neurologist Susan Greenfield tells Nokia Conversations that we need a new framework to make sense of our ‘mobile world’

Her argument is that mobile technology, and what we do with it, is now at the center of our family and social life, like the piano was for the Victorians and the TV was for baby boomers. But it’s even bigger than that, because it’s mobile, of course; so we not only do it at home, we do it at work – we do it everywhere.

“I don’t want to turn the clock back,” says Greenfield, “My concern is not that we have too much technology – but that we are not making the most of it.”

With huge increases in life expectancy, and demands for a better quality of life, we should be acutely aware of how we are harnessing technology for our own development.

Read article

6 April 2012

Earth Institute publishes first ever World Happiness Report

Screen Shot 2012-04-06 at 15.00.07

The first ever World Happiness Report has been made public and states that our best chance at a contented life is to pack up and move to Scandinavia, writes Wired UK.

Published by The Earth Institute at Columbia University and co-edited by its director, the report was commissioned for a United Nations conference on happiness.

The report collated data from several different happiness measurement exercises worldwide to create a “life evaluation score”, which took in not just wealth but also social factors such as political freedom, strong social networks and an absence of corruption as well as personal criteria including good mental and physical health, someone to count on, job security and having a stable family life. The sources include the Gallup World Poll (GWP), the World Values Survey (WVS), the European Values Survey (EVS), and the European Social Survey (ESS).

After the figures were analysed, the report authors found that the “happiest countries in the world” are Denmark, Norway, Finland and Netherlands, where the average life evaluation score is 7.6 on a 0-to-10 scale. The least happy countries are Togo, Benin, Central African Republic and Sierra Leone with average life evaluation scores of just 3.4.

Read article (Wired UK)
Read press release (Earth Institute)
Download report

4 April 2012

Experientia working towards ECOFAMILIES


Experientia® is partnering with the Centre Scientifique et Technique du Bâtiment (CSTB) of Nice, France and a series of other agencies on Ecofamilies, a project aimed at the enhancement and promotion of eco-responsible behaviours in family homes.

Starting from March 2012, and continuing until June, co-design workshops are being conducted with 30 volunteer families, in a participatory approach which aims to discover the real behaviours, attitudes and needs of families when it comes to energy consumption.

The final goal of the project is to produce an innovative technological solution which will allow families, parents and children alike, to have a concrete understanding of their energy consumption, and the choices that are available to reduce it, with personalised tips and detailed, useful information on household energy use.

Experientia® is a consultant on the project, as part of a growing profile in the field of behavioural change for sustainability.

In the past three years, Experientia® has developed a framework for sustainable behavioural change.

Experientia’s other sustainability focused projects include developing an environmental road map for Kortrijk Xpo in Belgium to become the most environmentally sustainable trade fair complex in Europe; and Low2No, where they are focusing on behavioural change, service design and an advanced smart metering device, to help people achieve more sustainable lifestyles.

17 March 2012

On the relationship between socio-economic factors and cell phone usage


The ubiquitous presence of cell phones in emerging economies has brought about a wide range of cell phone-based services for low-income groups. Often times, the success of such technologies highly depends on its adaptation to the needs and habits of each social group.

In an attempt to understand how cell phones are being used by citizens in an emerging economy, the authors, Vanessa Frias-Martinez and Jesus Virseda of Telefonica Research, present a large-scale study to analyze the relationship between specific socio-economic factors and the way people use cell phones in an emerging economy in Latin America. They propose a novel analytical approach that combines large-scale datasets of cell phone records with countrywide census data to reveal findings at a national level.

The main results show correlations between socio-economic levels and social network or mobility patterns among others. The authors also provide analytical models to accurately approximate census variables from cell phone records with R2≈0.82.

Download paper (posted on

22 November 2011

Design for digital context (white paper)

Design for digital context
Fjord, the digital design consultancy, has just completed a white paper called “Design for Context: Understanding How User Context is Evolving”, looking at the background to context-sensitive design and current approaches, as well as providing high-level design recommendations for using context effectively and profitably.

The paper was developed as part of Fjord’s involvement with the three-year EU-funded research project SmarcoS.

“Designing and creating the best digital service experiences demands a clear understanding of user context.

Coupled with the rise of embedded technology, contextually aware design and technology is being utilised more and more to tailor and automate digital experiences.

This Fjord Report looks at the background to context- sensitive design, current approaches, and concludes with analysis and high-level design recommendations for creating digital services that use context effectively and profitably.”

Download white paper

(via Dexigner)

28 October 2011

Smartphones find niche in human behaviour tests

Researchers are using innovative tools to perform psychological experiments a lot faster than they used to.

Experts believe the number of smartphone users worldwide will top the 1 billion mark by 2013.

Now an international team of scientists has taken advantage of smartphone technology to examine the mental processes involved in how humans remember, think, speak and solve problems.

Presented in the journal PLoS ONE, the findings demonstrate how these tiny tools can dramatically change cognitive science research.

The study was funded in part by the O-CODE (‘Cracking the orthographic code’) project, which has clinched a European Research Council (ERC) grant worth EUR 2.2 million under the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

Read article

21 September 2011

Digital AlterNatives with a Cause?

Digital AlterNatives
Hivos (The Netherlands) and the Centre for Internet and Society (Bangalore, India) have consolidated their three year knowledge inquiry into the field of youth, technology and change in a four book collective “Digital AlterNatives with a cause?”.

This collaboratively produced collective, edited by Nishant Shah and Fieke Jansen, asks critical and pertinent questions about theory and practice around ‘digital revolutions’ in a post MENA (Middle East – North Africa) world. It works with multiple vocabularies and frameworks and produces dialogues and conversations between digital natives, academic and research scholars, practitioners, development agencies and corporate structures to examine the nature and practice of digital natives in emerging contexts from the Global South.

The conversations, research inquiries, reflections, discussions, interviews, and art practices are consolidated in this four part book which deviates from the mainstream imagination of the young people involved in processes of change. The alternative positions, defined by geo-politics, gender, sexuality, class, education, language, etc. find articulations from people who have been engaged in the practice and discourse of technology mediated change. Each part concentrates on one particular theme that helps bring coherence to a wide spectrum of style and content.

Book 1: To Be: Digital AlterNatives with a Cause?
The first part, To Be, looks at the questions of digital native identities. Are digital natives the same everywhere? What does it mean to call a certain population ‘Digital Natives”? Can we also look at people who are on the fringes – Digital Outcasts, for example? Is it possible to imagine technology-change relationships not only through questions of access and usage but also through personal investments and transformations? The contributions help chart the history, explain the contemporary and give ideas about what the future of technology mediated identities is going to be.

Book 2: To Think: Digital AlterNatives with a Cause?
In the second section, To Think, the contributors engage with new frameworks of understanding the processes, logistics, politics and mechanics of digital natives and causes. Giving fresh perspectives which draw from digital aesthetics, digital natives’ everyday practices, and their own research into the design and mechanics of technology mediated change, the contributors help us re-think the concepts, processes and structures that we have taken for granted. They also nuance the ways in which new frameworks to think about youth, technology and change can be evolved and how they provide new ways of sustaining digital natives and their causes.

Book 3: To Act: Digital AlterNatives with a Cause?
To Act is the third part that concentrates on stories from the ground. While it is important to conceptually engage with digital natives, it is also, necessary to connect it with the real life practices that are reshaping the world. Case-studies, reflections and experiences of people engaged in processes of change, provide a rich empirical data set which is further analysed to look at what it means to be a digital native in emerging information and technology contexts.

Book 4: To Connect: Digital AlterNatives with a Cause?
The last section, To Connect, recognises the fact that digital natives do not operate in vacuum. It might be valuable to maintain the distinction between digital natives and immigrants, but this distinction does not mean that there are no relationships between them as actors of change. The section focuses on the digital native ecosystem to look at the complex assemblage of relationships that support and are amplified by these new processes of technologised change.

(via Luca De Biase)

23 August 2011

“Digital natives” need help understanding search

University library
A two-year, five-campus ethnographic study on how students view and use their campus libraries showed that students rarely ask librarians for help, even when they need it. The idea of a librarian as an academic expert who is available to talk about assignments and hold their hands through the research process is, in fact, foreign to most students. Those who even have the word “librarian” in their vocabularies often think library staff are only good for pointing to different sections of the stacks.

“The ERIAL (Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries) project — a series of studies conducted at Illinois Wesleyan, DePaul University, and Northeastern Illinois University, and the University of Illinois’s Chicago and Springfield campuses — […] enlisted two anthropologists, along with their own staff members, to collect data using open-ended interviews and direct observation, among other methods.

One thing the librarians now know is that their students’ research habits are worse than they thought.

At Illinois Wesleyan University, “The majority of students — of all levels — exhibited significant difficulties that ranged across nearly every aspect of the search process,” according to researchers there. They tended to overuse Google and misuse scholarly databases. They preferred simple database searches to other methods of discovery, but generally exhibited “a lack of understanding of search logic” that often foiled their attempts to find good sources. […]

The prevalence of Google in student research is well-documented, but the Illinois researchers found something they did not expect: students were not very good at using Google. They were basically clueless about the logic underlying how the search engine organizes and displays its results. Consequently, the students did not know how to build a search that would return good sources. (For instance, limiting a search to news articles, or querying specific databases such as Google Book Search or Google Scholar.)”

Read article [Inside HigherEd]
Same article [USA Today]

(via BoingBoing)