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Posts in category 'User research'

11 January 2013

How research misses the human behind the demographic

distance

Deutsch’s Douglas Van Praet discusses how focus-group feedback, and the whole notion of the consumer, are misguided and how research should focus on understanding the unconscious and improving human lives.

“How [market] research studies are done is at sharp odds with what science now knows. The elephant in the room is that the vast majority of our decisions are made unconsciously. What is a no-brainer for any cognitive scientist remains mind-boggling to marketers. The conscious mind is simply not running the show, but we’ve created an entire industry pretending that it does.

Advertisers are doubling down on this myth, investing in exhaustive investigations of self-reported preferences, attitudes, opinions, and beliefs. These deceptions become guideposts for product and campaign development. For $150 and a ham sandwich, panelists are drilled for hours in formal focus groups before two-way mirrors and cleverly concealed microphones that elicit groupthink and inauthenticity. The best become “professional respondents” glibly dominating groups on the topic du jour–from potato chip to microchip.

The problem is we’re profoundly social beings having spent 99% of our evolution relying on vital resources from tribal affiliates whose opinions mattered. Group rejection likely meant a death sentence. So it’s no surprise we still only put our best face forward while artfully maneuvering ourselves competitively in the pecking order.

The brain is designed to hide most of our intentions and promote self-confidence, an adaptive function that improves lives and prevents information overload. So we invent stories and believe our lies and confabulations. Social science experiments reveal that we are inherently self-righteous and consistently overrate our knowledge, autonomy, and abilities. We say advertising doesn’t influence us even though sales say otherwise. And we maintain these self-serving delusions when wired to a lie detector, which means we are lying to ourselves and not intentionally to the experimenters.

Douglas Van Praet is the author of Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing. He is also Executive Vice President at agency Deutsch L.A., where his responsibilities include Group Planning Director for the Volkswagen account. Van Praet’s approach to advertising and marketing draws from unconscious behaviorism and applies neurobiology, evolutionary psychology, and behavioral economics to business problems.

9 January 2013

Focus groups are dangerous and kill innovation

1671033-poster-1280-focus-groups-kill-innovation

Gianfranco Zaccai is co-founder and president of the global design and innovation consultancy Continuum. And he doesn’t like focus groups very much (and neither do we):

Why Focus Groups Kill Innovation, From The Designer Behind Swiffer
18 October 2012
The Aeron chair, the Swiffer, and the Reebok Pump – none of these breakthrough products would have gotten high marks from a focus group. Here, Continuum’s Gianfranco Zaccai lists four steps to take before introducing a design to the masses.

Focus Groups Are Dangerous. Know When To Use Them
9 January 2013
Focus groups won’t give rise to innovative ideas, maintains Continuum’s Gianfranco Zaccai. But they can help refine the core concept when used at the right moment in the design process. Here’s how to do it.

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

20 December 2012

Seven questions with library anthropologist Nancy Fried Foster

Nancy-Fried-Foster

In her work anthropologist Nancy Fried Foster applies anthropological principles to the study of the university’s libraries and their users. By focusing on the work that people are doing inside these spaces, they can identify needs and imagine new solutions to address those needs.

“My background provides me with a lot of field experience and a grounding in anthropological theory, all of which I apply when I look at what happens in libraries or, more generally, in academic work. At the same time, I have read and received on-the-job training in work-practice study and user-centered design, which are more recent applied social science traditions.

In participatory design projects we learn about the work practices of faculty members, grad students, undergrads, and our own colleagues in the library. As we learn, we discover opportunities to provide better technology, services, and spaces. To dig a little deeper, the way we learn is by including a lot of different kinds of experts in the design process—both the traditional experts such as software engineers and the people who are experts on the work that is to be done and how best to do it.

My broader studies—the projects that are not specifically related to building a piece of software, but are more generally about investigating how people do their work—resemble ethnographic studies. The focus is always on the work that people are doing: how they are working, where they are encountering obstacles, what they are trying to achieve. We are looking at people’s work practices in their broader life context and our goal is to understand and support their work.”

Read the interview

14 December 2012

Are the older generation getting tech-savvy?

oldpersonipad

BBC News has published a 5 minute video feature on Cambridge University’s Design Centre where they test how elderly people use technology.

Must-have modern gadgets are designed by young people with young people in mind – that is the view of Ian Hosking, who works at Cambridge University’s Design Centre.

This can mean that elderly people, who have much to gain from modern technology, feel excluded.

Mr Hosking’s mission is to improve the accessibility of modern, mass-produced devices like smartphones and tablets. To this end, he conducts experiments with volunteers.

The Design Lab conducts tests on individual products, but the general findings that Mr Hosking discusses here apply to digital communication devices across the market.

BBC News also posted a longer article on the same topic.

14 December 2012

McKinsey’s iConsumer Global Research Initiative

mckinsey

Recent reports from McKinsey’s iConsumer Global Research Initiative:

Moving from “mobile first” to “touch first”
December 2012 (published on the EconomistGroup site)
Already, more than a third of the time people spend web browsing, using social networking sites, and using e-mail/messaging software is on mobile devices. In a couple of years, we expect it to be more than half. This is creating a ‘touch first’ computing paradigm, which means overhauling how information is delivered to and accessed by the consumer.

The rise of the African consumer
October 2012
The single-largest business opportunity in Africa will be its rising consumer market. A McKinsey report, one of the first of its kind, offers a detailed profile of African consumers, including their demographics, behavior, and needs.

The complex path to purchase taken by Europe’s iConsumers
June 2012
What are Europe’s iConsumers thinking? To find out, McKinsey & Company studied the digitally-based purchasing behavior of 40,000 Europeans in eight countries for the second year in a row. This study sheds light on future threats and opportunities by comparing European consumers and examining the resulting business implications.

The next stage: Six ways the digital consumer is changing
April 2012
The Internet, not yet 20 years on from its emergence into the consumer mainstream, is evolving as fast as ever.

12 December 2012

On Digital Ethnography: mapping as a mode of data discovery

wendyhsu

While digital ethnography is an established field within ethnography, we don’t often hear of ethnographers building digital tools to conduct their fieldwork. Wendy Hsu wants to change that.

In the first of her four-part guest post series on Tricia Wang’s Ethnography Matters, she showed how ethnographers can use software, and even build their own software, to explore online communities.

Part 2 of of Wendy’s Digital Ethnography series focuses on the processing and interpreting part. In fascinating detail, Wendy discusses mapping as a mode of discovery. We learn how using a customized spatial “algorithm that balances point density and readability” can reveal patterns that inform the physical spread of musicians’ fans and friends globally. Geo-location data clarified her qualitative data.

In her next post she will talk about how we can discern patterns and discover new knowledge as take our data into other sensory dimensions such as the sonic. She will also formulate some thoughts regarding the issues around big data (or small data) from the perspective of ethnography.

3 December 2012

How Ford makes its cars smarter

mascarenas

In the fast-evolving world of connected cars, CTO Paul Mascarenas is bringing Detroit and Silicon Valley together to chart Ford’s path into the future.

Brian Cooley of CNet interviews him during a walk through Ford’s advanced research facilities.

3 December 2012

Intel’s UX research on touch interface usage and Ultrabooks

darialoi

One of the more innovative studies to come along at Intel in regards to user experience and the Ultrabook is Daria Loi’s global survey of touch interface usage.

Dario Loi, who is UX Innovation Manager at Intel’s PC Client Solution’s Division, presents in this video, entitled “How Multi-Region User Experience Influences Touch on Ultrabook (video),” an overview of a recent multi-region User Experience study and discusses how it is influencing Intel’s Ultrabook strategy, particularly in view of Windows 8.

The study, a qualitative UX investigation focused on the use of touch in clamshell devices, was conducted in Q3 and Q4 2011 in US, Italy, PRC and Brazil. The talk focuses on the research’s motivations, insights, recommendations, strategic impact and influence, providing a number of key examples which are narrated through users’ voices.

To read more about this research, see the article The Human Touch – Building Ultrabook Applications in a Post-PC Age.

The topic of touch features in Ultrabook apps is further explored in an ongoing Intel series by Luke Wroblewski. He provides a thoughtful look at how various touch factors work when integrated into working apps. The videos are by Luke Wroblewski, the accompanying articles by Wendy Boswell:
1. Touch interfaces: Video | Article
2. Touch target: Video | Article
3. Touch gestures: Video | Article
4. Location detection (article by Wendy Boswell)

Intel has also posted three overview articles on the topic:

Keyboard and Touch: Like Peanut Butter and Jelly
by Wendy Boswell
Is there really validity for a so-called “pure” touch experience? Is getting rid of the keyboard something that should even be seriously considered? Are we moving towards a completely touch-only computing age? In this article, we’re going to take a look at the touch experience without the keyboard, evaluating this perspective both from the developer and the consumer side. We’re going to pretend that the upcoming touch-based Ultrabook isn’t coming with a nifty keyboard, and in fact, only offers touch as an input method. Let’s take a look at what all of this might look like.

Innovating for User Experience on Intel Ultrabook
by Rajagopal A
Get the secrets of innovating for your users. This article (video) gives you the approach, the design concept to innovate User Experience on your app. We share with you how we created an cool Ux on the Intel Ultrabook. To find out a novel way to interact with your PC, see the videos in this article.

User Experience and Ultrabook™ App Development
by Wendy Boswell
In this article, we’re going to take a look at what user experience is all about, especially in regards to Ultrabook devices and Ultrabook app development. We’re also going to figure out how usability fits in with user experience, and how UX can impact app development (for better or for worse).

29 November 2012

Nestor’s World, a Belgian social design tool

nestor

The full service design agency Pars Pro Toto in Ghent, Belgium built the “Wereld van Nestor” [Nestor's World], a social design tool meant to help local governments in Flanders create a better world for their elderly citizens.

The tool is built on 10 personas and their experience with eight different topics. These eight topics – housing, mobility, public spaces and the built environment, social participation, respect and social engagement, active participation and employment, communication and information, public and health services – are areas where local government can make a real difference for their elderly citizens. They are based on the WHO report Global age-friendly cities.

Local governments can now construe their senior citizen plans based on the relevance and impact of their planned services on one or more of these personas.

The project came about through a collaboration with the Social Welfare Agency of the City of Ghent, and with the support of Design Flanders. The research that it was based on is not very clearly described, but the site mentions interviews and workshops.

For now the tool only exists in Dutch (and the socio-cultural context is also distinctively Flemish), but if you have any special questions, please contact Johan Bonner (info@parsprototo.be) on +32 (0)9/244.62.20.

26 November 2012

Research on Android tablet use in 5th grade classrooms

Learning-is-Personal

The series of research projects on tablet use in schools (see here, here and here) now also has an Android study.

A small research project by Marie Bjerede and Tzaddi Bondi, equipped a 5th grade class of 27 students in Portland, Oregon (USA) with 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab devices with mobile broadband data to use for learning as well as for their own purposes. Though there were a number of technical issues the results were overwhelmingly positive with greater student engagement.

Below are some of the conclusions, observations, and opinions:

Surprisingly, the quality of student writing on 7-inch tablets and on netbooks was essentially equivalent. Student preferences, however, regarding which device to use for creating content varied. In general, though, students prefer to use laptops for large projects (e.g. content that requires substantial editing) and mobile devices for quick notes (e.g. content that requires essentially no editing at the time it is created).

For the purposes of writing, mobile devices share many of the limitations of writing with pencil and paper – it is linear and cumbersome to edit, though fairly straightforward to create. Although mobile devices are great for capturing pictures, video, voice and even draft writing, laptops with their bigger screens and keyboards and mature software are at an advantage for editing and polishing large projects as well as at combining multiple media.

Although Android devices have a number of desirable qualities, including a lower cost and an open ecosystem for apps, the relative immaturity of the Android ecosystem prevents us from being able to recommend Android devices for school implementations at this time. There is no guarantee of backward compatibility – that new apps will work on older devices. Though this is also beginning to be true in the iOS ecosystem, the problem there is much smaller as there are far fewer operational devices not running the most current version of iOS. Also, since the Android operating system, the hardware, the vendors, and the communications providers are separate organizations, there is no single organization responsible for the whole system as sold, making it cumbersome for educational institutions to manage successfully on their own.

Some of the concerns discussed regarding the use of mobile devices for students strike us as red herrings. In practice, we found no need for device management software as students took ownership of their devices, their learning, and the management of their device images. We found students became savvy and safe Internet users when exposed to authentic Internet user experiences (though social networking happened only within a secure, teacher-managed platform). We found students quickly established a culture of responsible use of their devices, which seemed to enhance their learning rather than distracting them from it. We noticed students becoming confident of hardware and software obstacles, turning first to each other for support and generally finding answers within their classroom community or online.

We observed an organic shift in educators’ approach to teaching, transitioning from primarily preparing and delivering content to the class to an environment where students independently seek out content and contribute it to ongoing classroom discussion. The outcome was a culture where the educator and students learned together, and from each other. We believe that two conditions were essential for this shift: first, that each student had his or her own, connected device that was used for personal purposes as well as for classroom learning; second, the classroom learning culture supported the students’ individual freedom (and responsibility) to explore and experiment, permitting them to decide how to best use the devices to support their learning in the 5th grade.

We found that students independently chose to use their devices in “snippets of time” for math, spelling, word games, reading, and other educational uses that matched their interest, level, and pace. In effect, the students essentially eliminated down time from their day while self-differentiating their learning.

Over the course of the year, the students developed skills and habits in using the tools and resources available through their mobile devices. In their culminating project, a presentation of a colonial trade, the implications of those skills became apparent in project work that was significantly richer, more complex, and more sophisticated than that of students in prior years.

18 November 2012

Scotland study: Tablet devices in schools beneficial to children

ipadscotlandevaluation

School children who use a tablet computer benefit the most when allowed to take it home, rather than just using it in school, reveals research from the University of Hull, reports Engineering & Technology Magazine.

The iPad Scotland Evaluation Study set out to establish the impact of handheld computer tablet devices in schools, and found that personal ‘ownership’ of such devices is the single most important factor for successful use of the technology.

The study is the largest of its kind ever conducted within the UK, covering students from eight schools across six Scottish Local Authorities over a six-month period.

The research focused on four central themes in order to evaluate the overall effectiveness of these devices in assisting with learning, and was carried out by researchers from the Technology Enhanced Learning Research group at the Faculty of Education at the University.

1. Impact of tablet devices on teaching and learning generally
The study found that benefits included greater motivation, engagement, parental involvement and understanding of complex ideas.

2. Leader and management issues (stemming from a deployment of devices)
The study found that teachers are ‘equally engaged’ by the use of such a device, which has a low learning curve enabling them to use it immediately as a teaching tool and a learning tool for themselves.

3. Professional development of teachers and how teachers cope with using new technology
The research found that ‘use of the device is contributing to significant changes in the way teachers approach their professional role as educators and is changing the way they see themselves and their pedagogy’.

4. Parental engagement
The study showed that parents become more engaged with the school and their child’s learning when the iPad travels home with the student.

The study resulted in 18 recommendations for using these devices in schools, with specific comments aimed at government, local authority and school level.

Recommendations include a wider roll-out of devices on a one-to-one level, pricing considerations – including leasing schemes – need to be considered carefully, and further studies should take place to continue evaluating this kind of technology.

15 November 2012

Interview with public health ethnographer and Facebook UX researcher

juddandtamarhiking

Judd Antin is a social psychologist and user experience researcher who studies motivations for online participation at Facebook. In 2011, he was named an MIT Technology Review Innovator Under 35. Prior to joining Facebook as a user experience researcher, he worked with Yahoo Research. His educational background includes Applied Anthropology, Information Science, and training at the French Culinary Institute.

Tamar Antin is a research scientist who uses mixed and especially qualitative methods to critically examine public health policies and narratives. She has several years of experience in public health research. One of her recent publications is Food Choice As a Multidimensional Experience. Her dissertation combining three papers on food choices and body image is excellent reading for any student of qualitative methods.

Rachelle Annechino talked with them both about anthropology, social science, stigma, Big Data and Small Data, “and other interesting things.”

Here is what Judd says about his work at Facebook:

“Most people who use Facebook do not live in the United States, and yet here we are in Silicon Valley, and we are working pretty hard to understand the perspectives of people who are getting on Facebook in Nigeria and Indonesia, in Vietnam, and Russia. We have hundreds of millions of people in these places. And so recently people on my team did this almost ethnographic trip where they went to a bunch of different countries, trying to understand the environment there as it related to the use of social media, and basic phones, and the technical infrastructure, and the social conventions and norms. I think that kind of work is going to become ever more important. If you believe that culture is important to the way that people use technology and that it should be baked in, and that you can’t form assumptions based only on this ethnocentric point of view, then I think you have to be an anthropologist. You have to be interested in cultural differences and frames of reference, and how they relate to technology use.”

13 November 2012

How 3 million hours of user-testing fixed the Jawbone Up

jawbone

Pulled from store shelves after a month, the first high-profile wearable activity tracker was a humiliation for Jawbone. Now, the Up is back, and anyone vying for a stake in wearable tech should pay close attention to the product’s resurrection, according to Fast Company.

Interestingly, Jawbone advocates an entirely new (and rather questionable) use of the term ‘ethnographic’.

“Their own internal product testing was coupled with what Jawbone calls “one of the largest ethnographic studies you could imagine.” While they say most consumer gadgets might see eight weeks of limited field testing, theirs lasted 46 weeks, or just short of three million hours of beta testers living with the Up.”

In fact, it was more about a huge series of iterative prototypes:

“It was ultimately ‘hundreds and hundreds of different designs, each being tested one by one’ that evolved the Up into what’s returning to store shelves today. That’s hundreds and hundreds of different designs that the end user will never see, that can’t be slapped on a box as a selling feature, and that very few small companies could ever afford to do. But in the end, the Up may go down in history as one of the first wearable devices that just works (the second time around, at least).”

13 November 2012

A qualitative study of internet non-use in Great Britain and Sweden

 

Living Offline – A Qualitative Study of Internet Non-Use in Great Britain and Sweden
by Bianca Christin Reisdorf (U. of Oxford, UK), Ann-Sofie Axelsson (Chalmers U. of Technology, Sweden) and Hanna Maurin Söderholm (U. College of Borås, Sweden)
Paper presented at the Internet Research International Conference, October 2012, Manchester

This study explores and compares attitudes and feelings of middle-aged British and Swedish Internet non-users as well as their reasons for being offline. The rich qualitative data are conceptualized and presented according to various reasons for non-use, positive and negative feelings regarding non-use, and the positive as well as negative influence of and dependence on social networks. The comparison shows both unique and common perceptions of the British and Swedish respondents, some of which can be attributed to social, economic, or socio-economic factors. However, it also displays vast differences between middle-aged non-users in both countries. The analysis paints a complex picture of decisions for and against the use of the Internet and the need for more research to understand these highly complex phenomena, which cannot simply be attributed to socio-economic backgrounds as has been done in most previous research. The analysis shows that more complex reasons, such as lack of interest or discomfort with technologies, as well as the somewhat surprising finding that social networks can prevent non-users from learning how to use the Internet, as it is more convenient to stay a proxy-user, should be considered in future research and policies regarding digital inequalities.

(alternative link)

11 November 2012

Finally a serious research study on tablet use in schools

 

Although there are many tablet deployments in schools worldwide, there is a glaring lack of serious research on what actually happens in the classrooms with these devices. In fact, there is so far no aggregated evidence that tablet technology significantly aids learning. Obviously, official endorsement for the widespread use of tablets in schools cannot really happen without substantiated, independent evidence to convincingly prove the case for tablet technology.

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.

Family Kids and Youth carried out focus groups and ethnography at one of the schools (Honywood Community Science School, Coggeshall, Essex), interviewing pupils, staff and teachers, and observing the way in which different subjects and age groups used tablets in learning. Research was also undertaken with teachers, pupils and parents in one control school and two primary schools. In addition, an online quantitative research study was carried out between 22 June – 2 July with a UK nationally representative sample of 1,120 parents of children aged 3-16, 933 children aged 7-16, and 202 teachers.

The research findings (pdf) are generally rather positive (assuming that Family Kids and Youth has done its research properly, given the obvious interest of Carphone Warehouse in tablet sales): tablets enhance learning, improve communication, engage and motivate pupils, and stimulate proactive querying, initiative taking and creativity. Interestingly, the study points out that particularly less engaged pupils, those who had previously struggled with their homework, and pupils with special educational needs appear to be benefiting most from tablet use in schools (read the short report for more details).

Often cited fears – about distraction, misuse such as gaming and texting, time spent, theft, loss of writing skills, challenges in terms of classroom management – were clearly not confirmed by reality.

Yet, it is worthwhile underlining what Carphone Warehouse considered to be three primary issues regarding the use of tablet technology in schools (as summarised in the introduction of a follow-up project that is running during the school year 2012-2013):
1. A lack of specialised training for teachers around the use of tablet technology
2. Concerns for students when faced with sitting traditional paper-based examinations
3. The growing mass of unregulated content in the app world and the lack of appropriate interactive content
(“Teachers have the impression that educational publishers are merely publishing text books in the form of an app without fully appreciating the possibilities that tablets can offer.”)

If you read French, you may also be interested in the dossier “Tablette tactile et enseignement (école, collège, lycée)” – on the website of the French Ministry of Education. The (very long) web page provides an overview of what is currently going on in France, contains many links, but does unfortunately not include a deeper analysis (unless you delve deeper into the linked reports, such as this one from Paris and this one from Fribourg, Switzerland).

10 November 2012

A tablet still is not a book … not yet

books-b-small

Dan Turner discusses why the experience of reading a book on tablets (iPads in particular) is a chore rather than a delight.

In a long article for UX Magazine, he discusses a number of reasons, often related to usability and even biology, why that may be so:

  • The physicality of books is linked to comprehension and memory, and reinforces focus and comprehension
  • The glossy, reflective screen is a physical strain, degrading the reading experience
  • The combination of thinness with weight puts a physical stress on your hands that a book does not
  • As a light source often used in darkened environments, potentially disrupt our sleep cycles
  • Due to the regular notifications we receive on our tablets, we are easily distracted and find it hard to achieve concentration or flow
  • We are conditioned to see screens as ‘work’ or ‘entertainment’ devices, again making it hard to enjoy a reading experience on them

So, he asks, what could we as hardware, system, and app designers do to help reduce distraction? And how can serious user research help us in that?

6 November 2012

How teens do research in the digital world

 

According to Pew Internet research, the teachers who instruct the most advanced American secondary school students render mixed verdicts about students’ research habits and the impact of technology on their studies. More in particular, they say that students’ digital literacy skills are weak and that courses or content focusing on digital literacy must be incorporated into every school’s curriculum.

Some 77% of advanced placement (AP) and National Writing Project (NWP) teachers surveyed say that the internet and digital search tools have had a “mostly positive” impact on their students’ research work. But 87% say these technologies are creating an “easily distracted generation with short attention spans” and 64% say today’s digital technologies “do more to distract students than to help them academically.”

According to this survey of teachers, conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project in collaboration with the College Board and the National Writing Project, the internet has opened up a vast world of information for today’s students, yet students’ digital literacy skills have yet to catch up:

  • Virtually all (99%) AP and NWP teachers in this study agree with the notion that “the internet enables students to access a wider range of resources than would otherwise be available,” and 65% agree that “the internet makes today’s students more self-sufficient researchers.”
  • At the same time, 76% of teachers surveyed “strongly agree” with the assertion that internet search engines have conditioned students to expect to be able to find information quickly and easily.
  • Large majorities also agree with the notion that the amount of information available online today is overwhelming to most students (83%) and that today’s digital technologies discourage students from using a wide range of sources when conducting research (71%).
  • Fewer teachers, but still a majority of this sample (60%), agree with the assertion that today’s technologies make it harder for students to find credible sources of information.
  • Given these concerns, it is not surprising that 47% of these teachers strongly agree and another 44% somewhat believe that courses and content focusing on digital literacy should be incorporated into every school’s curriculum.
4 November 2012

Book: Digital Anthropology

Layout 1

Digital Anthropology
Edited by Heather A. Horst, Daniel Miller
Berg Publishers, Oct 2012
328pp

Anthropology has two main tasks: to understand what it is to be human and to examine how humanity is manifested differently in the diversity of culture. These tasks have gained new impetus from the extraordinary rise of the digital. This book brings together several key anthropologists working with digital culture to demonstrate just how productive an anthropological approach to the digital has already become.

Through a range of case studies from Facebook to Second Life to Google Earth, Digital Anthropology explores how human and digital can be defined in relation to one another, from avatars and disability; cultural differences in how we use social networking sites or practise religion; the practical consequences of the digital for politics, museums, design, space and development to new online world and gaming communities. The book also explores the moral universe of the digital, from new anxieties to open-source ideals. Digital Anthropology reveals how only the intense scrutiny of ethnography can overturn assumptions about the impact of digital culture and reveal its profound consequences for everyday life.

Combining the clarity of a textbook with an engaging style which conveys a passion for these new frontiers of enquiry, this book is essential reading for students and scholars of anthropology, media studies, communication studies, cultural studies and sociology.

Authors/Editors
Heather A. Horst is a Vice Chancellor’s Senior Research Fellow in the School of Media and Communication at RMIT University, Australia.
Daniel Miller is Professor of Material Culture at the Department of Anthropology, University College London, UK

Contributors
Tom Boellstorff, Heather Horst, Lane DeNicola, Faye Ginsburg, Stefana Broadbent, Danny Miller, John Postill, Jelena Karanovic, Bart Barendregt, Jo Tacchi, Adam Drazin, Haidy Geismar and Thomas Malaby

30 October 2012

Designing products for value

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By encouraging more focused collaboration among multiple functional groups (notably marketing and sales, operations, engineering/R&D, and procurement), these leaders are combining deep insights about customers [particularly in developing markets], competitors, and supply bases to strip out costs and amplify what customers truly value. The results—including better products, happier customers, higher margins, and, ultimately, a stronger ability to innovate—should serve these organizations well in years to come.

In this McKinsey Quarterly article, authors Ananth Narayanan, Asutosh Padhi, and Jim Williams look at three such companies. Their experiences offer insights for any product maker hoping to improve its competitiveness.