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Submitted by Joann Agnitti on Fri, 2016-01-15 17:31

Our newest online learning environment is up and ready to be broken for feedback!

Follow the yellow brick road to rhizr.com.

I encourage everyone to create a real learning experience to authentically test out Rhizr. That said, I’d also appreciate your first impressions! I accept all forms of feedback communication: email, slack, chat, face talks. Or, feel free to publicly leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Many thanks to our core content creation team for getting the ball rolling and for proving that if you build it, they will learn: Brian, Jenny, Dino, Sarah, George, Pat, and Chingfu (hey, where's your bio page?).

Endless thanks also go out to our product development team:
Panisuan for your original vision and creativity
Pranav for pushing us outside our comfort zones (I mean that in a good way)
Hui Soo for your encouragement, advice, and all those working lunches
Sab for creating a smooth UI and always having a good suggestion, no matter the problem
Lingxiao for being a beast of a programmer and getting s*** done before we could blink
Ryan for architecting a project unlike anything we’ve ever done.

On behalf of the entire team, we invite you to visit the site and we eagerly await your thoughts (be they praise, brutal honesty, or something in between).

Submitted by Joann Agnitti on Sun, 2015-11-22 22:10

Brian and I have recently returned from the fabled city of San Francisco where we attended the Service Experience Conference.

I tried to take copious notes throughout each of the talks but the emcee, Jamin Hegeman (design director of Adaptive Path, the company sponsoring the event), mercifully summarized each one for us — in one line! — at the end of the conference.

I’ll add those summaries here with some personal commentary, but that wasn’t even the most interesting part of my experience there. Stay with me for Part III (or just jump to it. Otherwise it’s going to be a while until you get there).

Submitted by Joann Agnitti on Thu, 2015-04-09 15:36

For over 40 years, Southwest Airlines has been showing its customers a whole lotta LUV.

Submitted by Joann Agnitti on Wed, 2015-04-01 10:07

Content is no longer the red-headed stepchild of design! Rise up, words!

Submitted by Joann Agnitti on Wed, 2015-01-21 18:35

My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard, and I'm like.... this is not why I bought this milkshake. Please get off my property.

So why did I buy the milkshake? Famed Harvard Business School professor (and author of Steve Jobs' favorite business book) Clayton Christensen can help answer that one. He developed the Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD) theory to reframe a question product owners have been wondering since the dawn of the free market: instead of asking a customer why they bought a product, ask them what job the product was hired to do. Switching to this line of questioning returned surprising insights for Christensen and his team as they wondered why, in the very early morning, were people buying so many milkshakes from a fast food restaurant?

Watch this short (<5 min) clip of Christensen telling the story in his own words to find out the answer:

Submitted by Joann Agnitti on Fri, 2014-11-21 15:07

I attended my second Test Tube event a few nights ago and it delivered; I got a lot of feedback in a little time. For this go-round I was testing NLT. Because you only have 7 minutes with each person, I couldn't go too in depth with any one task, but I did get some telling first impressions. Quite a few pain points surfaced; namely,

  • The hassle of having to sign up
    • Only one person said that they would leave the site immediately once the wall came up. The rest (4 people) felt it appeared too soon and of these people, 3 suggested allowing people to sign up through Facebook or Google.
      People also wanted more emphasis on the site being free.
  • Not understanding the featured stories block
    • Overall, it seems people need more context about this section. They weren't sure why these stories were being featured (one person thought it meant they were breaking news stories).
    • Two people thought this section was a video. One person said because of this, and because they peruse news sites while at work, they definitely wouldn't click on it. Interesting/troubling?
Submitted by Joann Agnitti on Fri, 2014-11-07 19:00

What's better than a meetup on usability? Meetup's usability meetup!

I stumbled on their philosophy of testing by happenstance but the more I read about it, the more impressed I became. Meetup doesn't just have a usability team, it has a usability lab. It takes Nielsen's rule of 5 to the extreme: 5 (or more) testers every week of the year. In 2013, they tested over 400 people! They practice lean UX, so they are able to do numerous testing/dev cycles super efficiently. They want to learn what users think of their site as quickly as possible so they can iterate and maintain a pleasant user experience.

I found a brief explanation from Meetup itself of how it does user testing. But I think the more educational and thorough artifact is the vialogue I'm embedding below (sorry I got a little comment-happy).

In this presentation, VP of Strategy, Product, and Community Andres Glusman and then-usability lab leader Brenna Lynch lend great insight into the usability practices at Meetup. Their talk includes how they recruit all of those users, what their testing environment looks like, and how they incorporate user feedback into product development.

Submitted by Joann Agnitti on Tue, 2014-10-28 09:36

Does listening to music at work make you more or less productive? As much as I prefer to toil to the glorious sounds of absolute silence, recent research has inspired me to plug in and hit play.

Mindlab International, on behalf of MusicWorks, challenged 26 participants to complete a series of action-oriented tasks over the course of 5 days. While doing so, they listened to one of 4 genres of music (or nothing at all).

The results were surprising. For one, people who listened to nothing were found to make more mistakes! I would've thought the quiet would allow for more accuracy. Little did I know I've been making a mess of things for years.

More highlights from the study:

Classical music helps you solve mathematical problems with accuracy. (You listening, Xiang?)

Pop music helps you improve your speed on those data entry tasks. It's also good for spell-checking accuracy!

Ambient music is best for people who are solving equations.

Dance music was the genre linked to the highest overall accuracy and speed across a variety of tasks (solving equations, spell-checking, mathing). It's especially good for those of you who are proofreading.

So next time you hear sweet dance beats leaking out of BSweet's earphones, go ahead and marvel at his productivity. Better yet, ask him what he's listening to!

What music puts you into a flow state? Do you go lyric-less or do you just need some Beyonce to get it done?

Submitted by Joann Agnitti on Tue, 2014-10-21 09:17

The FunnyBizz conference is around the corner and it's about time. Well actually I think it's about humor and work. And creating better content! Funny content! My favorite.

Thursday, October 30th, 2014
9am- 5pm (Not a bad way to spend a work day!)
16 Main St, Brooklyn, NY 11201, Brooklyn, NY

For more info: http://funnybizz.co/

Submitted by Joann Agnitti on Wed, 2014-10-15 17:27

Cyborg learning isn't as sexy as it sounds.

It's not this:

Or this:

It's more like this:

Yesterday, Brian and I had the opportunity to attend Dr. Reed Stevens's talk, Cyborg Learning: How our Mobile and Networked Lives are Transforming Learning and Education.

He defines cyborg learning as such: people learning a practice of any kind WITH devices or tools, in which the devices and the humans are both constitutive of the practice [emphasis his].

Dr. Stevens studies learning that occurs outside of the classroom; he sees only a slight overlap between school and learning. He noted a shift in our relationship with digital companions (and their pervasiveness), referencing Siri, Google Glass, and the quantified self. In fact, the main questions that structured the lecture were: 1) What directions will companion tech take in our near future lives? and 2) What do these directions mean for learning education?

If you have ever been afraid of losing your job to a machine, you may or may not be consoled by this next part. When it comes to knowing who is replaceable, the issue is not in assessing mental vs. manual tasks, but the routine vs. nonroutine. So, for example, stock analysts and parole board members are in trouble. In contrast, cooks and gardeners have nothing to worry about.

So, how does this relate to how we learn? I'm getting there.

Dr. Stevens, through his ethnographic studies, has identified the following categories of teen usage of digital media:

1. Inter-generational making and building

  • Parents are interacting with their kids around media. The generation divide with media that you hear in papers is largely unfounded.
  • Examples: Watching cooking how-to videos on YouTube together, finding lego blueprints online

2. Collaborative play in virtual worlds (e.g., Minecraft)

  • Often played in the same room at the same time as other teens

3. Digital media production and online sharing

  • Unmediated in kids' lives

4. Families who use media to coordinate with each other

  • Examples: email, google calendars to organize family activities
  • “This is incredibly ordinary in middle class families.” (Though I greatly beg to differ on that one)

5. Previously unplugged activities have a digital component

  • Example: learning the piano and using digital metronome

Everyday life already integrates with all this media; work and school are headed this way, too. People are getting work done by spreading it across themselves (distributed cognition). What would distributed learning look like at school, Dr. Stevens wonders.

He uses math as an example to further illustrate the pervasiveness of digital companions. Kids are asked to solve the same kinds of problems over and over again using some kind of algorithm. But, as computational devices move forward, we decide to blackbox certain things we do by hand and mind (like finding a square root, logarithms, long division). So why not use digital tools as distributed cognition for math? Why do kids have to BE calculators? Denying them use of these devices further alienates them from math. Couldn't people's minds be put to more creative uses? “Are we just training slow, poor computers?” His question is met with scattered nods of agreement across the room.

Back to what distributed learning looks like in learning. It just so happens that Dr. Stevens is one of two principal investigators of FUSE. FUSE is an in-person, interest-driven learning environment for young adults. It allows participants to explore STEAM topics through leveled challenges. There are 30 studios located in and around the greater Chicago area.

FUSE Introduction from OSEP on Vimeo.