Archives for December 2005
Showing Evidence Meets Classroom Success
Showing Evidence, an educational tool that Inquirium developed for Intel, is hitting the classroom and getting some rave reviews. The Winter 2006 edition of the Intel Innovator provides this exciting testimonial of how one classroom successfully used Showing Evidence to explore controversial biotechnology topics. Students used the tool to construct arguments, support them with evidence, evaluate their claims, and share their thinking with peers.
Students were so engaged that they used Showing Evidence from home, and were still talking about the project six months later. Several students, who had strong opinions, changed their position based on compelling evidence they uncovered themselves— a first in [the teacher’s] 17 years of teaching.
Jury out on Microsoft Student 2006
It’s midway through the school year, and the jury still seems to be out on Microsoft Student 2006, which was released last summer.
The company bills it as “a comprehensive, subject-specific productivity software product designed to help middle- and high-school students efficiently complete high-quality homework assignments and achieve academic success.” But really, it seems to be targetted at parents who feel unprepared to help their kids with their homework— and whom will likely be the ones doing the purchasing.
As best I can tell, Student is a beefed up reference library along with templates and tutorials to support the use of Office tools. Additional features include a graphing calculator and supplemental online help service for math homework.
The Washington Post gave it low marks back in July, along with these student testimonials:
“I definitely liked this program, but I don’t think I’d use it for anything except maybe doing research for a report or playing with it when I was really bored.”
“I couldn’t find anything that really went into depth on a particular subject. Since you’d have to go online, or go to the library to do more research anyway, why would you need this program?”
The evidence would suggest that uptake has been less than expected— Microsoft originally released it for $100, and it’s now available for $60 on Amazon.
Really? Next Year?
The first notebooks are expected to hit the market during the fourth quarter of next year, according to the organization. Representatives say they expect initial orders for the machines to range from 5 million to 15 million units. Pricing of the Linux-based notebooks is expected to start “near $100” and decrease over time.
Here’s the official MIT blurb.
30 Years of Computer Market Share
ArsTechnica has a nice long discussion of personal computer market share over the past 30 years.
It’s been a long, strange trip for the personal computer over 30 years. Ars takes a look back at the comings and goings of players in the PC market, from Altair to Zeta OS, to see how we got where we are today.
One caveat about the numbers in this article: these are overall market share values, and if you’re interested in a particular niche market, they may not be as accurate. For example, Apple often touts its foothold in the creative professional market, and has a higher share of the education market than it does overall.
Web typography primers
We’re always in the process of updating our web site, hopefully for the better…In that spirit, here are two great resources for thinking about typography on the web.
The ‘Elements of Typographic Style’ is a classic book on typography. Richard Rutter is in the process of applying the principles to the web at webtypography.net.
The Anatomy of Web Fonts is a nice overview on the subject.
Ruby on Rails News
Ruby on Rails 1.0 is out, and the website’s been revised. If you’re interested in rapid web application development (RWAD? RAD/Web?) it’s worth a look (this movie is an amazing demo, and incidentally sold me on TextMate).
The first Ruby on Rails Conference is slated for next year, June 22-25 in Chicago.
I expect Rails to really take off once it becomes common on hosted servers. Currently it’s a very cool technology that few hosting companies support. But with the 1.0 release, I think that will start to change.
Tools and Techniques from Interaction Design
I’ve been exploring interaction design lately, and thinking about how much of the work we do intuitively can benefit from the more formalized various tools and techniques that interaction designers use in their work.
Here’s a great example of a design process: The MAYA Design firm redesigned Carnegie Library branches. Here is an overview of the process. And here’s a more detailed PowerPoint presentation (25MB). (Here’s the page where this came from: MAYA’s presentation at User Experience Week 2005 where you can find some PDFs of the slides and talking notes.)
The content (i.e. redesigning a library) is pretty interesting, but be sure to look at the artifacts (lots of photos) and diagramatic explanations. The User Experience Week 2005 PowerPoint presentation gives a pretty nice narrative of the process.
This is a nice list of tools that Information Architects use from the Information Architect Institute site.