Usability

 

Is usability a science now? Certainly there is detailed analysis around usability in the design of apps, websites and technology in general. Does detailed analysis and data collection make it a science?  The fact the hue saturation can fatigue users is a fact we know now. If the colour on your sites or in your apps is too saturated then people will tire easily and maybe blame the app or website . Don Norman is the doyen of design and who people interact with it and he is worth listening to because he has spent his life in this area, researching about it and then sharing his ideas. He is widely acknowledged for expertise in the fields of design, usability engineering, and cognitive science. He looks at how people interact emotionally with design and how that plays an important role in what they can or can’t do with technology or will or won’t do. “It’s the real needs of people, what people think they need often isn’t right.”  We do need , at least, cognitive science to determine the best outcomes for people who use technology. We do need to understand how it can impact on others when we choose and select our designs for apps and websites. UserFocus UK  has an interesting discussion about whether usability is now a science or not. It comes to the conclusion :

“But I do think we can agree that as usability practitioners we should at least adopt a scientific way of thinking. By this, I mean we should approach our work with a self-critical and naturally sceptical mind set, and that our methods, whenever circumstances and budgets allow, should employ the scientific method of investigation.”

Usability at the least needs to be informed by science and if you are using technology to teach others then you need to understand the basic , underlying principles of UX and UI design and their emotional impact. That way you make informed choices about what to use and how you present your content.

Easter apps

Color me Easter appHave fun this Easter with the Easter apps reviewed on technologyrocks. Have a Happy Easter!

MiFi

MiFi

My new BFF

So what’s MiFi ? I knew about it but it’s not been a thing with anyone I know and I have never seen anyone using one . They have been around for quite a few years and yet, they don’t seem to be a thing in Australia. They are very handy little devices , though , and worth knowing about . The MiFi featured left has saved my internet bacon from the week long loss of my own phone and internet services. When I borrowed the MiFi on Saturday my life changed and I could start feeling connected (normal) again. The MiFi I had was prepaid and I set it up in less than 5 minutes. On this one you can connect up to 10 devices if you want to. It is a life saver during outages. It would be handy if you have mobile access  towers anywhere. It would be great if you were on holidays in Australia and wanted internet access. The one I have been using is as big as the phones we used to have before smart phones became popular. In fact, it fits neatly into one of my old phone cases. It is so portable. It would be good camping or caravaning and I am certain if people knew about them , they’d use them more. Mobile data can be expensive , though and I am not sure why that is. I couldn’t get a mobile broadband stick to work and yet this MiFi connected and settled in straight away. It doesn’t like my netbook but it loves my iPad, my android smart phone an my Linux laptop. It was just as fast and efficient as my normal ADSL2 service. No different in use at all. Knowledge Centre looks at  a number of pocket wifi gadgets. PC Advisor looks at different MiFi gadgets and what to look out for. They can be locked to a mobile carrier like a phone and you might not want that. You can also rent them and that might be an option you need to know about. Lifehacker explains why it is better to use a MiFi device rather than your phone as a tethering device. It really isn’t good for your phone.  I have only known this device for a couple of days and I find it hard not to like it a lot. It is just so handy and convenient and when I get to think about it some more I may just want one of my own. This one has to return to its owner as soon as I have used the data. I learned very quickly only to use one device at a time on the wifi and make sure the other devices had wifi turned off. I also made sure automatic updates were turned off. You do have to pay attention to how your devices are using data when you are attached to these things because, as I said, mobile data does not come cheap. It taught me to discipline my usage!!

IT skills for jobs 2017

it skills for jobs

Image : smh 

We are well past the stage where using a computer and mobile devices are desirable job skills. We are very much into the realms of data, SEO (search engine optimisation), apps development and UI/UX (user interface and user experience). Education is not about jobs but the skills people learn through study are generally the sorts of things which will carry them through to employability and the learning skills needed to advance themselves. Students do need to be familiar with the sorts of knowledge which will promote growth in their lives. I have spoken about UX and UI a lot on this blog. In classrooms which use technology it is something teachers need to be aware of. Design and technology  together. There was an article in the Sydney Morning Herald which discussed the sorts of IT skills we are looking for in Australia and it also included the soft skills we seem to be short of : teamwork, ownership and problem solving. Collaboration has been a classroom requirement for a long time as has teamwork. Ownership is about belonging and certainly there have been conversations and practices around that in education in Australia so I am wondering why these skills seem to be missing. CIO looks at the 10 IT skills which are most in demand at the  moment and looks and the reasons why.  The World Economic Forum looks at it from a global perspective and lists the skills we are looking for in the world. Not that much different form what we are looking for in Australia. FastCompany discusses at length three IT skills in particular and why they need to be commonplace now because they are so important to economic growth.  They are also important to an understanding of how technology works and influences us and how technology is being used and leveraged in today’s world. We have a lot of tools and software now. We need to progress to the next phase where we get he best out of them and then understand how they are impacting on us and can impact on us

Progressive disclosure

All teachers know about chunking the work. All teachers know about planning lessons and assignments around the steady and controlled revelation of information and knowledge. Step by step teaching and learning is second nature to them. Now they are using technology , it’s time for them to meet the UX and UI experts and learn the term progressive disclosure. It’s not that they don’t know it. There has been IWB software which includes spotlight or hidden screen functionality. There have been Powerpoint presentations where you reveal the learning material a bit at a time. Progressive disclosure is a familiar term and concept in UX and UI and software designers these days think in this way. Apps and software are designed with this in mind so that the user is not swamped with information and can navigate their way through the app , site or software in an intuitive way. Teachers, then, need to be able to talk about progressive disclosure. They need to be mindful of it as they design digital materials and they need to be able to have those conversations with people who are designing educational software and apps so they can explain to them what sorts of stepping processes influence classroom learning and learners. My students were always complaining very loudly if they had software which would not let them progress in any way unless they could write exactly what the software wanted as an answer. It was a big turn off for independent learning. They didn’t like being swamped with a whole array of things to do either. I would ask them to let me know if there were things which deterred them as they learned. I asked them to be able to explain that clearly and with their reasons for being put off. I would then have conversations with the companies supplying that software either on the phone or via email/support to try to explain that from an educational point of view. It often did boil down to the way the software was operating in terms of progressive disclosure. We are still developing tools and techniques for the classroom. We need to keep the conversations going and students need to be encouraged to be a part of that ongoing development so they understand how to improve their virtual world.

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