HourSchool is a website that lets you post what you want to learn, and it helps you find someone in your network who can teach it.

Click on the video below to watch us live draw our way through HourSchool!

We’re just starting to get our website up and running… and right now we’d love to hear what you would like to learn.  Please visit www.HourSchool.com and let us know what you’d like to learn.  E-mail us if you’d like to be included in our private Beta.

Thanks!  Ruby and Alex.

Our first peer-led class, and some.

Our goal: Last weeks goal was to hold our first peer-led class.  In essence, a prototype of the analog portion of our idea.  The place where people meet and share their knowledge.  This will then be book-ended with digital tools to help facilitate the class, aid in the continuation of the class, and encourage students to become teachers of their own classes.

Co Creation:  Our first teacher, Phill, was interested in teaching a boxing conditioning class.   We sat down with Phill on Wednesday to talk about how he planned to run the class and to talk about ways of using our networks to get students.  He had a very good idea of how he wanted to teach the class, and broke down for us the different parts of the class and how he would use the hour.  We walked through the different aspects of the class, and had a great discussion about how to find, engage, and retain students.

We then pushed out the details of the class via Twitter and FB, and called a few friends around town who we thought might be interested.   By the next day, Thursday, we had 5 committed students, and we thought we were ready to go.

Then it snowed and we had to cancel the class.

What we learned:

1.  Scheduling was difficult.  Phill works nights as a cook, so he was only able to teach the class during the day.  Many of the people in our networks worked during the day, so they couldn’t attend the class.

2.  We didn’t have a bad weather backup plan.  The weather in Austin is crazy, it was 75 last weekend, and snowing this Friday.  Our classes need to have backup plans and or clear communication to all involved what happens when the conditions for a class change.

3.  It’s hard to get people to show up on their own if they don’t know someone there, and people are much more likely to show up with a friend.  How can we leverage that and encourage people to bring friends?

Quick backup plan. What other classes could we hold with only a few hours notice?  Christina (@s0delightful) was nice enough to offer to teach a photography class on Friday night.  We met at her house around 8pm. There were 5 of us total, 2 people I’d never met before, but all people that Christina knew.   We ate some food, got to know each other, and then Christina started the class.  The class lasted an hour, and the time flew by.  We all had fun and learned some new things about photography.

What we learned:

1.  It was a very social event, starting off with some food and hanging out was a good way to begin.   Friends enjoy doing things together.  How do you continue to encourage social behavior before and after class?

2.  Christina had a lot of props to use while teaching.  This was a great way to engage people, and to let us try different things for ourselves.   Would a takeaway have also enhanced the experience?

3.  Teaching is a scary word.  After class when we asked the other students if they thought they could go and teach a class about something they knew, the reaction was – at first – very tentative.  After some more questioning, we realized that most of the apprehension was due to the perception of the word teach.  When we re-framed the question to be about sharing knowledge with a group of peers, suddenly everyone thought they had something to share.  What’s another way to frame “teaching”?

4. Christina mentioned that photography wasn’t the first thing that came to mind when deciding what to teach, but she remembered that Ruby had asked her to show her some tips and tricks about photography a while back.  The fact that there was a need present made it easier to pick a subject.  How do we encourage people to share what they want to learn with their friends?

As we move forward we will continue to prototype more and more classes.  We’ve rescheduled Phill’s boxing class for Sunday 02.06.11 at 11am.  Send me an e-mail alex.pappas@austincenterfordesign if you want to come get fit and learn how to throw a mean left hook… from this kid.

After 5 hours of synthesis…

We’ve got some initial design criteria:

  1. Must make it easy to start
  2. Offer environment for peer support
  3. Offer environment to expand network
  4. Allow mistakes
  5. Inspire opportunities
  6. Encourage new interactions
  7. Must be fun
  8. Repeatable
  9. Create intentional lens shift
  10. Must have a new brand identity

Data diving, dive bar-ing… and synthesis

Last week Ruby wrote a great post on the progress of our research to date.   This week I’d like to share some thoughts on our process, and the reality of funneling massive amounts of data into usable design criteria.

To put it bluntly, the past week has been all about marinating in data.  We’ve meticulously transcribed hours of video into processable data.  We’ve filled excel spreadsheets with annotated quotations linked to various images and artifacts.  We’ve scheduled interviews, interviewed, rescheduled interviews, and interviewed again.  We’ve made videos and filled whiteboards… we drank a lot of coffee.

Through those processes we’ve managed to refine our focus several times, each time re-assessing with whom we need to do our next interview.  More data.  And more data.  And more data.

This week, however, was also a turning point.  It really felt like we were able to begin synthesis in earnest, and as we did we finally brought some clarity to all this data.

Synthesis itself is an amazing part of the design process, and in the past week I’ve seen it take two distinct forms: The formal – framed by rigor, process, and rules – and the informal, framed by everything that happens in between.

Data Diving: You need to spend hours with your data.  You need to spend the time coding, reading, writing, tracking, watching, and soaking in it.  That means hours in front of whiteboards, surrounded by piles of notes, trying to make sense of it all.  In my experience this step is essential, and often leaves me feeling energized but overwhelmed; my head buzzing, attempting to link hundreds of data points into some sort of coherent message – looking for that ah-ha.

Dive Bar-ing: And then you need to turn off the computer, walk away from the whiteboard and re-enter life.  Go to a bar, drink some cheap beer, and have a conversation about anything but what you’ve been working on.  This is when life fills in the second part of the equation.  It’s the conversations you have, the things you see, the smallest interactions, that are now framed in the context of the data you’ve been absorbing.  Your brain is synthesizing while you walk down the street, when you ask someone for directions, and while you sleep.

So after days of formal synthesis, we stepped away from the data.  Then today in class we had an unexpected hour to work on our project.  I mention that it was unexpected because having unscheduled time often just as valuable as having scheduled time.  We didn’t have an agenda, or a plan on how to spend the time synthesizing… so Ruby held an impromptu interview session with everyone in class on a topic that emerged from our first round of formal synthesis.  Then the two of us sat on the floor in the kitchen of the studio and talked through how the new data informed our initial data.  The informal setting made it easy to talk about our research informally, and allowed us to begin making those links (between rigorously collected data points) that had been marinating in our heads for the past few days.

We had several great breakthroughs and it finally feels like we’re rouding the first corner of the research process; clarifying our intentions along the way.  So what were the breakthroughs?  You’ll have to come to our presentation next week to find out.

Rigor + Life = Design Ideas.

Changing the lens (literally)

In class we often talk about the notion of shifting the lens through which you look at the world.  We do this in a number of ways, often (when people are involved) centered around empathy.  I think we have all developed frameworks of sorts to get out of our routines and approach situations from multiple viewpoints.  This ability is central to the problem (identifiers) solvers skill set.

Yesterday, I changed the lens through which I see quite literally.  I bought a new camera.

I have lots of cameras, small ones, big ones, old ones, plastic ones, metal ones, film ones, digital ones…  but this is the first new one I’ve bought in ages.  What’s interesting is that I’m suddenly overcome by the notion to go outside and start shooting with it.  My mind is wandering down the alleys of Austin, snapping pictures left and right.  So, the purchase of a physical object is making me want to go out into the world and ‘see’ new things.  The object, just sitting on my desk, is begging me to change pace, to ditch the routine, to move…. to move!

How can we capture these types of feelings in other products and services we create?  What are some other examples of products that give you these types of feelings?

How can we do this without having to purchase a product?  I mentioned earlier that I have certain frameworks that I use to try to do this mentally, but how do we make these frameworks more readily accessible, so they can sit on my desk and inspire me to go look at the same building I walk by everyday but see it for the first time?

And finally, how can we make these feelings last?  This camera will inspire me for a while… but the truth is that at some point down the road, it’ll be just another object I toss in my bag, it will go unnoticed sitting on my desk, or when I go out I’ll simply forget it at home.  How can we capture that emotion and stretch it to the life of the product, and beyond?

IDSE_103 Interaction Design Prototyping roundup

Our first studio class, IDSE_103,  centered around the theme of storytelling.  The first story we had to tell was about ourselves as we were tasked with going all in on the social media scene.  For me this was a big jump as I started off quite ‘unconnected’. 

It turned out, however, that being unconnected simply meant that I had a blank canvas to work with, and diving in allowed me to begin to tell my story.  As the quarter progressed we used these social media sites not only to tell our story, but to begin to create networks to distribute ideas.

We also learned a variety of tools and frameworks that helped us support these stories. These tools varied in fidelity in order to match the state of an idea. We started off with low fidelity visualization techniques: quick sketches on post it notes that we used to anchor our storytelling. 

These low fidelity sketches became the starting point with which to begin telling a story.  Their value lies in their simplicity.  I can walk up to a whiteboard and sketch out these anchors as I give an impromptu presentation.  Here’s an example:

As the quarter progressed we learned how to take these rough ides and formulate them into more formal business pitches.  We drew on some of the research from Lauren’s class to generate ideas which we then shared with the class.  We represented our ideas visually with concept maps that described complex systems:

Then as the ideas took shape we were able to formulate business plans around these ideas.  We learned how to pitch these ideas, and created multiple pitch decks to support our story.  Every assignment told a story, and as we moved through the quarter the fidelity of the supporting material increased.  We created mobile applications to support our ideas, choosing hero elements and building on some of the visualization and rapid prototyping techniques we had already learned.

From there we built basic wireframes to begin to create the interactions and desired function of our sites.

And finally we learned how to tell stories when we are not even there.  Below is a video pitching YAWYE, a service I designed for this class.

Ideas are virtually worthless if you don’t share them early and often.  This class gave me many tools and frameworks to do just that.  I now have multiple frameworks to pick from when prototyping an idea and telling a story.  I think most importantly it pushed me to focus on the story, own the whiteboard, and share everything…. Think, Make, Share.

The prototype project above has been pitched to several possible partners, and will be beta tested at a restaurant in San Francisco shortly.  Stay tuned on the AC4D blog for updates on how the beta test goes.

'Protecting Education From Attack'live webcast tonight 10.14.10

My former high school, Greenhills,  is hosting a lecture tonight in the “Life of Mind” series on the topic of “Protecting Education From Attack”.  They invited all of the alumni to attend, however, many of us no longer live in Michigan so I asked if they could webcast the lecture.  They set it up and tonight will be the first live web-cast lecture from the school.

Here is a brief of tonight’s topic:

Tonight’s Life of the Mind lecture, “Protecting Education from Attack,” with Human Rights Watch International senior researcher Bede Sheppard, will be webcast live from Greenhills’ theatre.  Sheppard will address the growing international crisis of increasing —and increasingly violent—attacks on students, teachers and educational institutions across the globe.  This Life of the Mind event is co-sponsored by A2Ethics.org, a local nonprofit ethics news-and-ideas website and nonpartisan events organization.

Click here for the link to tonight’s live lecture.  It begins at 7:30pm EDT  (6:30pm Austin TX!!)

The first rule of AC4D is….

#1 – The first rule of AC4D is, you blog about AC4D.

#2 – The second rule of AC4D is, you BLOG about AC4D.

#3 – If someone says stop, goes limp, taps out, they have almost come up with enough ideas.

#4 – Two people to a PI.

#5 – One pitch at a time.

#6 – No whining, no sleeping.

#7 – Class will go on as long as it has to.

#8 – If this is your first day at AC4D, you have to present.

5 minutes outside the classroom

In  Justin’s studio class this week we spent time working on wireframes for concept mobile applications.  The first bit was spent brainstorming and whiteboarding and post-it-noting with @s0delightful, @chapambrose , and @ryanhubbard on all kids of futuristic apps.

We finally narrowed it down a bit and started talking about building a mapping application that prompted users to take photos around a common theme – the photos would then be mapped and tagged creating brainstorming visuals around that theme.  The idea had two main components:  First, we wanted to get people to engage in their surrounding in a new way, and second provide searchable map-sets of visuals around themes that could be used as brainstorming aids.

In the spirit of Think : Make, we decided to do a quick test run.   The theme ‘dream’ was randomly picked, and we all went out to capture some pictures around that theme.  A few of mine are below.

After returning to the classroom, printing out our images, and sharing the idea, I think we all felt the implementation of our App was a little weak.  However, the general idea of getting people to engage with their surroundings in a new way is a theme I really love, and a theme that I believe has a lot of power.

In my 5 minutes outside, I engaged with the area surrounding our building in a totally new way.  The small details seemed to pop out the most, then the textures and patterns.  It felt like my mind was moving quickly, soaking in the bits all around me.

It’s interesting that this kind of activity can so quickly make you look around through a different lens.  Knowing that this is something you can so easily turn on is quite powerful – I’ll be trying it more often…  and you should too!  Pick a theme, go outside for 5 min and take a few pictures surrounding that theme.  Let me know how it goes!