School Evaluation Summary

I have to say that the School Evaluation Summary—or in my case, former workplace evaluation summary—was really challenging and not necessarily for the reasons that I thought when I first started out to do the project. What I found really challenging was to try to remain objective. Even thought I hadn’t worked at this job for a number of years, I felt like I would “get into trouble” for saying something negative about the technology set up in the office, although in all fairness, those existed when I worked for the company and was ultimately one of the reasons that I left. I brought my own assessments of the technology issue to the attention of the powers that be, but they were never solved.

What the years in between and the information that we learned in this assignment did give me was the ability to identify specific issues that were causing technology problems in the workplace, some of which surprised me. For example, I always knew budget was my employer’s concern when it came to buying new technology, but it wasn’t until I did this assignment that I realized that it was also his reluctance to learn new technology that prevented him from upgrading some of the office systems.

The Most Important Lesson From this Assignment

These two elements played off of one another. It wasn’t a surprise after I had finished the assessment that we could move forward. When I initially started the assignment I had more than a bit of residual irritation about the situation, but once I really started looking at it from a more critical perspective, I was able to be a bit more compassionate about the way technology was approached.

What I found most ironic about this was that the company required up-to-date technology in order to create its products, one of which was a series of training manuals for a flight school/ company. As the head graphic designer, any technology I knew, I taught myself with the occasional seminar thrown in. (I speak about those in my assessment.)

Using this in the Future

I have a feeling that the skills I’ve learned with this assignment will come in handy, but in a way that I don’t yet foresee. The same thing happened to me with regards to the Zotero assignment. At the time, it seemed tedious to do, but now I use that software all the time as a writer, and I can’t imagine how I functioned without such a tool. I think the school evaluation will be like that. I would imagine in my own writing business, I’ll be doing an assessment like this in the next year or so as I upgrade my technology. It should not only save me some time in the long run, but money as well, because I’ll be forced to look at the whole picture of how I use technology. This will ultimately help me make a better decision about what I choose.

Useful Free Stuff

On a side note, but maybe one that will be appreciated, I discovered a website that allows you to make graphics and pie charts for free. There are several on the web, but I chose this one, because it was so easy to use, although I didn’t realize until hindsight that one of my pie charts looks like Pac-Man. :-p

Here are my two documents:

And here is a breakdown of the AECT Standards for this assignment. They’re in my links/ tags as well.
4.2 Resource Management
Resource management involves planning, monitoring, and controlling resource support systems and services.
5.1 Problem Analysis
Problem analysis involves determining the nature and parameters of the problem by using information-gathering and decision-making strategies.
5.2 Criterion-Referenced Measurement
Criterion-referenced measurement involves techniques for determining learner mastery of pre-specified content.
5.3 Formative and Summative Evaluation
Formative evaluation involves gathering information on adequacy and using this information as a basis for further development. Summative evaluation involves gathering information on adequacy and using this information to make decisions about utilization.
5.4 Long-Range Planning
Long-range planning that focuses on the organization as a whole is strategic planning….Long-range is usually defined as a future period of about three to five years or longer. During strategic planning, managers are trying to decide in the present what must be done to ensure organizational success in the future.

EDTECH 597: Developing a Chocolate App Thats Good Enough to Eat!

These are three of the screens from my “Christmas Chocolate” mobile app. It’s likely that some features will change as I continue developing this app.

It doesn’t seem possible that we could be in week 12 of school, but I’m pleased to be here, because I’ve learned so much in my apps class. I’ve gone from someone who had no clue about designing apps to someone who now has enough background to move forward with confidence into the final weeks, even if I’m not completely certain about how I’m going to build one of the components of the app (my timer feature).

Chocolate on Google Trends

As I mentioned last week, I’ve decided on a chocolate-themed app to help promote my food column. I’ve done some additional research on Google Trends and found out that the most searches for chocolate are in the month of December. I’ve also searched on Google Keyword Tool and found that people are starting to search for terms like “chocolate app,” “mobile chocolate,” and “mobile phone chocolate.” This tells me that it’s not only a good time to roll out the app, but this research also gives me a clue about what kinds of keywords I should use in my article title and body. The more I’m aligned with what people are searching for on the web, the more successful this part of the app launch will be.

Below are two graphics of Google Trends, which show the results of people’s searches for the keyword “chocolate.”

This graphic shows a keyword search for “chocolate mobile apps.”

The graphic below shows how people have searched for the term “chocolate” over the period of a few years. Information like this is useful when you’re developing online content or trying to market something.

This graphic shows a Google Trends search for the word “chocolate.” As you can see, the term peaks at the end of the year, making a Christmas time roll out of a chocolate app logical.

Building and then Rebuilding

Right now, I’ve gotten most of the visual components worked out and some of the operational bugs. I was most concerned about creating the splash screen and making a functioning list feature for the recipe portion of the app. At the moment, my app has seven pages. There will be more, but the basic seven represent every type of page that I’ll be dealing with. It’s likely that once I get all the components placed, I’ll start the app from scratch, so that my file isn’t too large and so that I’ll eliminate any visual elements that don’t please me as much right now. But I have plenty of time for that in the coming weeks.

I’m really pleased with how much I’ve learned in this class. It’s surprises me, actually, considering that I didn’t have a lot of confidence in my ability to program anything. But now I have this tool that I can really leverage to help me move my writing business to the next level.

EDTECH 597: Revisiting Trier, Germany Via Mobile App

The Trier walking tour and landmarks apps gives the user some history plus a pictorial reference to each UNESCO site featured on the app as well as access to Google Maps.

This week’s EDTECH 597 mobile app broke through many of the challenges that I’ve wanted to resolve for weeks, but didn’t quite know how. The original theme of the app in the book was “Paris Maps Tour,” which I changed to a “Trier, Germany UNESCO Landmarks and Maps Tour” mobile app. Through the process of developing this app, including its many prototype incarnations, I finally was able to not only create an app with more than one screen, but also change pictures on the app depending upon which button I pushed and to access the internet via Google Maps. This maps portion of the app development was also part of the original assignment.

The Nine Lives of the Trier Walking Tour App

The various incarnations of this project were many pages long—I think about six. However, for the final one, I turned in just a 2-page app. The multiple page app had a few bugs that I really wasn’t able to solve this week. However, I’m not sorry I went down the road that I did, because I’m looking at each app as a way to direct my thinking for my final app.

I know that I want that app to have multiple page and audio capabilities, so I’m pushing the envelope as far as I can on each assignment to see what kinds of abilities I’ll be able to bring to the table and to give me an idea of what kinds of problems I’ll be able to realistically solve during the process even if I don’t have all the know-how now. As I mentioned in last week’s post, I often solve problems for previous apps as I’m working on another app. In fact, the answer to one of the problems that I had for that app—how to increase a line size—came to me and now I know how to do that.

Design Solves Problems: Creating Orc Armies with Technology

Additionally, this week once again taught me that it’s the nature of good design that it solves problems. I am reminded of the stories that I’ve heard about when Peter Jackson was directing Lord of the Rings. He needed to be able to create large scale orc armies on screen, but at the time, there was no software that could do that so his production team created a program called Massive that would design individual orcs with their own decision-making capabilities on-screen.

Jackson said that he was forced to create these solutions, because he lives in New Zealand and didn’t have access to larger production houses like Sony or Industrial Light and Magic. If he wanted an effect in his films, he and his team had to create it. I’m starting to really look at app development in this light.


The Long Road in App Development

Currently, I work as a travel writer. One of the things that the company that I write for is doing is starting up walking tours of Cascade, Idaho with the idea that they’ll have many tours eventually. I thought about this and about the experience I had when I visited Trier, Germany several years ago. While I was touring the Karl Marx House Museum, I was given a hand-held device that told me about each exhibit. This week, I wondered how I could bring the type of information that the hand-held device gave me to the mobile app experience. It would have been cool to have an app for each of the sites that I visited in Trier—one that would give me a bit of information about each site plus a pictorial reference so that I would know that I was at the right place. I then brought my thinking a bit further by applying these same lessons to the walking tours we’re currently doing.

It might even be something we could package down the road and sell. It would allow us to duplicate ourselves without adding manpower. For the first time since I started the class, I’m beginning to understand the answer to the question I put forth in one of the early blog posts for this class, which is “What is the logical progression of outcomes that can happen from this?” or “Where will this path logically lead and how can I apply what this information is telling me to the apps that I’m developing?”

In reality, it wasn’t until I wrote this post that I realized what kind of economic impact this could have on the business I work for. It didn’t even really occur to me until I wrote it that we could save manpower, but still make money by developing apps like this. It was a good breakthrough!

EDTECH 597: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

This week’s apps encourages us to chase bugs…

Learning to create apps requires a certain amount of patience, I’ve found as well as an eye on the long road. The patience part is probably pretty obvious, but the long road maybe not so much. When I started the EDTECH 597 Apps class, I wondered with each subsequent app, but in particular the first, “How am I going to change one element on this app when I have no idea what I’m doing? I’ve proceeded with the faith that if I do the work—even if I don’t understand at first—I will eventually.

Chasing Ladybugs and Answers and Catching Neither One

I’m finding that at least mentally, I’m “fixing” a lot of the previous apps, which presented problems that I couldn’t solve at the time, but have some idea of how to do it now. For example, as I was researching how to solve a problem with this week’s app (Ladybug Chase), as I flipped through the book’s previous chapters, something from the Paint Pot app was solved. I remember looking at classmate, Faith Foo’s blocks for changing the picture on the screen and recalled the little media list at the bottom of the app builder. I realized that I don’t always have to load a particular media to a particular step. In understanding that, I also understood how Faith made the multiple windows in her Paint Pot app. Mind you, I still haven’t figured out how to make a fatter line in the Ladybug Chase, the original task that got me to looking for solutions in the first place, but at least it’s something.

Advertising Moves into the Mobile App Age

I did read over the chapter in the book that was supposed to explain how to do things like this, but I couldn’t seem to apply the knowledge (at least not yet) to enable me to make a different-sized line for the energy field in the current app. While my progress pleases me, I’m a bit concerned that I won’t know how to solve the problems that will come when I create my last app for the class. I’m hoping that the problem-solving skills (and persistence) that I’ve developed in these past few weeks will be enough to ensure that the app gets done.

On a different, but related note, as a media person, I am pleased that I’m learning this skill. I read a report in the New York Times this week that talks about the boom in mobile digital ads. Being able to create apps for myself and others from a business standpoint could come in very handy.

EDTECH 597: How Wind Turbines and an Old Viaduct Got me to Thinking About Better App Design

The user interface for my “No Texting While Driving App” for EDTECH 597.

I have said in my in-class forum posts for the EDTECH 597 mobile app design class that design must be more than just making something look pretty. It must also solve problems. However, I also know from my experience working in the newspaper business that good-looking design is important if for no other reason than to make people pick up and buy your newspaper or magazine. It is with this mindset that I approach the app class.

All Form and No Function…

What I have noticed is that very often my designs are heavy on pretty and not always so much on function. They’re not bad. They do work, but I just feel like I’m not yet emphasizing the UX UI (user experience, user interface) aspect of the designs as well as I want to—mostly because I don’t have a lot of experience in seeing how this is done—either from other apps or from design in general. There are a lot of great apps out there, but having not had a cell phone for several years has put me behind as a mobile app consumer.

But I found inspiration (or at least food for thought) this week on a site called The story in question revolved around the need to redesign some old viaducts in the Italian countryside. The goal was to make them useful again and beautiful and to help revitalize the area through some environmentally conscious design using the existing structure. Additionally, the designers already had part of a structure to work with like we do with our mobile apps. They just needed to do something with what was already in place. The design highlighted on featured wind turbines that had been built into the support beams of the viaduct, making it look like a wall full of different sized clocks and giving it a funky 60s feel. And it was one of the most beautiful and practical applications of green design that I’ve ever seen. (Click on the red hyperlink in this paragraph to see it.)

The road and its supports already existed. It provided a partial framework for a project onto which the designers could add. Together, the viaduct structure and the wind turbines looked beautiful, so the design for this was able to meet my design criteria of the end product being both beautiful and able to solve problems at the same time. It had the added benefit of bringing two useful, but unrelated structures together in one structure. These are items that you wouldn’t necessarily automatically think would go together, but once they were put together, it was an “Of course!” moment.

The Hands Off App

As in the case of the viaduct, the usefulness of this week’s app design is already built-in, the beauty of the design is not. As I already mentioned in my design for the drawing app, I wanted to provide visual clues that tell the user what to look at even if they don’t have instructions to read. In the book, The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman, these types of visual clues are called ‘affordances.’ They are the visual clues that allow a person to know that a push-plate on a door means to push the door open instead of pulling it, that a knob means to turn and open, and a slot provides a place to insert something. It makes me wonder what—if any—affordances did the designers for the viaduct project see or maybe more accurately, see lacking and how did they land upon the design they did given the minimal parameters set forth by the beams of the viaduct?

So the question for me as I work on building this app beyond the basic prototype provided for us in the book is “What kind of visual affordances can I use to make this app more UX UI-friendly and still beautiful at the same time?” And more importantly, like the designers of the windmills, how can I use the structure of the design given to us in the book as the “No Texting While Driving” example and build on it so that it’s both beautiful and useful?