Animated Paper Prototypes

We did a short post awhile back about the merits of paper prototyping.  We’ve gotten another recent inquiry about what paper prototyping looks like.  One of our fun rituals at lab sessions is constant peer testing (to test for understanding of learning concepts as well as flows/forms of interaction.  Before writing a lick of code for Overpass, we started with paper, markers, and human computers.  Here’s minute-long example of how that might play out:


And here’s a minute example of its eventual digital prototype:

Baking Overpass, Linky, and QueryUs

The lab is already deep in Design Cycle 2 (you’ll be seeing some glimpses very soon).  In wrapping up Design Cycle 1 (DC1), aside from our home videos from our mini-exchange in late January, we’ve created webpages for each of our 2012-2013 DC1 prototypes to summarize key features and highlight learning concepts each examined and sought to address.





You can visit “Overpass” (a web-based game where learners must construct and cross metaphorical argument bridges), “Linky” (an app that challenges learners to collect images from their everyday lives, connect them to themes within lessons, and sense-make), and “QueryUs” (a web app that challenges learners to parse open data sets and publish query functions to answer relevant questions).   As always, we welcome feedback, ideas, and collaborators.  So drop us a line if you’re interested in trying out a prototype and/or helping in its development.


A quick teaser:  We’re also planning towards a public hackathon in NYC in mid-May, so continued “wrapping  up” of our DC1 prototypes includes creating pathways to open source projects to the developer community.



Stimulating Public Exchanges

Time flies, and Design Cycle I is now complete.   In less than three months, this year’s labbers have moved from learning each others’ names to becoming teams that can realize concepts into high fidelity digital prototypes that have been learner vetted twice.  Aside from fellow labbers and our teacher’s students, few have had a chance to see our works in progress and meet our lab community.  So the last weekend of January, we convened a mini-demo showcase and conversation at AlleyNYC.  We only had 25 spots, and the room was packed with a mixture of teachers, technologists, researchers, and other interested individuals. For the first bit, we set up three demo stations where guests could try out our Design Cycle I prototypes in progress.


This was followed by short presentations by all the teams.   The primary goal was to provide an inclusive window into our rapid prototyping process and the deep considerations that arise about the nature of learning through this collaborative making process.   We have some home videos up of the presentations below!





A web-based game where learners must construct and cross metaphorical argument bridges.  Learners are challenged to successfully match passages of text to parts of an argument that teachers can create as game levels.  In our prototyping process, 8 history levels and 8 science levels were created and used with students.
Watch the other event videos.
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The Merits of Rapid Paper Prototyping

Our extended period of concept generation proved extremely helpful to focusing our ideas, by extrapolating the specific skills and interactions that most frequently surfaced in the different concepts.  We are currently working on prototyping three concepts that emerged from our ideation phase: an experiential tool for constructing cogent arguments; an app that encourages students to collect and make connections by sense-making with locative data; and a game that encourages students to exercise their computational thinking skills in a real world context.


Moving from concept to prototype can be a difficult transition, but we  labbers are learning what works by engaging each other as peer testers in trying out the basics of the interaction using paper prototypes.  Before coding digital prototypes, some quick and dirty prototypes that represent/model core interactions as fast as possible can provide valuable information about assumptions and/or reveal important unnoticed dynamics.   Aside from facilitating a tangible sense of basic functionality and flow, rapid paper prototyping pushes us to reflect on content integration and skill scaffolding.  With a rotating “Wizard of Oz” (team member playing the role of computer with hand-sketched assets), labbers provide each other with feedback and insights on how to refine the experience, e.g.  adding cues/prompts and deeper connections between actions and outcomes.  As computer, Mike E. wins the prize for adding sound effects.  Not only fun, enacting can allow you to user test more dynamic forms of feedback that are traditionally an afterthought and enable testers to feel a heightened connection to the experience.


We’re a fan of Bill Buxton’s Sketching User Experiences and are also collecting our own list of favorite rapid prototyping methods to remix and share with you.

!dea Incubation Cards, Just for You!

!dea Incubator Cards are one of our homegrown concepting tools. We’ve created a 2012 edition and put our card deck online so that anyone can print them out and try using them too!
The cards encourage surfacing a volume of concepts rapidly and a focus on integrating key values. These types of card games can be a method for introducing design parameters and providing some structure around brainstorming. We have 4 card values: blue cards (tech trends), green cards (education en vogue), red cards (learner actions), and purple cards (models to hack). Visit our Process page to download your own !dea Incubation Card Deck. Try playing them! And let us know if they work well in helping you generate your own promising ideas.
Over the last month, using a variety of concepting methods, including our cards, we’ve brewed up over 42 concepts for our current Design Cycle. We also did some analysis and pattern seeking. In our 2012 Look Book, you can see the themes that surfaced across our concepts and browse the rough storyboards. Let us know which concepts are your favorites.