itpdp abstract

IT PDP: IT Products for learning

Andreas Hammer Uncategorized Leave a Comment

The conclusion to my first year studying IT at Aarhus University: IT Product Design Project. This has been an amazing end to an amazing year studying IT and learning so many new things. This course requires us to use everything we’ve learned so far; programming, interaction design, user evaluations and studies, business models, web technologies and physical design. For 7 weeks, we got to focus on nothing but working on this project.

The assignment was to develop an IT product for learning. Here’s a video explaining what we made.

We did a ton of research, and ended up choosing to focus on middleschool students.

We summed up what we learned in the following flow model.

 

itpdp flow model

We started iterating through designs and eventually came up with the School Champ concept, a tool that students and teachers use in class as an addition to regular education. Based on some of the results from our research, we wanted to develop a foundation around which we could build educational computer games with physical interaction. That’s exactly what School Champ is.

Each student and teaacher gets an account. Students can log in on the School Champ portal and play a game, and the teacher is able to log in and review his/her students results. In coherence with the School Champ portal is the controller which is used for the physical movement.

The user operates the controller by sliding her feet across it, or jumping on it.

While playing, students compete with themselves to gain levels and points. The questions and difficulty of the games are meant to increase with the student’s level, so the user gets a sense of progression.

The student and teacher portals can be found on www.sc.andreaslysdal.com using these logins:

For student:
Username: student
Password: student

For teacher:
Username: teacher
Password: teacher

THE TECHNOLOGY

We had some trouble figuring out how to implement the touch surface, until we had a –  if we might say so ourselves – brilliant idea. Emulating a keyboard! We wanted to secure platform compatibility, so how could we create a controller that works on smartphones, tablets and computers? Keyboards are one answer to that question. Our software works by registering keypresses from the keys q, w, e, r, t, y, u, i, o, p (try it by logging in using the abovementioned information, and start a game!). We then came up with the idea of emulating keypresses by pressing stripped wires onto a conductive layer – we used aluminum foil. Here’s a video of our first prototype. We used an arduino, diodes, stripped wires, aluminum foil and some cardboard.

We built the interface and game using web technologies, ensuring that it runs on all platforms. Furthermore, constructing our controller to act as a keyboard ensures that it can interact with pretty much all platforms as well, as both smartphones and tablets can be connected to keyboards using Bluetooth. We wanted to add a Bluetooth dongle to our prototype, to try and connect it to a tablet or smartphone to assure that it worked, but the shipment with the Bluetooth unit did not make it in time for the projects’ deadline, so we had to stick with using a USB cable connected to a laptop.

We basically just built on this, to get to our final prototype. Here’s what a cross section would look like:

Tegning Controller-Gradient

Inside the actual prototype

Inside the actual prototype

THE GAMEPLAY

One game we came up with was for math, using a spaceship to “shoot” the correct answers, traveling down towards you, much likes notes in Guitar Hero.

itpdp ingame

The user can swipe on the controller to move the pointer from left to right, and jump on both edges of the controller to shoot. This game is demonstrated in the video linked above.

 

The product was very well received amongst it’s target audience. We tested it with a middle school class, who were begging to see this implemented by the end of our tests. I really feel like I learned a lot from completing this course, taking everything learned over the year and putting it into practice. It’s been awesome to be able to dedicate all of my time to developing one project, and to see it grow from sketches on a whiteboard, to a fully functional prototype.