designing life experience

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Designing Life Experience Petr Stedry UX Designer MSD Global Innovation Center, Prague Today, I would like to talk about a topic that might or might not already crossed your mind. About using the skills we employ at work in a slightly different setting and to satisfy different goals than usually. With the goal to design the Life Experience for someone.

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Have you ever thought how the tools you use in your job as a UX Designer apply to your life? That they could be used to design a different kind of experience? These thoughts crossed my mind and this is the second iteration of the idea as presented on Saturday June 7th 2014 at the UX Camp Europe in Berlin.

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Page 1: Designing Life Experience

Designing Life Experience

Petr Stedry UX Designer

MSD Global Innovation Center, Prague

Today, I would like to talk about a topic that might or might not already crossed your mind. About using the skills we employ at work in a slightly different setting and to satisfy different goals than usually. With the goal to design the Life Experience for someone.

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Some time ago I caught myself using techniques from my User Experience toolkit in normal situations. And since then I can’t stop thinking about this. Let’s return to the past.

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It was about 7 years ago when I “kicked off” a “project”. Being just an interaction designer, I was not yet fully aware of what User Experience is. Or how to raise children. At least I had a plan …

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1.  Raise him as a good person 2.  Teach him everything he will need to

live a full life

These were my initial goals were without consciously realizing it. And I only became aware of them much later.

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•  <Dilbert - 400 requirements - easy to use>

dilbert.com/strips/comic/2001-04-14 via @janjakubec © Scott Adams

But life is infinitely more complex than any other project you might tackle at work. Slapping “easy to use” on either of those does not make sense in either case.

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In the beginning I lacked domain expertise in pediatry. Currently it’s more about psychology and paedagogy.

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On projects there is usually a subject matter expert that can explain things when I need to know.

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With this project, everything was different. I had to start with research and really deep dive into the domain.

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•  <malé dítě>

With really small children you – the researcher – are at a disadvantage. Most research techniques you encounter will be linked to the ability to read. Or at the very least talk.

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From the book “Universal Methods of Design” by Bruce Hannington and Bella Martin

To get any data out of the situation there was not much left than the “Fly on the wall” observation technique. At that time I was not yet aware that what I am doing has a name.

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In our case the research looked more like this. The young human got an object – in this case a magnet from a disassembled hard drive – and I watched what he will do with that. And also watched out so he does not eat it. You must never harm the participants.

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There was not much I would learn by using this method. It takes a lot of time to learn something by just observing someone without employing other forms of cognitive output – speech or writing. When we got past the “observation only” period and developed speaking I could finally use more sophisticated research techniques – interviews.

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Young child mental model

Dad works and makes money Mom makes a little bit of money too and cooks and takes us to school

Slowly we have come to what we though was a partial understanding of the mental model. And it’s good to note, that this can very much help you as a basis when doing any “adjustments”. Knowing the exact context and starting position will help you get a better leverage.

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When you marry children’s creative capabilities and a small vocabulary you get a though problem to crack with your interviewing skills. Adults can more clearly separate fact from fantasy. And they are able to remember past events. While kids are able to respond to yes/no questions, open ended questions like “How was it today at the kindergarten” will not yield much useful information.

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When you marry children’s creative capabilities and a small vocabulary you get a though problem to crack with your interviewing skills. Adults can more clearly separate fact from fantasy. And they are able to remember past events. While kids are able to respond to yes/no questions, open ended questions like “How was it today at the kindergarten” will not yield much useful information.

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But it all starts a few years earlier … in the kindergarten. This institution usually does a pretty good job at advancing basic motor skills and adding basic interpersonal skills to the mix.

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If you have the chance you can pay them a visit and perform some Contextual Inquiry to see if you really get what you expect. It pays off to visit the kindergarten even before you decided where to place your kid.

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European school, 19th century

When the kid gets older it is sucked into the school system. Today’s school system got its roots in the late 18th century with the advent of the industrial revolution.

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Rural Oklahoma, United States, Early 20th century

And it has not changed much as you can see in this picture from an early 20th century classroom from Oklahoma.

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This is a contemporary czech school. And you can see school today has not changed that much. When you start digging deeper you find even more disturbing similarities of an institution that was designed in the late 18th century without regard of the computer or information revolutions that we are experiencing.

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Teach him everything he will need to live a full life.

Before my older son started his first school I asked myself … what could be done to achieve that overly broad goal I set for yourself?

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After being inspired by TED talks from Sugata Mitra about how kids could learn how to operate a computer in a language they did not know.

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Or Arvind Gupta who showed me how easy it is to create learning tools literally from trash.

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Teach him everything he will need to live a full life.

Teach him how to better think with numbers.

My goal started to somehow solidify. I wanted him to be able to better think with numbers.

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Redesigning the Mathematics

Experience

And so began my journey to redesign the learning experience for my son.

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Remember, there was no Subject Matter Expert who would advise me with this project so I had to pick up some expertise myself. With the first wave of MOOC education this was not too hard.

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Thanks to this lady my quest for knowledge was so much easier. Her name is Jo Boaler and she is a professor of mathematics and a researcher in the pedagogy arena with quite interesting point of view on the subject of Mathematics.

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I took her 9 week online course – which was still free then – and slowly learned what it takes to teach maths.

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If you are even a little bit curious what the issue is with mathematics you should go read at least a part of this …

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I am starting to enjoy maths again after more than 25 years!

My goal started to somehow solidify. I wanted him to be able to better think with numbers.

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My goal started to somehow solidify. I wanted him to be able to better think with numbers.

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Every problem has one correct solution It is necessary to memorize and apply a formula Some are born with talent for mathematics Mathematics is all about speed

The mental model installed in our children’s heads can be really damaging. “Is this the mental model I would like my kids to have?” I asked myself. How is it compatible with the inner motivation and natural curiosity that children possess?

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Every problem has one correct solution It is necessary to memorize and apply a formula Some are born with talent for mathematics Mathematics is all about speed

I wanted to design some measures that would prevent the forming of this mental model of mathematics.

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Every problem has one correct solution It is necessary to memorize and apply a formula Some are born with talent for mathematics Mathematics is all about speed

+ Playfulness + Slow thinking + Intrinsic motivation

I needed to somehow bring back playfulness, slow thinking and intrinsic motivation. This was my behavioral goal.

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Will they fall asleep before we find time for that? Will they want to continue after 5 minutes? Do they ask for the activity on their own again?

Our KPIs

As with any other project I tried to establish some KPIs. In our case those were quite “informal” …

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I bought an alternate textbook set by prof. Hejný. It cost only about 30 Euro.

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The course and the new textbook sparked a lot of interesting ideas. And we tried out quite a lot of them out … drawing fractal trees, division squares …

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We built mathematical sequences out of LEGO Duplo bricks …

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And traded exercises to make it more fun and engaging … when my son had some maths homework he did not like I traded a different exercise for the one he did not like. … the new exercises were more demanding, but ultimately more fun. He had so much fun that he even started to ask for alternate excercises on his own.

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We did number talks … … talking about numbers in different ways … Let’s try this one out. How could you solve 110 – 59 without using pencil and paper?

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Explain to others how you solved it ☺

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The point here is that there are many ways how to approach even such a simple problem like this. It helps the kids to discover other patterns and learn them.

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Given this all might seem quite similar to what you do in the lab or in the wild. There is one big difference.

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These are your kids and so the stakes are higher. And it is so much easier to see that they enjoy something.

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How are you designing the Life Experience?

Thanks for reading this far! Since this is a topic I am still actively pursuing, any tip or tidbit of information is highly appreciated! Tweet to me @vorkronor or send me an e-mail at [email protected].

If you think about the methods we are using in our jobs. They might very well suited to designing the Life Experience. Don’t you think? The question remains what experience will you design?