Inquirium is hiring a front-end web developer

Inquirium is looking for a freelance developer to build out the front-end of a site that will help principals and school districts determine how well their schools are producing high school and college graduates. The site is based on ground-breaking research data that provides insight into the various obstacles that students face on the way to graduation. Our mission is to help school stakeholders make sense of this data in ways that leads to better outcomes for their students and their schools.

Inquirium is a three-person company celebrating our fourteenth year of successfully designing and developing educational software and web applications for museums, zoos, schools, and other non-profits.

We are hiring a front-end developer who can work with a visual designer to implement interfaces that allow users to explore and visualize school data in interesting, useful ways. This position is primarily focused on front-end work, with some collaboration with a back-end developer to nail down a RESTish API for retrieving school data.

The initial commitment is a half-time position through the end of 2014. However, there is the potential for ongoing work with this project in 2015, as well as work on other Inquirium projects.

Here’s who we’re looking for:

You enjoy iterative design and working in small teams. At the same time, you can work independently, stay on schedule, and don’t need a lot of hand holding to get the job done.

You’re comfortable working with modern Javascript frameworks like Backbone, Angular or Ember, and with tooling like Grunt and Bower. You’ve built web interactives before, whether as one-offs on a page, or as full-blown single-page applications. You know how to talk to REST (and non-REST) services.

You may not be test-driven, but you understand what testing buys you and use tests when appropriate. You’ve worked with complex web sites long enough to understand their maintenance challenges and be proactive about addressing those challenges.

You have experience working in languages other than Javascript. While your primary responsibilities will focus on front-end development, familiarity with back-end technologies like Django, Node.js, or Go are a plus and may come into play in other projects.

Another thing that’s important is your ability to work and communicate remotely with folks in different time zones. We are a distributed company, with key staff in time zones across the US. We rely heavily on online tools for talking, sharing design materials, and providing feedback. Our approach is to schedule a meeting, send an artifact ahead of time with specific feedback requests, meet to discuss, then work independently on follow-up action items. Since much of our communication is asynchronous, your ability to write clearly and well is important.

If you’re interested in this job, contact us at jobs@inquirium.net and convince us that you’re the one!

Now Hiring: Project Coordinator / Dynamic Jack-Of-All-Trades

We are looking for a Chicago-based freelance project coordinator / jack-of-all-trades to work part-time coordinating day-to-day administration of several design projects. Your primary responsibility will be keeping our projects on track and humming smoothly.

Inquirium is a nimble, three-person, company celebrating our 12th anniversary successfully designing & developing custom educational software and web applications for K-12, museums, zoos, and other non-profits.

Here’s who we’re looking for:

You are an independent self-starter with unsurpassable communication and organization skills, in both face-to-face and remote settings. You are completely fluent and happy using online collaboration tools with remote teams, have an eye for details, and don’t need a lot of hand holding to get the job done. You are easy to work with and have a sense of humor.

If you were working for us, here are some of the things you would have done last month:

  • Participated in design meetings for 6 different client products that promote innovative learning and teaching in K-12 classrooms
  • Contributed to a weekly call discussing the redesign of our product website
  • Documented several project planning meetings
  • Helped write and copy edit company blog posts
  • Maintained a Basecamp record of meeting summaries, action items, and project resources
  • Organized an internal Dropbox of design documents
  • Triaged incoming client feature requests & curated feature backlogs in Trello

Required skills:

  • A willingness and ability to be a jack of all trades, wear many hats, learn new skills, and do whatever needs to be done
  • Experience with software design projects (familiarity with Agile design & development practices is a plus)
  • Strong writing, copy-editing & word-processing skills; Able to polish and format professional-looking deliverables

Location:

Applicants must be based in Chicago and willing to work at our offices near Halsted & North Ave. At the same time, the ability to work remotely with staff not based in Chicago is a must.

What we offer:

  • Intellectually stimulating and socially beneficial education projects
  • Work with nimble, fun, distributed teams
  • Opportunity to learn more and grow with us — if you have a particular skill set or interest, we want to put it to use
  • No bureaucracy — you have the chance to make an impact
  • Established — we’ve been around for 12 years and have a proven track record of success & longevity.

Should you turn out a good fit, there’s room for greater involvement and expanded roles on a more full-time basis, including participation in social media, branding & customer support for one of our Inquirium-made products.

Application Requirements:

To apply, send an email, with resumé, to jobs@inquirium.net telling us why you’re the one. Get our attention and show us how you communicate. If you catch our interest, we’ll contact you to follow-up.

CSCL 2013 Program Web App

We’ve released a conference program web app for CSCL 2013. You can see it here: http://cscl2013.inquirium.org/.

The web app supports offline use via HTML5′s application cache. This is useful if, like me, you wait until you’re on the plane to start figuring out what you want to do while you’re at the conference. Just make sure to visit the site once before you board, and wait until the app tells you it’s ready for offline use.

The app should run well on late-model smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktops. Have at it.

Inquirium helps University of Chicago launch 5 Essentials school reporting site

Today’s a big day for one of our favorite clients, the Consortium for School Research at the University of Chicago. It marks the launch of a new and improved website for reporting the results of their bi-annual survey of 5 Essentials for School Improvement in Chicago Public Schools. Inquirium designed and built CCSR’s original survey reporting website in 2009, and today we are pleased to roll out the new and improved version.

The new site provides an interface to text and data visualizations that help principals, teachers, parents, and community members explore survey results on what makes their schools tick — areas such as learning climate, instructional leadership, ambitious instruction, professional capacity, and family and community involvement. The primary goal is to give school stakeholders insights into the factors that most impact student learning, in order to help foster improvement.

While today’s launch is a huge milestone, there is more to come. We will be rolling out additional improvements and enhancements later this month.

Looking for a freelance UX + front-end developer

We are looking for a freelance UX/front-end developer to be our go-to contractor for the foreseeable future.

Inquirium is a three-person company celebrating our 10th anniversary successfully designing and developing educational software and web applications for museums, zoos, schools, and other non-profits.

We’re looking for a freelance visual designer with HTML and CSS skills who can help us design and build the front-end web interfaces for several of our projects. This has the potential to be an extended gig.

Here’s who we’re looking for:

You enjoy iterative design and working in small teams. At the same time, you can work independently, stay on schedule, and don’t need a lot of hand holding to get the job done. And you have a great eye for clean, crisp, visual design.

And you probably can’t decide if you’re a designer or a developer.

If you were working for us, here are some of the things you would have done last month:

  • Helped us create an HTML5/CSS3/jQuery mockup, based on pencil sketches, of a web tool that helps students make sense of literature.
  • Sat in on a weekly client Skype call to discuss their UX needs for a custom web app we’re building to allow clients to make sense of large research survey data sets.
  • Prototyped a pixel-perfect visual design for a revised company product site.

And here are some things you would do in the next month:

  • Create a series of drawings for a proposed skin to an alpha-stage custom web app that helps teachers visualize data on student achievement, engage in a round of internal feedback, then engage in a round of client feedback.
  • Help refine an existing UX for another client web app; put in place a front-end development framework drawing on tools like jQuery, SASS, and Coffeescript.
  • Brainstorm ideas for a revamp of our company website, do some preliminary sketches.

Required skills:

  • A willingness and ability to be a jack of all trades, wear many hats, learn new skills, and do whatever needs to be done.
  • Photoshop (and Illustrator) and a sketchbook are your friends and constant companions.
  • You should be familiar with the concepts of progressive enhancement, graceful degradation, and responsive design.
  • You should be familiar with the capabilities and limitations of HTML5 and CSS3. Extra credit if you know SASS, jQuery, and Javascript. Double word score if you’ve worked with Django templates or another templating system. Triple word score if you are familiar with SEO strategies.
  • You should be familiar with version control software. We use hg and git.
  • The job can be tailored to fit your strongest skill set, but a visual designer’s eye is an absolute must.

Experience is important. We’re looking for someone who can hit the ground running and make an immediate contribution to our active projects. This is not a good fit for someone looking for on-the-job training.

Another thing that’s important is your ability to work and communicate remotely with folks in different time zones. Our home offices span three cities, and we rely heavily on online tools for talking, sharing design materials, and providing feedback. Our approach is to schedule a meeting, send an artifact ahead of time with specific feedback requests, meet to discuss, then work independently on follow-up action items.

If you’re interested in this job, convince us that you’re the one!

MacArthur showcases its “new media and learning” initiatives

Last Thursday, The MacArthur Foundation put on a showcase of its recent efforts to re-imagine learning. The event highlighted Katie Salen’s Quest to Learn, a school built on the principles of game design, as well as three initiatives by former Inquirium founder Nichole Pinkard: the Digital Youth Network, a program through which mentors engage young adults in interest-based digital media projects, the Remix World social media platform to support those projects, and the highly successful YOUmedia learning lab, a space at Chicago’s Harold Washington Library where teens can explore their interests using state of the art digital media facilities.

It’s exciting stuff, and we at Inquirium couldn’t resist getting involved. Last year, we helped redesign the teacher planning and design component of Remix World, and recently we began helping MacArthur expand it’s YOUmedia initiative by designing an online toolkit to support the creation of new sites.

The MacArthur event also featured a special appearance from Chicago’s Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel, who seems to have his pulse on this movement — which is reassuring for those of us in Chicago.

The centerpiece of the event was a new PBS documentary, Digital Media: New Learners of the 21st Century which highlights these projects along with interviews from a number of educational experts.

Watch the full episode. See more Digital Media – New Learners Of The 21st Century.

New options for education startups

It’s really cool to see startup funding options start to coalesce in the education and learning space. There’s always been various research grant funding available for interesting work, but when it comes to pushing that work out into the commercial sphere the options were a bit more limited. The SBIR program was one opportunity, but didn’t have a really strong connection to the education market per se, and presumes a much longer timeframe (compared to many software ventures) for development and getting to market.

Two relative new organizations are trying to change the landscape by building and leveraging community in the education and learning space. First, there’s Startl, which has been hosting multi-day Design Boost boot camps in San Francisco to help startups collaboratively push their designs forward, and three-month immersion programs in New York that culminates in a pitch day to prospective investors.

Startl’s position in the learning technologies market is connective: to form a “network of networks” that responds quickly to the most promising technological, pedagogical, and market opportunities. This model makes business sense, since starting a big new enterprise in the current climate seems impractical, as well as common sense: it unites the leading minds, institutions, and corporations in the learning arena in a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Second, just this week we learned of the launch of Imagine K12, which is built on the successful YCombinator model, but focused expressly on education startups.

Our program is set up to take you and your idea from early stage to the point of being a company investable by seed investors (“angels”) or traditional venture capitalists. The three month program is immersive and intense. You are required to be in the SF Bay area during that time. The environment will be conducive to getting an initial prototype up and running and to honing a business plan and pitch. We will give you advice and get your product in the hands of real users for rapid feedback and iteration. During the program, you will also be introduced to educational experts, angel investors, venture capitalists and Silicon Valley luminaries that will inspire you, force you to crystalize your ideas and challenge you to create a more compelling product and company.

Both programs provide some funding (living expenses, basically) for the immersion programs in exchange for a small (~6%) equity stake. Based on YCombinator outcomes, that’s a worthwhile tradeoff. We’re really excited to see what kinds of startups come out of these efforts.

Inquirium launches mobile conference app platform

Inquirium has entered the world of mobile apps with our new conferences app platform.  Building on the success of our ICLS 2010 conference app, we are now creating custom apps for conferences of all types (currently booking for 2011 conferences).

The app provides attendees with all the information of the conference program in a convenient, portable format, and offers a host of features that enhance the conference experience in new ways. Our platform also provides conference organizers with backend data management and ways to showcase conference sponsors and exhibitors. The app will be available on iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android. You can install our free, fully functional iPhone demo from the iTunes app store today! We’re adding new features all the time, so keep checking our conferences app website for more updates.

ICLS 2010 iPhone App Released

We just released our first iPhone App: A conference guide to the upcoming International Conference of the Learning Sciences in Chicago.

It’s available directly from the App store. Just search on ‘icls’.

You can also visit our ICLS App web page.

It has all the features you’d expect from a conference app:

  • program guide
  • maps
  • a way to favorite sessions
  • search

And a few nifty features:

  • Off-line browsing — Set your conference schedule on the airplane! No network necessary.
  • Abstracts — Even if you’re not going to the conference, you might find it interesting to browse the app to see what’s being presented. Where available, we have included abstracts.
  • Social Media — Easy links to Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr. Use #icls to add your update to the stream!

We developed it in close coordination with the conference organizers, so it’s about as up to date and accurate as you can possibly get. (The program is actually still being updated as I type, so we hope to get in one round of updates before the conference.)

If all goes well, we’ll set our sights on AERA 2011!

Inquirium joins 5-year project to develop tools supporting teenage literacy

We at Inquirium are thrilled to be involved in a just-awarded $19 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES). The core of this 5-year project is to find ways to help students ages 11-18 develop better literacy skills by supporting claims with evidence — also known as evidence-based reasoning.

The grant is motivated by the ever-increasing need for young readers to be able to integrate, analyze, and interpret information from multiple sources and disciplines (think: research via the web).

The official grant title is Reading for Understanding Across Grades 6-12: Evidence-Based Argumentation for Disciplinary Learning. It involves basic research, the design of new educational resources, and evaluation. Inquirium’s role is to create software tools that support and motivate students during evidence-based argumentation tasks.

We join a talented multi-disciplinary team of researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern University, Northern Illinois University and WestEd, as well as practitioners from Chicago Public Schools and the San Francisco Unified and Oakland Unified School Districts, among others. Can’t wait to get started!

UPDATE 1: The Department of Ed officially announced the awards here.

UPDATE 2: Northwestern University’s School of Ed posted this nice press release mentioning our role.