Upcoming Talks that Feature Our Work

Most of the work we do at Inquirium involves working with university researchers. And the wonderful thing about working with researchers is they like to publish their findings. Here are some upcoming highlights:

Learning Science through Physical Play

This is a nice overview video of our work with UCLA’s Noel Enyedy and Indiana University’s Joshua Danish on their Learning Science through Physical Play project:

Science through Technologically Enhanced Play from videohall.com on Vimeo.

AERA 2018

If you’re going to AERA, here are some sessions to check out:

ICLS 2018

The ICLS schedule hasn’t been published yet, but look for:

  • POSTER: Tracing Bodies through Liminal Blends during Play-Based Inquiry in a Mixed-Reality Environment — Danielle Keifert, Noel Enyedy, Maggie Dahn, Christine Lee, Lindsay Lindberg, UCLA
  • POSTER: Investigating Multiple Dimensions of Student Engagement with Embodied Science Learning — Megan Humburg, Joshua Danish, Indiana University

To&Through Project Launch

We’re proud to unveil the To&Through online data tool, designed and built by Inquirium. The first of its kind, this interactive website was created to help every degree-seeking Chicago Public Schools (CPS) student achieve their goal by helping educators, parents, and policy-makers understand the factors that impact academic attainment from freshman year through college graduation. The site launched to the public on Sept. 20.

Check out the To&Through online data tool here.

One of the key goals of the website is to make data on educational attainment available to everyone, not just data nerds. Parents and students can use it to compare high schools, teachers and school practitioners can use it to measure their performance, and college counselors can use it to help students choose colleges where they are more likely to receive the support to graduate.

The website highlights the key milestones that matter most for students’ high school and college success: Freshman On Track, high school graduation, college enrollment, college persistence, and college graduation. Users can visually follow the outcomes of each milestone, examine trends, and explore breakdowns by demographics, qualifications, and risk & opportunity levels.  They can also compare the results for their school to schools with similar characteristics and to district-wide benchmarks. Filtering allows users to dive into even more detail, breaking the data down by gender, race, GPAs, etc.

An example page showing CPS's high school graduates.

An example page showing CPS’s high school graduates.

Interactive graph showing a school's college enrollments rates over the last 10 years.

Interactive graph showing a school’s college enrollments rates over the last 10 years.

Breakdown of CPS's college persistence rates.

Breakdown of CPS’s college persistence rates.

The launch was covered by Crain’s Chicago, who wasted no time sharing insights based on their own data digging:

“While graduation rates were rising, college enrollment rates for CPS students increased to 42 percent from 33 percent (vs. a 44 percent national average) between 2006 and 2014. Among CPS graduates who started college, the college graduation rates inched up four points to 50 percent (vs. 60 percent nationally).”

Beyond end-users, the tool also supports the ongoing work of the University of Chicago. The website has special staff tools to support the import and validation of new datasets, the management of downloadable reports, and the ability to author customized interactive tours, which guide users through “narrative dives” through the website, tailored to specific topics of interest.

This project was a perfect fit for Inquirium. Since our founding in 2001, one of our primary missions has been to help students, educators, and educational policy makers find meaning in complex data. We integrate the power of data visualization with techniques in narrative storytelling to help make otherwise invisible patterns visible. The To&Through data tool gives people, who wouldn’t otherwise have access to this powerful research, information they can use to make informed decisions that directly impact students’ educational progress.

The To&Through Online Data Tool was designed and developed by Inquirium for the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute (UEI) and UChicago Impact in conjunction with the Network for College Success. We worked closely with our clients and school-based educators to create a user interface that presents the research in ways that practitioners find actionable, including custom visualizations that tell meaningful stories. On the back-end, we developed a technical infrastructure that supports the client’s ongoing research.

We plan to continue refining the site as UEI and CPS stakeholders find new ways to use the data to help students achieve their educational goals. Read more about the To&Through project goals, and if you’re interested in trying out the data tool, we recommend taking a tour by clicking the friendly red button on the bottom right here of the data tool’s landing page (you can even customize the tour to a school of your choosing).

Questions about our role with To&Through? Want to get in touch with us? Send us an email at info@inquirium.net.

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


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.