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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


Current events and Inquirium projects

What I like most about my job are the opportunities we get to create learning environments that are relevant.  So I’m always pleased when I hear a news story on a topic related to one of our projects.  This morning, while driving the kids to school, I had the opportunity to hear two such stories on NPR.
The first story was about a program to address bullying in a Maryland school. The program targets “the circle of bulying,” helping kids understand that bullying can involve a host of roles: passive supporters, followers, the bully, the victim, and possible defenders. This was one of the primary aims of the “Take a Stand”:”http://www.inquirium.net/portfolio/takeastand/” interactive exhibit we created for the Illinois Holocaust and Education Center. This physically immersive game-like social simulation gives kids the opportunity to choose whether they want to be bystanders, supporters, followers or defenders. While bullying was just one of the “universal lessons” of the holocaust we targetted, it certainly is the one that resonates most with the largely middle school audience.
The second story was about a fossilized pinky found in Siberia that points to a previously unknown human ancestor– a hominid that’s neither Homo Sapiens nor Neanderthal. The story documented the new questions raised by this find, as scientists grapple to reshuffle their understanding of human ancestry.  This was the goal of “Bones of Contention”:”http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/teachers/interactives/bones-of-contention/” an online interactive activity for high schoolers we recently created for WGBH/NOVA. Like the story, the activity encourages students to explore the callenges scientist face when classifying hominid fossils by investigating a database full of unlableled hominid fossils, thus taking part in the ongoing scientific process of discovering human origins.

What I like most about my job are the opportunities we get to create learning environments that are relevant.  So I’m always pleased when I come across a news story on a topic related to one of our projects.  This morning, while driving the kids to school, I had the opportunity to hear two such stories on NPR.

The first story was about a program to address bullying in a Maryland school. The program targets “the circle of bulying,” helping kids understand that bullying can involve a host of roles: passive supporters, followers, the bully, the victim, and possible defenders. This was one of the primary aims of the “Take a Stand” interactive exhibit we created for the Illinois Holocaust and Education Center. This physically immersive game-like social simulation gives kids the opportunity to choose whether they want to be bystanders, supporters, followers or defenders. While bullying was just one of the “universal lessons” of the holocaust we targetted, it certainly is the one that resonates most with the exhibit’s largely middle school audience.

The second story was about a fossilized pinky found in Siberia that points to a previously unknown human ancestor– a hominid that’s neither Homo Sapiens nor Neanderthal. The story documented the new questions raised by this find, as scientists grapple to reshuffle their understanding of human ancestry.  This was the goal of “Bones of Contention” an online interactive activity for high schoolers we recently created for WGBH/NOVA. Like the story, the activity and web-based software we created encourages students to explore the callenges scientist face when classifying hominid fossils. By investigating a database full of unlableled hominid fossils, students take part in the ongoing scientific process of discovering human origins.

I also frequently come across news related to the work we did a few years back for the My World GIS project, using current geospatial data on the melting of Greenland’s ice sheet in a classroom climate change activity (scroll midway down the page) that studies the risks posed by decreasing salinity levels in the North Atlantic on the climate of Europe. Let’s hope the news on that one changes for the better!

Inquirium’s Evolution: Two new WGBH/NOVA interactives

WGBH/NOVA approached us to build two web interactives on the topic of evolution to go with their new PBS television shows. They were specifically looking for data-driven investigations. “Great!” we thought. We’ve done web interactives! We’ve done evolution! And no one does data-driven investigations like we do! Where’s the catch?

Oh, you want it done in 3 months?

Both of them?

After a very frantic 3 months, we are happy to announce the launch of Inquirium’s latest creations, a pair of web-based investigation tools for teaching high school students about evolution.

On the surface, these interactives look like just another database and animated diagram. But we’ve designed the interactives around an activity context which draws students into data-driven investigations.

  • Bones of Contention has students playing the role of a physical anthropologist trying to identify and classify “mystery” fossils using a database of most of the significant hominid fossil finds.
  • Regulating Genes introduces students to the evolutionary processes at work during development (and technically, at conception) by having them explore how mutations in both coding and non-coding areas of genes lead to different morphological features in a fictional creature.

Cramming what could easily have been two year-long research and development projects into a single 3-month timeframe was an interesting challenge. We sharpened our teeth building similar software for longer term grant-funded projects, which afforded more opportunity for background research, formative evaluation, and design iteration. For this project, we had to adapt our design process to fit a new sort of timeline, forcing us to commit to certain design decisions very early in the process and leaving very little wiggle room to explore emergent ideas. There’s nothing like a short timeframe to make us reflect on our design process and pare down our cycles only to the bare essentials.

While the interactives are simple by necessity and by design (both are scoped to work within 1-2 class periods), they draw upon models of inquiry and investigation that, unfortunately, still do not see much light beyond the realm of academic research and school reform projects. Kudos to NOVA for bringing this approach to a wider audience.

Both tools were created to accompany NOVA episodes commemorating the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s Origin of Species. One episode, “Becoming Human,” explores human origins, and the other one, “What Darwin Never Knew,” explores the emerging science of evo-devo.

We conceived, designed, and produced both tools. We also created a complete set of classroom materials that include background essays, student worksheets, and teacher guides.

Inquirium’s “Take a Stand” exhibit makes Time Out Chicago’s Top 8 highlights for kids in 2009

Time Out Chicago highlighted the Miller Family Youth Exhibition at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in its list of 8 Highlights of 2009 for Chicago Families.  Inquirium’s Take a Stand exhibit occupies 30% of the exhibition, using virtual reality technology to provide kids with an immersive social experience in which they encounter the challenges and rewards of standing up for others and taking action to benefit society.

YouMedia: Youth Media done right

For an example of the right way to create an after school environment supporting youth media, check out the YouMedia space that opened this summer in Chicago’s Harold Washington Library.

The space affords many types of interaction from casual hangout, to media production, to presentation. The program makes good use of mentors too.

YouMedia is a collaboration between the Chicago Public Library and Digital Youth Network (founded by Inquirium Alum Nichole Pinkard). Check out this spotlight from the MacArthur Digital Media and Learning initiative:

YouMedia from Spotlight on Vimeo.