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 and convince us that you’re the one!

CSCL 2013 Program Web App

We’ve released a conference program web app for CSCL 2013. You can see it here:

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.

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.

Redefining learning sciences

Learning sciences as a field has traditionally been fairly small, while placing its practitioners at the intersection of many other fields (psychology, education, AI, design, etc.). That’s often raised the question of what LS really is, since some many practitioners work within a different subset of related fields.

Two efforts to clarify LS, one virtual and one physical, seem well-timed. One is Iris’ call to ISLS members to take part in refining Wikipedia’s learning sciences page. The other is an ICLS pre-conference workshop focused on growing the learning sciences.

As the field of Learning Sciences matures and newly formed graduate programs self-identify as LS, several questions take on importance: Does LS have a common core? Should it? What are the ramifications for LS graduate programs? Participants will review common and varied approaches to LS graduate education from existing programs and explore the tensions within interdisciplinary education and trade-offs between adherence to a common core (maintaining an LS “brand”) or a broadly inclusive model (“big tent”).

An editing pass on the wikipedia page might be a nice after-hours project for a few collaborators at ICLS.

ICLS Workshop: It’s about time

There’s an interesting ICLS preconference workshop that will explore the challenges of making sense of multiple time-based data streams.

It’s about time: Purpose, methods and challenges of temporal analyses of multiple data streams
Recent studies of learning have involved concurrent collection of multiple types of data such as computer activity logs and online discussion, or have applied multi-dimensional coding, resulting in related data streams, which highlight the dynamic nature of learning and require analyses from a temporal perspective. This workshop will explore issues emerging from integrating data streams by identifying a set of analytic difficulties researchers face and illustrating the application of specific methods that address these challenges.

There’s a fairly obvious connection here to InqScribe; we’ve had some feature requests that touch on ways to make sense of multiple videos of the same event. The theme also touches on some work we’ve done with Nichole Pinkard trying to figure out how students in 1:1 computing environments use their laptops. I’ll be curious to see what comes out of this.

Workshop happens on June 28 in Chicago. Deadline for applications is March 15th 2010. Get cracking!

hginit: a Mercurial tutorial

Joel Sposky has a nice tutorial out for Mercurial (hg). I’ve mentioned that we’re moving away from Subversion (svn), and one of the things about this tutorial that I like is that Joel specifically addresses how being an experienced svn user can make it harder to understand how to best use hg. Situating this within some common coding work models helps illustrate how to use hg well, and where hg offers improvements over svn (and the default use models svn promotes). This is a great introduction to hg, whether you have svn experience or not.

Joel also suggests an alternative repository scheme to the more complex git model I described last month. That’s one of those issues that are often not mentioned in introductory tutorials, but since you establish a repository structure early, it’s actually quite important to get it right the first time.

The other thing about this tutorial that I liked was the way that Joel is monetizing his own mistakes. He kicks off the tutorial like this:

When the programmers at my company decided to switch from Subversion to Mercurial, boy was I confused. First, I came up with all kinds of stupid reasons why we shouldn’t switch.

And all the kool kids think: that Spolsky guy. Of course he wouldn’t get hg. What would you expect from a Microsoft stooge?

But look at what he’s got us reading. He’s leveraged his experience learning hg not just into an entertaining tutorial, but into something that’s valuable to his business. This is not a typical half-assed web tutorial. It has its own domain. He’s getting folks excited about using hg and switching away from svn. And what’s that funny looking bird in the corner? Oh, Fog Creek happens to be launching a commercial version control system based on hg? Gee, you don’t say…

Branching model for distributed version control

We’re in the process of transitioning from Subversion to Mercurial, and one of the challenges is defining a coordinated framework for managing development work. Subversion essentially came with an ‘official’ branches/tags/trunk model, as well as a central repository location, but the distributed landscape seems more wide open. (Granted, that’s part of the appeal.) The Git model described here is a nice step forward, and seems to apply to Mercurial as well as Git.

Google inhales EtherPad

Matt pointed me to AppJet’s announcement that they’ve been acquired by Google. (AppJet is the developer of EtherPad, a fabulous web-based collaborative editor.)

We are happy to announce that AppJet Inc. has been acquired by Google. The EtherPad team will continue its work on realtime collaboration by joining the Google Wave team.

Congratulations to the AppJet team. EtherPad is great; seeing similar functionality in Wave will probably also be great. What may be frustrating is if there’s a doughnut hole of no service from the point at which EtherPad shuts down…

The EtherPad site will stay online through March 2010 with some restrictions.

If you are a user of the Free Edition or Professional Edition, you can continue to use and edit your existing pads until March 31, 2010. No new free public pads may be created. Your pads will no longer be accessible after March 31, 2010, at which time your pads and any associated personally identifiable information will be deleted.

We have added a feature to the Professional Edition that allows you to export all of your pads as one ZIP file archive. You can find a link to the zip archive at the bottom of the pad list after signing in to your Professional Edition account.

…and whenever it is that similar functionality emerges in Wave. In the meantime, EtherPad users take note and save your pad data locally. (You were doing that already, right? Or did you trust a free service with your data?)

Then again, falling back on SubEthaEdit is not that shabby.

Update: There are plans to open source EtherPad and maintain service until it is open sourced.

Our LS Calendar

A quick plug for our events calendar. We maintain a learning sciences-related events calendar, primarily as a way to keep track of conference dates. It’s a publicly accessible Google calendar, so feel free to follow it (via HTML, Atom, or ICS). We’ve also added an events listing to the sidebar of this blog.

Generally we update the calendar with events as they’re announced via mailing lists and weblogs. If you have a learning sciences event you’d like to us to include, please let us know.