[Conference] Look to the Future (Heriot Watt), 11th June 2010 – A day in my life as a Software Developer

I was lucky enough to be in the audience for an inspiring view of the current situation in the field of Software Development. It has now been 6 years since I left this area of employment to become a teacher and, I’m happy to say, a lot appears to have changed in this time.

All four presenters agreed on the importance of student portfolios over exam results when hiring their employees. I spoke to David Thomson (Ludometrics, Glasgow – still looking for a job title) during lunch and he told me it is much easier to see if a person can apply skills learned through a portfolio of work. It separates these candidates from those who are able to “jump through the hoops” but have no real passion for the subject. Peter Dickman (Google, Zurich – Engineering Manager) backed this up in his presentation by stating “Your qualifications get you through the door, but it is what you have done with them that counts”. These two presentations had much in common but covered very different fields. David talked about his experience as a games creator in small start-up companies (his largest employed 21 people). Peter is one of the 20,000 currently employed in what sounds like an amazing but at the same time immensely demanding company.

Stuart McLaren (SQA – Web Manager) showcased how his team recently restructured the SQA main site to make it a more fluid user experience and mentioned briefly about Games-based learning assessments being developed by their eAssessment & Learning team. Would love to know more about that! Stuart also showed ‘Ask Sam’, an avatar which offers spoken assistance on a number of pre-determined topics. There was also an actor who portayed Sam on a Bebo page to allow pupils to ask more specific questions. He mentioned during his presentation that the SQA were advised on user experience by Bunnyfoot – whose presentation was possibly the most intreguing section of the workshop.

Sarah Ronald (Bunnyfoot, Edinburgh – Managing Director) talked about the “evolving field of people-based experience” over computer-based in her short presentation. Sarah was inspired by her “heroes of UX” (user experience) Don Norman and Jakob Neilson to set up the Scottish arm of Bunnyfoot in Edinburgh. We saw a great video of a user trying to find a Dr Who toy on the old Tesco website. I thought the eye-tracking visuals were fantastic and will have to try and hunt down something that can be used in class with Higher/AH Information Systems pupils. The reason behind the video, Sarah explained, was to let clients see “barriers to experience in real time”. I hope Sarah or Heriot Watt can share this video as it would be an excellent classroom resource.

Another useful resource for teachers I found at the Bunnyfoot site is a list of what they call “wireframing” apps – or websites that allow creation of UI prototypes. At my school this is still a mainly paper-based exercise from S3 to S6 (although the more ingenious start to create them in MS PowerPoint or a similar application). Neil Collman posted reviews of 4 current sites on the Bunnyfoot blog – I recommend you take a look!


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