JSK Fellows are journalists and journalism entrepreneurs from around the world who spend a year at Stanford focusing on journalism innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership.
In 2016 I was privileged to receive a John. S. knight fellowship. At Stanford, my husband Eric and, I have been able to tap into the extensive resources of the university to further develop our research hypotheses and approach.
At the Stanford Graduate School of Education, Eric studied with Karin Forssell who helped us focus on learning from, and designing for, a specific set of extreme users first. She also helped to improve our approach to prototyping educational technology via Design Thinking methodologies and pedagogical science. I studied with Jessica M. Tsang and Kristen Pilner Blair to understand the core mechanics of learning.
At the Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences, we studied with Phil Hubbard, the director of the Stanford English for Foreign Students program, and Connie Rylance. In their class we were an introduced to the foundations and principles of second language learning and English language learning. In addition, we attended Phil's Computer Assisted Language Learning seminar and gained his valuable insights about how to improve our prototype.
At the Stanford d.school I attended the d.media class at the D.school which challenged us to quickly move through a prototyping process that advanced our research considerably, helping us to ask questions by making a high-fidelity podcast player prototype.
We have also connected with many other researchers in the field of language and cognition, education and design.
From a strategy and innovation perspective, we must identify the customer so we can gain the insights we need to create products and services that will get the job done better and/or more cheaply. I started with listeners of journalistic podcasts to end up with english as a second language learners.
I will walk you through the decision making process.
I started my research by interviewing listeners of journalistic podcasts. I prepared a survey to recruit listeners and interview them on the phone to learn about pain points, content gaps and broken flows on their current experience.
I decided to investigate the idea of a conversation since it appeared quite frequently in the interviews:
In an article written for Interactions magazine Hugh Dubberly and Paul Pangaro define conversation as a progression of exchanges among participants. Each participant is a “learning system,” that is, a system that changes internally as a consequence of experience. This highly complex type of interaction is also quite powerful, for conversation is the means by which existing knowledge is conveyed and new knowledge is generated. A few question came across this notion of conversation:
A few facts led me to narrow the challenge a bit further. A conversation with Professor Karin Forsell and insights from the first set of interviews motivated me to recruit extreme users of news podcasts for a new round of interviews.
A new survey was designed to recruit extreme users of news podcast.
How did I define extreme users?
I decided that anyone that actively take one or more actions such as note-taking, share episodes, follow links mention in the episode or use a podcast to learn a language was going to be included in my list of extreme users.
Why it is important to interview extreme users?
The d.school suggests that extreme users help pull out meaningful needs that may not pop when engaging with the middle of the bell curve. However, the needs that are uncovered through extreme users are often also needs of a wider population.
These are the questions I used to recruit.
I interviewed 6 extreme users via the phone.
Some insights from the interviews:
After I performed interviews to extreme users I decided to interview teachers using podcasts in the classroom to understand the teaching perspective. I designed a page that had more information about my project and promoted it in social media.
These are a few findings after interviewing 8 teachers:
This audience have a clear interest in improving listening comprehension in English but currently feel frustrated with available tools and resources to get that job done.
Research shows that in order to improve a language you need to change your media habits to include English content as often as possible.
There are over one billion people currently learning English worldwide, and thousands of English language news podcast episodes are published every day but combined, these two facts present a clear opportunity to enable learners to engage with news podcast content, and at the same time, master the English language. However, the methods and designs to take advantage of this opportunity are not clear.
The gap in the amount of English words an international student carries versus a domestic undergraduate create miscommunication, misunderstanding and frustration.
The following is an empathy map of our target audience: English as a second language learners.
Once I defined the target audience, I was able to start designing towards their desired outcomes.
Given this opportunity I decided to create a tool to help English language learners improve English and acquire new vocabulary by listening to any podcast of their choice. I named the tool LEAP (Learn English with Any Podcast).
How can LEAP have an impact in Journalism?
LEAP can help attract an hidden audience for new podcasts. How?
1.1. Podcasts are great way to provide context to existing issues in the news cycle.
1.2. English as a second language listeners will learn a language as they learn about the culture and news of the country.
1.3. Podcasts will help news outlets speak as a genuine proxy for the community.
1.4. Podcasts as a way to inform beyond the mainstream.