I love application essays. They make me think about what I'm doing with my life. Sure, I could probably just make something up or use my StatementOfPurpose from last time, but I actually like having to stop and think.
And I've figured out a little bit more about how my project with Mark Chignell fits into the grand scheme of things!
You see, I'd like to make it easy for people to collect and share Internet resources that they've found useful. For example, consultants in large software companies should be able to find out which documents other consultants in their group found useful. They should be able to find experts on a given topic, and they should be able to explore other people's interests too.
Although several web-based services allow social search and discovery, they haven't yet been widely adopted. My thesis will give me time to think about what we can to do make these systems easier to use. My human-computer interaction coursework will teach me how to measure the effects of the changes we make to the interface. My background in programming and computer science will allow me to quickly prototype new interface designs.
And the grand scheme of things?
I think it would be fantastic if teachers could have that kind of network. Imagine if I could filter my search for programming exercise ideas according to what other introductory computer science teachers found useful, or if I could explore what other people found useful.
Imagine if teachers could choose a set of useful webpages and make it easy for students to prioritize those pages when searching. Imagine if students could contribute their own hyperlinks. I think that would be really cool.
But the interface needs to be much simpler, and it needs to be robust and accessible. We can't rely on constant high-speed Internet connections. Consultants use laptops and teachers in the provinces might connect only once in a while. Both sets of people are Really Busy and don't have the time or patience to muck about with complicated interfaces. It needs to be simple and distributed, and it needs to pack a lot of value.
That sounds like a great challenge. That's what I want to do, and I can see how it might be useful. If only because I would _love_ to know what other teachers bookmark, and I want to have a quick and easy way to tell people about interesting websites without flooding their mailbox...
Mmkay. I'll formalize this after I wake up, but I think I'm onto something here.