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Things we love 3

At FutureLearn, we’re always on the look out for new sources of inspiration and keen to share what we learn with the world. So here, in the third of a new series of posts, our team talk about some of their favourite things from around the web and an event they’ll be speaking at soon.

A map that you can touch by Fogg Studio
One of the the things we love – a map that you can touch by Fogg Studio.

Our inspiration

Happy Maps

In this TED talk, Daniele Quercia tells the story of cycling to work everyday, taking the exact same path – the quickest way. One day, he took a different road and was surprised to find that it had no cars, and was surrounded by leaves and trees.

He found this path much more enjoyable and wondered about the possibility of creating different maps, which weren’t solely based on efficiency, but on what people like. What if we could create happy maps?

This idea reminds me of FutureLearn, and how our learners embark on their own journey of discovery, each one using their own “happy map.”

Yahoo! News Digest App

This is an incredibly useful and inspiring app for anyone who wants to stay up to date with world news, but is always racing against time. The app works like a “virtual pill” – you can schedule two digests per day, one in the morning and another in the afternoon.

Each one presents a selection of 11 news items, which are brilliantly displayed. An image and summary of the news introduces the topic and, as you scroll down, content is cleverly highlighted via coloured quotes, big numbers, videos, biographies, top tweets, maps, related links and in-depth articles.

You can read as much or as little as you wish or have time for. Once you’ve read them all, a quick animation at the end shows you’ve completed the task and asks a “Did you know that?” question to spark your curiosity. At FutureLearn, we often talk about “delight.” This is definitely a delightful app.

– Rita Fevereiro, Marketing Manager

Your Job Is Not To Write Code

Laura Klein describes why a developer’s job isn’t to write code, but to improve your product for your users. The post hammers it home a bit, but it’s a good description of some of the things you’ll find yourself doing if you come to work as a developer at FutureLearn.

– Joel Chippindale, CTO

Coding like a Girl

This is an article about someone’s experience of presenting as feminine and working as a programmer. It echoes my personal experience, but also reminds me to be aware of unconscious bias I might hold, or privileges I have, as someone who nowadays dresses more masculine.

– Mal Pinder, Developer

Tips and Insights from Joe Bonamassa

Joe Bonamassa, a musician who has inspired me greatly, is interviewed about his inspiration. It’s interesting to hear someone outside the field of development and programming talk about how important it is to learn from your mistakes, and how beneficial it can be to wake up everyday and be genuinely excited about what you do.

Seeing Circles, Sines, and Signals

This site provides a wonderful introduction to digital signal processing concepts, in an accessible, easy to read and interactive form. I’m really enjoying the trend towards interactive learning tools on the web, and it makes me excited to see how innovations like this will improve learning in the future. This is an excellent example, on a subject that I find particularly interesting.

– Matt Valentine-House, Developer


PSFK is a site that showcases new, innovative ideas on life, work and play, covering environment, arts, design and technology. As someone who is interested in the environment, some of my particular favourites are the Shoe Phone Walkie Talkie, Ekocycle and Biodegradable Earth Stool. But there’s many more!

– Neil Harvey, Head of Marketing

How We Got To Now with Steven Johnson

It takes a lot to get me interested in science, so I consider Steven Johnson’s new TV series a triumph for that reason alone. It’s about the ideas and innovations that made modern life possible. Johnson is a terrific presenter and I’ve been gripped by his stories of these relatively unknown innovators. If you’re in the UK, the series is on the BBC iPlayer. For everyone else, there are lots of clips on the PBS website.

– Nigel Smith, Head of Content

Maps That You Can Hear and Touch

Developments in online mapping and GPS tools in recent years have been hugely important in helping blind people to navigate their surroundings, but a group of innovative cartographers are developing physical maps, which use touch and sound, to offer a richer experience and help increase tactile literacy among the visually impaired.

– Kieran McCann, Visual Designer

Us elsewhere

London Ruby User Group – 13 April

Melinda Seckington, Developer, will be giving a talk on un-artificial intelligence, examining some of the theories behind how machines learn versus how people learn.

Seen something lately that you think we’ll love? Share it in the comments below. Want to know more about the way we work? Take a look at all of our “Making FutureLearn” posts.

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