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Things we love 6

At FutureLearn, we’re always on the look out for new sources of inspiration. Each month, we share what we find in a “Things we love” post. Here, our team talk about some of their favourite things from around the web and a few events they’ll be speaking at soon.

Kagura: perform music, without touching anything.

Our inspiration

The motion perform instrument

I’m always on the look out for new visual interfaces and different ways of experiencing digital things in the real world, so when I stumbled upon “Kagura” – the motion perform instrument – I was fully intrigued. Using an Intel RealSense 3D camera you can create your own music and video simply by moving your body, without touching anything. Bye bye carpal tunnel syndrome, and sitting in front of a computer all day… bring on the future of real world interfaces… I’m ready to conduct my soundtrack!

– Lucy Blackwell, Creative Director

The Future Library project

I’m an avid reader of novels and Margaret Atwood is among my favourite authors. So I am fascinated to learn that she is writing a story that will only be published in 2114. A thousand trees have been planted in a forest near Oslo, which will supply paper for a special anthology of books to be printed in 100 years time.

The Future Library project is an optimistic one, as it believes that there will be people around to read these books. We can’t know how much language and technology might change over the next 100 years, but as Margaret Atwood says in a video report with the Scottish artist Katie Paterson, reading is “always a communication across space and time.”

– Kate Sandars, Partnership Manager

Code Club volunteer stories

Code Club is a volunteer-led network of coding clubs for children aged 9-11. Last week was Volunteer’s Week 2015 and they posted a series of volunteer stories on their blog – it was inspiring to hear about people’s motivations for volunteering and their passion for teaching children to code.

At FutureLearn, we are doing our bit by running a Code Club in a local school primary school. If you have the time we’d recommend you do the same – it’s lots of fun and often the highlight of our week.

– Laura Kirsop, Product Manager

Why city flags may be the worst-designed thing you’ve never noticed

In this TED talk, Roman Mars tells a great story about the design of flags and how good design relates to civic pride. I liked how this talk was able to communicate what good design is (in the context of flags), which is something I think is difficult to do.

– Chris Zetter, Developer

Giving presentation feedback

At FutureLearn we place a great deal of value on effective communication. As part of this we encourage everyone to give presentations and we run a series of lightning talks, to offer opportunities to practice and get feedback. Lara Hogan’s recommendations are invaluable when offering feedback on presentations.

– Joel Chippindale, CTO

Wow! ClickHole

I discovered The Onion (in paper form) while studying in Wisconsin in the mid 90s and quickly became obsessed with its daffy satire of newspaper reporting. I’m now equally obsessed with ClickHole, the Onion spin-off that skewers Buzzfeed-style clickbait listicles and memes to hilarious effect. This great article by Dan Kois in Slate offers a behind-the-scenes look at the website that so brilliantly “embodies the voice of our own misbegotten era.”

– Nigel Smith, Head of Content

Why can’t we read anymore?

This is a really interesting read from Hugh McGuire about how our devices and social media have trained us to want the constant hit of dopamine that their new information provides. We can’t sit down and read anymore without that nagging feeling in the back of our minds urging us to check our email or Twitter.

For the past year, I’ve been pretty much doing what McGuire suggests in his conclusion: each night before sleeping I’ll at least read a book for an hour, disconnecting from every device and just letting my mind be drawn into the beautiful universe on the other side of the cover of a book.

– Melinda Seckington, Developer

Project Soli

How will we learn in the future? Through what media, interfaces? I’m fascinated by the future of interaction design, and Google’s Project Soli, which uses short-distance radar to detect motion, could unlock myriad new ways for us to interact with technology. Its implications on learning, especially in fields where dexterity and movement are key, could be profound.

– Simon Pearson, Product Manager

Open Pen

I adore Open Pen, a short story magazine comprised entirely of reader-submitted short fiction.

The stories selected take place somewhere between fun and wild, and it feels like the sort of fiction that is accessible and yet challenging at the same time, which is ideal for the sort of reading I want to do. I like that the magazine is free of pretension in this way, and just gets on with printing stories they like regardless of whether the author is some local kid or a fully published author with a few books to their name. Perfect for those on our Start Writing Fiction course to get a foot in the publishing door.

Oh, the best bit? It’s completely free (woo!) and stocked in independent bookshops and businesses, encouraging readers to visit places they otherwise mightn’t have been.

– Helen Rogers, Operations Support Lead

Us elsewhere

Synthesising drum sounds with the Web Audio API

I wrote this article for Opera’s developer blog on how to use the Web Audio API to recreate the sounds of early electronic drum machines. I’ve been involved with the standardisation of the Web Audio API with the W3C for several years, but it’s mostly fun to just use it to make sounds!

– Chris Lowis, Data Lead

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