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Few words about my Fulbright experience (ENG/AR/HE)

My name is Areej Mawasi, I am a graduate student in the Educational Technology program at Arizona State University. Fulbright experience gave me the opportunity to be part of interdisciplinary and empowering academic experience that focuses on science, innovation, cultures and research. Adding to that, living in the US made me me exposed to the diversity of the American society (sports, arts, music, etc.). I visited different states, traveled in nature, met new people, was hosted by American families from many cultural backgrounds, participated in technology conferences, and visited around 20 museums. Most important, I survived the desert of Arizona.

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מי אריג׳ מואסי, אני סטודנטית לתואר שני בטכנולוגיה חינוכית, באוניברסיטת מדינת אריזונה — אריזונה סטייט (ASU). חווית הלימודים בארה”ב הינה מעבר לחוויה אקדמית. מלגת פולברייט אפשרה לי ללמוד במרחב אקדמי בינתחומי מעצים ששם דגש על מדעים, תרבות, חדשנות ומחקר אקדמי מקצועי. בנוסף לכך, נחשפתי למגוון התרבותי העשיר בארה”ב, בחיי היומיום, ספורט, אומנות, מוזיקה וכו’. ביקרתי במדינות שונות, טיילתי בטבע, הכרתי אנשים חדשים, התארחתי אצל הרבה משפחות מרקעים תרבותיים שונים, השתתפתי בכנסי הייטק וגם כן כנסי מחקר, ביקרתי ביותר מ-20 מוזיאונים במהלך השנה שעברה, והכי חשוב, למרות הקושי במגורים במדבר, נהניתי מהטבע באריזונה.

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اسمي أريج مواسي، أدرس في جامعة ولاية أريزونا وعلى وشك إتمام اللقب الثاني في مجال تكنولوجيا التعليم. تجربة الدراسة في الولايات المتحدة هي تجربة لا تحصر في الأكاديميا فقط. منحة فلبرايت سهلت لي فرصة الدراسة في الولايات المتحدة، والأهم فرصة أن أكون جزء من بيئة أكاديمية داعمة، متعددة المجالات ومتركزة على العلوم، الثقافات، الإبتكار والبحث الاكاديمي المهني. تجربتي هذه أيضا جعلتني أتعرف أكثر على التنوع الثقافي والاجتماعي الغني في الولايات المتحدة من ثقافة، رياضة، فنون وموسيقى. زرت ولايات عديدة، تعرفت على أناس جدد، استقبلت بسخاء وكرم على يد عائلات أمريكية من شتى الأطياف، شاركت في مؤتمرات تكنولوجية وأخرى تتعلق بالبحث، زرت حوالي 20 متحف خلال العام الماضي. والأهم، بالرغم من صعوبة العيش في الصحراء استمتعت بالطبيعة في أريزونا.

Design in Progress – PTSD, Visualizing Data

Rational:

The project deals with presenting information about Post-Trauma-Stress-Disorder (PTSD), specifically the genetics changes that happens to PTSD patients, which happen due to changes in the RNA and DNA of the patients; these genetics are related to weakness of immune system. The main goal of my design is to visualize scientific data and make it easier for public to engage with such data. And to engage them with an ethical question about the responsibility of the government to fund research on epigenetically treatment of PTSD.

Process:

First step of my the design was research. I started to look for data on the topic, and to learn deeply about it from cognitive and genetic aspects. I also found resources on causes, and treatments. At the end, I was focused on creating a graphic prototype of a network of altered genes which are related to weakness of immune system of PTSD patients, to show how these genes are connected in different miRNA sequences (which are represented in circles). Second step was to decide the type of artifact I will be working on, so I chose to do infographic, first I planned to have it as a printed design, but, when I created GIF for the genes network, I changed the plan, and I decide to present it on an iPad – it looked good. Third step, I worked on collecting items for the design (icons, colors schemes), and used Adobe Illustrator to design the main structure of the infographic. For the GIF parts, I used Adobe Photoshop.  Then I uploaded the infographic on web-based page as a delivery method.

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Delivery:

I presented  my design on an ipad, audience had to scroll through the web-based page, and write their opinion about the topic on sticky note paper, answering the following question: “Should the U.S. Government fund research that seeks epigentical treatment of PTSD to help patients?”.

Future changes:

Thanks to the users comments I made few changes, but, still here are some points I think I should take into consideration (mainly, improving the interaction with the design):

Adding an option for audience to share their opinion and feedback immediately online after they go through the infographic, than just writing it on a sticky note.

Another feature I would like to add, is to make it possible for audience to connect lines between each similar gene in the different miRNA sequence circles.

Creating a version that is usable and friendly with Facebook, through using 360 photo browsing, I tried to create a one, but, I did not like it that much. You can check it here: http://meetareej.com/ameproject/Recording5.mp4

Here is a 2nd stage prototype of the design:

 

The following visualized  data projects inspired me through the design process of the prototype:

How the measles outbreak spreads when kids get vaccinated – and when they don’t
http://www.theguardian.com/society/ng-interactive/2015/feb/05/-sp-watch-how-measles-outbreak-spreads-when-kids-get-vaccinated
The infographic is an interactive one, and it simulate the process by watching it. Click on the link to watch it.

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Another interactive visualized science project is  the Vitamin Atlas from GOOD
https://www.good.is/infographics/vitamin-atlas#open
The project has animated images that show how vitamins work in human body, in addition to that it gives summarized information about each vitamin.

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DIY fun stuff: Olives

In one of my courses at ASU (DIY Citizen Science – Public Participation in Science ), one of the assignments was about designing an artifact about a scientific issue. It was October, OLIVES SEASON. So, I decided to work on a project that is related to olives.

I tried to compare between two types olives pickling through testing interaction of component in the water using different measurements. I documented some of my experiment steps using my phone camera, and also I used DIY Smartphone Microscope that we built in the course, to take photos for the olive oil that I got from the olives drop by drop.

Just thought to share some of the photos from the experiment process, because it was fun – finding olive trees in Arizona is super exciting to me.

Will be sharing soon my artifact design, it is an interactive design that visualizes the experiment scientific results to the public. Stay tuned 🙂

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What should game designers learn from Pokemon Go?

As a kid, I was a big fan of Pokemon, I collected many posters of the characters, stickers, and pogs. In my school back then, my classmates and I organized pogs competitions until the principal of the school banned it, which really hurt me back then.

On my Facebook newsfeed, a friend from the medical school, asks: “What is this application that makes a doctor go and look for Pokemons in the restroom?”. Another friend complained about how it is “crazy” that people wander the streets looking for Pokemons. Many articles around the web talked about the negative effects of the game in terms of privacy and security issues as well.

Let’s ask ourselves, what happened to the world? What can we explore through Pokemon Go’s design model? What can game designers learn and what should technology entrepreneurs acquire? Why does this game deserve any attention?

When playing Pokemon Go, a user may have concerns regarding privacy and security issues because of the tracking and mapping in the game; however, this does not indicate that if a user enjoys the game he or she would stop using it because of the privacy excuse. Technology users around the world already gave up their privacy to many applications in return for good services.

The Arab side of my identity is always overwhelmed by concerns about privacy because of the political atmosphere I grew up in. This increases my thinking about numerous apps as a “Big Brother”. Once I moved to the United States, things have changed a little bit, I realized during my classes that a great number of students are enthusiastic to use technologies with which they share private information (even cognitive ones). I find it scary on one hand, but this is one thing technology entrepreneurs should be excited about: people will “sell” their privacy for good products and services.

Back to Pokemon Go, why is it a good example of an application?

The networking between players of the game is innovative. This network is a result of years of working on and creating a narrative around each character and the Pokemon world in general. Among the reasons of why players of the game are greatly engaged with it goes back to their familiarity with the story behind the game and its narrative; plus, they could relate it to experiences they had with the game before.

The game is a good example for the integration of augmented reality in gamification because it increases the players’ engagement with their environment, thus creating a meaningful user experience.

The instructions of the game are easy to understand and to immediately engage with, which is a critical aspect in user experience design. Having simple instructions from one level to another makes it easier for the player to go from easy to harder level. In addition, simplified instructions help in decreasing cognitive load of the player compared with complex instructions. The division of levels, simplified instructions, and the process of going from easy to hard levels is critical in game designing.

The customization settings in the game motivate the players to build a relationship with their character, which gives the player the feeling of ownership and possession, and that motivates them to sustain their playing experience.

Gaining points or characters in any game is critical for motivating the players; in the case of Pokemon Go, a player can collect Pokemons, increase his or her power, and evolve his or her characters. Moreover, a player can gain Pokemon Coins. The coins are collected either by winning them or by buying them.

A strong narrative of a game attributes a meaning to it, it makes the players engage more with it, and relate it to their daily lives. In Pokemon Go, the game is based on the story of Pokemon and its characters; it has all the elements of a story: characters, plot, theme, settings, conflict, and solution.

The unexpected from one level to another is critical in game design, this increases the curiosity of the player who is looking forward to what will happen next from one level to another. Pokemon Go increases the curiosity of the player in that it spreads out the Pokemons in different geographical locations, and a player needs to go and look for these Pokemons, thinking about: “What is waiting for me in that place?”.

Here I summarized seven points which I believe are good examples of game design that enable us to learn from Pokemon Go. All these points should be taken into consideration when designing a game. Both technology entrepreneurs and game designers can learn from these principles of game designing.

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Some thoughts on Picmonic website

Short review, from a personal experience perspective:

Picmonic is considered as a visual learning community that provides interactive content for helping students to memorize the materials of various courses. Here are some short thoughts after using it:

According to ICAP framework hypothesis, for learning to occur student has to become cognitively engaged with the given learning materials, this should be done through passing from passive learning to active, to constructive and then to interactive process. Each one of these modes is identified by different actions of the learner, in “passive learning” the learner just gets materials, “active learning” involved meaningfully recalling of information to empower schema’s, “constructive learning” involves inferring and producing of knowledge, analyzing knowledge and creating meaning of it through analogies, and comparison, “interactive learning” involves the level in which the learner can produce innovative ideas and generate information. 


What we can see through Picmonic platform is that the interactive content makes it possible for learners to engage with content in different levels, first, by lecturing them about information (passive learning), then by asking them to answer questions on what they learned (active), then making more hard questions, creating comparisons (constructive), and creating connections between the content and a story that being shared in each learning session (interactive). This process takes the learner from passive level to interactive level in which he can develop, and create notes and explanation using his own words, which later will help him to memorize the content.

The capacity of processing information of learners is limited and different from one person to another, the interface of the website and the content of the courses make it possible for learners to memorize information through creating schemas for the content. The way the information presented, the connections between the graphics, the terms and the stories, makes it possible for the learner to create meaningful connections and understand better how the information is relevant to them. The complexity of the information influences the way the learner receives the information, and make it difficult to recall it for long-term, however, Picmonic provide content that is easy to understand and its complexity is aligned with the learners ‘basic’ level of understanding. 

I studied myself some pharmacy courses, and I learned Anatomy, Biology and other medical courses. It was challenging for me to memorize all the medical terms and the information learned in the lectures. Therefore, I can understand why Picmonic is popular among medical students. Picmonic as a platform provides students with “memorizing learning cards”, that helps them to practice easily the basic information they need to know about different courses. The overall user experience is positive, as the usability of the website makes it easy for students to engage with the content. On the other hand, it is important for me to mention that the information on Picmonic is not sufficient to ‘pass’ a biology or an anatomy course, I say this from an experience of knowing that these courses need students to know deep details that Picmonic does not necessarily cover. One way to improve the content adding various types of images, that includes real images and not only the cartoons of Picmonic.

My first holiday in the USA

It was a long semester for me, new experience in a new university. I moved to the United States in July, to do my Master degree in Educational Technology at Arizona State University (ASU). After my first semester as a Fulbright scholar at ASU, I decided to spend my holiday in Texas and Florida. I visited Texas to attend a Fulbright Seminar Enrichment in Austin on United States Democracy, Political and Elections System. Then I visited Lebanese friends in San Antonio. After that I visited an Arab friend family from my home country in Dallas, and together we visited Panama City in Florida for the rest of the holiday.

 

Attending the seminar enrichment gave the opportunity to connect with other Fulbright scholars from different countries, majors and universities. The diversity of the group made me learn a lot about their research work, exciting stories and the challenges we all faced after moving to study in the United States.  The enrichment helped me to learn a lot about the culture of Austin (where weird things happen, like having barbecue of orange! And weirder stuff of course), and it was great that we were invited by Austin locals for a dinner.

Right after visiting Austin, I took a bus to San Antonio, where I was hosted for the first time in my life by a Lebanese family. It made me feel home, finally I got to speak and listen to Arabic, and be around my own culture. Also in San Antonio I was able to learn about the history of the place, to see graffiti artwork, visit the river walk, and visit parks in the city. It was interesting for me to learn about Hispanic culture and food in SA. I had the opportunity to stop by Esperanza Peace & Justice Center in San Antonio, “Esperanza works to preserve and promote artistic and cultural expression of and among diverse communities”. In Esperanza, I was able to see Mexican handmade artcraft of women who sell their work through the organization. While going around the work exhibition, I surprisingly found an Arabic-Spanish CD of a collaborative work of May Nasr, Lourdes Perez, and Ahmad Kaabour (I have to say, that when the manager knew I am an Arab, she gave me the CD as a gift).

I left San Antonio, and took the bus to Dallas. This time, I was hosted by friends from back home. A family of four, parents and genius 10 years old brother and sister (Jonah and Sally). First week of my visit, the kids have been working really hard not only for their finals, but also for their Taekwondo black belt exam and performance at the NBA Mavericks game in Dallas. I joined their Taekwondo training, and I was impressed by the determination of the team members, the way they support one another, the way they get empowered through their training and how disciplined they are, thanks to their Master Greg Tubbs the head coach of AAU National Team. The performance of GT-Sport Taekwondo team during the Mavericks game on Dec 18 was amazing, the team members from all ages made their best during the performance, and hopefully they will be performing again in the future.

The last station of my trip in Dallas, was visiting Dallas Museum of Art, where I got the opportunity to explore the International Pop art exhibition, in addition to other art work of well known artists such as: Picasso, Mondrian, Manet and more.

Downtown Dallas, Texas

Downtown Dallas, Texas

For Christmas holiday, I visited Florida, and spent most of the time in Panama City area. Traveling to Florida was a great experience for me, I loved the beaches nature, the ocean and enjoyed taking photographs of the areas I have visited there.  I celebrated the New Year Eve, at Pier Park in Panama City.

 

Me in Panama City

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Video Production with NoonPost

When I worked on the content production of  videos for the online multi-media platform of NoonPost, I was surprised that delivering a short message and story can take hours of production work.

The production of these videos helped us grow as an online platform globally. As a social media manager, working on the production strategy of these videos, helped to develop my digital storytelling skills while taking into consideration cognitive load aspects in production and understand engagement patterns of followers in the Middle East.

Many of these videos had over 10K views. Will feature here two videos I worked on and enjoyed:

Thanks to my colleague Makram Andalusi for the Video Editing and creative work. His videos are amazing, and he is super professional, check his Behance profile. 🙂

5 Arab Young Scientists Under the Age of 35

Texas Twin, Taekwondo Champions from the US