Hannah Jiang

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Week 4 – Science Fair


As my project is at an early stage, I plan to use this science fair event as a user study/research session. I prepared interviews questions(see the bottom of this post) and a low-fi sketch of a learning feature that I want to test out. The goal is to collect real user stories from international students in terms of getting used to living in NYC – what they need, what’s stopping them, what they’ve tried, what’s failing them – so that I could rewrite the stories and help them achieve their goals.


The prototype shows one feature that I want to have for this product, which explains what an expression(I used “put your foot down” as an example) means and in what context it is used. The interface includes short video clips from TV series or movies to explain the contexts in which the phrase could be used, definition, where the clips are from, similar expressions, and stories that users share. The purposes of the stories section are 1) to have users share fun experience first time hearing this phrase 2) to have first time learners practice using this phrase in their lives.

Feedback received from the prototype

– Want to see some other forms of content to enhance learning, such as illustrations or some physical exercises
– How is it different from a dictionary?
– Want to use it on mobile devices instead of a laptop as they don’t want to commit a long period of time sitting in front of a desk to learn English


The following points are findings from the 5 interviews I had with international students from China. Interviews were conducted in English and Chinese.
– The score they give their conversational English are all below 7(out of 10)
– No one is actually making any effort after school to improve their English (“I know I should, but…”)
– It’s easier to connect with students from other countries(Europe, South America, etc.) than with Americans as they could discover the unknowns together
– It is hard to make CLOSE friends with Americans
– When encountering things they don’t understand, they usually simile and don’t ask about it because they don’t want to interrupt the conversation flow
– They tend not to watch American TV series as much as when they were in China. They prefer watching Chinese shows to “rest” their brains
– Lack of confidence is a big problem
– It’s hard to remember the culture shocks they experienced and words they have learned as it happens too frequently


– Phycological matters are more serious than I thought in creating barriers when communicating with native speakers: being shy, lack of confidence, lazy, etc. Departments like ISS mostly give technical instructions on how to do things but barely any advice on how to adapt to a new environment internally
– One interviewee shared a traumatic experience of being treated unfairly in class when she was an exchange student years ago. I don’t know if that is the main reason why she rarely speaks up in class here and unwilling to make friends with Americans, but I think it is important to give instructions to international students on how to respond to racism/prejudice.
– I thought I would be able to record some funny stories during the interviews about misunderstanding American English and culture, but most of what the interviewees shared with me was negative experience when misunderstandings happened. How might I encourage people to share those moments when they felt embarrassed or defeated? Would people like to listen to this kind of stories from others?
– Coming to this stage, I’m a little lost on the domains I’m exploring. I spent last semester studying tangential learning, how to use fascinating stories to keep the learners engaged. Now facing the target users who might get constantly challenged in daily life, how might I keep motivating them to become better and stronger?

Work Plan

What needs to be determined/researched:
– How to help users overcome psychological obstacles? (Schedule a session with a therapist at The New School Health Center)
– How does using a second language impact expression of self or even personality?
– How to engage people to contribute for free? (Book references: Crowdsourcing by Jeff Howe, Here Comes Everbody by Clay Shirky)

Prototype by Week 6
– A clear information architecture of the site
– Wireframes of the main pages
– Format: Interactive Showcase