The open source algebra textbook

Sarah Hagan's students at Drumright High School in Drumright, Okla., don't use traditional textbooks — they make their own. They begin with blank composition notebooks and each day, Hagan hands out a lesson she's written herself or open-sourced from other teachers across the country. It's usually printed on colored paper and requires some kind of hands-on work: drawing, coloring, cutting. "The point is, we shouldn't have to be like, 'Oh, yeah, there's that chart on page 763 that tells me how to classify something.' They should think, 'Oh, that's on that blue paper that we did a few days ago, and I doodled in the corner,' " Hagan explains. The link in our profile takes you to the full story. (Credit: @elissanad/NPR) #50GreatTeachers #education #npr #oklahoma

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Here’s what I’m reading for February 21

Here’s the most interesting stuff I read, watched and listened to for the week ending February 21.

How Facebook and twitter created an industry demand for audience development experts – Facebook and twitter have designed themselves as indispensable content broadcasters. Now that they both have demanding shareholders to answer to, marketers are stuck in the middle. How should they evolve? Beyond creating lights out content, teams must invest just as much time and money in content distribution and audience development. What skills should someone charged with audience development have? See what Lucas thinks in the link.

5 essential twitter search operators to find the most relevant tweetsTurbo charge twitter’s advanced search to go beyond just seeing who’s talking about “Starbucks lattes”, and discover who wishes they had one right now, who thinks they’re too expensive, and who’s following the Starbucks account just for a discount coupon.

U.S. Digital Services Playbook – To meet citizen’s needs and to increase the success rate of projects, the government has created a playbook of key practices. These  “plays” were drawn from practices from the private sector and government and, if followed together, will help government build more effective digital services.

Game Over (99% Invisible podcast) – This is how a virtual apocalypse plays out on The Sims.

Tesla wants to create a battery to power your home – While the big speculation of the week was that Apple was invading Tesla’s car turf, Elon Musk mentioned he’d be producing a stationary battery for powering homes in the next few months. Bombs away at the utility companies!

Beam on Kickstarter – Screw this smart projector into any light socket and this powerful projector turns a flat surface into a big screen.

Back the Beam Smart Projector on Kickstarter

Share your best stuff with me on twitter @bobhazlett

Podcasts I’m listening to right now

These shows are burning up my ear holes.

  • On Being – Big questions on meaning with scientists, theologians, teachers and artists.
  • Back to Work – Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin discuss being productive, work, and tools with the state of mind of an older and wiser man.
  • The Accidental Creative – How to build practical, everyday practices in a create on-demand world.
  • Planet Money – Making sense of our economy in an easy to understand and digest story format.
  • Mortified – Adults sharing embarrassing diaries and letters they created as kids.
  • 99% Invisible – Like Planet Money, but for design and architecture.
  • Startup – A podcast about creating a podcasting company (it’s getting deep in here). Season 2 debuts soon.
  • New Tech City – The human side of technology.

tweet me your favorites @bobhazlett

The New York Times goes all-in on Instagram

The news needs to lives where you (or your users) live. I’m giving The New York Times a big bear huge for taking this step outside of page one and their homepage.

Over the past few weeks, the Times started new Instagram accounts for its video team, sports desk, marketing department and events team. Those four joined existing Times accounts for food, travel, fashion and T Magazine content. That makes eight active Times Instagram account today, with plans to launch a primary @NYTimes account in the next month or two.

“It’s not an effort to drive traffic to the site. That’s very hard to do on Instagram,” said Alexandra MacCallum, assistant managing editor for audience development at the Times. “It’s much more about building awareness and, hopefully, loyalty for The New York Times broadly, but particularly for the Times’ incredible visual storytelling.”

Target brings native advertising to the Grammys

Did you see what Target pulled off on Grammy night? In a nutshell, they pooled eight 30-second media buys (at a cost of $8 million) to air a four-minute live Imagine Dragons performance. Instead of the same tired tv spot, they delivered unique and unexpected content to the viewer in real-time.

The video promoting Imagine Dragons’ upcoming album, Smoke and Mirrors was teased on twitter and Snapchat prior. The exclusive deluxe Target version (I guess people still buy those) of the album features four exclusive songs.


photo by Edan Cohen of Unsplash

How one of the best films at Sundance was shot using an iPhone 5S

So how do you make a Sundance movie for iPhone? You need four things. First, of course, the iPhone (Baker and his team used three). Second, an $8 app called Filmic Pro that allowed the filmmakers fine-grained control over the focus, aperture, and color temperature. Third, a Steadicam. “These phones, because they’re so light, and they’re so small, a human hand — no matter how stable you are — it will shake. And it won’t look good,” says Baker. “So you needed the Steadicam rig to stabilize it.”

The final ingredient was a set of anamorphic adapter lenses that attach to the iPhone.

Coffee and Dessert by Vee O of Unsplash

The psychology behind Costco’s free samples

It’s true that free samples help consumers learn more about products, and that they make retail environments more appealing. But samples are operating on a more subconscious level as well. “Reciprocity is a very, very strong instinct,” says Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist at Duke University. “If somebody does something for you”—such as giving you a quarter of a ravioli on a piece of wax paper—“you really feel a rather surprisingly strong obligation to do something back for them.”

Ariely adds that free samples can make forgotten cravings become more salient. “What samples do is they give you a particular desire for something,” he says. “If I gave you a tiny bit of chocolate, all of a sudden it would remind you about the exact taste of chocolate and would increase your craving.”

Jeff Sheldon from Unsplash

How an expert optimizes a website in only 4 hours

Rooster asked five conversion rate experts what they would do to optimize a website if only given four hours.

A few of the marketers jumped right into the analytics. They wanted to get a down and dirty synopsis of what was happening with the site (i.e. where were potential customers exiting, what pages had the biggest drop-offs). After figuring out what would lead to the biggest impact, they’d get busy creating content and A/B testing potential headlines.

Neil Patel’s strategy is all about that base! He spent his time optimizing the site’s infrastructure, fixing basic crawl errors, redirecting 404 pages and fulfilling his site for speed. Patel knows that if a user is likely to bounce if the website is slow or a page can’t be found.