HeadsUp is a small-group discussion web application that works on any webkit browser such as Chrome and Safari. Discussion leaders may log in using any Google account. HeadsUp facilitates dividing people into groups, sending out topics and assignments, and gathering evaluation feedback. Although it is browser based, it is very resilient, allowing participants to exit the browser, use other programs, and return to the browser at the proper point in the discussion.
HeadsUp attempts to provide information without distracting from the main task at hand, navigating through a discussion. The first metaphor for the program was a turn-by-turn, spoken-instructions GPS that should receive focus only briefly at specific times, allowing the driver to focus on the road, not the instructions. HeadsUp seeks to do the same; it provides instructions for completing the discussion and the teacher should encourage participants to only look at the device when needed.
Clear instructions regarding roles to play, carefully crafted prompts that encourage taking a particular point of view or contributing a key piece of information, and reduction of administrative overhead have the goal of enhancing the time that participants have when face to face. In a university setting, students only spend about twelve hours each week in class; the goal of HeadsUp is to allow them to spend as much time as possible in interaction rather than looking at devices.
HeadsUp was created at Abilene Christian University in 2010. The originator is James Langford with key concepts and ideas from Dr. Tracy Shilcutt, Gary Varner, Dr. Brent Reeves, Dr. Bill Rankin, and Dr. Kyle Dickson. Developers were Hab Adkins, Chris Gibbs, Jonathan Johnson, and Harvey McQueen with design, UX and key concepts by Chad Martin of PivotalAction.com. HeadsUp was tested throughout the Fall 2010 semester by Dr. Stephen Baldridge, Dr. Brad Crisp, Karen Cukrowski, Dr. Dickson, Dr. Shilcutt, and Dr. Laura Phillips.
Since the original development, Harvey McQueen has rewritten the server side from scratch and is currently (February 2012) completing a completely new server version for ACU’s Educational Technology department. We plan to make this version available to the public.