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Posts Tagged ‘learning

There are numerous rules for designing web pages for consumption and interaction on mobile devices. Just as important as the DOs are the DO NOTs.

Do not simply transfer a desktop page to a mobile device. Rationale: There is less screen real estate and readability drops on smaller mobile screens.

Do not embed superfluous media. Rationale: Animations, video, and even audio are resource hogs, consume extra data, and might have unexpected results.

Take what happens when STcom embeds links in its tweets.

If you click a link on desktop browser (say via TweetDeck), Android Twitter, or iOS Twitter, the desktop version of the news article attempts to load. But this is where things get different.


On a laptop or desktop computer, you expect to get a full desktop page whether or not you are a subscriber. You can get less ad-filled reading by installing an adblocker in a browser like Chrome. My current favourite is uBlock as it has the effectiveness of the open source AdBlock Plus but with a smaller memory footprint.

Besides the old school banner ads (top) and column ads (right side), video ads or video “value adds” load on the upper right, but do not play automatically. Thankfully!

On Android Twitter, the URL causes mobile Chrome to launch, the desktop version of the page to load, and the videos do not auto play.

But I rarely use an Android. I am on iOS and consume local news via an iPhone or an iPad mini. 

On both iOS devices, Twitter will load the desktop version of the page in the Twitter app itself. On the iPhone, the desktop pages make reading very difficult, but at least the videos do not play automatically. However, on the iPad mini, the embedded videos play automatically nine out of ten times I view a page.

If I did not mind STcom using up my data allocation, I certainly mind that the videos play without my asking.

The videos come in at least two forms. Some are actual videos that can be paused. Others are ads that seem to have pause buttons, but when I tap on them, they open up full page ads that prevent me from reading the article.

Both types of videos somehow override the audio setting. I have my iPad mini on hardware controlled mute most of the time. But these videos auto play and blast their unwelcome noise late as night or out in public. 

I do not always have earphones or headphones plugged into my device. When I do, the videos are loud and jarring. When I do not, they annoy me and surprise those around me. I have to resort to manually turning down the volume even though the system is already on mute.

All this makes for a terrible user experience. Given that devices like the iPad mini are popular, it is surprising that STcom did not conduct better usability studies. If STcom cared about its readers and potential customers, it should. 

The same thing could be said for designing mobile learning. The perspective to take should be that of the learner, i.e., learner-centric design. Not just in terms of interface usability, but also in terms of instructional strategy, content level, social learning opportunities, and more.

If you care, you do what it takes and it shows.

If you take this trouble, your learners will thank you for it. If m-learning or e-learning is your business, your learners will come back for more. If you ignore them, they will not only go elsewhere, they will also tell others to stay away.

Last week I conducted a focus group interview of a group of seven higher education instructors who were not familiar with the flipped classroom or flipped learning. I did this to get to know them before I facilitate workshops for them and their colleagues in a few weeks time. I picked up some useful information that will help me prepare for the workshops. I was also very impressed by their responses.

One of my questions was: What do you think “flipped learning” means?

The responses I received were:

  • The student tells teacher concepts
  • Learning on the job instead of just in class
  • Learner decides what to learn and is self-directed
  • On demand learning
  • Ownership of learning

There was no hint or mention of the consumption of content out of class and the practice or discussion in class, i.e., the usual definition of flipping.

I was impressed because they were focusing on the right things about flipping. They may have been more descriptive (what it is) instead of being prescriptive (how to do it), but that was fine. After all, they had not tried flipping before.

If after I am done with my primer on flipping with them they still keep these concepts central to their practice, they will go very far in changing their pedagogy for the better!

One of the things that an academic has to do (whether s/he wants to or not) is attend conferences. Conferences are a good way to get a trial paper into a conference-linked journal or a journal proper. It is part of the “publish or perish” adage that academics live by.

Whether academics like to admit it or not, we choose conferences not just as opportunities to network and catch up with friends, but also to travel to cities we have never been to.

Today is the deadline for submission of proposals of one of my favourite conferences. This conference introduced a practitioner track and I was keen on sharing a more elaborate version of my three dimensions of flipped learning. But something stopped me.

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It was not the fact that I will be leaving my job as a university faculty soon. It was more about the fact that most conferences are run more like businesses and cost a lot to attend. I questioned the need to pay airfare, accommodation, and conference fee in order to share something of value that I created that will benefit only a relative few (the few that pay to attend and get the documents).

I did not have to play the usual academic game anymore. I decided that if I am going to share an article, it should benefit those it is meant to reach (practitioners), an in order to do this, I should do it openly.

I did something recently to prompt a reflection: Was there such a thing as binge learning?

Part of my process of giving myself a break was “binge watching” TV series I missed over the last few years. I did this in part to reward myself with entertainment I had denied myself in order to get work done.

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I also did this to get up to speed on my cultural knowledge and to understand memes and YouTube parody videos of popular TV shows (like the ones above and below). No one was going to test me or think less of me if I did not understand a popular culture reference. But I reasoned that it was better to know why a joke was funny than to have it explained to me.

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So over a period of several weeks, I watched all seasons of Breaking Bad and the debut seasons of Orange Is The New Black and House Of Cards. Amongst a few others, of course. All had critical acclaim and did not disappoint.

Binging has a negative connotation because it is linked to the over consuming or rapid eating of food over a short period. This is not healthy and symptomatic of other problems.

However, my binge watching was part of my desire to learn about something I was curious about and happened during time I had set aside for myself. I was binge learning.

Perhaps I should take “binge” out of the phrase. I was just learning by watching with a passion or purpose. That is how people learn a new language, dance moves, a musical instrument, culinary methods, or any assortment of things with the help of YouTube.

There is learning that you have to and learning because you want to. The former is forced, often a process of schooling and training, and frankly necessary at times to build a foundation for other learning opportunities.

The latter is something most teachers would like their students to do, but they go about it the wrong way. Learning that is truly self-directed 1) can happen without a teacher (at least, the traditional understanding of what it means to be one), 2) occurs when time and space are designed outside a curricular race, and 3) happens when the ownership is passed on entirely to the learner. The sad thing is that these three things are what schools and teachers are least willing to let go of.

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This video tries to answer the question: Can video games make you smarter?

This all depends on how you define smart. The video summarizes research on attention span, mental focus, visual acuity, visual tracking, brain physiology, etc.

These are not things that schools and testing agencies might look for.

But ask caregivers of those with mental disorders, ADHD, or dyslexia if these are important. Ask tuition centres how they might give their learners an edge (and provide a juicy new section in their marketing material). Ask anyone who takes care of the elderly if mental sprite is important.

There is a question that sometimes irks me after I am done with workshops, talks, or demonstrations. That question is: Do you have something I can read on [topic]?

Depending on the context, my knowledge of that person, or my reading of mindsets, that person falls into one of at least two categories.

The first is a genuine interest to know more. I have no problems with that, which is why I normally pepper my presentations or materials with links.

The second is a harmful and theory-oriented mindset. If I take blended learning for example, then the question is: Can you provide more readings on blended learning?

If you want to find out more, then good for you. But if you think that there is an instruction manual for blended learning, then forget about it.

Most instructional strategies are not learnt by reading. They are learnt by doing over and over again, and by correcting mistakes along the way.

You might start with a very basic piece on blended learning or indulge in some Googling of blended learning. Then you must design and implement as quickly as possible. Letting it stew in the mind is not the same as serving it at the dinner table.

The harm of the over-cautious mindset has deeper roots. It is a disconnect with learning and the learner of today.

For example, consider how people learn to use mobile devices or play games. Most times they jump right in and do by trial and error or they get information just in time. They might consult the (very brief) manual, online forums, YouTube, or people around them for help.

They do not ask for a textbook. There are no textbook answers for practices that change all the time. There are no textbook answers for flexible mindsets.

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This video might provide useful information to marketers or serve as an impetus to use videos in advertising. But I see a message for those of us in education.

There is at least one thing better than the power of video to show you something. It is the power to create your own videos to teach, to learn, and to learn by teaching.

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