Another dot in the blogosphere?

The London Underground system will get 4G coverage by 2019. Yay?

The writer’s reaction summarised in the tweet above was one of dismay. Mine was simply welcome to 2012.

I visited the UK twice two years ago and can relate to the wireless-less experience. I discovered during my second visit that some stations deep underground had wifi so I enjoyed intermittent access.

The article’s writer seems to be predicting some sort of social pandemonium brought about by people yammering loudly and incessantly.

Will it happen? Yes, but not likely to the extent and frequency he projects. Our own train system gets a few loud mouths who have no volume control or social awareness. But really, how many people actually talk that often on their phones?

The writer might get actual anecdotes and data from other systems that have 4G access about loud mouth frequency. He might also find out how such access actually helps commuters.

Being able to communicate by voice, video, text, or emoji provides a crucial channel for alerts and in emergencies. 4G access also activates many eyes in a human monitoring system of nefarious activities.

Writers might like making predictions based solely on opinion and limited experience. They could do better with critical data and lived experiences.

Now if only more readers learnt to tell the difference between these writers…

 
I wonder about articles like this in which “thought leaders” were asked to make predictions about gamification. None tried defining it and distinguishing it from, say, game-based learning or serious gaming.

That is a good strategy because when you are asked to gaze into a crystal ball and make predictions, it helps to be as vague or as general as possible so that something hits the mark.

I also wonder why there seem to be examples of “gamification” from everywhere else except schooling and education. For example, take this article from a site that says it is about e-learning.

The examples were about Dropbox, LinkedIn, Duolingo, Google News, Zappos, and a steel company. Only one example, Duolingo, was about language, but the paragraph was so short it could be covered in two tweets.

To be fair, the very short paragraph linked to a longer review. However, a review of an app and service is not the same as an argumentative article on good and bad examples.

So why are there relatively few examples of gamification in schooling and education? I suggest that their implementations were and continue to be:

  • Unsuccessful
  • Closed
  • Ungeneralisable
  • Not sustainable

Successful implementations tend to get published; failed attempts rarely are. Ask anyone who has tried to do this in educational magazines or academic journals. No one wants to look bad even as they try to look good by learning from failure.

Schools and universities tend to operate in a closed manner, both inwardly and outwardly. This not only is the reason why there are calls for them to be more open to the “real world”, it is also why you do not hear about gamification efforts, if any.

As much as one classroom looks like another, the students and prevailing culture in each school makes it difficult to generalise success or failure factors from one context to another. This is why we cannot have more Finlands and Singapores in the schooling systems of other countries.

Gamification efforts tend to be “lone wolf” efforts. These are driven by individuals with the talent, ideas, and capacity to take risks. The rest are happy with the status quo or unwilling to risk bad results or a dip in student feedback on teaching.

Some from the second group might try something new, but once bitten are twice shy. So efforts like gamification, rightly or wrongly implemented, are not sustainable.

Gamification is not sustainable for at least two more related reasons: Vendor platform and bad design. Edtech vendors need real trials and often seek groups in schools and universities to try something for free or a low fee for a short period. When the trial runs out, so does the patience of an administrator or decision-maker.

Earlier this month, I explained why such vendors take the safe route. In doing so, they offer much of the same disguised as different. For example, getting points and leaderboards simply recreate grades instead of focusing on formative feedback. Since little or nothing changes, the new effort is not sustainable because it is no different from the old method.

So if you wonder why you do not hear gamification news from schools, wonder no more. The efforts there might not have been successful or are not sustainable. If you hear anything, you cannot be sure it is generalisable. If you hear nothing, that is the norm from closed systems.

I will say one thing about the classic instruction deslgn (ID) model, ADDIE, as represented in the graphic below: It is pretty.

It is also pretty misleading. It is oversimplified and thus misrepresents the complex processes in ID.

I have a Masters in this field. ID was also the foundation of my Ph.D. When I was introduced to the ADDIE model, I learnt about its theoretical underpinnings and its practical limitations.

Simplifying ID processes to an acronym and representing them in a graphic is a convenient distillation of complex processes. This is fine if you are doing this as a reflective and visible learning task as you develop expertise.

However, if used purely as an illustrative or teaching tool, the graphic is a shortcut that bypasses praxis (theory married with practice) and application (theory in action).

For one thing, ADDIE is not five main phases in non-overlapping and linear progression. The practical realities of any well-managed ID project should prevent its straight and unquestioned use.

For example, rapid prototyping might see tight cycles of design, development, and testing even before implementation. This not only breaks the linear chain, it also makes evaluation an overarching process that is reflexive and reflective.

Both a beginner and an expert might use ADDIE, but do so differently. ADDIE might be dogma for a beginner; it is a loose and pliable framework for an expert.

Put another way, ADDIE might seem like a good start. The problem is that it can also be a convenient stop if its users do not critically examine each component separately and as part of a whole.

It is one thing for instructional designers to try to summarise what they do with the help of ADDIE. It is another to use the graphic to teach someone how to do instructional design.

I would not presume that abdominal surgery is anaethetise, cut open, dig around, sew up, revive. The surgeon is a professional in whose hands a patient’s immediate future depends and oversimplifying surgery is an insult. An instructional designer is also a professional who has to juggle complex tasks but the returns on these are not obvious in the short term.

ID is not something that you can understand or master over a tweet, no matter how rich and juicy the tweet is. To accept that you can get away with that is lazy thinking. This leads to lazy action and ID, and that in turn to poor instruction and learning experiences.

Please do not oversimplify, misrepresent, or mislead. Not with ADDIE or with anything else.

Oh, and the image is not an infographic. But that is another long story…

Here is a tweeted headline that could have been relevant ten years ago.

The Yellow Pages were irrelevant even then. It seems to have taken a newspaper a decade to realise or admit it.

It sometimes takes teachers in schools just as long, if not longer, to realise and admit that some of their practices are losing relevance.

The aptly named Yellow Pages can also mean that the medium is showing their age. The problem with irrelevant practices is that the signs are not as obvious. It takes critical reflection to spot the yellowing edges of bad habits and pages of unquestioned tradition.

Some say that FAIL is an acronym for First Attempt In Learning. So we should encourage all students to fail if they are to learn, right?

Not always. I distinguish between encouraging failure and helping those who fail.

Leveraging on failure should be about developing resilience and a mindset of strategic risk-taking. It is about nurturing these attributes when a learner fails, not about helping them fail.

I state the seemingly obvious — it is not about helping them fail — because I know of teachers here who still set extremely difficult test or examination questions as they do not want students to be over-confident. They are setting students up to stumble face first into humble pie.

There are times when failure should not be the option. Too much might demoralise. Too blind is just ridiculous. This last one is best illustrated in this tweet.

Why follow in the footsteps of others before you and repeat exactly the same mistake? This is unnecessary failure.

Sure, kids stumble all the time. But transfer this idea to learning something that is challenging or planning and implementing systemic change.

No effort is going to be perfect, and you want to learn from mistakes. But you would be foolish to go in monkey see, monkey do, monkey fall off the tree.

It is unethical to intentionally set students up to fail. It is ludicrous if you fail to see why you should NOT maintain this blind practice.

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I have distilled some differences and overlaps in gamification, game-based learning, and serious gaming.

I focus on their use and integration in educational contexts. I exclude contexts like industry style performance support, commercial sells, VWO campaigns, etc.

I distill factors that govern the three in the table below without elaboration. The explanations are for another time because my thoughts are not complete and each factor could be a class in a university course.

I may add to or subtract from this table over time.

Reality. Facts. Are there objective truths or are things subjectively negotiated? Most people experience the law of gravity. Others believe the Earth just sucks.

In the hard sciences, laws are like reality, facts, or truths that are not negotiable. Education, on the other hand, is a social science, and it is littered with theories. Ideas and results can change with perspective and context.

Here is a simplification of this complex phenomenon. Let’s say you wanted to record a tranquil video of a tourist hotspot. How would you do it?


Video source

One way would be to give up and say this was an impossible task. Another might be to wake up really early and try to get footage. Still another way might be to visit when the place was closed.

The maker of the video above shared several strategies for being in the crowd, but not of it. These included taking low angles, selecting areas of focus, grabbing opportunities as they emerged, and relying on good timing.

The same strategies could be translated when implementing change in schooling and educational contexts. It becomes about taking different perspectives and using novel strategies in order to redefine reality.

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