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Posts Tagged ‘communication

Disclaimer: My reflection below is not authoritative information about the new health protocols for Singapore’s COVID-19 strategies. The authoritative source is MOH (see points 21 and 22) and the reporting article is from CNA. My focus is the design of a job aid.

Maybe it is the educator who provides feedback or the instructional designer in me, but I look for clarity in any work. So I thought that the protocols presented by CNA could have been better.

I watched the video briefing, read the article, and studied the protocol summaries. The original protocol by CNA was:

The improvements (in blue) might include:

  • For clarity, the numbers refer to protocols, not steps to follow. Each should be labelled “Protocol #”. This sends a message: Do one of the following depending on which category you fall into.
  • I swapped the positions of protocols 1 and 2 because the majority of people (almost 99% according to point 5 of the MOH source) do not have mild or no symptoms. So the first protocol should address the majority.
  • Protocol 2 (formerly the first protocol) lacked the instruction to see a doctor. The CNA article stated that you are “encouraged” to do this; the MOH source has stronger wording (“should see a doctor, point 21). In the video briefing, the doctor’s diagnosis seemed to be a given. This instruction is not clear in the summary. This is remedied with the phrase “After you see a doctor”.
  • Protocol 3 should provide information (or a link) to where ART results should be uploaded. If an ART result is positive, the instruction should be to follow protocol 1 or 2 depending on the person’s health.

In the presence of a lot of information, people tend to refer to summaries, lists, job aids, etc. These are succinct versions of the long form instructions. Short forms tend to lose information and context, but they do not have to lose quality or clarity if we take care to design them carefully for communication or education.

I do not claim to have a perfect job aid. My background of instructional design simply gives me a critical eye for usability and clarity. It is a skill that transfers from the design of materials for teaching and learning to communication to the general public. I leave this critique here should I need it later as a reference for instructional/consultation material.

The person who shared the image in the tweet below probably did not intend to illustrate three important principles of clear messaging.

If you need to send a message, you need to decide what to say and how to say it. This is the planning. In the case of what was most likely a sign for an eatery, the message to potential customers was: We are open for takeout.

But a plan is only as good as its implementation. The message was garbled because the person who pasted the words haphazardly.

Someone on the inside did not bother to check that the message was clear. If they bothered to read it from the outside, they could have rectified the error.

If we are going to transmit messages effectively, we should put at least equal effort into planning, implementing, and checking that our messages are received as intended.

The first time I was formally taught to use “body language“ was probably when I was learning to be a teacher. I wish I had this expert to debunk body language, or more accurately, non-verbals).

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Even though the expert debunked misconceptions about detecting lies and social blocking, this did not discount non-verbals. He pointed out that we can have poker faces but we cannot have a poker bodies. We cannot help but communicate non-verbally.

The content of the next video was new to me. I did not know that there was a type of concrete that was infused with bacteria.

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If the concrete cracked and water seeped in, this would activate the bacteria which would synthesize material that would repair the crack.

Such a technology was possible by crossing different disciplinary silos: Microbiology, chemistry, engineering, mathematics, architecture, design, etc. We cannot claim to have any sort of innovative teaching if content and skills are taught in silos.

In my line of work, I meet a fair share of new people I have to help or negotiate terms with. I have to gauge the sincerity of a new contact quickly so that my subsequent effort is worth the trouble.

While there are many ways to evaluate the intent of strangers, I have learnt that there are three Ps that are hallmarks of good communication: Promptness, politeness, and professionalism.

Promptness is how quick and regularly the other person replies. By this I do not mean an endless stream of disjointed WhatsApp messages. That would show a lack of organisation or coherence.

Promptness involves timely replies. These acknowledge that the other person is waiting for an answer and that you do not wish to keep them waiting unnecessarily.

A sure sign of a lack of promptness is when you need to send a message that starts with “I have not heard from you since…”. By then it is too late.

Politeness is embracing basic human decency. It is starting with a greeting, saying please and thank you, and wishing people well before signing off.

Politeness is not simply providing filler in a message. It recognises that modern messaging is rife with misunderstanding and negative interpretation in part because of the need to be prompt.

Professionalism is a catch-all, x-factor quality. It is hard to define, but you know it when you see it. It could be in the tone of the message, be it friendly, authoritative, or organised.

Professionalism is showing that you mean business. It is anticipating what your contact will say or ask and providing responses in advance.

How do you attain these hallmarks of good communication? From practice and learning quickly from mistakes. The mistakes do not have to be your own and you certainly do not want to repeat mistakes by practice. It is ultimately about learning by being observant, reflective, and having empathy for the other party.

Did you hear that? That is the sound of the Internet — specifically the local Twitterverse — sharing their thoughts on how the founder of kiasuparentDOTcom reacted to her son’s PSLE results.

This was a colourful response by SGAG.

Mine was a more subdued share.

I have no doubt that the article has been very “popular” on Facebook as well. It was written to be click and comment bait. But it should also send clear signals to all stakeholders in our schooling and educational systems.

Systemic change is not just about grand rhetoric and stylish posturing. It is about putting boots to the ground and applying elbow grease. The former is typically top-down while the latter is normally bottom-up.

Whether the change efforts meet in the middle and are effective depends on whether the message of change connects, is consistent, and is constant.

MOE sent a clear initial signal of the “change” in scoring for the PSLE, coming “soon” in 2021. That is the shot across the bow to say take notice.

It has bought itself four years to fire more messages and shots, but it is not clear what forms these will take or what the efforts will be. So far we have been told that schools need to prepare themselves. This is still a signal from the top down.

What are the efforts going to be like from the bottom up? How will the grassroots efforts organise themselves? With videos like this? With more SG conversations, forums, panels, etc.? Is anyone trawling the SG edublogosphere, Twitterverse, and Facebook groups?

If we do not shape the agenda, interrupt the conversation for critical inputs, or otherwise organise ourselves, someone else will do these for us.

Hmm, this might be something to discuss at the next #educampsg in 2017.

One aspect of teaching is to communicate ideas. But simply sending a message does not guarantee that is it received as intended.

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These two Bad Lip Reading videos on YouTube illustrate just that. There is the proper movie script and what the actors said in Star Wars. Then there is the interpretation of what they said based on lip reading.

Such remixes are hilarious because most people understand that the efforts are parodies. The original messages are twisted, but the new messages in the remix are clear.

This reminds me that what we share online can have unintended consequences. I do not dwell on the bad consequences because trolls will find a way to put negative spin on everything. The consequences I speak of include the unexpected reach and reuse or remixing to benefit someone else.

I consider this unintended benefit a form of serendipity. This type of serendipity can be planned and designed for. It starts with sharing openly and freely.

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The video above is a short digital story about thinking and doing outside the box.

The video might raise more questions than answers. Like how might we promote creative and critical thinking at the same time? How do we get learners to communicate and collaborate effectively?

Big questions require big answers. Fortunately, the big answers might be provided in smaller chunks. Here is one answer below courtesy of Microsoft:

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There is some good stuff there if you ignore the obvious marketing.

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