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Posts Tagged ‘content

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There are lots of takeaways from this video. One is this factoid: From 5000 BCE to 2007, the estimated amount of information stored by the human race was 300 exabytes; in 2013, that data had grown four times to 1,200 exabytes.

The information explosion is a key reason why we cannot focus on just teaching and testing for content.

You might argue that what students learn in school is a limited set and that some curricula are reduced to accommodate shorter terms and more tests. If you do, you are missing the point.

The focus on content does not necessarily require learners to deal with the growing mountain of information. Students resort to learning GIGO — garbage in, garbage out — resulting in short-term learning.

What the learners of today and tomorrow need to know and do is how to process such information. This means knowing how to seek, collect, analyse, and evaluate information and then collating, curating, creating, and critiquing so that it makes sense.

These skills are not new, but they are even more important now that we are in the midst of an information explosion. To deny this or teach otherwise is to be blind and irresponsible.

… is another man’s poison.

That was the saying that came to mind when I read this student’s feedback on teaching.

A reporting officer or an administrator might view this feedback on teaching negatively.

A teacher who focuses on content as a means of nurturing thoughtful learners might view this positively.

I am not describing a false dichotomy. I am summarising reality.

I never thought I would ever type this: There are valuable lessons in Trump’s tweets.

I am not referring to learning how NOT to be inflammatory. I am thinking about how his tweets are good for discourse analysis. I am doing this thanks to this insightful video by Nerdwriter1.

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The video creator did a great job of chunking Trump’s tweets by type and nuance in numbers, and analysing their design and impact.

I might use this video as a resource if I get a chance to work with a group of teachers who need to learn how to do discourse analysis for the purpose of narrative-style reporting and research writing.

If I do, this will show how one might learn from something negative.

A little over a year ago, I reflected on the three dimensions of educational technology: IT, ICT, and IDM. These evolutionary dimensions focused largely on technology affordances.

This year, I reflect on another three dimensions, this time from the social and pedagogical perspectives.

In the era of IT, teachers and media folks used technology to create content. We leverage on technology to do that to this day. This might be why Bill Gates declared “content is king” when predicting the ascent of the Web in the 90s.

While content is important and will not lose relevance, how policy makers, school leaders, teachers still treat it with reverence is passé. We can comfortably declare that we now live in an information-rich world. We need to question if any content we create is new or if it adds any value (to the next dimension, context).

However, schools now still largely process and reprocess old content. Teachers are evaluated on their ability to recreate such content, get students to practice it, and test how much content students retain temporarily.

What matters more is context. It shapes why we need content and it makes learning meaningful. Context also provides an authentic platform for practice and application. If teachers and lessons are labelled as not being relevant, it is because they are poor or lacking in context.

These contexts provide learners with opportunities to connect with knowledgeable others in order to create new content, context, and connections.

The technologies that kids embrace today, e.g., video games and social media, are not just places for learning content. Teachers who think inside their content box and try to create cool lessons are only partially reaching their students.

Video games and social media are also the platforms that provide context and connectedness.

One example: The content behind the skill of being able to make a prediction is learnt in-game as well as practiced and negotiated in that context.

Another example: Fans learn Korean by watching K-pop on YouTube or English as a Second Language learners watch English game play videos; YouTube as a platform is an authentic context for learning, conversing, and connecting.

Technology becomes educational not just when teachers create content with it, but especially when learners can do the same while in context and in connection with each other. To do any less is to provide a disservice to our learners and not do our job as educators.

Later today I will conduct a presentation on educational crowdsourcing.

The praxis of educational crowdsourcing: Learner as content creator and learner as teacher

I was invited by a university to contribute to a seminar where one of the themes was to push the practice of collaboration.

I have opted to focus on how faculty might do this by positioning students as content creators and teachers. It is one of my teaching philosophies that students learn best when they take these roles.

During my presentation, I back up this stance by citing the theory and/or research behind such practice. I also share my own experiences doing these when I was a university academic.

Update: My Google Slides are at

I upgraded my mobile devices to iOS9 the moment the update was available yesterday primarily because I wanted to test the content blocking features.

I read Techcrunch’s review of three main blockers, 1Blocker, Blockr, and Crystal.

When I tried to download all three last night, only Crystal was available. The other two displayed “Not available in your country’s store” messages. Thankfully both were available this morning.

I tested all three on STonline (@STcom) pages which are littered with the awful ads. They are so bad that they distract from reading and encourage accidental tapping.

Crystal is free to try at the moment. It did not seem to remove the ads because the pages looked intact before and after I applied this blocker.

1Blocker is free and offers in-app purchases that enable more features. I discovered that 1Blocker was heavy-handed. On applying just the ad blocking feature, entire pages in STonline would not appear. I had to load pages without blocking to read anything, but when I did this, the ads would appear.

The best content blocker was Blockr. It is also the only one of the three that does not allow you to try before you buy. It is US$0.99 (S$1.28) at the moment and worth the small amount of money. It not only blocks inline ads that interrupt reading (see my tweet above), it also blocked all the other annoying ads at the bottom of the page.

While it is very early days yet in the battle for blockers, this was a reminder that you get what you pay for.

The blog entry I shared in my month-old tweet was an interesting reflection on micro learning vs micro content.

Cynics might say that the argument was about semantics, but I disagree. Words hold meaning, meaning is born of philosophy, belief system, or mindset, and these shape behaviour.

It was important to tear down “micro learning”. At the risk of sounding like a squeaky wheel: Learning is learning; there is no micro or mega learning.

The important question is: How do we make learning happen?

There are many ways. I suggest just three design philosophies in the context of the article: Designing for 1) relevance, curiosity, or motivation, 2) learner agency and ownership, and 3) micro content.

Relevance, curiosity, or motivation. If a university offered a six-week MOOC and someone was only interested in a topic in the second week and quit shortly after, did they learn anything? If that person was interested and found some content useful, they learnt something because they wanted to.

They did not fail to “mega learn” the whole course. They did not “micro learn” the content of the second week. They learnt what was relevant to them, what they were curious about, or what they were interested in.

The question a designer needs to ask is not “How do I make this course interesting?” (which is teacher-centric) but “How do I take advantage of what learners are interested in?” (student-centric).


Learner agency and ownership. If a resource provider decided to provide short videos that taught a large, complex topic in smaller chunks and in an interesting manner, will that help students learn better?

The common saying is that you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink. A less common one might be you can try to feed someone an elephant one small piece at a time, but they might not eat.

Only when the learner thirsts or hungers for it does learning take place authentically. If not, they pretend to drink, they shuffle uneaten bits on their plates, or avoid the food and drink. If forced to imbibe, they might comply only to spit out elsewhere.

The question a designer needs to ask is “How to I leverage on or create the natural need to learn?”

Micro content. We might be tempted to assume that a large, complex topic is valuable and needs to be learnt, or we can decide that the micro contents are useful units in themselves. This is the argument for reusable learning objects: Micro content can be learnt for its own sake or be part of larger components.

This might explain the success of micro formats like edu-Twitter or short videos in YouTube. They might not be part of an official and larger curriculum, compliant to a set of standards, or address a list of desired objectives. Every educational tweet or instructional video is valuable in itself. It is left to the learners to judge its value and decide if that tidbit is enough or if they want more.

The question a designer needs to ask is “How to I create micro content that resembles LEGO bricks that stand alone or can be combined into larger wholes?” or “How to I take advantage of what is happening in social media and YouTube?”

Microscope by BWJones, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  BWJones 

There is no micro learning, only micro thinking. This is the sort of thinking that prevents instructional designers, subject matter experts, and teachers from designing and using micro content because they think that the mega complex forms makes them valuable.

It is also the sort of thinking that focuses on how to teach instead of how people learn. It takes humility to admit that teaching does not always lead to learning.

Effective resource design and teaching starts with understanding the learner and learning. It is about starting with learner relevance, curiosity, motivation, agency, and ownership. It is about going to where the learner is at.

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