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Posts Tagged ‘design

You do not have to be an Apple fan to enjoy this video. It could have been shot on any device with a decent camera. It took good storytellers to put it together and that is what matters.


Video source

The video was a short movie commissioned by Apple to be shot on an iPhone X. It was Apple’s agenda and in their interest to promote the technical capabilities of its latest flagship phone.

But the technology without skill, passion, and a good story is pointless. One need only look at the phone libraries of wannabe food Instagrammers. A superior tool does not guarantee a superior outcome.

The video was technically well-shot and edited. It was also skilfully managed to tell the story of a mother connecting with her son even though she had to work over the Lunar New Year.

I liked how the movie “ended” so that the viewer could get involved. How so? I imagine an educator asking her students to suggest how the rest of the story continues and why.

The story also revealed the director’s agenda. He made a statement about modern parenting and the pressure of schooling without throwing it like pie in the face. He tugged at heartstrings to make his point firmly but gently.

The video is a lesson on narrative design, leveraging on emotions to create impact, and letting viewers or learners draw their own conclusions by generating discussion. These are the new standards for what makes a resource high in quality and effective for facilitation.

The chart embedded in this tweet is a good example of “just because you can, does not mean you should”.

More specifically, just because you think you can create a chart does not mean you should.

A chart should make obvious what is difficult to explain in words. If the chart does not do this, then do not use it or design a better one.

The logical problem with chart in the tweet that the visuals counter the intended meaning. A small chance of winning (1 in 14 million) is tiny, but it was represented by a large block. To illustrate the very low likelihood of winning the top gambling prize, the block should be tiny.

One could also critique the choice of fonts, the colours of the bars, the use of red font against a black background, etc.

Why harp on a seemingly harmless chart?

The chart is an example of what not to do when designing visuals for effective communication. It is also fodder for a module on critical thinking.

If schooling has not taught you to design better visuals, then continued education in your working adult life offers you some harsh lessons. This first lesson is free and could be worth more than the top Toto prize.

When I travel overseas, I try to visit a local library. This might be a tiny one in Vietnam, a traditional one in a university, or a modern one in Amsterdam.

Why do this on vacation? I find that what people stand or wish for translates into the design of such a public space.

A trend that seems to have consumed progressive libraries and librarians is the mantra that the modern library is not just a place but also a space. This statement leaves room for interpretation. Mine is that a library should not just be a place to read or borrow books; it is space to work, chill, collaborate, get inspired, or learn in less restrictive and self-directed ways.

Some libraries slap old and new together and expect them to meld. Others integrate the two seamlessly or relegate the redundant pragmatically. My recent visit to the Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam (OBA) — the Public Library of Amsterdam — was a perfect example of what I think a library should be.
 

The OBA was not a gem to admire on the outside, but once inside you might find it hard to describe why it is so welcoming and different. Note: Several Instagram embeds to follow.
 

Near the entrance was the kids’ section and a piano. I recorded this video while a pianist provided an impromptu soundtrack.

Function meets form: Provide a piano in a prominent place and someone will play it.
 

The kids’ section dominated the entrance on the left. The unusually shaped lights reminded me of ball-and-stick chemical molecules or some diatoms underneath a microscope. The section was predominantly white with bright splashes of colour from the toys, furniture, and displays that strategically littered the space.

Function meets form: Provide a welcoming and curious place to explore and kids will learn by play.
 

I noticed at least two displays: One was a comic exhibition that ran along three walls; the other was a three-metre high Mouse Mansion. The comics were as thought-provoking as the mansion was fascinatingly detailed.

Function meets form: Provoke with dissonance and detail, and people will learn by critique and observation.

I forgot to photograph the space to the right of the entrance. Other than elevators and a service desk, that side was dominated with self-help kiosks for membership, buying wifi time (for non-members), returning books, borrowing books.

The book system was particularly impressive. It sported a modern, brushed metal interaction front, and a robotic complex of tubes and arms behind plexiglass in the back.

Function meets form: Provide minimal instructions and slick but compelling tools, and people will learn to use them.
 

The ceilings were high and the place well-lit either by large windows or bright white light.

OBA upper floor.

The library had a basement and six upper levels. I explored them all and discovered a common theme despite each floor having is own character. There were relatively few bookshelves and books. The mid-level floors featured reading and display areas that might look like a Barnes and Noble or part of a modern museum.
 

The spaces seemed to be designed with people and creature comforts in mind, not silent reading or maintaining order. The strange thing about giving people what they wanted was that they respected the place with a hush that would make a mouse blush.

Function meets form: Provide variations on a human-centric theme and people will do what comes naturally.
 

There were several seating configurations. Other than this café-like arrangement, there were also comfortable single seats, sofas, glass-walled cubicles and meeting rooms, and computer terminals that ringed the central atrium on almost all floors.

Function meets form: Recreate what people are already familiar with and they will transfer behaviours or learn new ones with minimal barriers.
 

The top floor was accessible only by this staircase or a set of elevators. If you ventured to this floor, you were rewarded with a restaurant and excellent views of Amsterdam.

View from the top floor of the OBA.

My family and I spent about four hours at the library. While I had my fix of photo-taking, my wife and son chilled at the top floor for much of the time. We had dinner there and relaxed some more.

Function meets form: Provide rewards that are not purely extrinsic or obvious. A room with a view is a room with a view.

Rising above all of this, I was reminded that there was no point rushing from point to point during a family vacation. The point was to relax and recharge, and in doing so, learn incidentally and accidentally. I knew about form meeting function, but I received informal lessons on function meeting form.

The principle of form meeting function applies in web design as much as it does in interior design. It is about putting human function first. But just as we shape our environments, our creations also shape what we do and how we do it. Function meeting form is a human-centric principle of recognising that this reverse and balance is also true.

There is something fundamentally wrong with most instructional design (ID) programmes and processes.

Novice instructional designers are often taught to design FOR someone. They do not necessarily learn to design WITH someone. I call the latter ID+.
 

 
This is a fundamental shift in the multifaceted processes of ID. Just like teaching is not the same as learning, the focus of designing with someone is about putting the learner first.

Now how many Masters programmes and ID companies will buy into this idea? How many will take such ownership? How many will say they already do this, but not have the evidence that they really do? Why will they still focus on what is efficient and ignore what is effective?

This is an unplanned part 3 of my notes and reflection on a talk on gamification. [Part 1] [Part 2]

In the two previous parts, I noted and critiqued the narrative element. Narratives in games, game-based learning, and gamification are driven by stories. Good stories depend on skilled storytelling.

So what does such storytelling look like?

I have shared the work of brilliant storytellers on Vimeo and YouTube many times before. Earlier this week I found a story told by British Airways (BA).


Video source

BA obviously wanted to sell its planes, service, and people. It did so with a story that focused on the relationship between the two main characters in the video.

Despite being a made up story, it was believable because the characters looked real. They were not movie stars and could pass for an actual flight attendant and passenger. The focus on the relationship between the two characters created an emotional link between the two.

The strong storytelling elements were believability and emotions. The same two elements could also be part of the narratives of qualitative reports, educational videos, or conference presentations.

A research study or lesson example could be contrived, but it must be real to the participants. To be effective, the intervention needs to elicit the emotions of the participants. Fail to do these and you succeed only in disconnecting with your learners.

Just one of CNET’s eleven reasons why Apple and Adobe should fear Microsoft caught me eye. It was Microsoft Story Remix (MSR).


Video source

The video above outlines what MSR might do.

I was not impressed with the bling factors like the fire football and exploding goal. I was taken more by the seamless combining of videos shot by different people.

The seamless stitching is an example of using technology productively and meaningfully. The software does the heavy lifting of collating videos and presenting preliminary cuts and sequences. The human can decide to make tweaks like rearranging sequences and providing one or more foci. The software and humanware each do what they do best.

Is creativity threatened by technology now? Only if we let it do all the doing and thinking.

The technologies we invent are our tools and instruments. We need to acknowledge that we shape our tools and instruments, and in doing so, they influence our expectations and behaviours.

We shape our tools and then our tools shape us. -- Marshall McLuhan.

With something like MSR, there is no need to hoard and rely on individually shot videos. Instead, there is incentive to share and truly collaborate. Contributors simply need to upload to a shared space.

Once the videos are there, each contributor can make their own video or they can rely on one person to do this. In either case, MSR take the tedium out of the task.

Anything that promotes meaningful and helpful collaboration is good in my book. MSR is a great example of how to design for it.

Disclosure: This reflection was not prompted by or paid for by Microsoft. It is also not a product endorsement. My focus is about powerful and meaningful integration of technology for education. My goal is not to make rich corporations richer. It is to enrich the thinking of educators.

I am evaluating the lesson plans of future facilitators. Normally I wait till the end of the semester to reflect on the common misconceptions that arise. However, critical patterns have already emerged.

One mistake is not articulating how they form student groups using pedagogical principles. Novice instructors often assume that students will form groups, know how to form different types of groups, and/or know what to do in those groups. This is not true even with learners who have worked in loose cooperative groups before. This is because context and content change the strategy for the type of cooperative work.

What might work with heterogeneous grouping in one context might not work with another class learning the same content. The second class might need different-sized groups, more homogeneous groups, or different group strategies.

I model these strategies in my workshops. Here is one example.

As my learners come from different schools in a university, I make them find peers of similar backgrounds so that they are in more homogenous groups. I get them to play an academic dating game by asking each person to write their school and teaching topic on a piece of paper. Then I ask them to use that paper sign to find birds of similar feather and to flock together. The rest of the session then looks something like this.

My design rationale is simple: My learners uncover generic cooperative and learner-centric strategies during my workshops. However, they need to apply them in specific teaching contexts. What works in one context might not work in another. So the more similar their backgrounds and shared histories, the less cognitive burden my learners have to shoulder when they unpack and repack the strategies.

There is value in using more diverse groups, of course. The cross-fertilisation of ideas when an language historian shares strategies with a theoretical physicist can be wonderful, but this is more likely to work for a group of more advanced participants.

Depending on the group of learners I have that day, I facilitate a rise above of the experience so that we analyse the design of grouping for cooperative learning. Perhaps I should not assume some groups get it and others do not. I should set aside time and space for all groups to rise to this lofty ideal.


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