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Posts Tagged ‘ideas

I could not agree more with the tweet and the article above. While the article focused on individualisation, I zoom in on something more basic — technical affordances that lead to pedagogical and social affordances.

For example, consider how video subtitles meant to help the hearing-impaired also help those who are learning a new language or who simply cannot play audio out loud in a train, library, or a noisy home.

Video conferencing tools now allow session leaders to lock and expand certain users in view [example]. This might help lip readers and those who need special attention. But this also provides teachers with the flexibility of changing the social dynamic of an online class. Instead of treating everyone the same, she can focus on those who need more help.

The technical affordances of edtech can also help teachers. Consider this tweet thread by an educator who has ADHD and reduced short term memory.

She was not allowed to use a teleprompter — something she relies on regularly for her own instructional videos — when she was asked to be a guest on another show. If she had, she would not have been so upset.

If the other show’s handlers claim that they had no teleprompter software, they need only refer to the next tweet.

Apparently you can simulate a teleprompter with Pages, the latter of which is a free application on Macs and iOS devices. By leveraging on this technical affordance, the show’s handlers could have given that teacher the confidence to speak more naturally and effectively. The same might be said of kids who might share the same condition.

We can and should draw inspiration and ideas from SPED in order to inform mainstream schooling and education. To do that, we need to keep our radars up on new technological affordances and then create social and pedagogical opportunities.

I have been sitting on some ideas for a cooperative video conferencing tool. The ideas have been stirring in my pot for a while and the stew is still cooking.

What I am talking about? After reading this opinion piece by Jason Feiffer — the brilliant mind behind the Pessimists Archive podcast, I learnt about a prototype video conferencing tool called Around.

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The video above has no sound and illustrates the simplicity and unobtrusiveness of the tool. Unlike most video conferencing tools that dominate the desktop space, participants are represented in circles. I represent this in a wireframe below.

Wireframe for Around.

Designed for laptops, Around uses auto-zoom and noise cancelling to keep each participant’s face and voice in focus [TechCrunch].

But I wondered how a tool meant for small team meetings could be used in a cooperative learning context. Instead of a didactic or teacher-dominated online meeting, how might the tool be modified to be more student-centric? I share more wireframes below for some ideas.

In my vision of the application (which I call Around and About) there are three basic layers: Participants, Shared Space (e.g., web browser), Variable (hidden behind a “hamburger” menu).

When participants enter the online classroom, they appear as circles or bubbles on the left. This is the Participants layer.

Around and About: Participants layer.

All participants and the facilitator can see the shared space (e.g., photo, video, presentation, whiteboard, etc.). Like Around, the students ”float” around the resource that the facilitator places centrally.

Around and About: Shared space.

But the real power is what lies hidden in the hamburger menu. At the moment, I can think of three components: Cooperative mode, Tools, and Settings.

Around and About: Hamburger menu that hides the Variable layer.

The Cooperative mode presents options to toggle four modes (to be illustrated later).

Around and About: Four online classroom modes.

The Tools help the facilitator decide which mode to use. Examples of Tools might be polls (grouping by choice), quizzes (grouping by evidence of learning), and free response or exit tickets. The tools do not have to be part of Around and About. They can be brought in as layers, e.g., Padlet for sharing and voting on ideas).

Around and About: Tools layer.

The Settings layer is a must because every tool has this. They might include access, rostering, tool toggles, etc.

Around and About: Settings layer.

But back to the Modes. The first is A for Automatic. Students are evenly and randomly divided into groups. In the example below, 20 students are divided into 4 groups of 5 students each.

Around and About: Automatic grouping mode.

In Manual mode, a facilitator might use a poll or quiz result to group students manually. In the example below, the facilitator uses quiz results to divide the class into two cooperative halves. One half participants in paired work (e.g., think-pair-share) while the other half cooperates in 2 groups of 5 students each.

Around and About: Manual grouping mode.

I envision that the Manual mode is enabled partly by the results or evidence shown in the Tools. Alternatively, the groups are created manually by the facilitator’s judgement. A facilitator does this by drag-and-dropping students with a computer mouse or via a touchscreen.

If a touchscreen is capable of multitouch, a facilitator can “grab” a few students simultaneously to place them in a group. The application senses the student circles by proximity and groups them. Perhaps the students can be represented by different coloured halos depending on their groups. Alternatively, a dotted line could represent the groups.

Around and About: Manual grouping mode showing how groups might be distinguished.

The Strategic mode could be used to put students “homogenous” groups, e.g., based on gender or performance bands, or it could create “heterogenous” groups to facilitate jigsaw-style learning.

Around and About: Strategic grouping mode, e.g., homogenous groups.

Around and About: Strategic grouping mode, e.g., heterogenous groups.

The facilitator can reset the class to the default state with the fourth mode, Reset.

Around and About: Reset to default whole class mode.

I am not aware of a cooperative learning tool that works the way I imagine it. Around and About takes the visual and audio focus of Around and combines it with a student-centred approach to facilitating learning.

Side note: The wireframes were created in a Google Presentation using the Portfolio template.

There is no need to reinvent the wheel if you consult experts who already make and improve wheels. When going online, there is no need to write a new textbook on what to do if you first find out what researchers and practitioners already know and do.

One of the best people to consult is Martin Weller. Here are pots of advice he offered over two blog entries.

  • Going online is not quick, easy, or cheap. For it to be effective, the move requires schools and education institutes to invest in developing the expertise in its own staff instead of outsourcing.
  • Plan in phases: Consider what needs to be done now, in the mid term, and in the longer term; factor in the support for students and staff to prevent dropouts and burnouts.

I would simply add this: Building school infrastructure, a normal curriculum, and conventional assessment takes significant time and effort, so the same expectation should apply to efforts online. One key task to start the wheels turning is to ask educators these questions and help them find answers:

  • How might teaching online be different from doing so face-to-face?
  • What processes can teachers replicate online? What practices should teachers avoid?
  • How might teachers avoid the cool tool trap and instead focus on what matters?

Yesterday, I conducted a Google Hangouts (GH) version of my face-to-face module. It was for eight students who had to take a COVID-19 leave-of-absence.

I had to make substantial modifications because the module was optimised for blended learning, not online-only interaction. The changes would take too long to explain here, but I reflect now on the simpler technical and social tips that make the pedagogical path smoother.

Ensure that everyone has a Gmail account first. Everyone being in the Google ecosystem first prevents problems later.

There are several ways to invite participants to GH. For me, the fastest way was to invite everyone was via a Google Calendar update with an automatic Gmail notification.

Do not use the video call option as this limits the number of users to five for those outside the Edu or Enterprise plans. A normal hangout via Calendar or Gmail invitation hosts 25 users and includes the video call anyway.

Google Hangouts screenshot of screen sharing in progress.

GH automatically switches to the user it thinks is speaking. This means that a user’s background noises can switch focus to that user. If you are screen sharing, tell users to mute their microphones. This keeps the focus on your screen share by preventing audio leaks from each user.

Highlight the texting tool at bottom-left corner of the video conference window. This is not normally in view and requires a rollover of the cursor to the bottom-left corner. It is a handy emergency tool should audio or video cut out.

Advise users to wear ear/headphones. For users of laptops, this prevents audio feedback from the speakers to the microphone. If they do not, the entire session can sound echo-y to everyone. If the ear/headphones are noise-cancelling, all the better for reducing ambient sound.

Tell users to find a quiet place with a strong and reliable Internet connection. Duh.

Use laptops, not phones or tablets. Functionality is limited on the latter by design.

I changed my mind. Here is one pedagogical design principle: Simplify the tasks. GH is not a full-blown conferencing system with hand-raising or group discussion spaces. Those features require paid subscriptions to platforms like Zoom or proprietary systems in LMS.

Some teachers crave videos that do ALL the teaching for them. I can understand that as a human response to unburdening oneself.

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But here is another strategy: Leveraging on videos that spark discussion. With enough creativity and critical thinking, an educator can weave just about anything — the Marvel comic universe, for example — into any subject. Here are just two examples on physics and philosophy.

This is a quick thought dump. Instead of hastily typing some ideas down in the Notes app, I am recording some preliminary ideas for a possible curriculum workshop.

Content design
Serial vs parallel (vs rhizomal?) plans
Continuous vs segmented curricular trains

Time considerations
Using academic terms and semesters
Redefining the “pie chart” of time

Meta design
Strategies for sensing change
Change management

Other design considerations
Alignment, Assessment, and Authenticity

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It is easy to tweet the essence of the advice that Alan Alda shared about public speaking: Share just three ideas, said three different ways, and iterated three times each.

But that distilled wisdom becomes a meaningless tip if you do not adopt the same value system of wanting to create an authentic connection.

Alda took time and care to bracket his three tips with the need to make that human connection. Public speakers and teachers might take that advice as a golden reminder that delivering messages and running the curricular race come a distant second behind making that connection.

If you cannot reach them, you cannot teach them.

Why do some consultants, designers, and teachers constrain video game-based learning to old or current practices?

That was the question I asked myself when I read this article, Gaming in the classroom: what we can learn from Pokémon Go technology.

The piece offered what seems to be some good ideas on how to leverage on gaming. The examples were:

  • whole-class discussions of how the movement of tectonic plates has affected GPS readings in Australia (science, geography, English)
  • photographing both real insects and virtual Pokémon and then writing up Pokédex entries for the insects they have collected (science, media studies, ICT, English, art)
  • designing classification flowcharts for Pokémon as a lead-up to classification of animals (science, English, maths)
  • assigning students the job of Pokéstop tour guide (Pokéstops are often positioned in front of historical locations), requiring them to research and report on the history of the area (history, art, English)
  • framing maths problems around the data available for each Pokémon such as height, weight and strength. For example, if I have 3,700 stardust, what combination of Pokémon can I power up that will use up all my stardust? Or Asha’s house is 600m from school. The only time she plays Pokémon Go is as she walks to and from school every day. How many days will it take her to hatch a 5.0km egg?

The ideas are better than what some teachers I know would come up with. But teachers tend to teach the way they were taught and constrain gaming to current constructs and practices of curriculum.

One construct is discrete units or silos like separate academic subjects and the subtopics within. Gaming tends to transcend this by being cross and multidisciplinary.

One practice is repetition by way of drilling simply because “this was how I was taught”. This was why drill-and-practice dominated early educational “games” and are still common today. Some refer to this practice as serving chocolate-covered broccoli.

Another traditional construct and practice is class or curriculum time. Specifically how tasks need to be completed like a checklist in class and within tight curriculum time. What falls through is then called homework and extra classes. Gaming happens any time, all the time, or on-demand.

The shortcut is simply this: Teachers bend games to the will of curriculum and distort what could be very powerful game-based learning into game-incentivised teaching.

To change teaching, the teacher needs to learn to behave like the learner-gamer by exploring, experimenting, and experiencing. The bad news is that there are no shortcuts. The good news is that gaming is fun.

The article was not without its merits. The best part was this:

the general capability priorities such as critical and creative thinking, personal and social capability and, of course, ICT, could also be taught using Pokémon Go as students manage their school and social lives, build relationships with others, work effectively in teams and make responsible decisions.

As this game is not played from behind closed doors, it even encourages conversations about personal safety. Discussions about the intersection between reality and the virtual world and digital etiquette are easy to imagine.

The constructs and practices to draw from the paragraphs is that game-based learning should be authentic, context-based, relevant to the learner, and transferable. Such ideas are not constrained by the baggage of schooling.

Yesterday I shared some visual design considerations I take for my talks. Today I focus on interaction design.

My latest effort is a step down from what I normally do. I am designing for lower grade interaction by leaving out a backchannel throughout the session and one-minute paper at the end.

I am doing this because I understand my overseas audience. It is a place I have been invited to every year since 2013 and the mobile connection is unpredictable. It is not that they are unresponsive; they just cannot reliably connect to the Internet.

That said, I am still relying on two online tools that require low bandwidth from the participants.

My go-to presentation platform is Google Slides because it is free, flexible, and online. I can edit the content up to the last minute and share the slides with my audience.

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In terms of interaction, I intend to try Google Slide’s “new” Q&A tool since I am not relying on my preferred tool, TodaysMeet. The audience can participate by suggesting and ranking questions.

I will also use Google Form’s quiz and auto-grading feature (similar to Flubaroo). I will create this experience for my participant as an introduction to being information literate and to establish the themes of my session.

Mobile access to online quiz and themes of my session.

I anticipate that most participants will be armed with their own phones and this will also be message about leveraging on BYOD and personal forms of learning.

Most talks seem to focus on the talk. I plan mine with lessons from educational psychology and visual design principles. I try to focus on listening as I talk in order to change minds. This is effort that often goes unappreciated, but I know that it matters.

As I draft this reflection, I am facing an impasse with an organiser of a talk I am due to give overseas*. The issue is whether or not I should use the organiser’s PowerPoint template (complete with corporate branding) as the background of my slides.

My conversation with the organiser is between them and me. However, I realised this was a learning opportunity, not on how to negotiate in such situations, but how and why I design slides to visually deliver subtle yet powerful messages.

Visual design: Quote.

I often opt for a minimal look instead of heavy text and bullet points. I have learnt that I should tell the story, not the slides; they are there to back me up.

In this set of slides, I took minimalism one step further by relying on black, white, and the shades between.

Visual design: Themes.

The slide above is early in the sequence and shows the themes of my presentation. The slide below is near the end and highlights a closing message.

Visual design: Conclusion

The theme slide follows an online activity and the words scaffold what I lead participants to reflect on. The conclusion slide helps me deliver a closing mantra. The difference between the two is their lateral alignment.

The anglosphere is used to reading left to right. The conclusion slide is expected and easy to read. This is critical at the end of talk if you want the audience to focus on takeaways and temporarily put aside questions, dissonance, and tiredness.

The reflection slide might cause a bit of visual dissonance because the header and text are not where they usually are.

Visual design: Step back, reflective elements.

Here is another slide from the same deck that uses my switch-to-the-right theme. I use this visual technique to highlight dissonance.

When you look in the mirror, you see yourself laterally inverted. It is you, but not quite you. The reflection is an opportunity to examine yourself and focus on what needs improvement.

So my normal left-aligned layouts are messages I share while the right-aligned ones are for dissonance and reflection. My presentations tend to be iterative cycles of presenting forward and stepping back.

This is subtle and I do not explain this design to my audience. But I will invariably get feedback that the slides are visually impactful.

Visual design: Colour punches.

Before my audience can get comfortable with soothing greyscale, I provide the occasional punches of colour. If I go on a storytelling stretch or a series of slides to make a point, I emphasise these presenting forward elements with colour shouts to make sure that the main question, point, or challenge is clear.

Tomorrow I share how I design talks for interaction.

*Update: The issue is resolved and I am using my own visual design instead of a corporate template.


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