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Posts Tagged ‘ideas

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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.

Rising above my experiences on getting data SIMs in Sweden and Denmark, I had five overall thoughts.


First, it helps to be organized. SIM cards are small, finicky things that are easy to lose. I carry SIMs, adapters, sticky tape, and the SIM tray pokey pin thing in an SD card case. I might consider bringing SIM cutters too.

Second, in circumstances like mine, having an unlocked, dual SIM phone like the Moto G was invaluable. This phone was a cheap spare that also served as my son’s gaming device. I used one SIM slot for Lebara SMS and calls, and the other slot for Oister data. If the Lebara SIM worked properly, the spare slot could hold any other SIM, e.g., Singapore telco SIM for updates. Having your home country’s SIM is useful for receiving updates from family, credit card use, and, ugh, work.

Third, do not assume that all telcos operate the same way. Soon after I bought the Oister starter pack, a Finn entered the store and asked for a prepaid data SIM. We started chatting and he remarked that even though it was 2014, the standards of practice of prepaid SIMs were frustratingly varied. I agreed with him. But a combination of online research and friendly chats with people can minimize the frustration.

Fourth, the easy thing to do is pay ridiculous amounts of money to your home telco for calls, SMS, and data roaming. You learn a lot more and save some money by picking up a local SIM. Having a local number is also helpful to friends or contacts you might have in the country you are visiting.

Fifth, never underestimate how much data you might use, especially if you back up or sync photos online like me. Not all telcos will help you monitor your data use (Lebara provided rough voice messages if you called and sent an SMS notification when you had 50MB left; Oister offered no notifications). So go for more data than you need to avoid complications or hassles, and use a data monitoring tool/app on your device.

Hmm, maybe I should write about getting SIMs in other places I have travelled like Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand.

I know for a fact that people steal the ideas that I share as I reflect openly in my blog. But I am not too worried.

When I say steal, I mean that people take the credit for my work (or even make a profit off an idea) and fail to properly attribute me or my blog as a source.

Part of the problem lies with the prevalent mentality that “if it is online, it is free for all”. That could not be further from the truth from a legal standpoint, but try arguing with the thieves and you will get nowhere.

It is sometimes difficult to lay claim to an idea or definitively identify the source of an idea. There are very few unique ideas. All of us stand on the shoulders of some other giant.

The knee-jerk reaction is to not share at all or to create in a closed environment. I do not think this is helpful because it does not allow for a diversity of ideas that result from cross-pollination.

Another reaction is to remain open. I do not mind if my some of my ideas get taken and developed for the greater good. But I do ask that people respect the Creative Commons license I share them under (scroll down and look to the right).

Putting your ideas online, well formed or not, will date and time-stamp them. In the absence of a patenting or intellectual properties office, this allows you to lay claim to an idea quickly and freely.

That aside, I believe that what goes around comes around. If you steal or fail to give credit where it is due, your actions will return to haunt you. You will get away with it some of the time, but you will not get away with it all of the time.

Trawl the Web for tips on how to use Twitter and you will be inundated. There are tips for businesses, marketers, celebrity-wannabes, teachers, etc.

Perhaps a bit less common are tips on how NOT to use Twitter.

I have one such NOT tip and I use a segment of an Edutopia-produced video of Ngee Ann Secondary School to illustrate. But some disclaimers first.

No video paints a complete picture of the story it tries to tell. Ngee Ann Secondary is definitely not representative of schools in Singapore (no matter what Edutopia titles it). Some brushstrokes are wrong too (e.g., Ngee Ann Polytechnic is featured in the video).

Back to how not to use Twitter.

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I get that we want to leverage on the mobile tools that learners already have. I support that cause.

But I am critical of strategies that are not rigorous and I refer to this segment in the video above (2min 29sec to 3min 15sec).

Anyone who has been on Twitter long enough knows that an egg avatar indicates a very new account, a mass-created account, or an account whose subscriber takes little or no ownership of it. If you are going to leave a digital trail in the form of a video, leave a wise one.

The example also showed a teacher asking a question and telling his students to tweet True or False answers. What value is there in doing that?

Do we want to leverage on the mobile tools that learners already have? Yes. Should we ask them to tweet when they can answer yes or no more immediately? I think not.

The teacher may have linked Twitter to a poll or quiz and that provides statistics, but the value was added to the teacher. The teacher might state with greater certainty that, say, 62% of the class understood the concept and 38% did not. What is the real value to the learner?

This is an example of technology use in the classroom. But there is no technology integration. It looks cool on the surface, but I think it is harmful in the long run if this sets the standard for practice and if the practice is perpetuated as acceptable or even sold as a “best” practice.

For technology to be integrated, it must be indispensable and bring value to the learner.

If there is some other way of answering a true/false question, then Twitter is not integrated. If Twitter is used simply because it is available as a mobile app, then it is not integrated.

How might Twitter bring value to students?

The cop-out method is to say students prefer short-form communication and to use that in class. That meets students where they are at, but it also keeps them where they are.

What students need to learn is how to be concise, how to summarize, or how to reflect on learning. The brevity imposed by Twitter is a means of achieving that.

To do that requires learners to move from simple understanding to complex and back to “simple” again. There is a construction of information and a deconstruction. The second process of simplification is a reconstruction. These are thinking skills that are far more important than content knowledge.

How should one NOT use Twitter? To do something you can already do plainly, traditionally, or with some other better technology.

How might one integrate Twitter into learning? Take advantage of the technical affordance of Twitter (140-character limit) to create social affordances (negotiate meaning) and pedagogical affordances (teach summarizing or critical thinking skills).

How should we NOT use Twitter? To pander to superficial needs.

How might we leverage on Twitter? Use it to teach students when NOT to use Twitter and how to use it responsibly.

In short, you should not use Twitter because it is cool or because students prefer short-form communication. You use it to teach them how to struggle with a problem and distill concise solutions.

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