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Posts Tagged ‘information

I learnt from this tweeted news article that I had been invited to get my second COVID-19 vaccine booster.

The vaccination centre I previously visited had closed after the height of the pandemic, so I had to look for another one. I found an alternative thanks to this website and it even provided information like operating hours. It was timely information.

But when my wife and I made our way to that centre, a security guard told us that no staff was around and we could wait for about an hour for their return. Two other groups of people who walked through the gates after us were told the same thing. Only then did we see a printout on a notice board that staff had a lunch and dinner break.

Of course they did. They are doing good work and need good food. I wonder why that information was not included in the website. To be fair, the break information was on another website. But I only had the information from the first site.

Mine is not a complaint against these frontline workers. Instead I am reflecting on the importance of providing timely information to stakeholders. Once again I view this with an educator’s/learning designer’s lens: If information is important enough, repeat it in the different places it might be found. 

A simple application of this principle is providing clear and concise instructions more than once. I practice what I preach when providing information to my learners in email, course sites, Google Docs, etc. 

This might seem repetitive, but we need to realise that the learner does not see what an expert or designer sees. It is better to assume that they see it just once and take that at face value. This is empathetic and realistic learning design.

I reject the simplistic notion that we suffer from “information overload”. What ails us might be a deficit of healthy skepticism nurtured by modern literacy and critical thinking. I arrived at that conclusion as I read this tweeted report by STonline.

I am not denying that we have more information now that we have ever had before. This is merely a function of time and evolution. We will have more information tomorrow than we have today. This does not mean that we have an overload of information.

Instead, I would wager that most people operate in their bubbles. This means that they already filter information based on biases and beliefs. They are not overloaded with it; they are consuming it with glee.

But I also acknowledge that people might wonder what to do with new sets of information that seem contradictory. Take, for example, the information, misinformation, and disinformation around COVID-19 and its vaccines over the last two years.

That is not because there was an overload of information. There was a lack of scientific and modern literacy, i.e., an ignorance about how scientific discoveries are made and evaluated, and the inability to read laterally and critically. To those ends I agree wholeheartedly with the call to prepare teachers to educate differently and better.

But I worry about the buzzwords in the article that negate this well-intentioned call. For example, it referred to implementing “best teaching practices” as if there was a set that you could use among diverse contexts like ITEs, polytechnics, and universities. You need only consider one faculty member teaching two classes of students taking the same course to realise that you cannot teach both exactly the same way.

The article also name dropped “e-pedagogy” as if it was a new thing. I think that it is NOT new and more to do with mindset than skillset. You cannot rely only on courses and professional development to nurture such mindsets.

Is that a cognitive overload? Think again. It is cognitive dissonance and the start of learning something new if you choose to take that journey.

My response to this tweet is twofold.

Yes, if by information you also mean misinformation and disinformation.

No, you can manage the information that comes your way.

Yes, if you think that meaning only flows one way or is restricted to certain people.

No, because learning is about making meaning with the help of others around you. We do that all the time and in abundance.

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.

Video source

If there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe and they watch YouTube, they might mistake this serious news piece for a comedy show.

What seemed like a ruse by a politician to the journalist turned out be fundamental and easily avoidable mistakes by “educated” people.

The figure on the poster was misrepresented because someone did not realise that “140” was the 140th footnote. The politician was also using a ten-year-old publication to highlight a study that no longer exists.

You cannot claim to be educated today if you cannot smell something fishy. What looks like an attempt to turn a six-figure amount into a nine-figure sum was down to poor information literacy (specifically, citing footnotes). 

What looks like a legitimate claim of wasted money is empty because 1) the study concluded in 2016, and 2) it has legitimate purpose and design [Scientific American]. The basic information literacy skills here: Finding out if the study is still valid and why it was funded in the first place.

Sidenote: The politician also used a sensational image of a quail fed a small mountain of cocaine. Even a person without a science background might realise that is not how doses are given. This was not a frivolous coke party for birds but a study to “look at underlying hormonal and neurobiological changes which may underlie that behavior following cocaine exposure”.

If something smells fishy, follow your nose. But first make sure that your nose has been trained to figure out what the different smells might mean.

Video source

The first five minutes of this news video was a critique of Trump’s attempt to mislead with disinformation.

Twitter and Facebook blocked Trump’s attempt to share a clip in which he reportedly said that “children are almost – and I would almost say definitely – almost immune from this disease”. The news folk pushed back with corrections, but slipped as they did so.

The news anchor said that Twitter and Facebook had blocked Trump’s misinformation. The claim that children are “almost immune from the disease” is disinformation, not misinformation. It was a deliberate attempt to convince parents that it is safe to send their kids to school so that the parents can get back to work.

Misinformation might be a result of early and incomplete fact-finding. It could also be a result of unclear or ambiguous phrasing. Disinformation flies in the face of facts. Being immune to the SARS-CoV-2 virus means your body can fight it off. It does not mean that you cannot transmit it. Immune persons can still transmit the virus they are not hygienic and do not maintain physical distance.

The reporter on the ground said that “precision is so important when you are talking about peoples’ health”. Being precise is not the same as being accurate.

Accuracy is about hitting the target, i.e., getting the facts right. Precision is about being consistent. It is important to be accurate first and then precise with explanations and elaborations. If you are not accurate first, it is still possible to be precisely wrong.

This is not a game of semantics. This is about being scientifically literate. This means getting information from reputable and reliable sources, and using accurate and precise language to communicate these findings.

News agencies can be a good source of information, but they are not necessarily halls of information and scientific literacy. It is up to teachers and educators to first develop these skill and mind sets, and then model and teach these to students.

What is lateral reading? This video provides the basics.

It first points out that “information literacy” or “cyber wellness” lessons might teach students how to spot relatively superficial markers, e.g., author’s expertise, citations, type of website.

It cited the example of how a .org but right-leaning site could actually be more biased than a reputable news-reporting .com site.

Lateral Reading screenshot.

Then it described lateral reading simply — not just reading up and down a single website source but also opening up searches and other other sources in parallel browser tabs to check for credibility.

Lateral reading was something that Crash Course (CC) visited in 2019 as part of a series on information literacy. You can practice lateral reading (and watching) by clicking on the Stanford abstract or on my quick review of the CC video.

One component of instructional design is information design. There are many aspects of information design and I use a short video to illustrate why information design is important.

Video source

After watching the news report about malware masquerading as a contact tracing app, you 1) know such malware exists, and 2) do not know exactly which two malware apps mimic the contact tracing app in Singapore.

Knowing something is good, but acting on what you know is crucial. Effective instructional design does not just focus only on content delivery, it is also about getting the learner to meaningfully apply knowledge.

Information design includes the sequencing and chunking of information so that each learner can negotiate that into knowledge. The video above lacks information on 1) what the names of the two malware apps are, 2) how to distinguish the authentic app from the fake ones, and 3) what to do if you have installed the fake app.

A precursor of any design effort is having empathy for the learner. It is about anticipating questions and answers from them. It is not about answering all possible questions. It is about addressing the most critical issues.

Video source

The video above has a clickbait title — this one weird trick will help you spot clickbait.

The examples highlight not one but three strategies when evaluating clickbait titles of news or video reports:

  1. Drawing a line between cause and effect
  2. Understanding the impact of sample size on reported results
  3. Distinguishing between statistical or scientific significance and practical bearing

Crash Course provided a ten-part series called Navigating Digital Information. But what good is claiming to be information literate if you cannot prove it?

Video source

This TED-Ed video is a quick test on applying some of that knowledge by evaluating misleading headlines.

The video title states that this test is Level 1. So will there be more difficult tests?


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