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Posts Tagged ‘mind

Something I heard on a podcast reminded me of a design principle I am using for online learning.

In the podcast, one person told a story of how her mother found a tool to create word searche puzzles for that person’s grandmother. This was an attempt to stem the mental deterioration of the grandmother.

To make activity more meaningful, the mother used the names of relatives so that the grandmother would not forget them. The grandmother appreciated the effort, but she also remarked, “Who the hell are all these people?”

I laughed. I also reflexively thought about how this was similar to pedagogical design — there is a gap between the intent and the outcome.

How so? The design of online resources is often about the content, activities, and time spent on both. They are about the what, how, and when of learning. Some learners will just do what they are told. Others will not.

My learners are teachers and educators. Sometimes these are the toughest learners because they are comparing their own teaching and learning experiences with an online one I design for them. I have decided to include short design rationales with each activity. I am telling them why I have designed something that way and why they need to perform that task.

I hope that making design rationales clear helps my learners connect better with the processes and products of learning. I am revealing my state of mind so that they are less likely to ask, “Why the heck am I doing this?”

If a catchy tune is an ear worm, might we also have mind worms?

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The anthem, Bella Ciao, sung by the crew of Money Heist is as memorable as the series.

Despite its success internationally, I found out from a documentary that the show practically failed in its home country of Spain. The documentary also explained why it succeeded on the wider stage.

The mind worm that change agents might need is pushing on despite “failure”. Sometimes these are due to bad timing, differing expectations, administrative barriers, poor support, etc.

But persistent effort can pay off eventually. For example, change agents might have run against walls when designing and implementing actual online learning. But now everyone wants in because COVID-19 has moved the goalposts.

The ear worm anthem is about the resistance against fascists in Italy. It might be thought of as a rally to be bold and celebrate victories. Change agents in schooling and education do not don Dali masks and red overalls, but they can resist boldly and share success stories.

Recently I shared how Mindmeister held years of collaborative mind mapping and some of my personal work hostage.

I also could not find a suitable replacement that was free or at a reasonable cost, and one that would allow me to model various pedagogical strategies.

What was I to do? Mind mapping was the best option to make thinking and learning visible in that learning context, but I no longer had access to a tool I had used for years.

I tried alternatives like Coggle and, but they did not have a free and open option that allowed non-members to edit mind maps.

These companies either like to tout how simple or intuitive their tools are, or how feature-rich they are. Neither matters if people cannot access them more openly. They need to operate more like Google Docs, Slides, or Sheets that allow guest access.

I was able to Coggle mind maps with one group as I had their email addresses and they could sign up beforehand. However, I do not always have this information, or if I do, I am not willing to hand them over to a company with questionable practices.

So how now, brown cow?

I used a hybrid strategy.

I used a mind mapping tool to create a central idea and some main branches. Then I required learners to paste sticky notes on projections of the maps.

My learners could not see archived versions of their notes with this method. However, that was not the point. Once thinking was visible with all groups, I directed each group to view the work of others in a round robin fashion.

I am still sore that I do not have an open and reliable go-to mind map tool. But the circumstances have forced me to do something a bit different for similar learning outcomes.

Mind maps are useful for capturing brainstormed ideas, organising essays, or showing the relationships between concepts.

Every academic semester, I blow the digital dust off online mind maps for courses that I facilitate. I have tried many services and one of my go-tos was MindMeister. The operative word: Was.

I jumped on the MindMeister bandwagon when it was in its infancy. My learners (preservice teachers) and I used it a few times every semester. Occasionally, I would also use it for meetings or consulting gigs to present ideas or proposals.

My early efforts were rewarded. MindMeister gave me membership status for my use and it built up to a few years worth of paid subscription. This was a fair exchange for the publicity I generated by modelling its use with my classes.

Every now and then I would also receive notifications by email that an old map was updated — my former student teachers were referring to and editing old mind maps! Back then I hoped that they were conducting school-based professional development for their colleagues.

But now my efforts are wasted and my hopes dashed. The rewards scheme was long gone and my membership ran out. I also stopped getting the notifications. Now neither my former students nor I can access the mind maps.

Ransomed mind maps

I can see a long list of mind maps in my account, but the items are greyed out. I cannot even view my mind maps. That’s right, the mind maps and the work therein are MINE.

I am being held for ransom — I must pay up before I can access my property. I have to keep paying if I want access.

This is like renting a house only to be locked out. It seems fair that the landlord does this if I do not pay rent. But here’s the thing: I was invited to stay for free in the house because I attracted people to the neighbourhood. The terms have changed and I only ask to get in so I can pull my property out.

I would not mind paying for something that I used to get for free if there were options beyond a one-size-fit-all monthly subscription. My use is sporadic but strategic, not constant and blind.

Thankfully I had the foresight to screenshot or export some of my current mind maps. This is like having photos of my property that is locked in the house.

I now use those images to recreate the mind maps. But not in MindMeister. After all, no one wants to rent another place with the same landlord when s/he still holds the keys to your old place.

It is no big secret that the level of service in Singapore leaves much to be desired. It is acceptable in areas like cafes, but sub-standard elsewhere.

I take a poke at one aspect of customer service and find a link to schooling. Consider some overused and unquestioned phrases in email replies.

Please be informed that…
I asked customer service about an establishment’s parking arrangements. Their reply was: “Please be informed that we have 2 options for car parking service as below”.

Leave the phrase out and just state what the information is. This could have shortened and be grammatically corrected to “We have two parking options…”.

Telling someone “to be informed that…” sounds passive-aggressive. You sound like you are pissed off that I asked you something and you are reluctant to answer.

Please be informed that the way you write implies a tone whether you intended it or not. Tone up your writing by being simple and direct.

Revert back
“Revert” is to return to an original state. This is a 180 degree turn or a reversal. “Back” is another 180 degree turn. When combined, the two make a 360 degree pirouette and nothing changes.

Asking one or more people to “revert back to me” is physically impossible. You are you and I am me. I cannot return to an original state that is you and then resume my original development from you to me.

I know that there is a different understanding and acceptance of this phrase. But this is lazy thinking and awkward phrasing.

Just use one of these simple phrases: “Please get back to me by…” or “Please reply by…”. Both are also more specific thanks to a date and/or time.

I say we revert to a time when we communicated simply and clearly instead of trying to sound formal or authoritative. Let us go back to the future.

Gentle reminder
How are reminders gentle? Are you whispering in my ear? If so, that is creepy.

If you did not prefix “reminder” with “gentle”, is the assumption that reminders are rough, jarring, or otherwise unpleasant?

Gentle reminders are sometimes accompanied by a cousin phrase “kindly take note”. Is there a way to take note cruelly? The only person you might use “kindly take note” on is the Hulk because HULK SMASH.

Reminders are not gentle and notes are not kind. Smash this practice hard and mercilessly with “please remember to…”.

Link to schooling
Where do people who write such email learn to use such phrases? Surely not in school because this is writing for and in the workplace. I shudder to think that office administrators attended training where they learnt how to use such choice phrases.

The use of such phrases generally flies under the radar. No one really gets upset, turns into the Hulk, and smashes computers and servers to smithereens.

But small things add up. The little things matter because they combine and become part of a larger problem like poor communication or bad customer service.

Worse still, ignoring these seemingly minor things indicates a mindset among those that teach that standards are allowed to slip.

Standards can change, but they should not slip. If you do not know the difference, then you might have a bigger problem than minding your language.

My classes seem to be drawn to concept and mind mapping, particularly those of the Web 2.0 flavour. One group from each class has opted to present a FIT on

So here’s a useful resource: Below is an overview of what the site offers.

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