Time is up..digital natives and immigrants

We hear the term digital native quite a bit and I have to confess, I may have used the term myself. But is there really a significant difference between a generation who was not born digital and one born in the digital era? Is it the case that those born in the digital era adopt and adapt to new technologies more readily?

It was Prensky who introduced the terms digital natives and immigrants ten years ago and it seemed that everybody loved the idea and jumped on the new buzzword bandwagon.

Much more accurate to me is the concept of Visitors and Residents by David White. White suggests that there are residents who live day to day in the digital world and then there are those who just visit. When you happen to have been born is not so relevant.

As a self confessed nerd born somewhere around the time of the pyramids, I'd have to say I'm a resident. My interest in technology started with Mini bricks and Meccano and a Reel to Reel tape recorder in grade three.

As for my students- A small number of my college diploma students are proficient with technology but the rest are not. My students in a Master's program are similar. Some are technologically proficient and the rest are working on proficiency. Certainly at the end of the program they will all be more than proficient. Will they all be residents? I think that depends a lot on who they started out as. Not everybody wants to live digitally every minute.

OK, above is just my anecdotal experience and view. But the evidence against the idea of digital natives and immigrants is mounting .

By bringing this up, I'm certainly not saying we don't have to use technology to facilitate learning. My belief is that if the world our students live in is filled with technology and if they can use technology to learn almost anything they want to learn outside of class, then the least we can do is engage our students in the place they live.

To continue to use the terms digital natives and assume they are proficient, and those of a certain age are not, is just not true or helpful.

A few interesting articles and posts

Steve Wheeler The Natives are Revolting

Tom Whitby Generational Divide in Education

Open University research explodes myth of digital native

Jones, Chris and Shao The Net Generation and Digital Natives: Implications for Higher Education

Dan Pontefract The Fallacy of Digital Natives

Types of Collaborators

Click image to see full size

What is the point to us at all?

In the article What's Wrong with canned courses? Just one thing, Lisa Lane tells us that what's wrong with using and depending on too many or all of a publisher's prepared content for our courses is that we are modeling the wrong thing. We are modeling a lack of creativity, an absence of critical thinking and a lack of respect for our own profession.

I'd say the problem goes even further: we just aren't doing our job when we adopt these materials without "disassembling, reinventing, repurposing or recreating" them.

When we allow ourselves to be so removed from the actual function of our jobs, what is the point to us at all?

Pearson (Education) is being granted the right to offer degrees in England, and now they are clearly playing a game of openwashing with their new OpenClass LMS. These publishing companies realize that the paper-based textbook market is on its deathbed. It will be all e-book, digital and interactive. Their days of "pushing" paper are numbered.

Knowledge is out there, available and free.

To survive, the publishers and large LMS providers have to change their business model. Part of that change seems to be to position themselves as "open." I'd say they are about as open as BP is green with their BP logo all green and sunny. The other change to survive seems to be one where they encroach on what we as educators do. When we adopt their materials in a big big way, we turn ourselves into clerical workers who simply put up grades and shuffle virtual paper. Gosh, I hope the future of teaching is not as an assembly worker.

I'm not saying that using some of the publishers materials is all bad as long as there is a healthy dose of us in the mix, us as the curators, remixers and creators.

I think it is time to reread our job description. I don't know about yours, but in mine curriculum development is way up there.

When we give that task to Pearson or McGraw-Hill or Blackboard or someone else, are we doing our jobs? Will we have a job in the future?

Will we need colleges and universities?

Teaching and Learning with Twitter by Steve Wheeler

Kevin Kelly of Wired Talks Trends

Kevin Kelly at the July 2011 NExTWORK conference

"NExTWORK a one-day, interdisciplinary conference featuring world-renowned business leaders, technologists, and thinkers exploring the promise and peril of the network's future, as well as pressing digital issues and opportunities today."

A summary of his key trends:

  1. Screening: We are no longer people of the book; we are people of the screen
  2. Interacting: We expect interaction with everything- not just touch but gesture and voice and adaptation to us. The world is two-way mirror. We watch it; it watches us
  3. Sharing: we have a web build on sharing-now we have cloud. The type of cloud we have TBD. Could be multi-cloud or single cloud. We share because we can
  4. Flowing: We now have streams of things. We had file, folder and desktop and then moved to Page, Link, Web, and now we have Stream, Tag and Cloud. We have everything, everywhere, and it is always on
  5. Accessing not Owning: We are moving toward just in time access where we have no storage, no maintenance or burdenship of ownership
  6. Generating not Copying: the internet is a copy machine. The only value is that which can not be copied. How does one make money? Wherever attention flows, money will follow. You may pay for immediacy, personalization, authentication, interpretation, accessibility and attention.

Universal Design for Learning -Extranormal

Waiting for UDL
by: knwilley

QR Codes: The Hunt is On!

Here are a couple of little ideas I came across on the use of QR codes.
The first one a is a marketing/customer service application but it could easily be applied to education.

The above example is a QR code for Washington State Ferries. How could you use a similar idea? Do you want to survey your students with a simple tool like survey monkey? Why not make the experience a little more interactive. If you are creating a scavenger hunt with QR codes why not embed them in interesting places or inside graphics.

You can even put your codes in the wild to promote your seminar!

Need a resume? Why not make your QR code speak for you!

QR CODE - Content-rich Resume from Victor petit on Vimeo.

If you really want to Brand your self there's always a tattoo. Not sure you want to go this far.

A temporary tattoo could be fun though.

Our Symbiotic Relationship with the Google

Google and Memory
Research and Design by: Online Colleges Site

QR Codes!

We know where the Like Button is but where is the Learning Button?

Dr Maria Anderson asks,' Where is the Learn Button?"

Digital natives/immigrants vs Residents and Visitors

Web 3.0- The Next Big Thing

Steve Wheeler on Creative Learning

Tame your information in 99 slides!

Slinky : A Love Story -Misconceptions


Slinky: A Love Story

Consumer Behaviour- It’s just common sense!

In the early 1900’s department store owner John Wanamaker famously said,

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

What Wanamaker recognized is that advertising is not a simple matter. Despite what many people think, marketers are by no means as skilled at manipulating the public as many of us would believe. The fields of marketing and consumer behaviour are filled with misconceptions. It’s not uncommon for people to believe that we all know who we are and we know why we buy. Many believe that consumer behaviour is just about the buying process, and if we have the money we will buy the best product and that best product will be the one that succeeds. People also often believe that if they recognize they have made a poor decision in buying a product, they will readily acknowledge it. All the above are just a few of the many misconceptions about consumer behaviour.

Consumer Behaviour- Wait a minute it’s not so simple!

In reality, consumer behaviour is a complex process that includes what happens before, during and after a purchase. Humans are complex creatures and our self- knowledge varies from person to person. The best product is not always a winner and a poor or silly product can be successful. Although we can be manipulated by marketing pitches, we still have the ability to say no, but one thing is for sure-- thinking and challenging assumptions are required.

As a teacher of a college course called the Psychology of Consumer Behaviour, I have the task to teach the theories of consumer behaviour, stimulate students thinking processes and help them begin to challenge some of the assumptions they hold. Because my course is a general education elective course, I have students from a variety of programs. While some students are from marketing, others could be from graphic design, community service, accounting or any other college program. My approach to the subject has always been two sided. While I can admire a good marketing technique, it is just as important to help others understand how to defend themselves against that very technique.

Misconceptions, Concrete Examples, Discovery Methods and Inductive Reasoning to the Rescue!

In his book Learning and Instruction, Richard Mayer discusses the importance of breaking students’ misconceptions. He promotes the use of concrete examples, discovery methods and inductive reasoning to enable meaningful active learning. Although most of his examples relate to science or math, these same ideas can be used in any area, but specifically in teaching consumer behaviour.

Why I love my Slinky

“What walks down stairs, alone or in pairs, and makes a slinkity sound?
A spring, a spring, a marvelous thing! Everyone knows- it's Slinky.”

By about week 6 in my course, I generally find that my students have a fair bit of knowledge about consumer behaviour. They have had a few opportunities to show that they understand concepts, but they don’t always recognize the depth of their own knowledge, and are not that confident in the area of problem solving. It is about that time that I bring my mini slinky to class. My slinky lesson uses a number of the concepts that Mayer discusses.

Student Mission: Discovery!

My purchase of the mini slinky pictured here has quite a story and it is my students’ mission to figure out all of the following:

· Where did I buy it?

· When did I buy it?

· What store, what location in the store?

· What was the first thing that came into my head when I saw it?

· What type of purchase was it-planned, unplanned?

· What are all the factors that motivated me to buy it?

· What do they know about me that might lead them to understand the purchase?

· Who did I buy it for? If I bought it for someone else, who was it for and why do I still have it?

· If I bought it for someone else how did I rationalize keeping it?

· What are all of the terms that we have talked about in class that explain this purchase?

What Happens when students set to the task: Action!

When students are first presented with the task, they immediately ask, “How do we know?” There are a few groans.

“Ah, but I’m sure by the end of class you will have discovered all the answers,” I say.

The first hint is that I bought it in walking distance of the school. As the students form themselves into groups, I promise that I will give them some hints as they go, but really I want them to question everything. If they want to use their computers to review notes, locate stores in the area or brainstorm in anyway that is all fair game in the pursuit of the slinky story. Technology may play a role, or it may not depending upon the groups’ own approach. Technology could enhance the result especially if they are reviewing course notes online. Students are allowed to ask me some small questions that may guide them. Mayer suggests that guided discovery is “more effective than pure discovery in helping students learn and transfer.” (Mayer, pg 317)

According to Bruner (1981) when students discover rules, they organize their ideas in meaningful ways that result in better learning. Discovery learning can encourage active engagement, promote motivation, autonomy and the development of creative problem solving. Once my students are in groups, I can see that they are really engaged in solving this problem. Immediately, brainstorming is taking place. The groups are active.

During the group discussions, students pass around the little slinky box, the slinky story booklet and the slinky. They examine all of the pieces of the object. I often play one or two of the original slinky commercials during the activity. (There are hints in that.) By using all of the senses students are able to really get into the task through a concrete example. They begin to envision me in the store being motivated by my surroundings while trying to use what they know about me and what they know about consumer behaviour, they transfer their knowledge to the task. The task appeals to Howard Gardners’ Multiple Intelligences. There is thinking, reflecting, spatial knowledge, kinesthetic involvement with the objects, music, pictures and words in the commercial, a group social experience and the use of logic.

The slinky lesson starts with no rules. This is an inductive process. There is the slinky, there is me and then there are only questions. It is not about one final answer-- the lesson involves many steps where the process is more valuable than the end goal. According to Polya, the emphasis should be on the process of problem solving rather than the final answer.” (Mayer, 434) Generally, all the groups answer the majority of the questions.

Reflection. Ah ha!

When we discuss the results and the potential answers, students become aware of other concepts they had not thought of and sometimes I too become aware of things I had not considered. Together the class comes to the conclusion that buying anything no matter how simple can be a complex process that can involve little thinking at times and a lot of thinking at other times. They realize too how questioning can uncover motivations and rationalizations in purchase behaviour. A simple buying process can be affected by people, places, prior experiences and more. Human nature is complex.

I’ve used the slinky lesson a number of times and it has been very successful in showing the students what they know and in reinforcing many of the basic concepts of consumer behaviour. It has also given students an opportunity to problem solve a simple scenario with complex concepts showing them what they know and what they can find out if they question assumptions. From a teacher’s point of view, it illustrates that students are able to transfer knowledge to explain novel situations.

Next time: Maybe a Little More Problem-Solving Process!

What I might do the next time around is outline the problem solving process more. Perhaps I would ask students to write up their process. For example, ask them to clearly define what the problem is. State what is known and unknown, and what are the constraints. I might give them a copy of Wood’s Problem Solving Model: Define the problem, think about it, plan a solution, carry out the plan, look back. (see more detail in Teaching Problem-Solving Skills, University of Waterloo)

Maybe a Little More History to Begin

Next time around, I may begin with a brief history of the slinky. Did you know that there have been over 250 million slinkies made and that if you stretched them out they would circle the earth 126 times? Or that a slinky has been in outer space? NASA crew members took a slinky to space to illustrate simple zero gravity physics. Did you know that the slinky was invented by Richard James as part of his WWII research into springs to stabilize instruments on ships while on rough seas? While James was working, he accidently knocked one of the springs off a bookshelf. Instead of falling to the ground, it stepped its way down a set of books.

And did you know that although it was invented by a man, it took a woman to realize its potential? James’ wife Betty named it “slinky” and pointed out how it could be used as a toy.

“A spring, a spring, a marvelous thing! Everyone knows it's Slinky.”

What concepts does the slinky story tell?

For those who want to know more about the slinky story, I can tell you that some of the concepts it involves are these: consumer behaviour definition, role theory, market segmentation: demographics, psychographics, nostalgic attachment, sensation, perception, vision-colour-graphics-layout, touch, sound, exposure, attention, stimulus selection factors, interpretation, schema, semiotics, positioning strategy, advertising, jingles, learning-classical conditioning, repetition, operant conditioning, cognitive learning, memory, retrieval, recognition, situational factors-environment, drive theory, expectancy theory, needs/wants-goals, motivation- motivational conflict, cognitive dissonance, maslow, involvement, the self, fantasy, self-image congruence model, the extended self, personality, brand personality-branding, point-of purchase displays, time, impulse/planned purchases, attitudes, ABC Model of Attitudes, emotional/rational appeal, theparadox ---> the less important the product is to consumers, the more important are the marketing stimuli.

Slinky Confessional Time!

I did buy the slinky for someone else, but I couldn’t bear to give it up, so I convinced myself I needed it. How did I resolve my cognitive dissonance?

Well, it took me a few minutes to come up with it, but my rational is a good one: It’s not just that I wanted the slinky, I actually need the slinky to teach Psychology of Consumer Behaviour.

And that is a short story of how a want became a need.



Mayer, R.E. (2008). Learning and instruction. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education

Barnes, Julian E. (Jan 26, 2001). Business DIARY: A Name, a name, destined for fame. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2001/01/28/business/business-diary-a-name-a-name-destined-for-fame.html

Discovery learning (Bruner), LearningTheories.com. Retieved from http://www.learning-theories.com/discovery-learning-bruner.html

Fashionable myths about advertising. (May 6, 2009) The Ad Contrarion. Retrieved from http://adcontrarion.blogspot.com/2009/06/5-fashionable-myths-about-advertising.html

Foshay, R., Kirkley, J. (1998). Principles for teaching problem solving. http://www.plato.com/pdf/04_principles.pdf

Kapp, Karl. (June 2009) Teaching tips for problem solving skills, Kapp Notes. Retrieved from http://karlkapp.blogspot.com/2009/06/tips-for-teaching-problem-solving.html

Teaching problem-solving skills, Centre for Teaching Excellence University of Waterloo. Retrieved from http://cte.uwaterloo.ca/teaching_resources/tips/teaching_problem_solving_skills.html

Toy time in space. (April 16, 1995) New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/1985/04/16/science/toy-time-in-space.html?sec=health

Zargaj-Reynolds, Paula. (Aug 8, 2007) Advertising is good for you: Advertising Myths. Retrieved from http://pzrservices.typepad.com/advertisingisgoodforyou/advertising_myths

From Ugly and Bad to A-ha!

From Ugly and Bad to A-ha!

Is reading online different from reading text in printed form? Is learning from a textbook different from learning online?

If you are like most people, you will probably have answered yes to both of these questions. When an instructional designer sets about to create an online lesson, it isn’t as simple as pasting text into an online page. If you have taken online courses, you may have experienced the good, the bad and the ugly. The good would include text with illustrations and interactivity that enhances comprehension. The bad would include massive amounts of text on pages and pages of text with no headings, no focus, no sequence, no classification and no interaction. The ugly would include excessive use of colour on colour without reason, pictures for the sake of pictures rather than illustration, music with no relevance, and information every which way all jammed into one chaotic page. (See samples of the bad and ugly at end of essay)

The Goal of Good Design Principles

In many respects good design principles that promote comprehension in print are transferable to multimedia, but multimedia presents more complications and there is even more need for simplicity and clarity. According to Richard E. Mayer in Learning and Instruction, learners impose structure on lessons. One learner may be advanced and another weak, so it is important that authors of textbooks or lessons impose a structure on their writing. Writing should guide readers to select key ideas, organize these into concepts and integrate new information with their current knowledge or experience. The goal is not just memorization but transferability of ideas, problem-solving and critical thinking.

Structure and Transfer of Learning

In “Teaching by Guiding Cognitive Processes During Learning” (Chapter 10) of Learning and Instruction, Mayer talks about methods to impose structure and aid in transfer of learning. Specifically, he talks about adjunct questions, signaling and advance organizers. Adjunct questions direct the reader’s attention to important material; while signally uses outlines, headings, signal words to aid the creation and organization of a learner’s conceptual framework. Advance organizers may include things like models or diagrams that activate prior knowledge and aid in the understanding and transfer of new concepts. It would be safe to say that all of these concepts apply to the online environment, but one would have to look further to understand multimedia.

Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning

Since the advent of the online environment many researchers have studied and developed models that relate cognitive theory to multimedia. Drawing on his own work in meaningful learning and the work of others on cognitive load theory, Mayer proposes his Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning (1997). According to the theory learners possess two separate processing systems where auditory messages go to a verbal processing system and animation goes to visual system. His theory includes the following principles:

1. Multiple Representation Principle: An explanation in words and pictures is better than words alone.

2. Contiguity Principle: A multimedia explanation with words and pictures should present corresponding words and pictures contiguously rather than separately

3. Split-Attention Principle: A multimedia explanation with auditory narration and pictures should not also show the words as text which causes cognitive overload

4. Individual Differences Principle: The above principles are more important for low knowledge than high-knowledge learners, and for high-spatial rather than low-spatial learners.

5. Coherence Principle: A multimedia explanation with fewer relevant words and pictures is better than one with too many. A short summary allows a student to select information and organize and interpret using their own framework.

Design Features: Navigation

Others who have studied multimedia and cognition are Thuring, Hannemann & Hake. In their 1995 paper “Hypermedia and Cognition: Designing for Comprehension,” they point out that websites should enable viewers to clearly identify their current position with respect to the overall site, easily retrace their steps, and easily find different options to continue. With multimedia, it is not so simple as turning the next page. Many of us have seen this happen: we are at an important site and we follow a link and then another and then have trouble getting back to where we started or perhaps go off never to return again.

Design Features: Line Length and White Space Online

Should a line of text in the online environment be the same length as that in print material? Do readers prefer certain length of lines online? Do shorter lines aid in comprehension? What effect does white space have?

Several researchers have studied the above questions with mixed results. A 2005 study by A. Dawn Shaikh looked at online news reading speed, comprehension and line length preference. Students read passages that were 35, 55,75 and 95 characters wide and then were tested for speed, comprehension and preference. Although the 95-character line was read faster, it did not translate to better comprehension. Some users preferred the short lines and some the longer lines. Researchers McMullin, Varnhagen, Heng & Apedoe in 2002, found that line length had no significant effect on comprehension but white space did. Participants had better comprehension when there was more whitespace. They also found that irrelevant information inserted into a page decreased comprehension. In 2003 Bernard, Fernandez, Hull, and Chaparro found differences in preferences between adults and children (Shaikh, 2005). Adults preferred medium line length 76 characters per line and children preferred shorter 45 characters when compared to 132 characters per line. Maybe the answer lies with the audience’s preference, but certainly layout plays a factor.

Gestalt Theory

Those who study graphic design often refer to the principles of Gestalt theory when designing meaningful messages. A phrase to explain Gestalt theory is, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” What this means is that we tend to take in an overall view of images and text, before we begin to dissect it into pieces. Because one of the courses I teach is Visual Communications and because Gestalt theory also relates to comprehension, I have chosen two websites on Gestalt principles to compare and contrast readability, usability and comprehension with respect to the previously mentioned criteria.

Both sites have been online for quite awhile, and I have found both sites effective in different ways. One is mostly textual and the other is interactive.

Site One: Spokane Falls Community College’s page: The Gestalt Principles http://graphicdesign.spokanefalls.edu/tutorials/process/gestaltprinciples/gestaltprinc.htm#similarity

The Gestalt Principles page opens into a basic white page with black text and black and white illustrations page. The page is aligned left and each line is approximately 50 characters long. There is a lot of white space in the page. The page opens with a brief definition of Gestalt and then goes on to explain and illustrate the principles of similarity, continuation, closure, proximity and figure/ground. Each topic has a clear identifying heading and either one or two simple examples of the concept. The author also bolds key words throughout the brief explanations. The top navigation allows the user to jump to the specific concept within the same page. The one link out is to a PDF file that is an exercise for students to test their knowledge and to further explain their answers.

This webpage is simple and to the point. It clearly guides the reader to select key points, signals an overall framework and allows readers the opportunity to integrate the understanding into their own framework. The exercise allows learners to self-test thereby ensuring transfer of knowledge. Although the site is black and white and not very interactive, it does what it sets out to do in a way that is clear and coherent. The line length is neither long nor short, so it would appeal to most readers in the target group. The whitespace certainly creates an easy flow of information. Of course the true test is this-- After reading the page, do you have a good understanding of the basic Gestalt design concepts? How can you use these concepts to better design a page for your learners?

Site Two: Mike Cuenta’s Gestalt & Typography Presentation http://seekpeace.com/gestalt/Gestalt.html

This page was created in 2000. The page discusses the two Gestalt concepts similarity and proximity specifically as they pertain to type and online layout. Compared to site one, the topic is narrower and illustrates type and image placement; whereas, site one’s emphasis was more focused on Gestalt and images, which may relate to logo design. Site two uses the application Shockwave, so some learners will have to download Shockwave to their computers to view it. This could present a slight obstacle for some users.

Like the previous example the page opens aligned left. The whole size of the page is small so that it would be viewable on multiple screen sizes. The start page has simple colour and design with the logo and a start button. Navigation-wise, pressing start is the only option. The narration starts with a definition of Gestalt and then talks over visual representations that illustrate the concepts. It follows exactly Mayer’s principles Multiple Representation, Contiguity, Coherence and does not violate Split-Attention. It presents the material using two methods at the same time on different channels without causing cognitive overload. The navigation is simple. You can end at any minute but you cannot pause and rewind a bit to replay; you would need to start again from the beginning. There is no activity to check transfer like site one, but that could be provided elsewhere if one were to use this. This multimedia explanation appeals to the particular learners involved. Graphic design students tend to be visual learners, but it also appeals to the other learning styles as well. The visuals are simple; the text is simple; the movement throughout illustrates the changing concepts so it does an excellent job of bringing to life a concept that is hard to explain in simple text and pictures. But again the true test is: What did you learn and how can you apply it to your own learning environment?

The two samples although older still represent good opportunities for learning and consolidating Gestalt design concepts. In most respects they follow Mayer’s and other’s principles.

What have we learned?

If we understand our audience, start with a solid plan, follow proven strategies and design principles, and provide opportunity for interaction through questions and self-evaluation, we will most certainly create more meaningful instruction.

As promised:

Example of the bad in web page design here http://www.gatesnfences.com/

Example of the Ugly in web page design here


Cuenta, Mike. (2000). Gestalt & typography: An interactive design tutorial. Retrieved from http://seekpeace.com/gestalt/Gestalt.html February 12, 2010.

Graham, Lisa. (2008). Gestalt theory in interactive media design. Scientific Journals, 2(1), Retrieved from http://www.scientificjournals.org/journals2008/articles/1288.pdf February12, 2010.

Mayer, Richard.E . (2008). Learning and instruction. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education.

Mayer, R.E., & Moreno, R. (1998). A Cognitive theory of multimedia learning:Implications for design principles. Retrieved from http://www.unm.edu/~moreno/PDFS/chi.pdf February 12, 2010.

Mayer, Richard E. (1997). The Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from http://books.google.ca/books?id=SSLdo1MLIywC&pg=PA45&dq=mayer+1997&client=firefox-a&cd=1#v=onepage&q=mayer%201997&f=false February 14, 2010.

McMullin, J., Varnhagen, C.K., Heng,P. & Apedoe, X. (2002) Effects of surrounding information and line length on text comprehension. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 28(1), Retrieved from http://www.cjlt.ca/index.php/cjlt/article/viewArticle/65/62 February 13, 2010.

Shaikh, A.D., (2005).The Effects of line length on reading online news. Usability News, (7)2. Retrieved from http://www.surl.org/usabilitynews/72/LineLength.asp February 12, 2010.

Spokane Falls Community College, Initials. The Gestalt Principles. Retrieved from http://graphicdesign.spokanefalls.edu/tutorials/process/gestaltprinciples/gestaltprinc.htm#similarity February 10, 2010.

Thuring, M., Hannemannn, J., & Haake, J.M. (1995). Hypermedia and cognition: Designing for comprehension. Communications of the ACM, 38(8), Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download;jsessionid=9F74F8D42E2B84068F1B1E63B1D51507?doi= February 12, 2010.

Wilkinson, M.J. (2009, May 20). The Line length misconception, The Viget Advance. Retrieved from http://www.viget.com/advance/the-line-length-misconception February 14, 2010.

Metacomprehension-When "I don't know" is the answer!

If you are a homeowner, I’m sure you’ve met him. He comes in tools ablazing ready to fix that washing machine, refrigerator, eavestrough, or whatever item has just put you into homeowner hell. He might be drop dead gorgeous or be the guy with the moon-man pants. He might even be a she. He could be your partner, neighbour or friend --Whatever, one thing is for sure: he’s cocksure and he’s got tools. Wow, look at those tools!

It isn’t long before he is at work. He doesn’t seem to ask you a lot of questions. He knows just about everything. Why ask questions? While he’s working, he’s telling you about his wife, his mother, his kids, and all manner of things you’d never thought of or wanted to know. Time is beginning to drag on. There are items strewn all over the place. Dollar signs flash before your eyes as he brings in more parts and more parts and even more parts. Wasn’t this supposed to be a simple job? It’s getting late now and it’s still not fixed. He tells you that the problem is a “what’s-it-widget” and it’s going to need ordering. He’ll have to come back. Now wait a minute! Wasn’t this guy an expert? What about those fancy tools?

What you have just encountered is “The Hack.” He’s the guy who thinks he knows everything but doesn’t stop to ask, “What do I really know?” In metacognitive terms, he’s low on comprehension and low on metacomprehension.

Say what? Meta who? OK let’s start from the beginning. Do you know what you don’t know? Do you think about your own thinking? Have you ever been reading a book or watching a movie and suddenly realized that time has gone by and you don’t know a thing that you have just read or seen? When you make that realization you are using your metacognitive skills. You are thinking about thinking. According to J. H. Flavell metacognition, “refers to one’s knowledge concerning one’s own cognitive processes or anything related to them.” When we use metacognitive skills, we plan how to approach a task, monitor our progress, ask questions, re-evaluate and continue until hopefully we have reached our destination. We have learned and we have learned about our learning.

So how does metacomprehension fit in? According to Sally N, Staniford, in her 1984 article Metacomprehension, metacomprehension is simply, “the awareness of and conscious control over one's own understanding or lack of it.” Metacomprehension is then a type of metacognition. Many times we see it used to refer to reading comprehension and strategies to improve comprehension but it could include comprehension of many things like comprehending deeper meanings in film or art.

In many respects metacomprehension can be seen as a bottomless toolbox. This toolbox has all the things we need to solve any problem. There are simple things like hammers and nails and duct tape, but there are all types of fancy specific tools too. Before you look into your toolbox, you’ll need to know exactly what type of problem you have. There will be questions! Your toolbox looks exciting, but you’ll need to study its contents and evaluate. Which tool should you use? Is it a simple problem, or a complex one? Will you need a more complex tool? Do you know how to use it? In no time, you’ll be testing out your tools and hopefully learning more and more. Sometimes you might even stop and say to yourself, “I know exactly what is wrong, but I just don’t know how to do it.” Dratz, now what? Wait, what’s that in there? Hey it’s my friend the expert in the toolbox. What can she recommend? But even though this toolbox is bottomless, each person who looks into it may see something different. One person may pick just the right tool and another person might pick something that will work eventually. It appears there is more to this toolbox than meets the eye. Even though the toolbox is bottomless and has all the answers, it will depend upon the level of expertise of its user.

Sally N. Staniford suggests that metacomprehension can be broken out into four categories. In category one we have High Comprehension and High Metacomprehension. This means you know something and are aware that you know. For example you are given a problem to solve and you are correct in knowing that you solved it correctly.

In category two we have Low Comprehension and High Metacomprehension. Here we say to ourselves, “I don’t know and I know I don’t know.” We are aware that we don’t understand.

In category three we have High Comprehension and Low Metacomprehension. In this case we know the answer but do not know we know the answer. If you are a teacher, you will know this student. She always knows the answer but she has to ask you if she is right every time.

In category four we have Low Comprehension and Low Metacomprehension. This is where “The Hack” lives. Here we are sure we know, but in fact we do not and we are unaware that we do not.

Optimally, what we all want is high comprehension and high metacomprehension. As teachers, we want our students to know subjects and to have the metacognitive skills to become aware of their thinking processes. To get there we reflect on our thinking and encourage our students to reflect on their own thinking. How do we do that when sometimes it seems that everyone just wants to rush to the magic answer?

Let’s go back to our favorite “Hack.” Where did he go wrong? He appeared to have the right tools and say the right things before he came in. But he started off badly. He asked no questions! He never really found out what was wrong and when it was going wrong. He dove in without thinking seemingly rushing to the end. While he was at work he talked about everything else but the job he was doing. He had no plan; he was distracted. Instead of finding out the exact problem, he just kept changing things to see what would work. He didn’t ask enough questions about what had just happened and how this thing was related to that thing. He didn’t monitor his progress and make changes to improve his strategies. He never once said, “I don’t know.” He was unaware that he didn’t know. And worst of all he walked away and was paid for it. Ouch! Reinforcement!

If we now think of these same basic concepts and apply them to the work that we assign as teachers, most likely we will develop work that requires students to reflect on their learning by having them focus on the learning process step-by-step. Ask them to summarize, explain a concept another way through analogy of metaphor, (lol) read a story line by line and ask them to guess what comes next (double lol) and question, question and question again. Beware the final answer!

Picasso once said, “Computers are useless; they can only give you answers.” But did he really mean that computers are useless? Or did he mean that what is important is the questions? We look into our bottomless toolbox and we find answers, but aren’t we really more in search of the next questions? There will always be a point where we say, “I don’t know.” The key is to say that in the form of a question. Learning is like that.

As for “The Hack,” Bertrand Russell sums it us best in his Triumph of Stupidity when he says, “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.”

Well Bertrand, I do consider myself an intelligent person and I, for one, don’t mind a little doubt now and then as long as it leads to the next question!


Blakey, Elaine & Spence, Sheila. (Nov 1990) Developing metacognition. ERIC Clearinghouse on Information Resources Syracuse NY. ERIC Identifier: ED327218 Retrieved from http://www.ericdigests.org/pre-9218/developing.htm on February 1, 2010.

Halter. Julie, Metacognition, encyclopedia of educational technology, San Diego State University. Retrieved from http://coe.sdsu.edu/eet/Articles/metacognition/ February 1, 2010.

Livingston, Jennifer A. (1997) Metacognition: An overview. Retrieved from http://gse.buffalo.edu/fas/shuell/CEP564/Metacog.htm February 1, 2010.

Pierce, William (2003) Metacognition: Study strategies, monitoring, and motivation, Prince George Community College. Retrieved from http://academic.pgcc.edu/~wpeirce/MCCCTR/metacognition.htm#II February 1, 2010.

Russell, Bertrand. The triumph of stupidity (1933-05-10) in Mortals and others: Bertrand Russell’s American essays, 1931-1935, 1998, p28.

Standiford, Sally N. (1984) Metacomprehension. Retrieved from ERIC database.http://www.vtaide.com/png/ERIC/Metacomprehension.htm February 1, 2010 (ED250670).

My Curation of Inovations in elearning

The Road is Open Steve Wheeler

The Future of Learning -Steve Wheeler 2011

Where to Find Free Stuff and Info about Copyright

In my class at U of I, the question came up about where to find images, music, and videos that can be safely reused.

There are so many places to find materials that can be used for student projects.


One quick way to find reusable images is through Google image search. Instead of using the regular search, click the "advanced search" to the bottom right of the insert box. Under the category "Usage Rights" click "labelled for reuse." Once you have found an image, check to see the copyright or creative commons license. Another search engine to try is Creative Commons Search

Images Sites
A standard for images, of course is flickr, but the best way to search there is through their creative commons http://www.flickr.com/creativecommons/ Another one of my favourite image sites is the Morgue File. The Morgue File has images that can be used without attribution. Also great for diverse images is World Images

Music Sites
For music, if you are a mac user, there is a nice selection of music and sound effects available in Garage Band. Another place for music is Musopen whose mission is to set music free. Public Domain 4U is also a good music site. If you are looking for short bumper music for podcasts try Podsafe Music

Video Sites
For some amazing video try BBC Motion Gallery and Archive.org

If you need a resource that explains Fair Use try this one

For even more links on sources of images, music and video try Copyright Friendly on Wikispaces and there's always the wiki Debbie P and I put together Cost of Free

Help Photo by Howard Poon, flickr

Video Making Guide

Lots of interesting info in Richard Byrne's Free Technology for Teachers Guide below:

Making Videos on the Web - A Guide for Teachers

Automatoon- Animate!

Cool HTML5 animation tool!
Free for basic features.

Move over Gen Y- It's Z Curation time

The oldest Millennials or Gen Y'ers are now 31. It's time to think about the up and coming Gen Z! Born between 1992/1994 and 2004/2010, they are the true digital natives. According to Ethan Lyon of Sparxoo.com In Generation Z Stats, they are, "coming of age publicly on the web." Their defining characteristics
  1. Speed Demons- a generation that has grown up on instant gratification with instantaneous Google answers- Age of AADD-Acquired Attention Deficit Disorder- On Demand is the New Normal
  2. Community Organizers and Curators- Born social through social nets befriending and interacting- Key Behaviours: Share, Express and Consume
  3. Open Books-Personal information is shared with little thought to privacy
  4. Micro Miners-Information broken down and condensed- think tumblr and twitter
  5. Self-publishing

Creativity- Everything is a Remix

Everything is a Remix Part 3 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

On Gamification

Sebastian Deterding on Meaning, Mastery, Autonomy in Games

Creating Meaning
  • Try to offer user customizable goals- an opportunity to bring in users own personal goal -could be a passion- a connection to meaningful community - community generated goals- a meaningful story with supporting visuals and copy- beware social context meanings

"Fun is just another word for learning." (under optimal conditions)
  • Creating Interesting Challenges- set a goal, add some rules- clear, visually present goals; structured flow of goals- small goal then medium term goal- scaffolded challenges to level up- varied pacing provides "failures to learn from" and experiences of mastery- game your own system to check for unintended emergent behaviour
  • Play is voluntary-motivation because we choose it- example ->Tom Sawyer's fence
  • Beware of curbing Autonomy- the perils of extrinsic rewards, if -then reward curbs autonomy and devaluating the activity
  • Beware of devaluing your product--no-strings attached, shared goals with individual pursuit, informational feedback ( how far you are and how to get there), unexpected rewards
Think process not features
  1. Read the rules- start playing board games and understand how they motivate
  2. Know your users- what kinds of play and motivations do they have?
  3. Build a prototype, playtest and iterate
  4. Bring in data on the game -check challenges
To design for meaningful play provide a story with meaning , add rule system they can master; be mindful of side effects and social context.

also see an article at BBC News Gamification time: What if everything were just a game?

Life in Perpetual Beta

How the Internet is Revolutionizing Education - Infographic

How the Internet is Revolutionizing Education
Via: OnlineEducation.net

Games: Tools for Mass Media

Why use a Game?

In the SXSW session Games: Tools for Mass Media, the presenters McCall, Taylor, Augustin and Portnow explained how games are different from other communication media. Importantly, a game is interactive; it allows users to be engaged in a story to explore an idea or to influence an outcome. Today a game can be distributed as easily as a tweet. Passive listening in a lecture is one way and the listener is often left out.

Games like "Fate of the World," and "Peacemaker" have the potential to make a positive impact because they cover real world issues. In the game Peacemaker the user gets to play the other side and see what it is like to be "over there."

One of the presenters, Michael Augustin is the creator of GameSalad a free game creation tool that anyone can use.

Read more about GameSalad on their Blog

The Future is all Touchy-Feely

It was clear at SXSW that the audiences were engaged not only in what was being presented but also in their own touchy-feely activities. Mobile devices ruled whether they were iPhones, tablets, iPads, Androids or laptops. And the laptops were mostly MacBooks. Writing notes on a paper seemed decidedly prehistoric. Hashtags ruled with Twitter as the medium of choice for interaction with the presenters and community. Even the desktops provided at the information stations around the conference had touch interfaces.

If you believe in learning styles, it appeared to be a haven for those of the kinesthetic kind. The truth as I see it is that it's the new normal-touch as the mode to be engaged, to be in the moment from wherever you are.

At the session The Future of Touch User Interface Design presenters Amish Patel and Kay Hofmeester, discussed Touch as a language under development. To explain they took the audience through how languages of media develop:
  • In stage one when new technology is introduced it's at an experimental stage. It's basically a prototype
  • In stage two, we tend to copy or mimic the forms of an old language.
  • In stage three, a New Language is developed for the media
The presenters used examples of the development of film and the development of the computer mouse. Currently touch is at stage two where it is still emulating a computer mouse, a keyboard and scroll bars. It is depending on a single point of contact. They ask what is the new language? Shouldn't we turn the page and copy real life with multi-touch and multi-focus?

The Game Layer- You're in the Game

According to Seth Priebatsch the Princeton drop-out who calls himself the Chief Ninja at SCVNGR, the last decade was the social decade. It was all about connections. "We took all the digital connections to our friends, to our families to our colleagues, we digitized them and we put them online. The framework for that social layer is facebook and it is built."

The next decade he says will be about the Game Layer. It will be about influence and there will be no set foundations. It will influence where we go and what we do. It's only just begun but we all will be involved so we should think about how it will be built.

He talked about 5 big problems that the game layer could help solve. The first problem and the one most interesting to me is of course school.

"School is a game," says Priebatsch but it's a poorly designed one that is broken. But school is a near perfect ecosystem because it has motivated players, challenges, rewards, rules, allies, enemies, levels, appointment dynamics, countdowns and incentives and disincentives. The two problems with the game of school are engagement and cheating. Students show up late, don't do their work. Lack of engagement is caused by a broken grading system. As for cheating, Priebatsch says it's a standard game mechanic.

What school has created, he says, is the "Moral Hazard of Gameplay." It has replaced the real reward which is learning for learning sake with arbitrary letters causing people to view the real reward -learning for learning sake- as a chore. Grades fail as rewards because they are just levels, and status; the problem is they are a game mechanic where you can loose. You can go from an A to an F on a bad day. He suggests focusing on the positive and progressing only up. As you do progressive challenges you level up and focus on the end result.

For the second problem cheating, he showed a student filling out a scantron form with cell phone open. The problem with the picture isn't the phone it was just that it wasn't an Android phone and the screen wasn't big enough. The cheating results in a disincentive- if you get caught you fail; but if you don't get caught, you win. He talks about how cheating at Princeton was stopped by changing the game. Princeton holds tests with no teacher, no admin no oversight but gives two rules: students write the honor code and agree that complicity is a crime. The shift changes the game says Priebatch, it puts the students in the role of the enforcers.

He made some interesting points. See more below

See his talk at SXSW here

Can Games Save Education?

If one took in every session about games at SXSW, one might conclude that the Gamification of everything is nothing less than the second coming. I have to say, I enjoyed many of the sessions on games and their potential but I certainly wasn't ready to go as far a one gentleman and the herd of others in the session Learning 2025: School is out Forever, who declared after working in groups that the number one way to fix school was through games. Really? Nothing to do with crazy numbers of standardized tests in US schools, underfunding, or teacher's values linked to standardized test results? It seemed to me that group had drunk the Kool-aid, just saying.

To me it goes to show that if you expose a bunch of people to a bunch of sessions on one thing, they all start to see that thing as the solution even if they are a bunch of seasoned educators. So I was really happy to attend the session Cheaper, Better, Faster: Can Casual Games Save Education? and especially happy to hear Scot Osterweil, Creative Director Education Arcade at MIT say that not all games are good, even some that portray themselves as educational, and that it was time to separate the hype from what is real.

Osterweil talked about how play and games are natural to children as they construct their own vision of the world. What games and play provide is the 5 Freedoms:
  • The Freedom to Experiment
  • The Freedom to Fail
  • The Freedom to Fashion Identities- You can understand your own identity and"try on" other people
  • The Freedom of Effort- You can go full tilt playing and then rest at will
  • The Freedom of Interpretation-Each person has his/her own unique interpretation
A game player has her/his own personal motivation. The key to creating educational games is channeling play into meaningful activities. Osterweil says that instead of just being "candy" a game can be a "gourmet" meal.

And if you look at the type of games coming out of the Education Arcade at MIT, you can see the gourmet!

is a joint effort of MIT Education Arcade and the Smithsonian Institute. They invite kids to log on and discover clues to unravel mysteries. It's an online/offline interactive event over 8 weeks where kids collaborate and race against time to save the world from environmental disaster.

And then there are the Augmented Reality Games from MIT

Can Games Make us Better? We Need an Epic Win

According to Jane McGonigal, author of Reality is Broken-Why Games Make us Better, humans invest 3 billion hours a week playing online games. In her SXSW talk McGonigal spoke about the common belief that time playing games is wasted and unproductive. For McGonigal playing games is productive and we need to increase the amount of time we play games to solve the world's problems. Using Seligman's definition of productivity-PERMA: Positive Emotion, Engagement, creating stronger Relationships, producing more Meaning to be of service to a larger goal and a sense of Accomplishment- she made a case that games are not a waste of time --they work well creating self motivation and a sense of accomplishment.

The problem is not with games but rather reality-it's broken. Reality does not provide the kind of motivation that games do. What real world problems need is to offer the same addictiveness, sense of success, happiness and productivity that games provide. Instead of complaining about wasted time she says we should "repackage real problems."

As a example, she talked about Evoke the 2010 game she created along with the World Bank Institute. The Evoke project is a ten-week game that hopes to change the world. The social network game's goal is to empower people to come up with creative solutions to the world's most urgent social problems and to teach young people how to start their own social enterprises.

In the 10 week 2010 pilot, 20,000 students from 130 countries got involved creating 51 real companies around the world funded by global giving. Top players earned online mentorships with social innovators and world business leaders, seed funding and scholarships.

Now that's a productive game!

Hear Jane McGonigal at SXSW here
or watch her TED Talk below