19 June 2014

Trello's Innovative Approach to the Newbie Learning Experience

The project management program Trello is simple, powerful, free and highly recommended.  One of the secrets to their masterful design for both the user experience and the learning experience, is the fun and creative approach they take to progressive disclosure.  The idea of progressive disclosure it that you release information or features gradually rather than all at once so as not to overwhelm the user or learner.

In order to keep the experience of finding your feet in the program fun and simple, Trello shows great respect (and support) for cognitive load by removing some of its features for the first-time user.  As you gain proficiency rapidly by playing around with the features that are available, small contextualized hints begin to appear to suggest there's more to this program than you thought at first glance.  Click to add a due date, for example, and the calendar reads "enable the calendar power-up to see your project in calendar mode".  

Holding back on the calendar feature not only keeps it out of the way, thus allowing new users  to focus on the basics first, but also, positioning it as a "power-up" bestows the extra value of an exciting bonus feature. The game reference is also a nod to the user's progress in mastering the program since in games, power-ups become available with mastery.

Kudos to Trello for the creative mix of progressive disclosure and game style for a great newbie learning experience. 

05 May 2014

Learn Design from Don Norman

Don Norman, author of the classic The Design of Everyday Things and my personal favorite,  Emotional Design: Why we Love (or Hate) Everyday Things (among many other books), has made his MOOC debut on Udacity.  You can now learn from a short and accessible intro to his ideas in the form of a free online course made up of videos,  reflection exercises, and design challenges...

01 May 2014

Learn Strategies for Better Interface Design for Learning

Eminent eLearning Coach, Connie Malamed is also a master of graphic design in the eLearning context. I had the honor of being invited onto her podcast to talk about how interface designs impact learning. Her show is a gift to the industry offering a wealth of insight from experts in a broad range of areas.

In my interview, we cover the user interface, video, social learning and community building, how to cut cognitive load in graphics,  how to support visual perception effectively, and the surprising findings about emotions and learning.

Subscribe to her podcast or head direct to the episode 16: Strategies that Improve the Interface to Learning.

image source: WebIconSet.com

07 February 2014

Real Learning gains with iPads in Primary School

Photo from the onebillion project.
Three cheers for the onebillion project and EuroTalk Software whose carefully crafted math programs for students in Malawi  have shown to triple math knowledge in 8 weeks compared to standard practice.  Attention to instructional and interface design tailored to local needs has no doubt played a critical role.  The University of Nottingham's Randomized Controlled Trial is a useful example of a thorough evaluation process for eLearning.

I asked the project team how they charge the iPads which can, of course, be a prohibitive issue for many without reliable sources of electricity.  For the test school, they created a charging station for 25 tablets in the one office with electricity. Now they're setting up solar charging stations with panels on the roof which will have the capacity to charge 25 iPads overnight.  Where there's a will and creativity, there's a way.

The onebillion project has created math learning apps available in many different languages including an English language 3-5 maths app.

Read more about the program and the onebillion project.

27 January 2014

ThoughtLeaders Webinar - Interface Design for Learning

If you're curious about the book, I'll be doing a ThoughtLeaders Webinar with the eLearning Guild this February 12 (Feb 13 in Australia).  It's online and registration is free!  See the event page for more info.

The webinar video is available for free download with E-Learning Guild membership (also free!) at: tinyurl.com/n8nl9j5

The webinar slides are now on slideshare at:

30 November 2013

Life-saving eLearning now online

The folks at Thare Machi Education, a non-profit that makes life-saving eLearning available in dozens of the world's languages to bring health information to those who need it most, has just begun to transfer their DVD content online.
Check it out:  http://www.tme.org.uk

TME is a case in extreme accessibility since their users are illiterate, speak multiple languages, and have no computer experience.  The DVDs are played in health clinics, street children's societies, on buses and other community venues.  To find out more, read my post "Extreme Accessibility - How to Save lives with eLearning".

19 November 2013

Visual Storytelling

In Chapter 5 of my book, Interface Design for Learning, I look at the art of communicating visually and allude to the glorious cartoon - an art form that can convey worlds of meaning and emotion in the simplest of lines.  I have recently come across a number of web tools for creating visual narratives that I wanted to share - all of which can be used for free (some completely, some up to a point).

  • Pixton - Allows you to create comics and includes impressive controls for detailed character and limb positioning. I came across this when a colleague, Dewa Wardak, cleverly used it to illustrate her research.
  • PowToon - Allows you to create cartoons. I saw it used to great effect to illustrate a software product created for a student project.
  • GoAnimate - Allows you to create cartoons and targets the corporate market.
  • Scratch - Allows kids of all ages to create their own interactive animations and computer programs.
  • Toontastic - An excellent app that allows younger children to get their hands into narrative structure and create their own animated stories from an iPad.
With all these tools available, what's stopping you from making your story?
Know of any others? Do share!

14 November 2013

Students' expectations of technology at university

According to research, 80% of students expect lectures to be recorded but only 50% actually access the recordings.  User expectations are important, but so are the stats on actual use.  Aside from expectations about anywhere/anytime access, a recent University of Sydney student focus group revealed that student painpoints to do with learning technology came back to basics:
  • ensuring the technology works
  • having plenty of computers and power points around campus
  • trialling new technology and getting student feedback
  • training for staff and students
Students also reported an appreciation for interactivity including animation, simulations and role-play.  Of course, when it comes to multimedia learning, we know it needs to be well designed to support learning outcomes, if it's to be both engaging for students, and effective course content.

None of this feels terribly new. What's amazing is how usability, reliability and user support continue to be core issues, even for the so-called net generation.

13 November 2013

Big History

From the moving teasers to the gorgeous multimedia content within the course, the Big History Project has truly done something big for the learning of history.  It's not only massively open and free (as in MOOC) but for anyone who thought history was boring, Big History puts you in the big picture, drawing on the essence of what it is to be human, to be earthling, and to be life in the universe.

Take the course, watch the videos, check it out: bighistoryproject.com

31 October 2013

Learning Technology Research Fest

Who's up for a free and fun day of posters, roundtables, and silly prizes - all centered on cutting edge EdTech research? I know I am.  If you're in Sydney, don't miss out on the 2013 Sydney Learning Technology Research Fest, hosted annually by the Centre for Research on Computer Supported Learning and Cognition.  You can catch up with me at the poster session where I'll be answering questions about the research I did for my book, Interface Design for Learning and at the interactive sessions where I'll be joining experts in wellbeing for a session on how technology could be used to support socio-emotional learning in schools. Register online.