Sunday, December 7, 2014

Reality hacking

By role playing highly effective people, participants might learn effective strategies, feel at first hand the knack of being effective, and actually become effective in their real daily lives. I think this encapsulates my thinking behind the ARGEF (Alternate Reality Games in Education Framework). I was blown away when I found Jane McGonigal articulating exactly this. Mobile is the enabling technology for reality hacking. You may want to watch Jane McGonigal talking about alternate reality gaming (19 minutes). If you'd like to experience a simple reality hack for yourself, here is one you can try any time: Breathe low down, from your diaphragm; focus on your breathing for a moment;  start smiling on exhalation; sense the change of mood that flows through you.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Integrated Media Experience

It's only semantics, but I like "Integrated Media Experience" better than "Transmedia". An Integrated Media Experience sounds like it could one day translate into some kind of learning design: it fits with ideas of five dimensional learning... x, y, z, time, and annotation; it tastes like some new flavour of universal design for learning. I'm currently engaging with James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton's Endgame The Calling — the book, the blogs, the puzzles, the social media, and the film. It's a fascinating journey. I mean, a month ago I was still worrying about badges as undesirable extrinsic motivators, and now James Frey and his backers have gone and stumped up $0.5 million in gold coin. Be first to find the key, and it's all yours. All you have to be is thirteen years of age (or more), and have an agile mind. Google's Niantic Labs is a whole other facet to this, an internal startup at Google. It's giving me lots of new stuff to think about. Lots and lots.

Thursday, October 23, 2014


Do you know that feeling when an article or book seemingly falls into your hands at just the right moment in time? I expect it can be explained by science, but seen subjectively it's an amazing sensation.

In the’s early days, a group of us were sitting around debating our scaling philosophies. The conversation heated up after Michael Dearing, a faculty mem­ber and venture capitalist, asked a brilliant question. It went some­thing like: “What is our goal? Is it more like Catholicism, where the aim is to replicate preordained design beliefs and practices? Or is it more like Buddhism, where an underlying mindset guides why people do certain things—but the specifics of what they do can vary wildly from person to person and place to place?” [source: Huggy Rao, Michael Dearing]

Working on the design and development of a programme of (tertiary) study — my colleague and myself are working on three concurrently — always invokes the templates vs freedom-of-expression debate. I am clear in my own mind that one size does not fit all, and that there is no one right way to teach or learn online. However, I do concede that some consistency of approach helps the student get oriented.

I have a preference. I know what I would do if it was me. But it's not me. A whole programme of study is made up from a catalogue of courses, each with their own subject matter experts, each of whom have their own ideas of how their subject should be taught. It isn't really for me to tell them they are wrong. That would be like being down the C end. So I think I place myself more towards B, loose but guided by an underlying mindset.  

That's the balance I'm trying to find. And the article by Huggy Rao and Michael Dearing hasn't really given me any answers, it's just brought the question to the fore. Perhaps I should read their book.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Playing with the parameters

I'm trying to find a way to make what I feel is an important point about online course design. First up, as I've used the word "parameter" in the title, it might be useful to define it.

1. A numerical or other measurable factor forming one of a set that defines a system or sets the conditions of its operation.
2. A limit or boundary which defines the scope of a particular process or activity.
Synonyms include: framework, variable, limit, boundary, limiting factor, configuration, specification, criterion, guideline.

Especially but not exclusively, boys learn by testing the boundaries.

Back in the day we built box carts and raced them down the hill. Social conditions prevailing at the time facilitated this: playing in the street was the norm; bobbies were on foot and basically friendly; the occasional broken collar bone was not interpreted as parental neglect.

Onset of speed wobble, the velocity at which the friction brake became ineffective, and the point at which the unsprung vehicle became airborne over bumps marked the safe operational envelope of the box cart. Optimising the design and build of the box cart (combined with fearlessness) won races. Later we graduated to motorbikes. Our grown up heroes were racing drivers and test pilots.

All very amusing, but how does it apply to online course design?


Test each idea you have for an online course design using the following...
  1. Does the student have a project (or model)?
  2. Does the student have access to the project (or model) controls?
  3. Does the student have access to peer reviewers?
This idea that learners (kids or adults) can learn by their mistakes in a supportive community of learners goes by many names: social constructionism; social learning; learning by doing; learner agency; locus of control. Whatever we call it, it's a good thing and it's the way to go. Without exception.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ed Catmull

I don't know about you, but I've always found it hard to get my head around stuff like


As a boy, I'd chew my pencil and stare out of the window and wish I was playing with my kite or riding my bicycle. With dreams of being a navigator I would need not just to pass maths, I'd need an A. Easty (we called him that because his brain had gone west) failed to capture my imagination. The chalk squeaked on the blackboard and some days tears would well up as I tried to get to grips with it all. Mr Kirkwood's class was a slight improvement, we plotted parabolas on graph paper. We weren't sure what parabolas were for, but at least there was a physical manifestation, a drawing on a piece of paper.

Not until I was 17 and attending sea school did it all start to make some sense, because now there was a globe, and angles subtended at the centre of the earth, and arcs described on the surface of the earth. Arcs along which you could steam a ship.

But now, in second childhood, I am happy playing on my Chromebook...

Read the full post on the CORE Eduction blog


My colleague Rochelle Savage tries out the home made viewing specs. If you get the distance just right and relax your eyes they work remarkably well. They're something anyone can make with salvaged items and a glue gun. This is the approach we're encouraging: improvise; quick; easy; and low budget. You're just using this 3D VR stuff as an object-to-think-with, you really don't need the state-of-the-art consumer experience.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Cardboard 1

With the help of Phil Blair at Copyfast we now have Cardboard 1. Phil used the file on the Google Cardboard site. It's made of lighter weight cardboard than specified, but it's plenty strong enough; it's a good design. The lenses were the hardest bit, and we tried raiding various toys, loupes and so on, but the ones we used in the end were ground by Independent Lens Specialists in Christchurch. That's an expensive solution, but that's OK for prototype 1; deeper into the project we'll need to find a cheaper source.

The phone is an LG Nexus 5. It has a big screen and runs the Cardboard app perfectly. Next step has to be to open up the SDK and try making something of our own, however basic.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Garden space

"The syllabus becomes a garden space, a context setting within which learning can happen and the curriculum is the things that grows there." Cormier So, #5DL has become my "garden space" and the stuff I'm aggregating now (ARRF) are the seeds that I hope will grow here. I think it maybe started (together with the ATC stuff) when I first saw fov2go out of USC's Institute for the Creative Arts; that's probably really where it began. I'm at home. I run the app on my iPhone 4 which rests in a viewer by Hasbro. I navigate this 90s-feel multimedia space in a way that I can see could be compelling. Friends and family experiencing it for the first time express wonder, and some confusion; need prompts. Soon become bored and put it down. Oculus Rift is taking off, and we're all watching that space like meerkats. That's sort of February through to June 2014.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Five dimensional learning

I've dubbed it #5DL, at least I think it's me... I haven't seen it anywhere else. It started with the ATC stuff. ATCs (air traffic controllers) operate in a four dimensional space of three dimensions (x+y+z) plus time (t). So I thought they should be learning in that space too. But then there's one more dimension... the meta layer. That provides the learner with orientation (where am I in this course?) timely feedback (how am I doing?) and a recommender system (what should I do next?). So that's the five dimensional learning model. The idea is that the meta layer should fly away when not wanted leaving the 4D environment in full screen mode. A button or a gesture recall the meta layer when needed. It's all built in html5, css3, and javascript... so no plugins.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Interactive avionics

It's like not a fully blown flight simulator; nowhere near. But it's animated instruments that respond to certain situations, scenarios. Not simulations exactly, but discrete moments or components that could finally, one day, be built into a simulation. One step at a time; it would be the start of a big project. Well it is the start of a big project. Shoot for the stars. Anyway, bye bye Flash. Hello html5, css3, javascript  in the creation of discrete interactive avionics and the question of whether they can run inside epub3.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Tan, Steinbach and Kumar (p.231) note that arm length and reading ability are strongly correlated. When you fix the age the correlation evaporates. I'm trying to find the confounding factor in this one: Failure to post a profile photograph or avatar is strongly correlated with failure to complete an online course. I think if I could make only one change to courses I work on, it would be to extend the on-boarding component. I like: mihi-mihi; team-building; practice assignments; assessment simulations; and real life face to face beach parties.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Extrinsic motivation

Worrying about gamification again, and remembering Knowles on motivation: "Adults respond better to internal versus external motivators." Looking at Kevin Werbach's framework there's a lot I can take from it and repurpose. How can I say that Boss Fights (against the clock multichoice tests), Collections (toolkits), Combat (simulations), Levels, Quests, and Teams are not useful components in course design? There's also the nagging question; is extrinsic motivation actually unethical?

Analog missions

Looking at simulations. Got this fear of didactic approaches, prefer serious gameplay. Very interested in NASA NEEMO. Realise we can't all do simulation to that extent, but the principle is still there; analog missions. More interesting, more demanding, and more productive than class.