Is Instructional Video Game an Oxymoron?
This NY Times article is about the rise of online instructional games "that public interest organizations, advocacy groups and government agencies say have become the best way to reach a generation of children and teenagers weaned on video games and the Web."
Interestingly, thanks to Educational Games Don’t Have to Stink!, I realize that the games mentioned in this article don't really 'teach', they just help to illustrate ideas.
Senses special: The art of seeing without sight
This is a fascinating story of a man who is blind since birth but can draw and 'see' just like sighted people. The author proposes that our senses are more plastic than previously thought -- what information we interpret from our senses really depends on which senses we engage.
This is interesting account of the nature of decision making by US soldiers in Iraq. Specifically it is about the change in the nature of learning, from being reactive to being proactive.
[BEFORE] The Army had so loaded training schedules with doctrinaire requirements and standardized procedures that unit commanders had no time—or need—to think for themselves. The service was encouraging “reactive instead of proactive thought, compliance instead of creativity, and adherence instead of audacity,” Wong wrote in his report. As one captain put it to him, “They’re giving me the egg and telling me how to suck it...
[NOW] The younger officers have another advantage over their superiors: they grew up with the Internet, and have created for themselves, in their spare time, a means of sharing with one another, online, information that the Army does not control. The 'slackers' in the junior-officer corps are turning out to be just what the Army needs in the chaos of Iraq. Instead of looking up to the Army for instructions, they are teaching themselves how to fight the war. The Army, to its credit, stays out of their way."
Educational Games Don’t Have to Stink!
Nice article on the misconceptions that link gameplay to teaching:
My heretical view is simply this: computer games don't teach. I think the idea that you can teach using computer games is based on a flawed analogy between gameplay and learning. Here's how the analogy goes. Players of games have to overcome obstacles in order to achieve victory. They do this by learning the weaknesses, or limitations, of the opponents they face. Similarly, students learn knowledge in order to pass tests. So learning a fact is equivalent to defeating an enemy, and passing a test is equivalent to achieving victory. And a great many educational games are created this way. This is a terrible way of learning! Why? Because in playing a game, the instant an enemy is dead, we forget him. We are only concerned with him for as long as it takes to beat him.
In short, it's my belief that games don't teach, they illustrate. That's an important distinction. Games are not useless in the educational process, but they're not good at teaching per se. Games are good at creating understanding of knowledge the student already has. And they're excellent at transforming abstract ideas into concrete experience. Games don't teach, but they can help people learn.
Read the article for a list of suggestions for using games as teaching tools. [Caution: Irritating 'free' registration process awaits, if you are not a member already]. You can find more on gaming and learning here.
Best Practices in E-learing
‘Zero intelligence’ trading closely mimics stock
This is so interesting:
A model that assumes stock market traders have zero intelligence has been found to mimic the behaviour of the London Stock Exchange very closely. However, the surprising result does not mean traders are actually just buying and selling at random, say researchers. Instead, it suggests that the movement of markets depend less on the strategic behaviour of traders and more on the structure and constraints of the trading system itself.
[thanks UI Designer]
Folksonomies Tap People Power
More on folksonomies:
"It's very much people tagging information so that they can come back to it themselves or so that others with the same vocabulary can find it."
True, but how many have the 'same' vocabulary?
Trees vs. Leaves
David Weinberger on the differences between the old way of classifying things (trees) and the new way of classifying things (leaves, a.k.a folksonomies):
"The old way — trees — make sense in controlled environments where ambiguity is dangerous and where thoroughness counts. Trees make less sense in the uncontrolled, connected world that cherishes ambiguity."
How staff look for documents
James Robertson on how staff look for documents:
Observation of typical working environments has identified that there (at least) four different situations in which staff look for documents: known-item searching unknown-item searching own documents other people's documents...
- known-item searching
- unknown-item searching
- own documents
- other people's documents
From my own observation on information use in an engineering company, many project managers and engineers resorted to using documents stored on their PC as a starting point for creating project-specific templates and forms. These people have been working in this company for many years and in many different projects that they have created their own palette and find it easier to write out documents from this palette than to search for generic documents on the intranet. This process is much like what Stephen Johnson has written about in this NY Times piece called Tool for Thought. He writes about how new software is changing his writing process:
The raw material the software relies on is an archive of my writings and notes, plus a few thousand choice quotes from books I have read over the past decade: an archive, in other words, of all my old ideas, and the ideas that have influenced me. Having all this information available at my fingerprints does more than help me find my notes faster. Yes, when I'm trying to track down an article I wrote many years ago, it's now much easier to retrieve. But the qualitative change lies elsewhere: in finding documents I've forgotten about altogether, documents that I didn't know I was looking for.
Johnson's view here could help in designing more usable intranet structures for these kinds of people who have special combinatorial needs rather than simple search and use needs.
Art Kleiner has written a review of Andrew Hargadon's new book, How Breakthroughs Happen: The Surprising Truth About How Companies Innovate. There are 'two innovation imperatives' in this book: connection and control. When it comes to connection, "entrepreneurs and inventors are no smarter, no more courageous, tenacious, or rebellious than the rest of us. They are simply better connected." And many of these connections are weak connections -- "Innovators don’t benefit just from deep, intensive teamwork, but from casual connections that lead to chance encounters with unfamiliar ideas". But most organizations cannot tolerate this freewheeling connection between talent and disparate ideas; they have to bring it under control for "fear of being swept through in breakthrough wave". This is where the real problem lies. Read the article for examples of this type of control. [From Strategy+Business. Free registration required.]
How bosses reveal their attitudes towards employees
According to this EBF article, the behavior of bosses towards perceived underperforming employees can have a long lasting affect on them.
In the so-called Pygmalion studies over recent years, employees are randomly assigned to two groups and new supervisors are told that one group of employees has considerably greater potential than the other. The supervisor’s false beliefs about the capabilities of the ‘better’ group produce real performance differences over time, suggesting that employees tend to adjust up or down to the expectations of their superiors. Further evidence comes from research into self-efficacy, which shows that when individual confidence is undermined, it reduces perseverance on difficult problems and recovery from set-backs.
Uncovering Users In Your Own Organization
Interesting perspective this:
"There is a wealth of information at your fingertips in your own office, and surprisingly, some of it is usability-related. You can optimize your internal resources by understanding where and how you can find UI information about your users within your own company. To provide context and practical guidelines, this article presents examples of how to mine internal resources at a large enterprise software company."
What’s the Problem?
This A List Apart article is about Use Cases and how they can be used to clarify project goals or requirements. I'm a big fan of use cases and constantly use them to communicate and guide my intranet designs. Software engineers regularly employ use cases to draw high-level conclusions but I find their implementation is a little too complex (activity diagrams, forward engineering and all). I draw out use cases to answer a few simple high-level questions: Who are the users and what will they accomplish. This article is about these very questions.
Malcom Gladwell in a blink
Rashmi Sinha has a 2X2 that explains Gladwell's theme in Blink. According to her, Blink is more about rapid emotional decisions (e.g stereotyping a race, or group) than about rapid cognitive decisions (e.g. recognizing an art fake). Very nice. Surprising how a simple 2X2 simultaneously broadens and focuses the understanding. It not only tells you the place where Blink belongs, but also the places where it does not. Power of the 2X2 Matrix?
The Problem with Jack-Of-All-Trades Intranets
Paul Chin writes a nice article on bloated intranets, or Jack-of-all-trades (JOATs):
"You need to know when to say enough is enough. Are you putting features into your system because users have a genuine need for them or are you putting them in because you're afraid of leaving something out? You should be developing your intranet to meet a business need, not to wow users with the its extensive list of features."
More tsunami infographics
Interactive Narratives has a list of tsunami infographics and multimedia specials.
Users Confuse Search Results, Ads
Now, isn't this surprising:
"Only one in six users of internet search engines can tell the difference between unbiased search results and paid advertisements, a new survey finds."
Accessibility From The Ground UpThis is a nice primer on accessibility issues.
social consequences of social tagging
Nice discussion on the pros and cons of folksonomies.
How to write summaries for web and intranet pages, and why
Here's a nice list of the different types of summaries that one can write:
- The executive summary - summary: This is an executive summary, similar to the first sentence in a news story.
- The key message - summary: This type of summary conveys the single most important message on the page.
- The description - summary: The page description is probably the easiest option for the writer, if slightly dull for the reader. It faintly resembles the abstract that precedes an academic article.
- The instructions - summary: Sometimes it's easiest to just say when and how the page should be used.
You’re not studying, you’re just…
"This commentary examines how content originally designed for entertainment purposes can be modified to provide natural and context rich language learning environments, without sacrificing its entertainment value. First, I examine a modification to the number one selling video game The Simsthat intelligently combines game data from the English edition with data from editions of other languages to form a bilingual gaming environment. This exposes learners to abundant L2 vocabulary, yet still provides enough L1 support not to detract from the game. This principle is then extended to other applications such as music videos, typing tutors, and voice-navigated games. Finally, areas of otherwise wasted time are identified, such as waiting for Web pages to load or walking to class, with suggestions of how technology can facilitate language learning during these times."
Management by Design
Richard Farson discusses the need for more design decisions in management.
"Have you ever noticed the difference between a meeting held at a long rectangular table and one held at a round table? The time spent, the agenda, and the participants may be exactly the same, but the meetings are completely different. The discussion at the round table is more informal, the leadership is shared, the communication more personal."
Glossary of terms relating to thesauri and other forms of structured vocabulary
Here's a glossary of terms relating to thesauri, faceted classification and related topics.
The Storytelling Problem
Malcolm Gladwell, in his new book Blink, takes a look at how people make snap decisions. More specifically, he describes how people make snap decisions without knowing they are doing so. And when asked to explain their reasoning, these people attribute all the wrong reasons to their decisions. This is, according to Gladwell, because we humans have a 'storytelling problem'.
"We have, as human beings, a storytelling problem. We're a bit to quick to come up with explanations for things we don't really have an explanation for."
This becomes quite apparent when we interview experts. Being experts, these people "thin-slice" most of the time, and that too, in a subconscious manner. When we interview them, we are asking them to peep into their subconscious (their "locked door") and to come up with explanations for their actions. But its difficult for experts to figure out why they do what they do -- they can't open their "locked door" -- so they end up telling us only the most plausible story, which as Gladwell describes, can be far from the truth. It is only with sustained interviews with many experts that we can get some patterns or principles of their "thin-slicing".
Infographics that will rock your world
"We have a special treat for you this issue: 7 beautiful, easy-to-understand, and jaw-dropping graphics by the Princeton INA. See a whole new perspective on our world."