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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Bite-Size Learning: Structured to Engage

Determining the best way to develop "snack" learning content involves more than simply clustering content and making it available on a variety of mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, and next iterations of technology).

There is definitely a need to develop effective design. After all, much content delivered in bite-sized bits, but not all of it is engaging.  Just think of the average banner ad (especially if it is a flashing, seizure-inducing animated gif), or a block of teeny-tiny text. Also, no matter how tiny and tasty the chunk of information, if it requires twenty five clicks and a labyrinthine navigation structure, you can count on the fact that only the most doggedly persistent or OCD-driven learner will actually consume that little chunk of learning at the end.

For chunk learning to work, you have to engage the learner.  Once engaged, you’ve established conditions of learning, which, according to cognitive psychologists and researchers such as Gagner, are absolutely critical to having a successful experience. "Snack" or "quick bite" learning works for topics ranging from learning languages, reviewing content for professional licensing, continuing education, technical training, and more.

Here are a few keys to developing and engaging “hooks” for chunk learning:

Promise it will be quick:
Your images and text need to communicate in a nano-second that the entire experience of taking the lesson will be something they can do quickly and painlessly.  The way you name your lessons can help you out: “Lunch and Learn,” “Breaktime Learning,” “Bite-Size Learning” and “Snack Learning,” are just a few of the possible labels you can use that will communicate to your learners that they will be able to complete the lesson in less than an hour. Here is an example from the AAPG:  Sequence Stratigraphy: Part 1 (of 5) 

Performance anxiety is a reality in technology-driven settings, and it does not help that every day seems to herald a new era in devices and operating systems.  New is fun, but instant obsolescence is not. Design the interface so it is intuitive, colorful, and simple. Limit choices. Help your learner relax. An example is's Vocabulary Builder, which is interactive and adaptive.

Effective combination of graphics / text / audio / video: 
Use media strategically to pique learner interest and to keep them continuing to learn.

Make sure your content plays on all devices: 

Your lesson needs to be accessible on smartphones, mobile devices, tables, laptops, and desktops, and it needs to be quick to load. Medical Joyworks is a great example, with Medical Prognosis for the Android, iPhone, as well as tablets and laptops.

Prognosis: Your Diagnosis features clinical case studies in a game setting. It allows the learner to investigate, gather information, research issues, and create diagnoses for complex clinical cases. The interface is cheerful and engaging, with its clear, engaging cartoon sketches.

Thinking about the future: 
Mobile learning is a moving train; perhaps a better metaphor is a Gulfstream G650. The mobile learning winners will continue to be those whose content plays on many devices, and can be completed easily and quickly at the convenience of the learner.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Chunk Learning Comes of Age

How do you like to consume your mobile learning content? Let's ask another question, seemingly unrelated - how do you like your peanut butter, vegetable stew, or dog food?  Chunky? I know that’s how I like it. Sure, it’s a texture, but it also connotes other attributes:  easy to eat, tasty, and sometimes composed of little bits that are “chunked” together to it bigger and more substantial.

For elearning, chunking can refer to two different things: it can refer to the relatively small size of the content as well as the fact that more granular elements (conceptual or physical) have been incorporated, mixed and formed into “chunks.”

Cognitive psychologists have long been able to demonstrate that one of the best ways to assure that learners are able to make connections and to build on the knowledge and skills they are gaining is to “chunk” the content. Related concepts are clustered together, and they the concepts reinforce each other.

Ideally, the content is place in sequential form, as well, to enable learners to build on their knowledge while they also relate the new concepts or skills to prior learning.

In today’s Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) environment, chunky, bite-size learning works extremely well. You’re able to access content and activities, and then complete assessments. Assessments are automatically graded, and they generate a certificate that reflects your performance. The provider may even keep a record of your performance.

All successful “chunk” learning shares a few elements in common:

Strong, clear conceptual structure: It is important to make sure that the learner understands just where and how the bite-size learning fits within the overall subject. Because the chunk is a piece of the whole, it is important to indicate where and how the content fits within the whole.

Strong overall schemata: Make sure that there are strong classification schemes or categories in your overall course. You may even wish to create a matrix that illustrates where the course fits within the overall subject matter.

Engaging and relevant: Make sure that your learning bites are engaging and relevant. For example, the lesson may be on Leadership through Followership. If so, you will need to make sure it relates to the overall subject of leadership, and it includes engaging, interesting facts, as well as case studies.

Useful:  The learner will feel satisfied if it is clear that the knowledge that he or she has gained can be put to use immediately, and can tie to his or her long-term, and short-term goals.

Bite-size “chunk” learning is effective in the mobile learning environment because it simultaneously meets a number of needs. Not only does it provide on-demand knowledge that can help solve an immediate problem, it also creates a sense of accomplishment. Each time a small lesson is completed, the positive outcome reinforces an “I can do it!” attitude, which ultimately ties to enhanced self-efficacy and belief.  For those who may feel a bit of anxiety about professional development, chunk learning is a great way to learn the content, build skills, and start to really believe in the transformative power of learning.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Interview with Paige Johnson, Intel: Innovators in Education Series

Educational transformation requires a significant investment, and not just from a single source. The most effective educational growth often occurs when companies, communities, educators, and committed volunteers join forces and determine the best and most strategic way to invest. With that in mind, Intel Corporation has initiated a new program, Intel Teach, which awards Intel Schools of Distinction

Welcome to an interview with Paige Johnson, education strategist for Intel Corporation. In this interview, she  describes how Intel, the Intel Foundation, and Intel employees have donated resources and time to help underserved communities have access to technology and know-how in order to achieve true transformation of their educational programs and goals.

 Paige Johnson, Education Strategist

1.       What is your name and your relation to innovative learning?
My name is Paige Johnson and I am the education strategist for Intel Corporation. Intel gets directly involved in education programs, political advocacy and technology access efforts that enable today’s youth to develop the skills they need to be the innovators of tomorrow. Over the past decade alone, Intel and the Intel Foundation have invested more than $1 billion and Intel employees have donated close to 3 million volunteer hours toward improving education in more than 60 countries.

Intel has invested millions of dollars in education transformation efforts through our Intel Teach program, which offers professional development to over 10 million teachers around the world, to Intel’s support of the K-12 Blueprint, which helps with technology planning and deployment in schools.

2.       What does it mean to be an Intel school of distinction?
The Intel Schools of Distinction Awards program honors schools that have 21st century learning environments and offer innovative programs that inspire students to excel in math and science. To be considered an Intel School of Distinction, a school must develop curricula that meet or exceed benchmarks -- including national mathematics and science content standards -- and an environment that fosters excellence and excitement in these critical subject areas.

3.       What are some of the projects and what is the goal?
Intel Schools of Distinction integrate a wide variety and science and math programs into their curricula. Here are some examples of projects from two of this year’s winners:
·         The Sadie Tanner Mossell School in Philadelphia, PA utilizes a unique partnership with the University of Pennsylvania and extended teacher hours to propel its student body to success.
·         The TAF Academy in Kent, WA integrated math into all of its subjects and created an additional period in the day for struggling students to receive extra help.

The primary goal of the Intel Schools of Distinction Awards is to identify, recognize and help replicate the successful teaching methods of the nation’s top performers in science and math education. By promoting these innovative institutions and bolstering their efforts through grants and sponsor awards, we aim to extend the reach of their impact to other schools, who often seek out the advice of institutions who earn the coveted title of Intel School of Distinction.

4.       Please describe three schools that have been considered for awards and what makes them impressive.
Elementary Math winner: At George Hall Elementary School in Mobile, Ala., instruction is differentiated to meet the varied learning styles and levels of understanding of students, 99 percent of whom are minorities and 90 percent of whom come from financially disadvantaged families. Instructors engage students in hands-on activities where they are given the opportunity to work with manipulatives and see concrete examples before thinking about abstract meanings. Lessons are designed to help students make real-world connections and engage in authentic problem solving. The results of George Hall’s transformation are staggering: Whereas only 30 percent of students reached proficiency in math eight years ago, 96 percent of fourth graders achieved proficiency in 2011.

Star Innovator/High School Science winner: A philosophy of inclusion guides STEM instruction at Ossining High School in Ossining, N.Y., where all students – regardless of test scores or grades – are encouraged to enroll in the school’s scientific research course, gain hands-on experience in STEM projects, and consider the possibility of a career in science. Through project-based instruction, students act as scientists, working both individually and collaboratively, and reaching out to experts in their field to further learning. All students are encouraged to present their work in an annual symposium.

Ossining, New York, High School

Elementary Science winner: At Legacy Elementary in Madison, Ala., students don’t acquire science knowledge by reading about it; instead, they experience it firsthand in the school’s outdoor learning laboratory. Instruction is inquiry based, student centered, and technology infused. Students plant vegetable gardens, create and study habitats for wildlife, examine microscopic organisms, and apply math strategies as they learn about land and water ecosystems. Students manage the high-tech weather station and produce educational videos with teachers acting as guides on the side. More than 90 percent of fifth graders achieved proficiency on state tests in 2009, 2010, and 2011.

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