There isn’t a lot of ID on tumblr, so I started this on a lark. Hopefully, I will start remembering to post more interesting finds there.
So, we might be kind of thick in our house, because it took an extra long time for us to figure this out. I pretty much don’t eat waffles that are not of the chocolate chip variety as I am addicted to chocolate. My husband was mixing them in the batter.
Nope. Just sprinkle the chips over the top of the batter before you close the iron.
PS. Something simple is a category for quick posts I’m using to get my blogging juices flowing again.
I think I spend less time on my phone than some people do. I am definitely not bragging—I spend plenty of time on my phone. That doesn’t stop me from secretly congratulating myself as I sit at dinner watching two people at a booth across the room wordlessly eating their dinner while they stare into their mobile devices. My family has banned what we call “augmenting while eating”, because we like good conversation and a good conversation with each other, and we can be pretty smug. Our jobs necessitate that we are connected most of the time, so dinner is a safe place where we can be ignorant about who directed which episode of Mad Men and where are latest Amazon purchase is.
Not that our 45 minutes a day of untethered luddism will save us from our inevitable transition into blobs of organic bio-controllers. (Emphasis added for sarcasm.) After all, you can’t have a good dystopia without technology encroaching into natural life and squelching the noblest human characteristics: compassion, respect for nature, self-determination. Signs of this are all around us, just look at the kids these days. The kids these days. *shakes head*
Lately, my husband and I have been fond of saying that our child will surpass us in every way in about 5 years’ time. Some days it seems like it will be a lot sooner. We’re indulging in a little bit of self-deprecating bragging, but because of the industries we are in we also realize that she will have access to more information at an earlier age than we could ever have imagined as preteens with dial-up Internet. While we’ll be on an level playing field as far as access, her brain will be wired for this stuff. Everyone who is acquainted with a parent or grandparent of a small child has heard the same story:
“…and you know, she thinks everything is a touch screen. The other day she asked me why she couldn’t change the picture on the cover of a magazine.”
I’m guilty of telling this story, too. It’s novel to imagine a generation that sees digital media as more real than physical media. Then again, the latest research tells us that print is definitely not dead, even among the youngest consumers. While it seems more and more as if we live in the future, we’re not escaping the past as quickly as we think. For every space-age video conference I have, I get 3 pieces of paper mail. For every solution I elegantly devise, facilitate, and carry out through a vast network of computers, I still use a bit of string or a stray paperclip to shore up some hastily scrawled reminder or broken clasp. I still have a foot firmly planted in the tangible world; in fact, most people do.
Sometimes I use technology to make things easier or better, and moreover it’s my job to think of ways that people can use technology to facilitate learning. The thing about the act of augmenting, though, is that it assumes an increase, something greater. It’s right there in the definition. When my family made the choice to disallow phones at the table, we did so in an effort to enhance our experience. When I read through my Twitter feed when I’m in line at the grocery store, I’m probably making the experience more enjoyable for myself. I could also try to use that time to be more efficient, more organized, more connected, more politically conscious, more productive, more frugal…
The trouble is when we can’t point out WHY we are doing what we’re doing. A little exercise I like to do when I reach for the phone or open a new tab in my browser is to ask myself what I intend to do. Since I’ve started approaching these actions mindfully, I’ve found that unhelpful habits like repeatedly checking inactive social media feeds have begun to disappear. What I’m doing should amplify the important things in my life, not relegate them to the periphery of my attention. I’m in charge here, technology. Pending some sort of Terminator-style cybernetic revolt, it’s likely to stay that way.
As part of a school project on participating with the Internet, I’ve turned six weeks of my life into an RPG. I’m about halfway through now, and way behind on writing down my thoughts. How does one turn their life into an RPG? Well, there’s not really much change required. My whole life is one big campaign. I’m just formalizing things with numbers.
The Quest: To make it through the semester while working and maintaining a personal life. Success is measured in experience points. My goal is to acquire 6000 before the end of the project. This is not going so well. I (purposefully) gave myself missions that would be challenging. Things like picking up extra work at my job (the ever-present assessment goal) and taking my dog out regularly even though I am swamped. That’s not to say that there aren’t a few gimmes. Things that award me with stamina, like going out on a date, aren’t hard to make time for.
I’ve learned a number of things from this experiment even as I hit the halfway point. The first is that this project has actually motivated me. I was skeptical that it would have any effect on my behavior and thought it would be an exercise in transparency more than anything. I realize now that I do tend to prioritize missions above other things I could be doing. This was an odd conceit for me to make, since I am a big proponent of game-based incentives in education. That being said, I feel like what really appeals to me about the power of gaming in education is the opportunity for the player to form an identity and become immersed in the game and therefore the content it is trying to impart. When I was formulating this idea for a project, I thought about it more in terms of analytics than in terms of play. I was not forming a new identity–I was me. I did and continue to do the things that are required of me. So what is the difference? How does assigning an arbitrary point value to a task incentivize me?
I didn’t realize it at first, but I was turning my life in data. What do we in education say about data? Data can be analyzed. Data makes sense of things. Assigning “Stamina” and “Knowledge” points to my endeavors started out as slightly tongue-in-cheek and a good way for me, as the designer of this game, to arrive at a value for each mission. However, I have found that I am taking the personal missions where I am gaining stamina to heart. I feel more rested after completing these tasks, just as I feel a greater sense of accomplishment from doing a school mission than a task that I did not assign value to for the week. As a result, I have turned in more assignments early in the last few weeks than I ever have before.
I can’t exactly explain why I feel better about completing “missions”; I’m sure it might have something to do with what I’m choosing to assign to myself in the first place. I can say, though, that sitting down each Sunday and attaching very specific value to what I’m going to do that week helps me make sense of things. It seems more pressing than a to-do list. More compelling than a due date on a syllabus. I have a quest, and I feel like I must achieve my goals. It is what I love about progress bars and power-up animations on a grand scale. These kinds of metrics make one aware of their own accomplishments and quantify what is still left to achieve. This is the power of learning analytics.
I’ve learner a few other things, too. My husband does a lot to take care of me while I’m going to school. My time and resources are finite. There is value in making the decision to let something go. There is value in sending something out into the world before it is perfect. I hope I keep learning these kinds of lessons from this project.
I recently created this interactive multimedia presentation on James Paul Gee, linguist and champion of video games in education. I actually purchased Gee’s book before I started my degree in instructional technology. It was one of those Amazon book suggestions that shaped the course of my life. Thanks semantic web!
A reflection on the three i’s that I wrote for a class recently.
As someone who designs things fairly regularly, I see the process as an extension of the desire to create. This doesn’t necessarily mean that a designer always enjoy designing things. To the contrary, I would venture to say that many artists, writers, and musicians would say that creating things can be hard and downright painful. However, at the end of the day, the artist/designer/writer has the need or desire to make something. Just as a songwriter must start thinking about melody and rhythm as things take shape, an interactive designer must begin to think about questions of usability and readability as they form their project.
Painting is mystifying to me because I have never been particularly good at it. I assumed for a long time that one is just able to capture things in paint because they have an eye for it. More recently than I would like to admit, I have talked to artists that have changed my mind about the magic lamp I though of as “The Creative Process”. They described the difficulty of laying out draw distance, determining scale, and choosing the perfect palette. Of course, that is also what a good designer does. The process must be undertaken with care, and it is far from a miracle. Without showing too much bias, I would say that the effort in creation especially tedious in interactive media design. Not only does a designer have to ask questions about aesthetics, but of scale, heuristics, and functionality. This is where the subtle interplay of information, interface, and interaction come into focus.
Everyday, I deal in content. It is by far the most valuable thing I handle on a regular basis. These are precious ideas culled from the heads of subject matter experts and shaped by writers. My job as an instructional designed is to make this costly stuff digestible for others so that they get to experience its worth fully. That task is certainly not just of formatting and arranging. The information must be molded and then be made accessible. When the medium is digital, this means taking away the layers of abstraction that naturally crop up between text on the screen and an eager—or not so eager—user. Only through rich presentation (appropriate for the task at hand) can the full meaning of the information be derived. An effective interface is essential to delivering the promise of the material. The very act of delivering information is a way of interacting with its audience.
I would argue that interaction is the goal of all media. For instance, the goal of a piece of art is to elicit feelings within the consumer and to encourage cooperation between them and the artist. Even pure entertainment is an exchange of between the viewer and the creator, even if we scarcely consider something like television interactive at all. Interaction taps into the inherent joy humans find in reciprocity. It’s the same reason you’ll find yourself tossing pebbles into a pond—changing your environment that validates your existence. There is something delightful about being able to manipulate things and give them context outside of oneself. This feeling is critical to creating a pleasant digital space where someone wants to spend time. Personally, I put roll over effects into just about everything, because it is one of those little details that suggests reality even in a counterfeit place.
Just how hard is it to synthesize well-sculpted information that encourages an exchange between itself and the user and deliver it in a smart way? Hard, but not so hard when the designer really stops to consider the person that they are designing for. This is why the design process is an extension of the desire to create. The source of the desire will be apparent in the final product. Hopefully, the designer has the wish to please others above all else.
Photo credit user fooflington on flickr.
Link to the growplanthere VLE.
My classmates, Anita and Erin, and I designed an adventure learning project for a class on the subject in the Spring of 2011. The idea was to take an issue that was important to all of us and weave in a blended learning curriculum with a learning adventure. I feel like that we achieved that with growplanthere.
This was a wordpress implementation that features streams about field trips that we actually took to nurseries, an organic farm-to-kitchen restaurant here in Austin, and a community garden. We also emulated the class activities in our curriculum by growing our own gardens for one month. There are also opportunities for interaction in the form of forums and a twitter feed.
This project was a great opportunity to share (and develop) our passion for urban, sustainable gardening and play around with the concept on a VLE for a blended AL course. I also got a few tomatos and lots of herbs out the the deal before the drought really set on Austin during the summer.