Thursday, April 05, 2012

Lean Principles and Developing Instruction: Structuring Communications

One of the key principles of Lean is that communications should be structured. I wasn't really sure what this meant, exactly. So I asked my own person consultant in all things business process related (my daughter Nicole) what this was about.

What she said was pretty simple, actually. That a communications plan should be in place that specifies how and what communication is going to occur. At first I thought that there simply must be more to this than that -- but then I remembered something that happened to me a while back. 

I had attended a conference and saw a new technology that I found pretty exciting. It was software that provided a virtual desktop to computers. It would allow us to have only one desktop to maintain, not 15. It would ensure that every day a fresh instance of the standard desktop was present on the machine, so we didn't have settings being changed, software missing, etc etc etc. So I asked one of the team to install it and thought we would try it out and then I could report our wonderful success to the other department heads and we would be the toast of the University. 

And my teammate hopped to and installed the software. 

And then the nightmare began -- not for me, but for the people who were responsible for actually supporting users in the lab, people that I had completely neglected to either ask or inform of my grand plans. It was with great embarrassment that I heard about the extra work and headaches I had caused for my team. And then I asked my teammate to uninstall it and put things back the way they were.

After that experience, I find myself not only stopping and thinking, "Who needs to know this?" but also thinking, "And who ELSE needs to know? And who ELSE?" A plan for structured communications helps to prevent this sort of problem. 

Recently, when I was helping the team rolling out a new student information system by developing user training, I was able to see that my plan for every-other-day status updates did inform my teammates, stakeholders, and clients. They all knew what was going on. But more importantly, their sense of anxiety was lessened as well. They knew what was going on, and they knew  they were going to hear again from me. Their energy didn't have to go into being worried. It could go into getting the project finished.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Great New Tool: ThingLink

I stumbled across a cool new tool today -- ThingLink. This tool allows you to upload a photo or graphic, insert hot spots, and link them to video, photos, or URLs. Here's a quick one I just did -- I had a lot more trouble using iMovie than I did ThingLink!

You can see my first attempt here.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Using Brain Science to Improve Your ELearning

As I've developed my instructional design model for deaf adult learners, I've turned to brain science to understand how I should best present content. My study has centered on Cognitive Load Theory, and what implications that has for deaf folks. Of course, it isn't as simple as checking out studies on cognitive load and deaf learners. Studies that answer my questions don't seem to exist. But I have been able to find studies that I think apply. Here's a summary of my findings. 

1.     Pretraining – understanding the names of things and how components work first – reduces cognitive load.
2.     Mental Models have two parts: First A representation of how parts work, and second, causal, how the parts affect one another.
3.     Novice learners need content signals. This means they need to be signaled when there is something they need to learn appearing on the screen.
4.     Novice learners need content weeded. This means there should be no extraneous information presented to reduce cognitive load.
5.     Novice learners need video to be segmented.  They need the time between videos to move content from working memory to long-term memory.
6.     Text on screen and voiced text at the same time increase cognitive load. Obviously deaf people don't hear text. But information conveyed in sign language, the deaf person's native language, is shown by some studies to be processed similarly to voiced text.
7.   Voiced text and graphics are better that text on screen and graphics. So perhaps signed language and graphics are better than text and graphics. 
8.     Text and graphics on screen increase learning if: 
Words and pictures are shown at the same time.         Illustrations are weeded. Text and pictures are physically close to one another.  An integrated instructional format is used. This means that the explanation of parts of a illustration are actually in the illustration, not separated above or below the graphic.
9. If students verbalize about their learning, they are better able to solve novel, ill-defined problems.
10.     Retention/transfer is greater when students build their own personal, external graphical representations. This is known as “Activation.”

Chandler, Paul and John Sweller. Cognitive Load Theory and the Format of Instruction, Cognition and Instruction: 8(4) 1991, 293-332.

De Westelinck, Katrien and Martin Valcke. The Impact of External Graphical Representations in Different Knowledge Domains: Is There a Domain Effect?

Hickok, Gregory, Ursula Bellugi, and Edward S. Klima. Sign Language in the Brain, Scientific American, June 2001.

Ibrahim, Mohamed and Pavlo D. Antonenko. Effects of Segmenting, Signaling, and Weeding on Learning from an Educational Video.

James, S. A. (2001, June 7). Magazine articles in APA format. Newsweek, 20, 48-52.

Mayer, Richard E. and Roxana Moreno. Nine Ways to Reduce Cognitive Load in Multimedia Learning. Educational Psychologist, 38(1), 43-52.

Thomas, Nigel J. T. Dual coding and Common Coding Theories of Memory, Mental Imagery, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Winter 2011 Edition.