Friday 23 March 2012

Learning Solutions #LScon: Aaron Silvers and Elaine Raybourn on Applying Transmedia Storytelling Techniques for eLearning and Training

Live from the Learning Solutions magazine conference. There are people you just want to meet, one of which is Aaron Silvers . He always gets my mind going, and this time he totally blew me away with his semantic learning insights.

He got me onto two great books: one by Gayle Moller: awakening the sleeping giant. A great book on helping teachers to develop as leaders. the other one by Gray, Brown and Macanufo entitled 'Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers' which is all about engaging people to share ideas and build upon them. For anyone looking for new group engaging formats, this is a book to read.

Aaron recently set up an interdisciplinary unconference to probe into the depths of educational reform necessities and future affordances. Now, when he talked about it I got illuminated by his ideas and passion. He used part of the gamestorming book, but completely fitted the formats for that unconference's, specific learning purposes (genius!). And he got me introduced to the word Obliquity, which is a - if I understood correctly - a word indicating achieving your goal indirectly, so leaving room for tailored serendipity (yes, wonderful).

So no wonder I just had to follow his session on transmedia storytelling and for those interested here is a post debunking some transmedia storytelling myths ! The program synopsis: A growing number of courses, devices, applications, tasks, and responsibilities compete for learners' limited attention. ELearning and training programs don’t need to compete – they can leverage multiple media to reach learners anywhere, anytime. Transmedia is a cutting-edge approach that can help with remediation and knowledge reinforcement. And this is what he talked about (in my paraphrasing words):

We have an emotional part of the brain, so we are geared up to react to emotions. The good part of storytelling is that you can exchange emotions. So you can position a message, so the audience can feel the message, that they can respond to the affinity the message evokes. We react emotionally first before we process the rational part of the brain. So this will enhance the message response in your audience.

iPad tool called ... framework for telling stories (finger-puppets). This puts in stages, props for children or learners on how to tell a story. This reminded Aaron of story telling and all the factors it has. In a story you need to capture interest through the actors, there must be some climax, resolution.

Joseph Campbell worked on archetypes. Archetypes make up part of the strengths of an audience.

Storytelling (like screenplay writing) has some fixed parts to make it stick. Elaine talks about story worlds. Start from your core message, what are the interactions, then move to the narrative (what is the story, what is the story arch), then think about the place/the context/the state of mind your audience is in. How can you compliment this all to put it together into a transmedia storytelling.

Storytelling can result in co-creation with your audience. It depends on the social media you incorporate in your learning/teaching interaction. When you put people together, you need to facilitate the interactions.

Star Trek conventions metaphor: people exchanging fan material in between them, yet that was never the purpose of Gene Roddenberry. The audience was embraced though, to allow them to do what they felt was meaningful on the subject of Star Trek.

Learning Solutions #LScon: Stephanie Daul on gaming and eLearning

Live from the Morning Buzz session on gaming and eLearning with Stephanie Daul. This is what I picked up:

In short:
- Make the rules generic for multiple contents reproduction;
- use cognitive walk-throughs;
- keep the learners in mind;
- make it easy, fun and authentic.
- keep a function for those loosing the game.

Get out of the mind-frame that gaming is in front of a television set. We ALL play games, with our kids, with everyone.

Before starting Stephanie asked the audience what games they use in their eLearning (if any). A wonderful game could be to get people into a contest at the beginning of a course. If you ask them to use some of the tools that will be used during the game, it allows them to get the basic digital skills that will be used during the course.

We need to get easy gaming going, learning from our own lives and translating it into the online learning

ASTD technology: multiple game of thumb-wars. If you play the game at the beginning of a learning experience, it is medically proven that the game will produce chemicals in your brain opening the minds for easier learning. This can also be used during any working day, for it changes your chemical feeling (Ciska, you are right again, gaming in between thinking!).

Make it challenging: different levels, give it a goal (e.g. Angry birds).

Example: 3 DS's building a program where people will play 'flash focus' for 15 minutes a day to see if it enhanced their accuracy. It got people of the floor, and refresh their minds. That idea was well received. The total cost was 500 dollars, so cheaper than any trainer you would want to attract (3DS and games).

Example: building a new website (grangers), moving to a new platform. So they have a large audience that supports the website in one way or the other. So they thought up a way to train the back-end workers? Alternate reality game: the game showed characters based on the customer type. The customers were the audience, they had to go to the new website and find a new feature on the website. The game ran for 3 weeks and enabled people to gain points. that way the customers explored the complete website and at the same time they were engaged in a game.

It was really hard to sell games to colleagues within the company of Stephanie (grangers). So what she did was setting up 'games and grub', everyone bringing games they like to play during lunch. Afterwards everyone focused on the interaction and the actual board, followed by some brainstorming on how this could be used for business or learning. Although this did not result in anyting at first, the group grew, and finally there were more people from different fields which enabled more interactions and idea exchanges. This is a nice way to get people more open to playing games for learning.

First focus on what the aim of the game would be, then you set up the rules. First the rules of the game play itself (e.g. card game: they need to do these three things to be successful at the game), than you start playing the games and you can add more rules based on the 'cheating' of the participants that play the game in the pilot version. A Game of Phones: mobile game application. As a customer you need to find out what the clients are using (tech...).
Made some muck-up cards of what the game might look like. Then internal experts came in to have a look at how the game dynamics worked, and after many, many, many iterations a consultant was contracted to develop the actual game (rapid development). After development, again playing and adjustments to reach the intended goal, including having all the rules.

You can also make a flex game (the game stays the same - generic - but the content is changed): which has flexible rules. But you must make sure that there are rules that match the task being taught. Make them parallel to the authentic learning that needs to be developed. All the branches build into the game must be linked to the reality. If it is not genuine, participants will walk out of the game. Of course the setting can be different then the real environment, but the rules must be the same.

Cognitive walk-through: on paper going through the thought processes, and finding where it sits succesful, or where the game, or the cognitive logic needs to be tweaked.

Try to keep the 'losers', for instance by giving them 'judge' privileges, or similar which keeps them engaged in the game but with a different perspective. You need to know what to do with failure of the game: have a strategy ready for the participants.

And to finish: always keep in mind what the customer needs, for they are the true evaluators.

Thursday 22 March 2012

Learning Solutions #LScon: indirect learning on Education

Today was a wonderful, incredibly inspiring day. I (re)met wonderful people, got inspiring ideas, was moved by respectful, warm words... it can be so great to mingle. And every time I learn, I will gladly share some posts inspired by those informal get together's.

David Metcalf from METIL redirected me to James Tooley, on his project/book 'the beautiful tree' which talks about how the poor educate themselves. His project is fabulous, he gets a micro-finance business going that offers communities in any poor area around the world to organize, set-up and deploy education. Before including the video of James talking about the low-cost private schools in the slums of India. If you have not heard of him, check out the video to get inspired on new ways of education. Really, it will inspire for it shows how people in the most difficult circumstances manage to set up schools where pupils can follow education for low cost (2 $).

But before heading to the video, David Metcalf also mentioned a recently published book he co-edited that highlights 10 mHealth projects. For those interested in mHealth, you can find a link to the eBook here (you can download it and read it offline via the iOffline software).
The short synopsis of the book:
mHealth: From Smartphones to Smart Systems
By Rick Krohn, MA, MAS, and David Metcalf, PhD
mHealth: From Smartphones to Smart Systems provides a high-level and comprehensive survey of the emergence of mobile technology heatlhcare. This book looks beyond the already-popular devices and apps associated with mhealth, exploring the major role this technology could play as healthcare steers inexorably toward an architecture in which key decision making occurs at the point-of-care. In its fullest flowering, mHealth will serve as the catalyst that effectively addresses healthcare's most intractable problems--quality and cost--and will form the centerpiece of healthcare programs aimed at chronic disease management, population health, wellness and prevention. This book covers a variety of topics, including an industry assessment of mHealth solutions, clinical and business applications, privacy and security concerns, stakeholder involvement, infrastructure issues and much more. Also incuded are 10 case studies that highlight how some organizations have moved forward with their own mHealth initiatives. 2012.

But now, the video on how some of the poor people organize their own learning (Kenya, Tanzania, India...).

Learning Solutions #LScon: presentation on #MOOC

An updated version of my MOOC presentation, now with some added resources e.g. on how to keep on top of content overload of MOOC's, social media use (why use which tool)...

It was a great presentation, thank you to all participants!

Learning Solutions #LScon: Erik Wahl on the Art of Vision

Live blogging from the learning solutions conference (@LScon). This keynote comes from Erik Wahl (from the Wahl Group), who will focus on the Art of Vision. Sounds promising!

This is what the short description said: As the landscape for business continues to change, a clear vision is the key to successfully navigating tomorrow’s uncharted waters. The Art of Vision is a program specifically designed to help companies utilize unconventional wisdom and build a vision for their future. No matter what kind of organization – from small companies to large corporations – employees at all levels can better embrace the future by becoming more innovative. By breaking apart traditional thinking, Erik challenges and inspires his audiences to redefine commonly held assumptions and misconceptions about “creativity," "goals," "success,” and "vision.” Discover how you can sharpen your creative skills and identify a personal style for inspiring yourself and others to rethink vision and purpose.

And now for what he is saying:
Erik Wahl moves all over the place and draws to connect both brain hemispheres while he is presenting. He speaks very motivational and engaging.

In his presentation the key point ws to bridge the left an right brain to be equiped to cope with this Knowledge era.

Border between creativity and corporate strategy is the new frontier and ... the land of opportunity for this era.
Trust s the biggest currency (e.g. social media)
School system is too one dimensional, linear: we must step away from that.
We need to take risks again.
We need to look for ways to work smarter, to self educate, to empower our employees to become knowledgeable and keep it that way.
Education in a changing educational world we need to find new educational models.
Programming our minds, accessing the emotional brain which will drive vision twoards were we want to be.

His business went broke, his identity got blown to pieces ... so he learned that everything can be taken away just like that. That is where he learned to trust himself, travel, let go and become more ourselves again.
Emotional commitment to be better equiped to succeed.

Thursday 15 March 2012

European workshop on #mLearning organized by Stellar network of excellence

On Monday 26 March and Tuesday 27 March 2012 a wonderful workshop is organized by and the Open University on the subject of mobile learning, it is called learning in context. If you are free and in the neighborhood, make sure you join in. It is in the heart of Brussels, Belgium.

What to expect:
In this workshop current innovative practices on the use of mobile learning and research from the domain of Technology Enhanced Learning will be joint. Contextualized learning will be addressed from different angles, including
  • case-studies from industry, Higher Education and Secondary Education
  • Current and future Research issues, and
  • Visions for the future of applying mobile learning in education and training.

In the 2-day event in Brussels a small group of experts has been invited to work with educational professionals from industry, formal education and CPD who have some experience in the application of Mobile Learning. Confirmed speakers are Agnes Kukulska-Hulme, Mike Sharples, Norbert Pachler, Marco Kalz, Volker Zimmermann, Marcus Specht, John Traxler. Marcus will be joined by Marco Kalz, Stefaan Ternier and Fred de Vries from the Mobile Learning team.

The registration cost is 150 EUR, and the places are limited (only 50 participants can attend).
You can register by sending an e-mail with contact details to

Tuesday 13 March 2012

#MOOC benefits for international learners

Organizing a massive open online course enables content to be discussed and created by a wide variety of international learners. In running up to a set of presentations, here is an overall view of MOOC benefits and a short look at what it comprises.

mLearning #research focus: new features of #html5 for future offline #mLearning

Chillian researchers from the Universidad de Chile, Santiago have a wonderful and useful research paper focusing on new features of html5 and how they can be used for situated learning scenarios. The full paper can be found here (English) at page 252 of the mLearn2011 proceedings. The authors of the paper are: Nelson Baloian, Jonathan Frez, Marc Janser, Gustavo Zurita.

It is a long paper that is both theoretical, technical and practical = great combination. And I gladly share some of the paper's content here.

What I found of immediate interest was their list of new, useful html5 features related to offline mLearning and semantic features - really nice:

HTML5 provides a number of new features that almost all yield to the possibility to enrich HTML sites either by new communication mechanisms or by new presentation techniques. In the following the three most important new features with respect to mobile learning scenarios will be presented shortly:

Canvas: With the new CANVAS implementation HTML5 provides the possibility for an easy and flexible provision of 2D graphics. Therefore, the new CANVAS object provides e.g. the possibility to draw simple lines, circles and rectangles. Furthermore, images can be added to a canvas that can be moved, rotated and scaled. Furthermore, simple graphical functionality like transparency can be used. All these functions are available over simple JavaScript commands.

Historically, a website was only able for uni-directional communication from the website to the server. The only way to receive data from the server was implementing pull methods (ex, AJAX). This changed with the implementation of WebSockets, since this approach allows for bi-directional communication. In order to be able to receive data send over a WebSocket, the website needs to implement the different JavaScript-Callback methods:
 onopen: gets called when the WebSocket is openend.
 onmessage: gets called when a message arrives over the socket.
 onclose: gets called when the WebSocket connection is closed.
The onmessage method works just like a push call from the remote server.

Web Database: HTML5 provides an implementation of SQLite that allows associating a Web application with a local database and load remote data into it.

LocalStorage: consists in a hash table with 10Mb capacity to store values; these data are related to the Web application in online and offline mode.

FileSystem, manifest and offline mode: The key of developing web applications is the combined use of FileSystem and the Manifest file. FileSystem is an API that provides an independent file system from other applications and user files. Manifest is a declaration of which are the files that make up the application by local references to them. The Manifest is used by browsers to download these files and load them to a local filesystem, allowing offline operation.

Geolocation: Given the capacity of current mobile devices, there are many applications that use the georeference api, HTML5 provides this api that allows to know the coordinates of the access device, so its possible integrate the information. The data available are: latitude, longitude, altitude, accuracy, altitude accuracy, heading, speed.

WebWorker: is a simplification to work with threads in a web environment, since the browser controls the threads; it is not possible to manipulate from Javascript. However, a WebWorker permits simultaneous and asynchronous operations, regardless of the strands of the browser.

Semantic elements : Allow roles different visual components of HTML, for example assign a header role to a div, and footer to another. Thus it is the device's browser that allocates positions screen as character of it.

WebGL: In addition to the new 2D capabilities provided by the HTML5 CANVAS, a third technology, closely related to HTML5 showed up recently that provides 3D capabilities based on OpenGL, called WebGL. Making use of this technology, it would be possible to easily enrich mobile learning scenarios by 3D content.

The authors of this paper then continue on how they embed these new features in the learning scenario's, really interesting and a good read.

As I read a lot of research papers and come across a lot of projects, I thought it would be nice to share those that caught me eye in particular. Hoping to do so every two weeks - ambitious :-D

Thursday 8 March 2012

International Women’s Day: women in top positions at universities and women in ICT

Happy international Women’s day to all of us! A lot has changed in the last 100 years for women worldwide, but there is still a lot to do. So why not start my next train of blogposts (after a refreshing and intense writing vacation) with a gender blogpost?

As a feminist (since early birth, thanks mom and dad!) I am thrilled to be part of the technological wave that sweeps all nations. I have my own banking account, a techy job, personal interests that can be persued… the only thing I do not have is a gender support project that focuses on getting women educated no matter what their backgrounds or location (but keeping it in mind as a future plan).

A quick look at women in top positions in European Universities and gender representation in computer sciences a bit furtherdown this blogpost.

From an article by Curt Rice ( European Universities’ top positions are still mainly occupied by men. In the 27 countries making up the (current) European Union, 59% of university graduates are women, but only 18% of full professors are women. And only 9% of universities have a women at the top of the organization. For more statistics, see the European Commission’s SHE figures.

Why should we care? Why is this a problem? Why should we work harder to achieve gender balance at the highest levels of academia?

There are many research articles on the benefits of gender-balanced leadership teams, for example, four reports called Women Matter. The first of these demonstrates that companies with over 30% women at the top perform better. The second one shows that this happens because women use different leadership behaviors than men. The third report identifies measures that can be used to increase gender balance, while the fourth investigates which of these are most effective.

In Africa we can see the same gap in gender representation and computer science as can be seen everywhere, but with a fresh perspective researched by James Rogers Ochwa-Echel. Who explored: the Gender Gap in Computer Science Education in Uganda. The purpose of this study was two-fold: to investigate the nature of the gender gap in computer science education in Uganda and to understand the factors that influence gender differences in computer science education in Uganda. The findings of the study indicate that there is a gender gap in computer science education (just like almost everywhere else). The reasons for the gap were revealed in the interviews, surveys and focus group discussions. The study concluded that several policy measures need to be taken to address the gender gap in computer science education in Uganda. Remarkably, the conclusion from this research is similar to other parallel research… so when will all of the policy makers learn from science and research get into action?! This research was published in the International journal of Gender, Research and Technology and the full article can be accessed (for free) here:


Then there is the journal with a Special Issue on Women in ICT through the Lifecourse that looks at a gender issues concerning ICT, written by Juliet Webster on the gender and ICT blog (

Three members of her group, Cecilia Castaño, Rachel Palmén and Juliet Webster herself, have jointly edited a Special Issue of the International Journal of Gender, Science and Technology. The issue is called Women in ICT: international research from a lifecourse perspective, and features articles from leading researchers covering the issues facing women in ICT at different points in their lives. Together, the papers constitute a valuable account of the challenges to women’s participation, from education, to employment, and in their senior careers.You can download any of the papers or their abstracts using the links below, or at:

Picking out the education part of the articles in a short overview: an interesting paper is that by González and Vergés which reveals the factors involved in the decisions that women with established careers make in moving internationally: their patterns of mobility differ markedly from men’s and are, as we might expect, fundamentally connected to their role in the domestic sphere. Interesting.

Three papers focus on what can be done to get women increasingly present in the ICT sphere. In their Perspectives paper, Glover and Evans argue forcefully that there are significant limitations with approaches that rely on the business case for diversity in ICT. Glover and Evans advocate the implementation of coherent systems and robust evaluation to ensure that interventions achieve their potential (although I must say, I have been hearing the cry for evaluation criteria adjustment for years!).

Discussing interventions in the US in her Perspectives paper, Cohoon identifies some of the key factors which contribute to their success or failure for getting or keeping women in ICT carreers moving them to the top level: sustained leadership, resources, and embedded initiatives that do not rely on a sole practitioner.

Herman’s case study paper deals with an initiative in the UK aimed specifically at women returners to SET. This initiative had very positive feedback from its participants, and was apparently very effective in increasing the personal confidence and employability of the women involved. But Herman raises the important issue of how success is measured. Much evaluation tends to operate with ‘hard’ numerical outcome measures, yet ‘soft’ measures such as those capturing qualitative or cultural changes are arguably just as valid, and indeed may be much more important in contributing to long-term, sustained social change, particularly in relation to gender.