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Google GPS navigation


For two days we get caught out by and even lost on the freeways around San Diego – our car hire company did not provide Sat Nav and there are no road maps to speak of – I bought two. They lacked detail and didn’t even show Ocean Beach where we were staying. Resistance to localising our Sim cards and we try the new Google Maps GPS system. A wonder. We nickname the British voice ‘Simon’ as in ‘Simon Says …’ Unlike the human navigator or back-seat driver he is extraordinarly patient if you insist on going the wrong way. Overnight we develop a dependency which ensures that more than one phone is charged, a battery-block is charged too and we even buy a bluetooth linked portable speaker.

Our week in Sausalito becomes an adventure as we drive ‘like natives’ from one end of the county to the other … and beyond. Farfrom being slaves to the technology it frees us.

We marvel at the precision navigation – for the most part. We are ‘rescued’ several times from what I would call Freeway Purgatory – finding no way off the freeway and losing any sense of direction. We trust it rather than my gut to take us everywhere. So far the only foible has been the choice of exit from Golden Gate North to Sausalito as ‘Simon’s’ choice is to drop down the steepest most windy road to our accommodation rather than taking the longer, and more appropriate main road in.

It is a Beta version. Whilst a sense of fun has me dreaming up all kinds of variations to the character and tone of the voice, and its granularity my only additional requirement is for the occassional prompt during a long stretch to say we are doing OK.

Of course, losing the signal or a dead phone is now a bind. So far I will take screen grabs and yesterday with the phone about to die I took photos of the route and directions which my daughter then read out as we set off – necessary as even getting from one side of a freeway to the other may require what feels like an odd choice of route, not over or under, but along and back.

Walking a trail in Muir Woods, when we had a signal, I could, within reason keep on track. Not accurate enough to allow me to close my eyes, but one day could this support the blind? Could we turn ‘Simon’ into an educator as well as a guide? Do we want some or any journey ‘annotated?’

What is a mind burst?

Fig 1. STIHL Leafy Christmas Card. Courtesy of Ads of the World. Dec 2012

Advertisers create ads that stick so that consumers are influenced in their decision making in the shopping aisle. Can this be used to help students remember for exams and when required in the workplace?

I was looking for a way to an an Umlaut to the name ‘Engeström‘ in Google Docs help but instead stumble upon something far more valuable in relation to access to e-learning for students with disabilities – navigation short cuts. These apply to how a person with sight impairment might move through a text and so, like basic web usability, informs on best practice when it comes to writing, proof reading and lay-out, i.e. editing with a reader with a visual impairment in mind.

Somehow the clear way the guide is laid out caused the penny to drop in a way that hasn’t occurred in the last three months however many times I have observed, listened to, read about or tried to step into the shows of a Web usability recommends a way of laying out text that is logical, clear and suited to the screens we use to access content from the web.

Fig.2. Google Docs help center – navigation student with a visual impairment.

This logic of headings and multiple sub-headings, let alone plain English in relation to short sentences as well as use of paragraphs makes reading not only easier for those with no disability, but assists those with varies degrees of visual impairment as content is then better able to respond to standard tools of text enlargement and enhancement, but also of screen readers that work best when reading through text.

What assistive technology does, a control that doesn’t require a mouse and keeps a manageable set of keys under the fingers rather than needing to run back and forth across the keyboard, is to reduce the above commands to actions that a visually impaired or blind person can then use to control their web viewing experience.

This, for me is a ‘mind burst’ – when, why and how the ‘penny drops’ that moment of clarity or inspiration.

Is there a common logic to it?

My construct has to be different to anyone else’s because of the vast array of connections that make me the person I am and have become. As a ‘educator’ and ‘communicator’ do I seek out moments of revelation in relation to a topic such as this in the hope and belief that they will make sense and even work for others?

In terms of immediacy of effect adverts in the forms of magazine spreads, posters and TV spots aim to do this to – willing a person to act in a certain way, whether to purchase a service or product, or to sign up for a course, subscribe to a magazine or contribute to a charity.

If applied to learning are we in any way cheating or making it too easy?

On the contrary, is it not the educator’s role to spark understanding or act as a catalyst to get thinking going or to create an memorable image, a tag or peg that can be applied not just in an exam but when this thinking is required to solve or resolve problems in the real world?

Ads of the World in relation to learning

Fig. 3. When you smoke, your baby smokes. Vermont Department of Health. Courtesy of Ads of the World. 

Fig.4. Garnier Fructis – courtesy of Ads of the World 

  • Can the quality or nature of the expression of a module of learning have a measurable impact on retention of this information?
  • Whilst the goal of an education is marked by assessment and therefore students need to have the information at their fingertips for an exam, how in the real world do we ensure, with efficiency, that lessons are not forgotten?
  • Does it help is a piece of health and safety training for a nuclear power station includes dramatic reconstruction of a nasty accident and the measures not only taken to deal with it … but to prevent it happening in the first place?

Does advertising have something to teach the educator? Can memorable images be used in learning to help make the facts stick? Should such pegging be something of the student’s own construction?


Ebbinghaus, H. (1885) Memory: A Contribution to Experimental Psychology

Engeström.Y (2008) From Teams to Knots: Activity-theoretical studies of Collaboration and Learning at Work. Learning in doing: Social, Cognitive & Computational Perspectives. Cambridge University Press. Series Editor Emeritus. John Seely Brown.

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