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 ‘Smartness’ online is the product of teamwork

It is a chamber orchestra rather than a philharmonic:  rarely an unsupported solo act.
Content very quickly looks tired and dated unless it is relevant, well expressed. Where delivered digitally it has to have those apparent and hidden ‘clever bits.’ It links to stuff, it engages, it might embed video, it invites people to connect and share … i.e. an eNewsletter is so much more than a piece of print distributed by email.

This graphic is my attempt to explain this further: content (text, images, video), with design (layout, branding, readability) and ‘smart‘ (links, tracking/understanding the audience, share, interaction … and much that I can’t even start to imagine that can make a more personalised ‘communiqué.’
My role of the digital editor, like an editor on any platform, print, TV, or radio, as well as creating or editing/managing the content, must make sure that the audience get this extra ‘smart‘ input. This is both whatever an eNewsletter does on the surface: register with this, join that, read this, do that, come to this, action that, but also the ‘analytics’ in the background.
I choose to receive eNewsletters from all kinds of organisations and have been looking at them closely. Keeping up is not easy. The very best are simple, clear, readable in a wink, engaging … and invariably connect invitingly to committing to a paid subscription or membership and want you to read it every month too.
If I should set a goal for any eNewsletter it is that not only does it engage and appeal to my readers, but they think it’s so interesting they want to share it with potential new readers.
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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?

REFERENCE

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.

Who generates the content online? Who takes part and who stands back? Who are the beneficiaries?

 

Fig. 1. Stats from Jakob Nielsen (2006), graphic and annotations by Jonathan Vernon (2010) 

 

Jakob Neilsen wrote ‘Web Usability‘ in 1999 – my addition is from 2001.

Online his thinking is still valid both on how to keep the message clear and stats on who does what. How does this impact on learning?

In a physical space I see an amphitheatre here, indeed, it strongly resembles one of the first university lectures I sat through: 90 in the hall, a man (possibly in his 90s giving a talk) with a few in the front row in ear shot so able to take part if they so wished.

I attend another two of these and gave up – not the  course. I just looked at who was giving a lecture, found their latest book and read that instead.

Today students can go online for lecture notes, a video of the lecture (probably), as well as the lecturer’s published papers and books. The lecture, if streamed can be viewed at a distance, with participation in the back row through messaging. But does this lecturer now reach 900 students?

Could be 9 million through a TED lecture.

 

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