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Gamification of Learning Experiences and Training Programs

In 2014, I had set myself the task of writing a series of articles on gamification and its application to the learning domain. Until recently, health concerns kept me from working on the articles further, but now that I am better, I’ve started working on them again. The first article in the series is already up.

Gamification of Learning and Training - the essence of it.

Click the image to read the article.

Read the first article in the series “Gamification – What does this new-fangled, star-spangled term mean?” here.

More article in this series would follow. I’ll be announcing the new articles on Twitter, and they’ll also find their way into the Creative Agni eZine – so if you are interested, you are welcome to follow me on Twitter, or Subscribe to the Creative Agni eZine (a short monthly e-newsletter.)

 

 

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The PowerPoint Coma, Dilbert, and Trainings.

Three days ago, on April 5th 2016, The Times of India ran a Dilbert strip about the PowerPoint Coma. About a week ago, on April 4th, I was in a meeting with a senior training manager, discussing an upcoming program for their organization, attempting to outline the focus areas. The training program would address senior and mid-level managers of the organization, who are often called upon to share their domain-expertise with others. “One of the areas,” said the gentleman, “is PowerPoint. They walk in with a PowerPoint presentation, dim the lights, and for the next hour, everyone dozes off! They can’t do away with the PowerPoint presentation, because it keeps their content grounded and ensures that they stay within the scope.”

Two days later, I saw the Dilbert strip, and the term “PowerPoint Coma” stayed with me. I’m not a fan of PowerPoint, but that doesn’t make me blind to its advantages. I know it has many, especially in the training scenario of today, where the rapidly reducing half-life of knowledge makes its almost mandatory that the trainers have a cue-sheet to keep them on track. How then, do we handle this double-edged sword? How do we use the strengths of PowerPoint without falling prey to its weaknesses?

Read “PowerPoint Coma – Causes, Effects, Prevention, and Dilbert,” for a rapid-fire round of quick tips.

 

 

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Cognitive Dissonance and its impact on Learning.

“Let us say you ordered a watch online. The picture of the watch looked good (it looked like it had a curved glass and the dial had a silvery sheen) and it was available at a very affordable price. A few days later, the watch was delivered, and you opened the box with great expectations. You were hoping to find a watch that looked as classy as the one you had seen in the pictures. But when you unwrapped the box and opened it, you realized that the real watch didn’t look as good as its pictures. The dial was off-white and glass was plain. You realize that the pictures must have been touched up as the watch was the same model that you had ordered. Fortunately despite its not-as-good-as-expected looks, it still was a deal at the price you bought it.

So you tell yourself, that the watch is from a good brand, and that you anyway wanted a robust watch and not a flimsy wrist-candy.

When you engage in this behavior, you are trying to curb the cognitive dissonance that has arisen out of two conflicting ideas in your mind.”

Understanding cognitive dissonance and its impact on learning can prepare us to handle it in our classrooms and online courses. The following links will take you to a series of three posts:

  1. Understanding Cognitive Dissonance – Explanation and Illustration
  2. Cognitive Dissonance in Classrooms and Other Learning Environments
  3. Cognitive Dissonance and Other Instructional Design Principles

BTW, this Easter, Froth bought a pair of Easter Bunny ears for Coffeebeans

Training pup dog cartoons - coffee beans experiences cognitive dissonance - instructional design.

 

 

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Flashbulb Memory – Definition, Illustration, and Questions.

This past year, I spent many long hours reflecting upon my memories and thoughts. A memory that refuses to fade away despite being inconsequential and irrelevant, falls neatly into the category of a flashbulb memory.

Before we discuss further, I must let the dog have her say.

 

dog and pup cartoons on training and cognitive psychology - coffee beans on flashbulb memory.

The gist of the many definitions that abound, is that flashbulb memory is a clear, detailed, and long-lasting memory of the circumstances that you were in, when you first got a very important or shocking news, possibly about a public figure (President John Kennedy’s assassination) or event (The Twin Tower Terror Attack of 9/11). Assassinations and disasters fall into this category. My memory relates to the assassination of the Indian Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi.

I can vividly recall that I was solving a dynamics problem and trying my best to get the cricket commentary back on the radio, crabbing about why suddenly all stations had gone newsy, when my Grandmother chided me for my trivial concerns at the time when Indira Gandhi had just been assassinated. My Grandmother was involved in the freedom movement and for her the news meant a lot. For me, it was an important public event, and while at that time, I was too young to see what lay beyond; whenever I read or hear about the 1984 Delhi riots that followed her death, I am reminded of that scene in vivid detail. I can almost hear my grandmother’s gibe, I can feel the sun on my skin…I experience the flashbulb memory.

Let us apply some inductive reasoning to this experience (inductive reasoning makes us use specific instances to generalize – not a very trust-worthy method, but it works if the specific instance is a true illustration of a concept – thus, if my memory is truly flashbulb memory, I should be able to generalize the concept with a very small probability of error.)

My memory is crystal clear (colors, weather, what I was doing at the time, what my Grandmother said,) and my memory flashes back whenever I encounter a trigger (news of the riots, a picture of Indira Gandhi, and so on.) My memory is still strong, and I can even remember the floral print of the dress that I was wearing at the time. Assuming that my memory was a flashbulb memory, we can say that flashbulb memory generally is refreshed whenever there’s a trigger.

This makes me wonder…
1. If there were no media (no newspapers, no radio, no television, nothing that could trigger the memory,) will the memory be as longlasting?
2. Is there a decay/modification in the details of the flashbulb memory over time? In other words, do we embellish it further (I think now that I was wearing a nice floral dress in the memory I illustrated for you, but could I be looking dumpy in a shapeless but absolutely comfy tunic?) or have I lost the details (what was grandmother wearing? Who else was there? Where was our dog?)
3. Would my flashbulb memory be stronger or weaker than my grandmother’s, further more, did she even have a flashbulb memory of Indira Gandhi’s assassination? (Humans have the strongest recollections of the events that transpired when they were between 15 and 30. This period is called the reminiscence bump.)

While there is ample criticism of this concept, I find it interesting. I also wonder if a watered down version of this memory could in fact help the learners learn better.

 

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Returning…

Dear Readers,

It has been a while that I posted anything here. A medley of reasons kept me away – the most important being some critical health issues. Yet, every dark cloud that hovers over your head filling your view of the world with darkness and gloom, either explodes into a storm of rain and drenches you cold, or sails away in time. This cloud is sailing away, and though I can still see its tail on the horizon, I am confident that the wind won’t reverse its course to bring it back. At least I hope that it won’t.

So, in all probability I am back.

I intend to dust away the cobwebs and scrub this blog to make it sparkle again. I also want to thank the latest follower of this blog who inspired me to return. (If you followed this blog yesterday, you are the one I am talking about.)

As I couldn’t move about a lot, I spent the last whole year experimenting with some new learning mediums. I worked extensively on the mobile platform (specifically iOS) and this year I intend to work on development of Android apps. I intend to share my learnings on content development for the mobile learning or m-learning medium here along with my thoughts on e-learning. I am also experimenting with Kindle. Recently I have once again started accepting corporate training assignments in Instructional Design and eLearning. I also plan to share my experiences from those programs here.

This blog primarily focuses on the psychological principles that relate to learning (directly and indirectly) so expect to see the regular stuff on cognitive psychology too🙂

I leave you with a link to my latest article on the Creative Agni Website.

 

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About my Whereabouts…

Dear Readers of this Dear Blog-o-mine,

In the recent times, you haven’t seen many new posts on this blog (fine…I stand corrected. You haven’t seen ANY new post in a while!) I am sorry for my inordinately long absence. However, I’d like to present my excuse for your assessment. I’ve been kept busy by Creative Agni – the eZine for Instructional Design and eLearning and Creative Agni’s two Instructional Design Courses.

I invite you to click the following links to see what I’ve been busy with.

You can visit the Creative Agni Home page here.

I am organizing a Free Instructional Design Workshop on January 29, 2012. Click the following link to read about the workshop.

I will write more regularly now because if I don’t, my mind will explode with all the Cognitive Psychology stuff I’ve been reading. The only way to save my sanity would be to share what I learn, and so I’d be back soon:)

Best Wishes,

Shafali

 

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The Experiment – Stanford Prison, Milgram, and The Threshold.

It happens because we have the ability to absolve ourselves by shifting the responsibility of our actions to another entity, which may be a person or an organization. We are not responsible for the atrocities that we committed in the Auschwitz concentration camp, said the German soldiers who tortured and killed their captives. We were just doing our jobs. We were just following orders.

The Milgram Obedience Experiment

Stanley Milgram conducted what came to be known as the Milgram Obedience Experiment. In this experiment, perfectly normal people like you and me were assigned the roles of the teacher or the learner. They were separated with an opaque wall, but they could speak to each other. The teacher was given the task to teach the learner some words by asking him/her questions. If the learner responded incorrectly, the teacher would give the learner and electric shock that increased by 15 volts with every incorrect answer. Actually, the learner was replaced by an actor, and he’d not receive the shock but scream nevertheless. To make a long story short, the shocking outcome of the experiment was that there were people who continued giving electrical shocks of upto “450 volts” to their “learner” even after the learner begged for mercy. Why? Because they were asked to do so!

The Stanford Prison Experiment

I was prompted to make this post, after I watched the Adrien Brody – Forest Whitakar movie, “The experiment” yesterday. This movie is based upon another, yet more gruesome experiment called the Stanford Prison Experiment. In this experiment, Philip Zimbardo a psychologist with the Stanford University got together 2 dozen students who had absolutely no criminal record/tendencies for violence, and assigned them either the role of a prisoner or of a guard. They were to stay within the prison walls for 14 days (the initial plan) but the experiment lasted only 6 days. Reason: only after a day, the role-players began to take their roles for real. The “guards” began misusing their authority while the “prisoners” either revolted or turned completely passive. The “guards” ended up torturing the prisoners – and a riot broke out.

It’s obvious that an experiment of this nature was considered immoral and unethical, and never repeated. Yet, it underlined the conclusion of the Milgram Experiment, which was that authority does make people do things that they otherwise won’t do.

The Training Connection – Authority & Obedience

More often than not, I can predict the conversation that would take place, if I were to meet an HOD or a CEO of a company, and discuss instructional design with them. I won’t take you through the entire conversation, but at some point the gentleman or the lady is bound to tell me that his/her training programs have always been such grand successes, despite knowing nothing about this mythological critter called Instructional Design.

Obviously they do. Because they are the authoritarian figure. Nobody’d dare question what they say in their training programs. We the humans are more evolved than our brethren of other species yet we haven’t completely flushed out our pack mentality. We succumb to authority all the time.

On a positive note:

Classroom trainers can use their authority to really reach their audience. They know that their authority allows them to steer the discussions and the lectures; and that their trainees don’t have an option but to accept your authority. Now you can either misuse the authority the way those “guards” in the Standford prison experiment did, or you can use it productively. The trainees are your sheep and you are the shepherd.

Do read about the two experiments. The Wikipedia links that I gave above are portals to more details on these experiments, so please explore them.

 

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