October 3, 2011

Learning Styles? Forget it.

There are moments in ones career that just stop you in your tracks. So was it when I read this NPR piece about learning styles.

Here's what Doug Rohrer, a psychologist at the University of South Florida found after reviewing studies of learning styles - there is no real evidence that they matter. Psychologist Dan Willingham at the University of Virginia, goes so far to say that we don't need to tailor instruction to different kinds of learners.

Does that mean you shouldn't work to incorporate engaging visuals in your classroom? Does that mean you shouldn't bother having students break into paired discussions? No, we as teachers know that these techniques keep people's attention and help them process information.

I just find it amazing that there is NO good evidence that supports learning theories. Live and learn. Chalk this up to yet another paradigm shifting under our feet?

January 19, 2010

And... cut down on those BULLET points on your Powerpoints!

As a follow-up to my last posting:

There's a great overview on the Bob Pike Group website of some research done by Chris Atherton, a cognitive psychologist.

To whet your appetite here's a couple take-aways:

"1. Don't say too much. Limit what you cover in a presentation. Your audience has limited capacity to take it in.

2. Split the load. Take advantage of the brain's two pathways. Design your slides so that they can be processed quickly by the visual cortex, allowing the language areas to focus on what you're saying. This means using more pictures and as few words as you think you can get away with.

3. Get rid of visual clutter on your slides"

And to get you even more interested, there are lots of great ideas you can implement immediately (such as ways to make your learners do some work - even if you're just lecturing).

Check it out!

September 30, 2009

Cut down those PowerPoints!

It's such a relief hearing so much talk about how cramming tons of words and information into PowerPoint slides is so... yesterday.

One of the big proponents of that is Guy Kawasaki who created what he calls the 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint. "It's quite simple: a PowerPoint presentation should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points." Hallelujah!

Check out his entire posting here -

If there was one rule of thumb we all took into our lectures, workshops, etc., I vote for this one!

May 12, 2009

Making presentations TED style

Although I talk mostly about designing workshops here in this blog, the reality is that lots of us also have to do our "sage on the stage" bit every once in awhile.

Lucky for us, Garr Reynold's in his Presentation Zen blog just posted the "Ten Commandments" for TED speakers. He also included a fantastic list of presenter best practices accompanied by TEDTalks illustrating those.

A choice quote:
"But what the good presentations have in common is that they were created carefully and thoughtfully with the audience in mind and were delivered with passion, clarity, brevity, and always with "the story" of it (whatever it is) in mind."

Check it out - Making presentations in the TED style

And p.s. If you're not a TED fan already, check out (these four of the best talks).

August 7, 2008

Creating "niched" learning opportunities

Here's an interesting blurb that appeared on an Educause Learning Initiative site exploring the future of education:

"When Chris Dede, the Timothy E. Wirth professor in Learning Technologies at Harvard University, sat down with students in a Philadelphia private school to talk about their personal learning preferences, no one delivered the same answer. One student liked research papers, preferring a clear template and an assignment with a defined start and finish. Another loved multimedia projects, relishing the opportunity to think about something in many different ways. Another said their mind worked like the video games they liked to play.

Now imagine, Dede said in an interview at EDUCAUSE 2007 in Seattle, if those three students walked into your classroom. And they came with a group of peers whose learning preferences weren’t even on that same menu.

“If I were designing a learning environment for those students], it would really have to be like an ecology,? Dede said. “It would have to have a lot of different niches in it because from one day to the next, any one particular student may want a different kind of niche. And different types of students might want different kinds of niches…"

November 27, 2006

Identifying the Right Game for the Content

Games can sometimes be the perfect solution for an orientation or instruction session.

Often times at the University of Minnesota Libraries the goal for our 20 or 40 minutes as part of first year orientation isn’t to cram as much information as we can into those precious minutes – instead, our goal is to leave the students thinking that the library sounds like a great place to be and a great resource to have. If we get that far, we're pretty happy. What better way to do that than a game?

One of the training companies best known for developing instructional games is the Thiagi Group. They have some useful instructional design tips on the web that may be helpful to you. I've included library examples where it makes sense.

First, decide to which of these three domains your learning content belongs:

1. Facts and Information

A fact is a simple bit of knowledge or information. It is usually in the form of a statement that specifies a relationship between two or more objects, actions, or events:

- AND is a Boolean operator.
- An article index is where you can look to find articles on your topic.

Facts are mostly related to other facts and other types of knowledge.

2. Concepts

A concept is a set of objects, events, actions, characteristics, or ideas that share critical attributes and belong to a specific class that is identified by a common label.

- Controlled Vocabulary
- Citation Styles

For every concept, you should be able to provide multiple examples. (If you cannot, you are probably dealing with a fact.)

3. Procedures and Processes

A procedure is a step-by-step skill that is performed essentially the same way each time.

- Finding a book with a known title
- Identifying who is citing a seminal article in your field

A process is a sequential flow of events.
- Responding to a digital reference question
- Designing workshop handouts

What kind of game might you design for each type of learning content?

1. Information and Facts

- CHOICES with multiple choice questions
- TIC TAC with questions resulted to different subtopics
- HANGMAN (multiple question) with fact recall questions
- CATEGORIZE (True or False) with statements to be classified as true or false

2. Concepts

- CATEGORIZE (categories) with different related concept labels and examples to be classified.
- HANGMAN (single question) that requires recall of examples
- TIC TAC with questions classified according to different concepts.
- CHOICES with questions related to critical and irrelevant features of a concept.

3. Procedures and Processes

- SEQUENCE for arranging steps, stages, or phases in the right order.
- CATEGORIZES (categories) to classify items (inputs, activities, standards, outputs) according to the step (or stage or phase) associated with them.
- HANGMAN (single question) for recalling items associated with different steps (or stages or phases)
- TIC TAC with questions related to different steps (or stages or phases)