26 August, 2016: Problem-based learning in the digital space: How gamification can maximise engagement with digital literacies.

This 1-hour webinar, Problem-based learning in the digital space: How gamification can maximise engagement with digital literacies, was produced by Digital Literacies ANZ, a community of practice (COP) for professionals across Australia and New Zealand to share, learn and have ongoing conversations about digital literacies.  The goal of Digital Literacies ANZ is to provide a forum, or space, in which to explore the skills and abilities required in today’s digital world; and how digital literacies can be developed and improved in their organisations and communities.  Digital Literacies ANZ has monthly webinars scheduled in 2017 from March to November.  The webinars are free to attend or view later.  Each of the webinars I have viewed from 2016 included a presentation component, and a questions/comments component for listeners / viewers to interact with the presenter.

This webinar, from August 2016, was presented by Eng Ung, Senior Coordinator Digital Experience, LaTrobe University Library; and in it she discusses the game she developed to help orient new students to the physical space of the library.  Ung went into detail during her presentation to describe:

  • the background and rationale for creating a game with online and physical elements to replace the library tour (i.e. to increase student engagement)
  • the key design elements used (e.g. use of engaging puzzles, building in tasks to demonstrate navigation, reinforcement for successful task completion, immersive storyline, use of tactile elements)
  • the creative process (i.e. how the game was made), and took the webinar participants through an ideation activity
  • data collection and evaluation
  • “pain points”
  • The ideation process

Ung had a number of outcomes that she wished to achieve, including:

  • that as many students would play the game as had signed up for the traditional library tour in the previous year
  • that students would learn something playing a game using problem-based learning principles
  • that students would have fun doing it.

Ung’s results indicated that students who played the game did learn and had fun, but unfortunately fewer people played the game than had participated in library tours the previous year.

I was interested to view this presentation because of my interest in gamification, sparked by covering the topic during the subject, IFN612 – Emerging Technologies, in 2016.  I wrote a blog about it, and the entire class also had the opportunity to play “the game” one week, completing a series of tasks in order to gain points or rewards.  What was interesting to me is that some people were completely engaged by the gamification of the play activity that week, whilst others did not engage at all.  As someone who was completely engaged, I was surprised that others were only mildly interested in playing the game, and some were completely turned off by the idea, and chose to engage in a different play activity that week.

Clearly, gamification works to engage a proportion of the population, but does not work for everyone.  There was a competitive element to the game (rewards, points and winners at the end), as there is with all games, and I wonder if some of the people who were not engaged by the game did not like the competitive aspect to playing.  There could be any number of influencing factors and explanations, however, including time pressures, competing obligations and interests, mood, etc.

I can’t help but wonder if people would engage, if the conditions were right, and the motivation was right for the person.  I am a firm believer in making a person’s participation “worth their while”, and making learning fun by offering incentives, rewards and reinforcement.  It is the behaviourist in me, from many years of doing speech therapy with young children who need the right motivation to encourage their participation. The trouble is that the “right motivation” is different for different people, and without individualisation, not everyone will be engaged.  Whilst I can see how gamification strategies could be used effectively with the student population to increase their engagement and learning outcomes, and I think it highly likely that I would implement strategies such as these in any digital literacy programs I run with students in the future, I understand that not everyone will be engaged by such strategies, as their individual motivational needs may not have been met.

Image attribution:

“Gamification is the use of game elements and game design techniques in non-game contexts”, by Duncan Hull.  CC BY 2.0

Playing with Infographics

I selected option 2: Data visualisation for this week’s play and reflect activities.

I had a vague idea in my mind that an infographic was simply a graphical representation of data like a bar graph or a pie chart, so I thought this task would be a piece of cake.  I didn’t understand that an infographic told a whole story of data.  I didn’t understand that this would be a time consuming and difficult task.  Nevertheless, with the optimism of the ignorant, I watched Kate Davis’ DIY Infographics video (which was very helpful), looked at some data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ National Health Survey 2014-2015, and began.

I was very impressed by the ABS summary video of the survey results, which includes animated data visualisations of a very high standard.  It’s a short video, and definitely worth clicking the link.  It clearly represented a summary of the findings obtained from the survey, and communicated it to me, the viewer, in a way I found very easy to understand.  Much easier than going through the Excel spreadsheets I downloaded from the website, which contained the survey data, and lovely statistical terms such as “relative standard error of proportion”.

I used Piktochart to make the very basic infographic below.  Kate Davis recommended Piktochart as one of the easiest Infographic Makers to use.  I would also like to give Canva a go, as it looked good, too.  Kate also recommended Infogr.am, Visme and easel.ly.

I found this activity really difficult at first, but was slowly getting the hang of it by the end.  There are some things I didn’t work out, but I was working on a windows 7 tablet with a touchscreen, a keyboard, and no mouse.  (I’m away from home tonight for work, in a tiny motel room, eating Smith’s chips for dinner, doing my homework and can’t believe I forgot my mouse! I miss being able to point and click!) I think this made operating some of the program’s functions a bit more difficult. (That’s what I was telling myself anyway).

I was very happy when I worked out how to do the graphs…in fact, I was very happy when I worked out how to do anything on the program!  Although my infographic is not perfect, I am happy with the result, because it represents several hours of hard work and frustration, and a learning process like that is always satisfying when you have a finished product at the end.

I think I would become a more competent user of the programs, and produce better looking infographics with more practice and familiarity with the tools, and a clearer purpose for visualising the data.  I did find it a bit difficult to choose the data to analyse.

This activity has definitely piqued my interest in using infographics to represent data.  My powerpoint presentations could be so much more interesting!

I would definitely use one of these programs in the future to create a poster or infographic…I only wish I had watched Kate’s video before I completed my persona poster!

National Health Survey Infographic: Weight and Exercise

National Health Survey Infographic: Weight and Exercise

So, yes, I think that infographics are definitely a wonderful way to visually represent a data story … as long as you have vision, and intact learning abilities.  A comment from Kathleen prompted me to think about accessibility of infographics on the internet for people with disabilities; particularly those who are blind /visually impaired, and those with learning disabilities.

There are a couple of things to address: access to a device (input), and access to the content of the webpage (output).

I found this website, Web Usability, that discusses how people with disabilities use assistive technologies to access computers / devices and the internet.  Most work has been done to improve accessibility for people with physical and visual impairments, but a lot of work is still required.

There are a lot of issues. Not only does the person need to be able to access the device with an input device (e.g. alternative keyboard, switch, head pointer, eye-tracking, voice recognition), but the website needs to be accessible, too, to output the information to the person with a disability in a way they can access it; e.g. through screen-reading software for someone who is blind / visually impaired.  A lot of work exists for website designers to think about how to make their website compatible with screen-reading software, and how to include alternative text for images / infographics, otherwise, your beautiful infographic is simply an empty space on the webpage.  This Gizmodo blog post discusses some of the issues of designing spoken websites.

I think that there is still a very long way to go to make the internet accessible for many people with intellectual disabilities.   Generally speaking, the internet is a very wordy and confusing place, which effectively excludes many people with intellectual disabilities, as they may have difficulties with literacy, language (especially abstract language), conceptual development, attention, memory and learning.   The task of understanding an infographic on a webpage may be conceptually too difficult for the person with an intellectual disability, particularly if it represents abstract concepts that are not meaningful for the person.

But see this Spectronics blog post for how iPads are being used with students with intellectual disabilities.  Touchscreens may help a person with an intellectual disability interact with computers / apps, because the person can directly touch what they see and  make the link between something happening on the screen as a result of that touch.  This article talks more about suitable apps to use, rather than assisting the person to access the internet, though.

I could see the possibility that web browsers could be modified / developed to have picture symbols representing favourite websites or search functions, that speak when touched to let the person know what they are, and then used in combination with a touch screen device to enhance internet access for people with intellectual disabilites….

Hang on a minute – doesn’t the Google search page already look like that if you are signed into Chrome?  See my screen shot below, that has all my most used websites right there, waiting for me to select them.  With a few more tweaks, something like this could really work for people with intellectual disabilities (and probably is being used as we speak – I can’t be the first person to have thought of this).  Maybe people with intellectual disabilities aren’t as far away from accessing the internet as I thought. 🙂

Google and the Google logo are registered trademarks of Google Inc., used with permission.

Google and the Google logo are registered trademarks of Google Inc., used with permission.

My Quantified Self on Garmin Connect

For this activity, I tracked my physical activity (running) for 3 days, from Tuesday 29/03/2016 – Thursday 31/03/2016.  (Actually, I have tracked my runs for about the last 5 years on Garmin Connect).

I used an application called Garmin Connect, a Garmin Forerunner 220 GPS watch and a heart rate monitor.

I have the Garmin Connect app on my android tablet, and my GPS watch “syncs” my running data to the app via bluetooth after my run.  This usually occurs automatically.  I can then view the data from my run on the app, or on the website.  The data uploaded includes a map of the run, average and maximum pace, distance, time, average and maximum heart rate, cadence, elevation, the temperature, and splits. The website has more functionality than the app; but this is often the case with apps.

The screen shots below are from the Garmin Connect website, and show the runs I did over the 3 days.

4:53 am, Tuesday 29 March 2016

4:53 am, Tuesday 29 March 2016

GC_Wed Mar 30_2016

5:47am Wednesday 30 March, 2016

GC_Thu Mar 31_2016

4:58 am, Thursday 31 March, 2016

The tool can also create reports of your activity for defined time periods including a week, a month or a year, as shown below:

Garmin Connect Distance Graph for week

Garmin Connect Distance Graph for week

You can also create goals for yourself, and a visual representation is added to your dashboard so you can see how you’re going.

Garmin Connect Goals

Garmin Connect Goals

There is more: e.g. The app will keep track of how far you have run in your current shoes; there is a connections (social networking) feature so you can see how your friends are going; you can follow training plans, create workouts, create courses, update your device, track your weight, sync your workouts straight to My Fitness Pal.

There is a lot there to keep me endlessly fascinated by my own data 🙂