Assignment 2 for INF532
Part A – Digital artefact
How a PLN saved the three little pigs
Educators need to become more connected with the world around to ensure effectiveness and currency. A connected educator is a role model for students and embodies the ability to leverage the affordances of technology to collaborate, which helps their professional and personal growth while making them lifelong learners (Whitby, 2013). An educator can easily become a connected learner; they simply need the will to commit and the ability to reach out to others for support (Lindsay, 2016).
The digital artefact ‘The three little pigs: How personalized learning networks can make a difference (A personal learning network fairy tale)’ (Drager, 2016) is a short animation that explains the importance of a personal learning network (PLN) via the fairy tale ‘The three little pigs’, with a twist to the story to contextualize the content for the purpose of the learning outcomes. The use of stories assists learners in the understanding of abstract concepts quickly and efficiently (Ellington, 2014; Drager, 2016). By linking to a traditional fairy tale that provides a personal emotional link to a touchstone story of their childhood (Ellington, 2014) the designer wanted to provide a novel approach for adult learners around the concept of building a personal learning network (Sukovic, 2014).
Employing a blend of both the ADDIE and Rapid Prototyping design models as a rapid interactive design cycle (Forest, 2014; Kearsley, & Culatta, 2016; Melles, 2010) the initial analysis process started with an environmental scan to review digital content already available in the topic area – PLN and employing a braintrust of colleagues (Catmull, 2014) to brainstorm initial design ideas for the digital artefact as they will be using the digital artefact for training.
The initial design ideas were driven by the need of putting the user first and the necessity for them to remember the content after viewing (Brown, & Katz, 2011) and doing more with less (Brown, 2009) due to technology, skills, budget and time constraints. By looking around the edges to see what could be possible (TED, 2007) it was decided the idea of storytelling could add an unusual depth and novelty for the digital artefact that would support learners remembering the key concepts (Ellington, 2014). Though storytelling is definitely not a new concept, in fact it is as old as mankind (Thornburg, 2007) it is an unusual technique to use for adult learners. Schrange (2013) points out that designers will parody items that have worked well previously, in 2013 the Library of Congress published ‘Snow Byte and the Seven Formats’ a digital preservation fairy tale (LibraryOfCongress, 2013), which provided an instance of how the retelling of a traditional fairy tale coupled with animation has been successfully employed for adult learners and was the impetus for choosing a well-known fairy tale to base the digital artefact on. The storytelling idea was driven by the theory that the glow of the campfire is fast being replaced by the glow of a computer screen (Thornburg, 2007) and fitted well with the Concept Space where the crazy out there ideas can be the basis for interesting innovative solutions (Hatchuel, Le Masson, & Weil, 2004) and resulted in the animated PLN fairy tale becoming a practicable option.
The choice of the animation platform was driven by the need to use a site that had a free option, could also upload external images and audio and could produce a rendered video output that could be shared via different mediums. Platforms were reviewed with PowToon being chosen due to its ease of use, availability of support videos, ability to render final output to YouTube and the functionality in the free option. Included in the functionality were the hand scribe function and the hand placement options which helped build the viewer anticipation and added movement. When scribing hands are coupled with the multiple still photos and use of speech bubbles it becomes the perfect online medium for storytelling, which is extremely important in maintaining audience engagement (Air, Oakland, & Walters, 2014).
The design phase commenced with the creation of a rough outline of the animation in a wireframe storyboard and a rough cut audio track of the story. This was presented to the braintrust, in an open meeting and members were asked to be as candid as possible with feedback (Catmull, 2014). The feedback included the need to expand on key learning points, simplifying the images being suggested, extending the narrative to build an emotional tie with the characters and finally cutting the length as it was felt that at nearly 10 mins it was too long. The design process needs the honest feedback from a user group, but not only can feedback be sought by a designer, but it must be used otherwise it will impact on the product (Brown, 2009; Brown, & Katz, 2011; Schrage, 2013).This feedback loop is a divergence from the strict ADDIE process and demonstrates the need for a Rapid Prototyping methodology to be employed as a companion design process simply put drawing, prototyping and storytelling helps inspire innovation (Brown, 2009) and improve the output.
The digital artefact is a combination of still images, screen grabs and animation with a soundtrack that combines narrating voice and musical score. The animation was developed to be eye-catching to engage both audio and visual learners (Bennett, & Rolheiser, 2001; Roblyer, 2013). The animation was created in PowToon separately to the audio track, which was imported at the commencement of the animation process. The narration was recorded in Camtasia due to the facility to finely edit the audio track. Music was sourced from Jamendo, and was creative commons and available for non-commercial use. Only instrumental tracks were chosen, so not to muddy the narration, with the music being both energetic and appropriate. The music score was cut into the narration using Camtasia with the final audio track exported into PowToon. For ease of user accessibility and use of the video it was streamed via YouTube, rather than just shared via PowToon, as YouTube streams on all connected devices and will compress the streaming experience to cater for devices connectivity. YouTube also offers excellent closed captioning functionality, which is very important to make it useable by a wide audience.
It was critical to avoid making a how-to portion in this digital artefact as it did not fit into the story format, but to include all key points into the narrative and supported learning points with relevant images. To cover all the key points it was important to stay true to the story narrative and avoid information overload of interesting, but unnecessary information (Bawden, & Robinson, 2009).It was also paramount that the story remained playful to elicit an emotional connection to the characters for a memorable and favourable impact on the end user (Barrett, 2013).
This video could be used as a standalone item for various aged learners, however, the primary design intention is for this video to be utilized as part of a flipped classroom approach (Bergmann & Sams, 2012) to introduce one session with the focus on PLN development that would form part of a series of sessions about being a 21st Century educator for VET lecturers who have to complete their Certificate IV in TAE in 2017. The idea is that it will be used to arouse an interest in these new trainers to develop a PLN; reach out online to different professionals and industry to be a source of inspiration for developing new approaches for their training.
The animation supports knowledge networking by providing a solid memorable example of how a PLN could support personal learning and the importance of seeking input and feedback from the PLN (Richardson, & Mancabelli, 2011). It was extremely important to demonstrate and reiterate the point that a PLN supports life-long learning and gives the user limitless support (Patnoudes, 2012; Siemans, 2006; Rajagopal, Joosten-ten Brinke, Van Bruggen, & Sloep, 2011). Informal learning via a PLN can go hand in hand with formal training and indeed can augment information provided in a formal training context (Siemans, 2006; Richardson, & Mancabelli, 2011; Lindsay, 2016), this was outlined and demonstrated in the animation by one of the characters. Personal learning networks reflect the individuals context and relate to interests of the person (Tour, 2016; Ballard; 2012; Rajagopal, Joosten-ten Brinke, Van Bruggen, & Sloep, 2011) in the setting of the animation this was dealt with via the third little pigs interest – sustainable housing. Personal learning networks are agile learning without formal structure, but are heavily connected to social media. With-in the animation Rheingold’s social media literacies (2010) and Neilsen’s 5 C’s of PLN (Neilsen, 2011) supported the primary concept dealt in the narrative and reinforced the just-in-time nature that a PLN can offer a user (Richardson, & Mancabelli, 2011) along with the philosophy of the PLN being tied heavily to the user – my needs not yours (Ballard, 2012).
Once the final animation was complete the braintrust were asked once again in an open meeting to review for candid input (Catmull, 2014). By reaching out to this braintrust the designer was not only deploying an important design phase feedback session but was also seeking feedback from the designers own PLN. Many of the users felt that the PLN message was memorable because of the fairy tale link and felt they could reinforce this message within a set of training sessions; one related comment was “I didn’t realize I had learnt anything until I was quizzed afterwards and retained knowledge about PLNs”. It was mentioned that is this was to be used as a standalone item then it might need further scaffolding around it to ensure that users would gain the learning required, but as it was developed to introduce a series of sessions around the PLN concept then this is an easy way to unpack the concept for them. Tools and how-to-build a PLN were noted as missing from the animation, but the user conceded that these were not really needed in the context of a wide session use. Users did feel that the story did not get in the way of the learning, which was the key point for the story approach and validated the designers’ choice for the unique and novel approach for the animation. These feedback points are critical and will be implemented in the future. This exegesis forms part of the evaluation along with the previously discussed user feedback. The evaluation of course will kick start the ADDIE process again, as the production methodology of any resource is cyclic and must contain a review and refresh phase for any digital artefact to ensure currency and usefulness.
The content, design and deployment of the artefact have initially been a success. However, the educational benefits of the artefact is yet untried, apart from with the braintrust group. The next phase will be a further redevelopment phase then rolling the artefact out to a test pilot group for assessment. In the ever changing learning landscape digital artefacts are only as good as the content and the learning that users take from them (Kolko, 2010). By employing sound instructional design methodology such as the nine events of instruction (Gagné, Briggs, & Wager, 1992) and VAK principles (Bennett, & Rolheiser, 2001) the current format this animation does deliver the content, but it can be further refined. That being said it does deliver on providing information regarding the importance of a PLN and will support learners understanding of this concept.
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