5 Simple Questions To Encourage Student Voice

5 Questions

This is a recent resource I have shared on Twitter that has proven really useful and very popular with educators. Thanks to Rebecca Alber and Edutopia for sharing/creating the original.

You should complement this with some of the following great resources on questioning in the classroom.

Successful Teams Are More Open About Their Mistakes

Western Decay

A research study into the performance levels of hospital staff explored something unusual about the error rates that were recorded there. Amy Edmonson the Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School, shares more about her exploration:

“My first research project in graduate school explored the relationship between teamwork and errors (in hospitals), because errors are a critical input to organizational learning, especially in that setting. I assumed I’d find a negative relationship between teamwork and error rate.

Instead, I stumbled into quite a different discovery. The statistical results I obtained were the opposite of what I’d predicted. Well-led teams with good relationships were apparently making more mistakes; there was a significant correlation between teamwork and error rates—in what I initially considered “the wrong direction.”

This presented a puzzle. Did better-led teams really make more mistakes? I simply did not think that could be accurate. Why else might better teams have higher error rates?”

After some further exploration Edmonson hit upon what was taking place:

“In well-led teams, a climate of openness could make it easier to report and discuss errors—compared to teams with poor relationships or with punitive leaders. The good teams, according to this interpretation, don’t make more mistakes, they report more.”

Our attention is often drawn to encouraging cultures of innovation through more open mistake making – but perhaps it is more than just making the mistakes, taking risks and a have-a-go culture. We need to be open and encouraged to share them too.

Pic Western Decay by sleepinyourhat

The states of knowing and not knowing and the really interesting bits in between

Read, Read, Read

Last year I was attending a conference in Boston, US and was lucky enough to listen to Alec Couros, a Professor of Educational Technology and Media at the Faculty of Ed., University of Regina.

He described a time in a supermarket when his 5 year old son asked whether bananas on a tree grew with their tips facing up or facing down. I will let Alec describe what happened next and how he reacted to his son’s question:

“I didn’t actually know off-hand. But, being the connected father I am, I pulled out my iPhone, Googled it, and in less than 30 seconds, we were looking at photos of banana plants and we no longer had to wonder.

*We no longer had to wonder.*

I did that entirely wrong. At the very least, I could have asked my boy, “Well, which do you think son?” perhaps followed by “So, why do you think that?” But I didn’t. And because I didn’t, I messed up a great learning opportunity.”

During his talk Alec outlined how the states of “knowing” and “not knowing” are drawn together by the pervasive nature of technology.

I believe that in a time when technology provides unprecedented access to knowledge we need to be exploring the really interesting bits in between. Spending longer between posing a question / a state of wonder and the clarification of new or affirming knowledge.

We need more learning designed to unflinchingly explore the unknown, enquiry state and for much longer.

The brevity of not knowing, which Alec describes, often short circuits our opportunities for enquiry, for exploring and revealing our existing knowledge and perhaps discovering new and better ways to find things out.

It is the discerning application of technology in these instances that we should be developing with our students. To know when to ponder, mull and cogitate, working out something with others, and when to simply close the gap, “Google it” and do something with that new knowledge.

Making this type of choice will be the key to constructing knowledge in the future, alongside retaining an enduring curiosity for the world and what it is like to not know.

Pic Read, read, read. by cuellar

The Design Principles Behind Google Glass and the Social Influence It Could Have

I have always found it interesting to peer behind the veil a little of nascent technology and learn how it is developed. On these Google Glass developer pages you can dig a little deeper into the design principles behind one of the four current Google X lab projects.

Aimed at developers building on the Glass platform, or as they coin it developing Glassware, they outline the simple design principles needed:

  • Design for Glass - Don’t try to replace a smartphone, tablet, or laptop by transferring features designed for these devices to Glass. Instead, focus on how Glass and your services complement each other, and deliver an experience that is unique.
  • Don’t get in the way - Glass is designed to be there when you need it and out of the way when you don’t. Your Glassware must function in the same way.
  • Keep it relevant - Deliver information at the right place and time for each of your users. The most relevant experiences are also the most magical and lead to increased engagement and satisfaction.
  • Avoid the unexpected - Unexpected functionality and bad experiences on Glass are much worse than on other devices, because Glass is so close to your users’ senses.
  • Build for people - Design interfaces that use imagery, colloquial voice interactions, and natural gestures. Focus on a fire-and-forget usage model where users can start actions quickly and continue with what they’re doing.

But what is most revealing and consequently most fascinating for me is the focus on language and how this is being tailored as an integral feature of this type of technology. It is being coined as “wearable tech” but in many ways the proximity to us, to our physical persons means that the device or platform has to work with our own language settings.

The “natural speak” commands will be the most potent way these devices will become closer to our everyday lives and influence them too. We can wear them, however until they work seamlessly with the idiosyncrasies of our spoken word, they will always fall short.

The developer pages offer some of the following examples for voice commands needed to develop on the Glass platform:

Guideline Good Example Bad Example
Is general enough to apply to multiple Glassware, but still has a clear purpose “ok glass, learn a song” “ok glass, learn something”, “ok glass, learn a song on guitar”
Is colloquial and can explain Glass features in a conversation “ok glass, take a picture” (“You can use Glass to take a picture”) “ok glass, take picture” (“You can use Glass to take picture”)
Is comfortable to say in public “ok glass, find a doctor” “ok glass, find a gynecologist”
Brings the user from intent to action as quickly as possible “ok glass, find a recipe for” (this allows users to speak “chicken kiev” and immediately see the recipe) “ok glass, show me a cookbook” (this forces users to look through a list for what they want)
Avoids brand words “ok glass, make a video call” “ok glass, start a hangout”
Is long enough to ensure high recognition quality (at least three syllables) “ok glass, make a video call” “ok glass, hangout”
Fits on a single line (less than 600px wide at 40px Roboto Thin) “ok glass, add a calendar event” “ok glass, create a new calendar event”

One of the most interesting directions these sorts of guidelines take us is the way that such a device or tool may influence our use of language and consequently the way we think. For example the focus on the commands being “colloquial”, “comfortable to say in public” and how they should strike a balance for technical purposes by being “long enough to ensure high recognition quality (at least three syllables)”. In a way this is describing how Glass users will have to talk to interact successfully.

Google Glass

With such high constraint the written form that is displayed needs careful thought on Glass and in many ways is some of the most influential aspects of the product design as, in some way, it makes real the experience and relationship you have with the wearable device. It becomes a response to your commands. Here are some of the guidelines for the written form:

Keep it brief. Be concise, simple and precise. Look for alternatives to long text such as reading the content aloud, showing images or video, or removing features.

Keep it simple. Pretend you’re speaking to someone who’s smart and competent, but doesn’t know technical jargon and may not speak English very well. Use short words, active verbs, and common nouns.

Be friendly. Use contractions. Talk directly to the reader using second person (“you”). If your text doesn’t read the way you’d say it in casual conversation, it’s probably not the way you should write it.

Put the most important thing first. The first two words (around 11 characters, including spaces) should include at least a taste of the most important information in the string. If they don’t, start over. Describe only what’s necessary, and no more. Don’t try to explain subtle differences. They will be lost on most users.

Avoid repetition. If a significant term gets repeated within a screen or block of text, find a way to use it just once.

Again we might explore how these simple guidelines strongly influence a user as they depict the character of the technology being worn. BJ Fogg has written about the social cues we pick up on from technology and their social influence. Bear these elements in mind when we are learning and experiencing more everyday about personalised or wearable technology.

…people respond to computer systems as though the computers were social entities that used principles of motivation and influence.

As shown in Table 5.1, I propose that five primary types of social cues cause people to make inferences about social presence in a computing product: physical, psychological, language, social dynamics, and social roles. The rest of this chapter will address these categories of social cues and explore their implications for persuasive technology.

Primary social cues

We have had a quick look at how the Language cue is being carefully tailored on the Glass platform (and elsewhere in Search and Siri of course) and it is pretty easy to begin to understand how the other elements appear in the user experience.

Psychologically we pick up on how a device such as Glass can learn our preferences and begin to provide hyper contextual information to us, as explained earlier in one of the design principles: “The most relevant experiences are also the most magical and lead to increased engagement and satisfaction.”

The psychological connection here is linked to the social dynamic and how it would seem our technology is cooperating positively with us. The reciprocity of our interactions would fall in line with some of the research BJ Fogg outlines in his chapter – the more helpful technology is to us the more engaged we become and the more likely we are to reciprocate.

The social role of the device is an interesting one – my son would happily call Google Search his assistant or guide and so it would not seem too big a step to appreciate a wearable technology being a close ally in getting life done more efficiently.

The physical cue is perhaps the most curious because it is not so much a floating disembodied AI head doing our bidding but something that is closer to being part of us. Physically it would seem the cue has in fact become much more subtle in the fire-and-forget notifications and the seamless in-vision experience. Yet the overt nature of wearing the technology has caused some interesting consternation, raising questions about privacy and safety.

Funnily enough I have not had the chance to play with the device or even experience it yet, but the developer pages have certainly helped me to better understand the direction things are heading in and made me reflect about the influence this type of technology will have on the way we speak and think.

If you are a Glass Explorer I would love to hear your thoughts on some of the subjects raised in this post – please share a comment below.

Pic: Google Glass by wilbertbaan