After a quick 3 months, it was finally time to present our concepts to both Chris and Andrea at the end of the year.
On the 8th of December, I presented my working title concept of Digital Social Learning Experiences. This post will talk through my presentation using the slides and script (marked in italics) I prepared for this presentation.
The most challenging aspect of this presentation was condensing 3 months of research into just two slides, which is why my people slides are huge in comparison to my design and technology slides.
Both PDFs of the script and the presentation can be downloaded at the end of the post.
Informal learning is defined as “any type of learning happening outside the curricula
offered by formal and non-learning activities”. It can happen anywhere and can occur at
Informal learners tend to be self-motivated and self directed and are responsible for
defining their own learning goals. For example, learning a new language or a new skill, like
a programming language. As you can see in the bubbles here, 94% of adults have taken
part in some kind of informal learning activity in the last 3 months - this shows the extent of
adult informal learning.
According to surveys conducted by FutureLab, the main reasons for taking part in informal
learning include 48% saying that they just enjoy learning. Other reasons include using it as
a way to pass the time, to keep their brains active, to be well informed or learn due to the
need to find something out.
FutureLab also found that adults spend 15 hours a week learning with technology, with
75% of participants being able to cite one benefit of using technology to learn - 31% of the
participants responded that they can learn what they want when learning informally.
During the semester for my own platform, I researched several different areas and
categorised my research into three main themes: curiosity, constructionism and
communities. From these themes my insights emerged which I will talk through.
1. We need to find new ways to learn, question and create - this stemmed from the book
Curious by Ian Leslie, who believes that in the 21st century we no longer satisfy our
natural curiosity because of the efficiency of Google and Wikipedia which answers any
burning questions we have about topics - when this happens we don’t let the question
deepen and develop which prevents us from formulating new ideas and opinions. Amit
Signal, Google’s head of search says “The more accurate the machine gets, the lazier
the questions become.” while Kevin Kelly of US Wired adds “When answers become
cheap, good questions become more difficult and more valuable.” Leslie believes that
we should be creating new digital platforms that encourage us to ask questions in
more meaningful ways.
2. We need to make users aware of their learning - to do this, we could utilise methods
that requires the learners to reflect on their own work and judge themselves based on
an assessment criteria - this type of learning is called self-assessment learning.
Reflection is the key to self-assessment and learners must have a clear understanding
of the criteria that they are gauging their performance on. We need to be considerate
though to the different ways that people learn and take into account different learning
styles when encouraging self assessment learning— for example, a method called
graphic organisers - mind maps, cognitive maps - can organise learnt knowledge in a
highly visual way, but does not benefit someone who learns best using auditory and
3. More likely to make new ideas when actively engaged in activity - One of the key ideas
of constructionism believes that individuals are more likely to form new ideas about
topics when engaged in activities - particularly working on personally meaningful
activities and projects. The platform FutureLearn does this well by providing structured,
linear courses that gives the learner a ‘depth without depth’ look at topics. The benefits
of FutureLearn being a digital platform allows the learner to access it from a variety of
devices as well as allowing themselves to dictate where and when they participate in
the activity. FutureLearn also incorporate elements of assessment such as quizzes and
tests to allow the learners to apply their knowledge.
4. The best interactions occur when people partake in shared activity - Conversation with
likeminded users is a great activity and should be encouraged. Amy Bruckman and
Mitchel Resnick wrote a paper on a digital platform called MediaMoo which was a
professional platform based in a text-based virtual reality environment. The aim of the
platform was to encourage conversations at conferences and provide a shared space
to discuss the conference with a shared set of activities. MediaMoo also shows the
visitors’s research interests to encourage conversation between it’s users. This can
encourage new ideas to be shared and people sharing their experiences on topics,
which tends to happen more during informal social interactions rather than formal
5. Community-centred learning communities bring out the best in learners - these types of
communities foster norms for people learning from one another, and encourage
learners to be active and constructive participants. FutureLearn does this well and from
the feedback they’ve received from their users, this was something highlighted in
almost all of the responses. Responses included that the community aspect gave her
the confidence to talk to more people, while another user said that by putting out his
personal views to other users on subjects and having people react to them furthered
his own thought process while helping him form new ideas. One user even said that
the social side of FutureLearn made her feel like she could rejoin the thinking world
after a family tragedy. These types of communities need to “invite interactions that
make them alive” and in the book Cultivating Communities of Practise, Etienne
Wenger, Richard McDermott and William M. Snyder outline several principles to follow
when designing for aliveness including inviting different levels of participation and
opening dialogues between inside and outside perspectives.
As we’ve established, informal learning can take place in any place at any time. My
platform won’t be any exception and since it will be digital, it will most likely be on portable
devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops. I have a particular interest in designing
for smartphones so I would like to concentrate on making a smartphone application as my
end result for this project.
So this is my initial sketches on how I’d like the application to look, or certainly how I see
the information architecture being structured, for the final application - creating highly
visual ways of displaying information about subjects. Rather than opt for linear courses,
creating visualisations that users can explore and have more self direction about how they
move through the information I feel would be more engaging for the user. I’ve also been
considering how the user’s journey should be displayed, which will be important to
Inspired by visualisations such as the London underground that shows all the paths and
hubs to the stations. For my project, I would like to give the opportunity for users to
communicate with one another at each hub to tie in the social aspect of the project.
Inspired by FutureLearn’s way of teaching - depth without depth. Giving the user’s the
information they need to know and to leave them to form their own opinions and ideas
around the topics.
Constructionism learning - providing users with an activity and encouraging conversation
throughout the user’s personal learning process while giving them the tools to create their
own paths through the information in an engaging way. Perhaps by utilising elements from
choose your own adventure books - almost adding a gameification element - choose one
path and you continue learning, choose another and there’s a surprise quiz or some way
of applying your knowledge. Unexpected opportunities to apply knowledge will make users
more aware of their learning.
Social Network Theory - Interested in how the theory views social relationships in terms of
nodes and ties and shows the map of all of the relevant ties between the nodes being
studied. They are usually used to determine the social capitol of actors. But I’m interested
in how that can be adapted to show how close each node of information on a topic relates
to each other which might affect how the data visualisations look for each topic.
As I’ve mentioned, I have a particular interest in using smartphones as my main form of
technology for this project. Again, according to FutureLab, they found that 15% of adults
use mobile technology as a way of informally learning. Smartphones can allow learners to
access all the services they can receive from the internet on their mobile device. The
devices can also be used to send information to multiple platforms in a variety of different
ways - phone calls, texts messages etc.
For next semester, I have outlined the 6 key steps in my prototyping process that I would
like to undertake. I would like to put an emphasis on paper prototyping in the initial stages,
as well as lots of user testing to get feedback on my design.
some of the interactions. However since I have an interest in graphic design and user
interface design, as opposed to the development side, I would like to also focus on
creating quick prototypes with software such as InVision, where prototypes can be created
using mocked up slides and hotspots.
After InVision prototypes, I would like to move onto Adobe Edge to start creating basic
interactive prototypes before moving onto ProtoIO, a software that merges aspects of both
InVision and Adobe Edge together to create more realised prototypes.