New toys for my mind

[this article is unedited but released for its links and their usefulness to learners]

This has been an amazing week for discovering new things for my PLE (personal learning environment), and a new stage of developing my PLN (personal learning network) by joining the etmooc which started up this week thanks to Alex Couros who began the idea for its creation. I am a late starter for the global event, an open online course with 1647 people registered! More on this event later, but it is a a great opportunity to connect with other educational technology leaders all offering insight into new forms of teaching and learning.

I also got very involved in the topic of design thinking as well as content curation and discovered some new resources and a lot of new tools to explore. Re-designing the IMD Fundamentals course has been challenging and exciting, as there are so many new tools and resources to work with.

Design thinking brought me back to an early influence in my studies when I learned about Empathic Instructional Design in an article by Maish Nichani, published back in 2002. I was struggling with instructional design theories such as the traditional ADDIE concept [Analyze, design, develop, implement, evaluate]. Basically this style of designing learning is formulamatic and based on ancient times before the digital explosion. Elliott Masie in reference to early, boring e-learning, commented that “Whenever there is a new technology, early usage is often modeled after something that is familiar. ‘Right now, [2001] we see many of the classroom or textbook metaphors shining through.” The point of this is that ADDIE represents detached design, whereas Empathic design is user-centered, where each problem could have and usually does have, unique solutions. So, “in order to innovate, we have to learn to empathize with our learners [or users] and then base our designs on resultant observations and reflections. This trait is essential for all designers.”

This was my wonderful introduction to what we now refer to as Design Thinking, and perhaps a related form – Service Design, which is becoming significant in the world of web Design, graphic design, architectural design, and other design disciplines. For more about design thinking go to ideo.com, fastcodesign.com, and numerous other resources. One special resource is Service Design Magazine, edited by Jari Koskinen, and published by Lahti University of Applied Sciences Series C in Estonia. The publication is the work of cooperating universities in Finland and Estonia and present original thinking and unique perspectives about Service Design and Design Thinking. It is beautiful chaos and I loved the bluesy/browns. Reading it is more important, but very impactful.

A series of articles in websites I discovered about social media in business, SocialMedia.biz, socialbrite.com, as well as Mashable.com which I have followed for years, leads to a number of new tools related to content creation and content curation. The following articles are very informative and an overwhelming group of tools are discussed:

Authors or curators: Who will be the more valuable in the future“, Mashable.com

7 Smart Techniques for content curation“, at Socialbrite.org

Take charge of the curation wave with these slick tools“, by socialmedia.biz

These articles lead you to a mecca of possibilities for your PLE!

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Unique Ways to Learn…

Dan  Cederholm has been one of my favorite web designers to follow for a long time. There is something about the simplicity of his words – not simple words, but clear and concise when he describes a coding process, that I found in the first book of his that I read and used for my classes (Web Standards Solutions).

Reading his Simplebits website this morning, I read about his recent WordPress theme Pears. I have read the brief article before, but this time I went to the link for Pears [pear.rs] and discovered an amazing idea – to create a website to “collect, test, and experiment with interface pattern pairings of CSS and HTML”. The design is mainly for the user to create a collection of their own such patterns with the unique features of the theme’s structure. The left column is where you define a pattern you want to build and collect. When you select the pattern, the top half of the page becomes the pattern – a coded demonstration. The bottom half is a split window with the code used to create the pattern with the HTML on one side and the CSS on the other. What a great tool for learning and for storing snippets of code!

I highly recommend visiting pear.rs if you are just learning to code html and css, and to try the theme when you have your own hosting service as a tool for developing your own “patterns”. It is a great tool to add to my personal learning environment too!

Somehow, while on Simplebits my iPad jumped to Instagram.com/simplebits. Dan has collected a series of images to share – which probably are places and people where he lives. I have not bothered with Instagram before now, but I realized I have many images of my community that would be fun to share in this type of “biographical story”. Another project, but it looks like a fun way to share the community I am so attracted to and involved with.

The problem with reading everything without thinking

Heydon Pickering wrote an excellent article today about “The Importance of Sections” at Smashing Magazine. I highly recommend this article – one of those “I wish I could write that clearly” articles that explains the new HTML5 Sectioning elements. In the article he references the “sectioning elements” from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) wiki site that is also a good example of better writing on the W3C site – clean, understandable code examples of the sectioning elements in HTML5. In teaching html5 sectioning, I had delayed going “fully HTML5” by keeping <div>’s as part of learning to section content in our courses but recently in all web scripting courses, we are now fully implementing the newer HTML5 style of sectioning with the article, section, nav, and aside elements. The transition followed what major designers were doing and now most designers are implementing the html5 sectioning – which is why we made the transition.

Please read the Heydon article and the W3C article and practice these important and useful semantic methods of writing web standards based code. I think you will find Heydon’s writing interesting and very informative. He specializes in semantics – so expect it to be accurate and meaningful.

However, one of my purposes for this article is to also reference another article about the same topic, with a much different perspective – one that argues for forgetting about the new html5 elements. Luke Stephens wrote three articles at WebDesigner Depot that “they’re actually some of the most poorly specified, poorly understood, and poorly implemented parts of HTML5” referencing the “structural elements” [sic Section Elements) of HTML5. He states that you simply “shouldn’t use them”.

My concern with Luke’s article is that it is an example of opinion, and he authorizes himself as the author of a book about HTML5 as proof that he knows what he is talking about. Please read Luke’s articles to see his point of view and make your own decisions about these two different perspectives about changes in coding with HTML5.

Colleges and universities are often criticized by developers as teaching outdated stuff, and not keeping up to date. Our programs have been teaching Web Standards based html/css since there were standards. Articles by “designers” such as Mr. Stephens do not help us keep the content in line with Web Standards. I have coded html before there was CSS and before Web Standards were prevalent. I don’t think the web design community wants to go back to the days of browser wars and every individual deciding to create code the way they think it should be done. There are many top designers/developers that not only believe in the Web Standards process, but that is the way the code – and they do pretty well at that!

Luke Stephens article at Webdesigner Depot : “The Harsh Truth About HTML5’s Structural Semantics“. Links to part 2, and part 3 are at the end of the first and second articles.