A way with the fairies

Posted 20 April 2015 by Ryan Tracey
Categories: augmented reality

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

One of the greatest hoaxes to be perpetrated last century was that of the Cottingley Fairies.

In 1917, 9-year-old Frances Griffiths and her 16-year-old cousin, Elsie Wright, borrowed Elsie’s father’s camera to take a photograph of the fairies they claimed lived down by the creek. Sure enough, when he developed the plate, Elsie’s father saw several fairies frolicking in front of Frances’s face.

The first of the five photographs, taken by Elsie Wright in 1917, shows Frances Griffiths with the alleged fairies.

A couple of months later the girls took another photograph, this time showing Elsie playing with a gnome. While her father immediately suspected a prank, her mother wasn’t so sure and she took the photos to a local spiritualist meet-up. From there the photos, and three others taken subsequently by the girls, eventually hit the press and became a worldwide sensation.

Although the photos were quite real, the fairies of course were fake. In 1983, the cousins (by now old ladies) finally confessed they were cardboard cut-outs.

Not everyone – it must be said – had been fooled. In fact, most probably weren’t. However one who took the bait hook, line and sinker was none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, whose involvement helped catapult the photographs to public attention in the first place.

It must also be said that as a devout spiritualist, Sir Arthur wanted to believe.

Disney Fairies Trail screenshot of Tinker Bell flying in front of a garden bed.

I was reminded of the Cottingley affair when I stumbled upon the Disney Fairies Trail app.

Developed in association with the Botanic Gardens Trust, the app promised to bring to life Tinker Bell and her flighty friends using our beautiful public spaces as the back drop.

Despite not being a member of the app’s target audience, I am an augmented reality advocate, so I downloaded the app and installed it on my iPad.

Its instructions were simple:

  • Choose a botanic garden.
  • Start the trail.
  • Use the map to help find all the fairy locations.
  • Your device will vibrate when there is a fairy nearby.
  • Use your device to find the fairy.
  • Tap the fairy to reveal their [sic] secrets.

I wanted to believe, so I hotfooted my way to the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney to give it a go. Unfortunately the experience was less than optimal.

Disney Fairies Trail map

From the get-go, the map was so high level it was effectively useless.

After wandering semi-randomly around the park, I stumbled upon a tiny sign with an arrow promising that fairies live over there. Yet after crisscrossing my way all over the vicinity, my device never vibrated.

So I moved on. After a while I stumbled upon another tiny sign promising that the fairy trail continued this way, but after a short distance the path split out into multiple alternatives, none of which were sign posted.

After some more rambling, I finally stumbled upon a nice big sign declaring that fairies live here. Alas, still no vibrating – but I had a thought… perhaps the app doesn’t like my iPad? So I whipped out my Android smartphone and downloaded the app to it. It wouldn’t be as fun on the smaller screen, but I was determined to see a friggin fairy.

But it didn’t work on my smartphone either.

Deflated sports mascot

I should have read the customer reviews on the App Store before going to so much trouble. I clearly wasn’t the only one who had trouble with the app. And this bewilders me.

Unfortunately it was no surprise in retrospect when the real-life aspect of the experience didn’t work. To put my opinion into context, the Botanic Gardens Trust is the organisation that allows hordes of boot campers to bully tourists and locals alike off the park’s footpaths; and whose own staff choose the peak CBD lunch hour to drive their trucks and trailers along said paths.

But Disney! How could Disney fail to bring Tinker Bell & Co to life? The makers of masterpieces such as Toy Story and The Lion King evidently couldn’t engineer a dinky little augmented reality app that would work on my device of choice – or even on my device of second choice.

It just goes to show, if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. So I did.

Green fairy

I discovered the Aurasma app a while ago, and I’ve been toying around with it to get a sense of how it works.

The app allows you to upload an image or a video, which appears or plays when you scan a real-world trigger with your device’s camera, hence augmenting reality.

I haven’t yet encountered a burning need to use it for an educational purpose at my workplace, but when I had trouble with the Fairies Trail app, I decided to see if I could replicate the intended experience.

So I downloaded Green Fairy 3 by TexelGirl, uploaded her to Aurasma, and associated her with a rose in the garden. When I scanned my iPad’s camera over the rose… Voila! She appeared.

Green fairy appearing in the garden

As you can see via my screenshot, Aurasma supports the binary transparency of PNG files; with the background of the fairy image invisible, the real background shines through. The app also supports the partial transparency of PNG files; if I were to make the fairy 50% transparent, the real background would be partially visible through her.

My fairy was a static image, so she wasn’t moving. While Aurasma doesn’t seem to support animated gifs, it does support video. However there appears to be a conspicuous problem. My understanding is that MP4 format does not support transparency, and while FLV does, it won’t run on the iPad. I tweeted the Aurasma folks asking them to clarify this, but they are yet to respond.

Nevertheless, I discovered a work-around which is to duplicate the real background in the background of your video clip. That way when the video launches, it appears that its background is the real background. (I suspect this is how Dewars brought Robert Burns to life.)

Of course, this means the experience is no longer augmented reality, but rather an illusion of it. Though I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a hoax. Fauxmented reality, perhaps?

Which won’t be a problem, if we want to believe.

The dark side of gamification

Posted 16 March 2015 by Ryan Tracey
Categories: game-based learning

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

How well do you chop your cucumber?

It’s a ridiculous question, I know, but in the short film Sight the protagonist plays an augmented reality game that awards him points for the consistency in the thickness of his slices.

The scene irked me. The last thing I would want while preparing dinner is a computer judging me. Really, who cares how wide I cut the slices, and who judged that distance to be the perfect width anyway? It’s certainly not my idea of fun. And besides, it all tastes the same.

It’s a clear case of gamification gone too far – and of course that was the film’s message. The plot continues to delve into much darker uses of the technology, raising the spectre of what appears to be utopia on the surface hiding dystopia underneath.

Sight screenshot

In my previous post Game-based learning on a shoestring, I advocated the use of games to support learning in the workplace. I believe they have much to offer in terms of motivation, engagement and the development of capability.

However, I also recognise another side of games that can in fact impede learning. They may be downright inappropriate for several reasons…

1. Life is not a game.

Points, badges and leaderboards may be critical elements of game mechanics, but they have little bearing on real life. Firefighters don’t save people from burning buildings for 200 digital hats; soldiers can’t heal their shrapnel wounds with a beverage; and utility workers who die of asphyxiation in confined spaces don’t scrape into the Top 10.

So if you want your game to be authentic, dispense with the inauthentic.

2. Games can trivialise serious issues.

While serious games such as Darfur is Dying shine a light on worthy causes, sometimes even the best of intentions can backfire.

Take Mission US for instance. In one of the missions you play a slave girl in 19th Century Kentucky who tries to escape to the north. Prima facie it sounds like a way of encouraging young folk to appreciate the horrors of slavery. In practice, however, it’s gone over like a lead balloon.

3. Games may reinforce the wrong mindset.

The concerns that many people have over Grand Theft Auto are well documented.

What is less documented, however, is the undesirable influence that work-based games can have on your employees. Do you really want them to compete against one another?

4. Games can contaminate motivation.

Forcing those who don’t want to play a game is a sure-fire way to demotivate them. If you’re going to gamify my chopping of cucumbers, I’ll chop as few cucumbers as possible as infrequently as possible.

Even encouraging those who want to play the game might promote their extrinsic motivation over their intrinsic. This begs the question… How will they perform on the job without the prospect of external rewards?

5. Games will be gamed.

Regardless of the purpose of your game, or its sound pedagogical foundation, someone will always seek to game it. That means they’re focused on “winning” rather than on learning.

And what’s the point of that?

Cucumber

To conclude, I reiterate my belief that games have much to offer workplace L&D. But there’s a fine line between an engaging learning experience and an insidious waste of time. So before embarking on your gamely quest, take a moment to consider – and mitigate – the unintended consequences.

May the odds be ever in your favour.

Game-based learning on a shoestring

Posted 23 February 2015 by Ryan Tracey
Categories: game-based learning

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Game-based learning doesn’t have to break the bank. That was the key point of my presentation at The Learning Assembly in Melbourne last week.

Sure, you can spend an obscene amount of money on gaming technology if you want to, but you don’t have to.

Take Diner Dash for instance. In this free online game, you play the role of a waitress in a busy restaurant. As the customers arrive you need to seat them, take their order, submit the order to the chef, serve their food, transact their payment, clean their table, and take the dirty dishes back to the kitchen.

Leave any of your customers unattended for too long and they’ll walk out in a huff, costing you a star. When you lose all your stars, your shift is over.

It’s all very straight-forward… until the customers start pouring in and you find yourself racing to do everything at the same time. Straight-forward rapidly becomes complex!

Diner Dash screenshot

While Diner Dash is just a simple little game, it can afford an engaging learning experience.

For example, suppose you incorporate the game into a team-building workshop. You could split the participants into teams of 3 or 4 members, place each team in front of a computer with Diner Dash pre-loaded, and instruct them to score as many points as possible within a given time period.

Of course the game isn’t meant to be played in this way. Controlling the waitress by committee is awkward and inefficient. The participants will panic; they’ll snap at one another; someone will commandeer the mouse and go it alone; someone else will butt in; and they’ll all start to talk over the top of each other.

But that’s by design. Because when the game is over, you introduce Tuckman’s model of team development and suddenly the penny drops.

What Diner Dash has done is provide the participants with a recent experience of team building. Sure, the premise of the game was fictitious, but the dynamics among the players were real. So when it comes time to reflect upon the theoretical principles of the model, they don’t need to imagine some vague hypothetical scenario because they’ve personally experienced a highly charged scenario that very morning. It’s fresh in their minds.

Hands around laptop

Other themes that could emerge via a game like Diner Dash include time management, priority management, customer service, problem solving, decision making, strategic thinking, adaptability and learning agility.

Another is collaboration. If you were to put a leaderboard at the front of the room, I could almost guarantee that each team would default to competition mode and battle it out for supremacy. But wasn’t the objective of the activity to score as many points as possible? So why wouldn’t you collaborate with your colleagues around you to do that – especially those who had played the game before! This observation never fails to enlighten.

So, getting back to my original proposition: game-based learning doesn’t have to break the bank. With resources such as Diner Dash available for free, you can do it on a shoestring.

E-Learning conferences in Australia in 2015

Posted 3 February 2015 by Ryan Tracey
Categories: conference

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Here we go again with another round of awesome PD opportunities for e-learning professionals in the land down under!

While not all of these conferences focus purely on e-learning, the observant among us will discover components of interest.

Brisbane skyline

The Future of Learning in Higher Education Summit
• Where: Sydney
• When: 16-17 February 2015
• More info: Informa

The Learning Assembly Australia
• Where: Melbourne
• When: 17-19 February 2015
• More info: Ark Group

Learning Cafe UnConference
• Where: Sydney
• When: 18 February 2015
• More info: Learning Cafe

iDESIGNX
• Where: Melbourne
• When: 25 February 2015
• More info: LearnX

Intranets Strategy and Design Australia 2015
• Where: Sydney
• When: 4-5 March 2015
• More info: Ark Group

FutureSchools Conference
• Where: Sydney
• When: 11-12 March 2015
• More info: FutureSchools

Special Education Technology Needs Conference
• Where: Sydney
• When: 11-12 March 2015
• More info: FutureSchools

ClassTECH Conference
• Where: Sydney
• When: 11-12 March 2015
• More info: FutureSchools

Blended Learning Conference
• Where: Sydney
• When: 18-19 March 2015
• More info: Liquid Learning

Social Media in Tertiary Education Conference
• Where: Sydney
• When: 25-26 March 2015
• More info: Criterion Conferences

International Conference on Human Computing, Education and Information Management System
• Where: Sydney
• When: 27-28 March 2015
• More info: ICHCEIMS

Connected Education Summit
• Where: Melbourne
• When: 22 April 2015
• More info: Connect Show

CeBIT Australia
• Where: Sydney
• When: 5-7 May 2015
• More info: CeBIT Australia

THETA 2015
• Where: Gold Coast
• When: 11-13 May 2015
• More info: THETA Australasia

AITD National Conference
• Where: Sydney
• When: 13-14 May 2015
• More info: AITD

iMoot 2015
• Where: Online (Perth)
• When: 28 May – 1 June 2015
• More info: iMoot

Amplify Festival
• Where: Sydney & Melbourne
• When: 1-5 June 2015
• More info: Amplify

EduTECH
• Where: Brisbane
• When: 2-3 June 2015
• More info: EduTECH

MoodleMoot Australia 2015
• Where: Melbourne
• When: 6-8 July 2015
• More info: Moodle HQ

Forward Government Learning 2015
• Where: Canberra
• When: 23-24 July 2015
• More info: Ark Group

KM Australia 2015
• Where: Melbourne
• When: 4-6 August 2015
• More info: KM Australia

SimHealth2015
• Where: Adelaide
• When: 17-21 August 2015
• More info: Simulation Australasia

SimTecT2015 – Asia-Pacific Simulation Training Conference
• Where: Adelaide
• When: 17-21 August 2015
• More info: Simulation Australasia

Learning Cafe UnConference
• Where: Melbourne
• When: 19 August 2015
• More info: Learning Cafe

Leading a Digital School Conference
• Where: Melbourne
• When: 20-22 August 2015
• More info: iwbNet

Learning & Development Summit
• Where: Sydney
• When: 24-25 August 2015
• More info: Aventedge

LearnX 2015
• Where: Sydney
• When: 9 September 2015
• More info: LearnX

Moodleposium
• Where: Canberra
• When: 8-9 October 2015
• More info: Moodleposium

Learning@Work
• Where: Sydney
• When: 27-29 October 2015
• More info: Association & Communications Events

If you are the organiser of one of these conferences, don’t forget to boil the backchannel…!

My Top 10 movers and shakers

Posted 20 January 2015 by Ryan Tracey
Categories: education, personal learning network

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I am humbled to once more be voted into Bob Little’s annual list of E-Learning Movers and Shakers for the Asia-Pacific region.

While I take these kinds of lists with a grain of salt, I do not deny that being acknowledged by my peers generates a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Now I would like to shine the light on some of my influencers in this corner of the world. Click the image below to discover my Top 10 movers and shakers in the Asia-Pacific region…

My Top 10 movers and shakers in the Asia-Pacific region

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but rather a hat tip to a small selection of generous education professionals who think out loud and work out loud.

I learn so much from these people, and I dare say you will too.

Taking out the trash

Posted 5 January 2015 by Ryan Tracey
Categories: netiquette, personal learning network

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Happy new year!

I’m looking forward to 2015 as a time for exploring, building, experimenting, discovering, and learning.

Many of us like to make New Year’s resolutions in January – which rarely survive February – but this year mine are designed to last forever.

man taking out the trash

I hereby commit to the following five resolutions:

  1. No facey, no connecty.

    Humans have heads and names. If you apparently don’t, I won’t connect.

  2. Reject the hard sell.

    If your first message to me is sales oriented, you’re dropped.

  3. Do not feed the trolls.

    If you lack an open and collaborative mindset, I won’t engage.

  4. Do not feed the bullies.

    Bully-boy tactics do not lend credence to your argument; in fact they do the opposite. If you try to force feed me, the conversation is over.

  5. Shut the pop up.

    If a pop-up interrupts my reading of your article, I won’t bother quitting the pop-up. I’ll just quit your article.

Apologies if this seems like a negative way to begin the new year. However, by taking out the trash, I intend to let the light shine in.

What are your New Year’s resolutions…?

Thinking out loud

Posted 9 December 2014 by Ryan Tracey
Categories: blogging, e-learning

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Well 2014 was another big year of thinking out loud for me, as evidenced by the range of articles that I blogged.

Some of them were real doozies, and I’m pleased that they attracted excellent comments to extend the conversation.

I’d be delighted if you were to take this opportunity to catch up on any posts that you may have missed, and extend the conversation even further…!

Word cloud of my blogging year

The 3 mindsets of m-learning

The caveat of the performance centre

Out of the shadows

An offer they can’t refuse

The triple-threat scenario

The point of compliance

The Comparative Value of Things

They’re not like us

I can’t use Facebook

E-Learning = Innovation = Science

The Average Joe imperative

Why I blog

The dawn of a new generation

Let’s get rid of the instructional designers!

Let’s get rid of the instructors!

The learnification of education

The grassroots of learning

The relationship between learning and performance support

Santa Sleigh with Kangaroos

Merry Christmas!


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 593 other followers