How do you write really good instructions? Lego versus Meccano


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If you’ve read Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder, you’ll know that one of the questions that Sophie receives during her mysterious philosophical journey is this:

  • “Why is Lego the most ingenious toy in the world?”

The writer didn’t ask why Meccano was the most ingenious toy.

And clearly, the answer has to do with the creativity that Lego inspires. But I also think part of the ingenuity of lego is to do with the instructions.

I should declare my biases up front. I’m 45 and I’ve been playing with Lego for a long time.

This includes for the last 17 years with three kids. Two girls and a boy. In this time I’ve tried a handful of Meccano projects compared with countless lego kits including Duplo.

Meccano, if you don’t know, predates Lego. My Dad grew up with Meccano before they invented Lego.

Think nuts and bolts and metal struts. Except now it’s plastic.

Meccano used to be the bomb. At least in 1950. Or something. But man… now Lego is the bomb. Lego rules over Meccano.

And not just in terms of versatility. I’m talking about how they write instructions.

Giving clear instructions is really hard. You’ll know this if you’ve ever had to follow anyone else’s.

First off though, you have to pitch your instructions at the right level. And that means you need to know who you’re writing to. The audience in other words.

Lego totally nails this. I have total confidence that if I buy a Lego kit that says for age 8 to 10 it will absolutely work for this age group.

The Meccano set my wife came home with the other day was for my son.

He’s just turned eight. Which seemed perfect because that’s what the kit said on the packet. For 8 years old.

Normally, he can concentrate for hours on stuff like Lego. And to give him credit, he persisted for a decent amount of time.

But eventually, he gave up in frustration. There were tears… there were raised voices… Crying etc.

So I gave it a go the other day. The outcome was basically the same.

Not only would I need four hands to complete the task, it was like I couldn’t understand the instructions and there seemed to be pieces missing or that didn’t match.

Comparatively speaking, there is no comparison. Granted, it’s not all about the instructions.

But if you want to learn how to write instructions, you need to go no further than the Lego best practice playbook which must read something like this:

  1. Understand the audience.
  2. Pitch the instructions at their level.
  3. Use colour, diagrams, images.
  4. Include all the resources the audience needs.
  5. Use words only when necessary.
  6. Love the product.

Digital badges – Part 2: Earning your first badge


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If you’ve set up a Mozilla Backpack account already (see my last post for instructions), then you can have a go at earning your first digital badge. This is what I did first.

Note: You won’t receive the badge if you don’t have the backpack account already set up. But that won’t stop you from doing the five challenges or activities.

Also, if you get stuck on one of the copy and paste challenges, it’s most probably because you did not copy and paste all of the text. Some of the text was hidden on my computer when I did challenge 3.

See how you get on. If you really get stuck, someone already made a video here.

 

Digital badges – Part 1: Getting started


One of my goals at the moment is to explore the world of digital badging and micro-credentials. Digital badges are:

a validated indicator of accomplishment, skill, quality or interest that can be earned in various learning environments.

If you’re interested you can follow along as well. Here is how I made a start:

  1. Checked out the home page of Open Badges, the platform that I’m exploring. This is a good jumping off point for more information about what digital badges involves and how you can get started.
  2. Watched the video above for an overview. The context in the video is the USA, but don’t let that put you off.
  3. Set up my Mozilla backpack here. This is one of the places where you can store digital badges that you earn.

APPROACHES – New Content for the new NZCALNE Assessment 2 with ALEC


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As we’ve said elsewhere, this is a transition year from the old NCALNE (Voc) to the new NZCALNE (Voc). We’re in the middle of writing new material which will be available in a new format on Pathways Awarua shortly.

The first draft of this is available here on my blog. If you’re up to the second assessment task in the new and improved NZCALNE (Voc) here’s what you need to know below.

The new Assessment 2 still focuses on concepts on approaches from a Māori perspective, but because of the new structure, we can include other concepts from mainstream adult teaching.

There are only two areas to compete in the new assessment task. Down below you’ll find all the links you need for all of the content including:

  • Approaches: How should we look at teaching and learning?
  • Concepts: What are some other key ideas you need to know?

Follow the links below

Approaches: How should we look at teaching and learning?

Concepts: What are some other key ideas you need to know?

If you’re stuck, please get in touch with us by email here: assess@alec.ac.nz or by calling Graeme on 0800-ALEC-1-2

 

Under the hood: ESOL Starting Points


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The Starting Points framework allows tutors to focus on learning that happens at or before koru/step 1 on the Learning Progressions for Adult Literacy. This is often in an ESOL context.

Where does it come from?

The ESOL Starting Points were created by The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC). This was in response for a guide for working with learners who are pre-literate or very low level literacy learners.

What’s it for?

If we work with ESOL learners, the Starting Points allows us to focus on seven important areas that:

provide support for working out how to read and write words (decoding written words, forming letters, and writing or encoding words) to enable learners to access and work within the first steps of the learning progressions.

They represent critical skills and knowledge that are essential for supporting adult literacy development.

Without these skills and knowledge, it is unlikely a learner could advance significantly through the progressions for reading and writing (Starting Points, p. 3).

What is it?

It’s not represented by grid with strands and steps like the Learning Progressions. This is because the skills and knowledge are closely related and cross over.

Here are the seven knowledge areas:

  • Listening vocabulary. This includes the words a person recognises when they hear them in spoken language.
  • Phonological awareness. This refers to a learner’s ability to hear, recognise, and use the sounds that make up spoken words.
  • Sound-letter relationships. This is ability to make connections between sounds and the letters that represent them.
  • Print and word concepts. This refers to the rules that govern the use of the written language.
  • Letter formation. This relates to how well someone can form letters so they can write down words.
  • Environmental print. This refers to the words and images found out and about. This can include billboards, advertising, signs and labels.
  • High-interest words. These are words that are personally important that learners might recognise on sight. An example would be someone’s own name or a brand like McDonalds.

How is it relevant?

The ESOL Starting Points will not be relevant for everyone. For example, if you are teaching a trades or vocational training programme it’s unlikely that you will need to use the Starting Points.

However, if you are teaching a workplace literacy programme that involves new migrants, refugees, or other pre-literate learners then the Starting Points could be very relevant and useful.

What does it mean for me?

If you do have low-level ESOL learners, you will probably need to use the Starting Points reading assessment. This is part of the LNAAT.

If you’re unsure about this it could be a good idea to talk to the person in your organisation that administers the Literacy and Numeracy for Adults Assessment Tool (LNAAT).

This assessment generates a report similar to the one’s we looked at earlier for the Literacy Progressions. For some courses, such as workplace literacy, doing this assessment will be a condition of your funding.

New Adult Literacy and Numeracy Standards Released for the New Qualifications


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Well, it’s taken a while… but it’s finally official. Here’s what you need to know:

  • We have a new suite of unit standards for adult literacy and numeracy education.
  • These new standards are for the new qualifications including the New Zealand Certificate in Adult Literacy & Numeracy Education (Vocational/Workplace).
  • The old standards are now expiring, but are still fit for purpose for assessment until 31 December 2018. So there is roughly a two-year transition period.
  • The content for Unit Standard 21204 has been broken up.
  • The new NZCALNE (Voc) will eventually replace the current NCALNE (Voc), just like the current NCALNE (Voc) replaced the original NCALE (Voc).

In terms of the new NZCALNE (Voc), there are four new standards. These are:

  • Unit 29622. Describe adult literacy and numeracy education in Aotearoa New Zealand. 5 credits
  • Unit 2962. Design strategies to embed adult literacy and numeracy in the delivery of a training or education programme. 10 credits
  • Unit 29624. Plan and facilitate embedded adult literacy and numeracy skills development in a training or education programme. 15 credits
  • Unit 2962. Use assessment to strengthen adult literacy and numeracy teaching and learning. 10 credits

A caution:

  • These standards are not the roadmap to delivering the new qualification. But they do provide a clear guide to what content the new NZCALNE (Voc) should assess as part of programme delivery. It will be up to providers to determine what that delivery roadmap should look like.

The good news:

  • As ALEC already has consent to assess the ALNE standards to level 6, we’ll automatically get this consent extended to the new standards.
  • We submitted our course approval documentation to the NZQA months ago for delivery of the new qualification but it’s been in limbo land pending the release of these new standards. This is now underway again on the NZQA side and we’re waiting to hear on its status.
  • I’ve worked on both the new qualification and the new standards as part of the subject expert group. This means any new content will incorporate the best of what ALEC has had to offer to date, as well as our most current thinking and knowledge about embedding literacy and numeracy into training.

The plan:

  • Our plan is to begin delivering the new version of the qualification with the new standards as soon as we can. Hopefully, this will be by the start of the academic year in 2017. This will depend on how much longer the course approval process takes and then how quickly we can move to develop the new content required.
  • We’ll keep you updated here on any progress.

Any questions? Please let me know.

 

 

What Do The New Standards For Adult Literacy & Numeracy Education Look Like?


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I’m glad you asked… There are 11 new unit standards in draft stage at the moment. I’m particularly interested in four of these (and you should be too if you’re involved in foundation education).

The four below will form the basis for assessment against the revised NZCALNE (Voc) qualification.

  • Unit 1: Describe adult literacy and numeracy education in Aotearoa New Zealand (5 credits).
  • Unit 2: Design strategies to embed adult literacy and numeracy in a vocational or workplace programme (10 credits).
  • Unit 3: Plan and facilitate embedded adult literacy and numeracy teaching and learning in the delivery of a training or education programme (15 credits).
  • Unit 4: Use assessment to strengthen adult literacy and numeracy teaching and learning (10 credits).

If you have something to say, the official feedback form is here. Disclosure: I’m in the NZQA working group developing these.