Stuart Murray

Portfolio - Books

The Tipping Point

The Tipping Point is about how trends are sparked and take hold. Gladwell discuss three main ideas in this book: The Law of the Few, The Stickiness Factor, and The Power of Context. Though overall the book did not apply directly to instructional design it did offer up some interesting concepts primarily with stickiness and group size.

The Stickiness Factor

Stickiness is a specific factor quality of a message that makes something memorable and grabs people’s imagination. The Stickiness factor states there are specific ways of making a contagious message memorable. These are simple changes of the presentation of information that can make a big difference in how much of an impact it makes. An example of the stickiness factor is the children’s show, Sesame Street. The makers of Sesame Street use a repetitive factor to teach kids with rhymes and rhythms. The same teaching segment of the show is presented throughout the week repetitively before a new concept is introduced. This method helps children understand and comprehend by using visual-blending exercises.

Ideally, in what we do, designing courses, we want them to be sticky. That is, memorable so that it goes from something on the screen to learning the remains with the student. This is the constant struggle the design team but, based on what Gladwell suggest, it doesn’t need to take huge flashy changes to make this happen it needs reasoned well researched implication of ideas. One such example is using multiple ‘pages’ for a lesson rather than one the just scrolls and scrolls.

Group Size

In continuing discussion on group size, Gladwell introduces his theory of the magic of the number of 150. Group sizes play a large part in tipping scales. He refers to 150 as the magic number of a group size. This group size displays levels of intimacy and efficiency. Groups larger than this size tend need more artificial rules and procedures are needed and the members are more distant from one another. With a smaller group, you can become comfortable and rely on the other members to exhibit qualities of accuracy.

I found this section very interesting. Thinking on it I find myself working very well and closely to the members of my team. But as this expands out I realize that I am not a responsive to other needs because often I think it doesn’t concern me or that doesn’t affect what I do every day.

Blink is an amazing book that empowers the reader to essentially trust their internal voice. The first few chapters illustrate the ways that very accurate decisions can be made very rapidly. We can take in a great deal of information and “thin slice” – find the information necessary to make a correct decision and form a course of action. The remaining chapters outline how there is various influences that can distract or impede our ability to “thin-slice.” We all have moments of insight, or flashes of idea.

The book teaches (maybe illustrates is a better word) you to recognize them and develop them from a fledging idea to something more concrete. I read this book shortly before Reading for College Success, and I used the ideas in this book to shape ideas for the development of the course that I may have otherwise ignored. To empower oneself to recognize the validity of your intuition (even if you are unsure of the source) is a skill that we can all use and I continue to use as I develop lessons.

Flawless Consulting

The focus of this book is more for the outside contract however it provides a number of techniques that can be used by anyone. The chapter that I found most enlightening was “Dealing with Resistance.” Within in this chapter Peter Block outlines a three step strategy to handling resistance. They are 1) Identify in your own mind the form of resistance, 2) State the form of the resistance, and 3) Be quiet (allow everyone to express their thought/opinions).

I have used variations of these steps in all the groups that I have worked. I find that step two is the most critical. You need to name the elephant (sometimes elephants) in the room before you can get any good discussions about how to address the situation. Often once a problem is expressed (where with a course, a person, or a method) solution to fixing are often quick in coming. The difficult part is willing to take that step of admitting that there is some type of problem.

ActionScript 3.0 Game Programming
I read ActionScript 3.0 Game Programming University by Gary Rosenzweig. The book provides an excellent overview to AS3 basics and provides excellent explanations of how AS3 functions. What I find most useful was the use of examples (source code download from book website). Currently I have developed an accordion interactive meant to display text and images. The interactive is dynamic enough that you can add and remove as many panels as needed (restricted by screen size). To view examples go to Chemistry (3065) then Module 05 and Lessons 02 or 03 (intro tab).
E-Learning by Design

Horton’s book offers a great deal of information about three types of activities (absorb, do and connect) that can be used to meet various objectives and goals. After reading through absorb- and do- type activities chapter I was pleased to find that our team is already implementing a number of best practices outlined in book.

The chapter I found most interesting was connect-type activities as this is more bridging the gap between knowledge and the connections to their everyday life. I delved into this chapter to discover new ideas to use in chemistry. On of the ideas that I have been pushing for is to relate chemistry to different careers. We have done this to a small extent by adding in videos in key lessons that have an actor of a profession speaking about how chemistry is used in their job. This can be seen in Module 01 lessons 01 (intro) and Module 04 lesson 05 (intro). However, this is a somewhat passive for the student.

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