Larry Hosken: New: Tag: instructional-design

Book Report: Shady Characters

Thursday afternoon, talk at work turned to punctuation. Since work uses a lot of @s and #s, this should not surprise you. Someone hazily remembered that Shakespeare had invented “modern quotation marks.” This morning, I got around to Googling it: alas, that hazy memory was off. So… who invented quotation marks, then? Teh internets have some good info, but for more detail and analysis, I turned to Shady Characters, the book by the author of the Shady Characters blog. It talks about quotes, semicolons, dashes of various lengths… It's a fun book if you're into that sort of thing. There are some surprisingly good stories in there; how does a society figure out how to express a pause with no precedent? (It's kinda like figuring out that zero is a concept that merits a notation.)

Shady Characters has nudged the course of my life in recent years.

A few years back, some folks put together some resources to help folks learn the arcana of puzzlehunts. (Yes, there are mysteries, customs. Thinking about answer-extraction yields insights that let you skip parts. You are expected to recognize the six-dot Braille alphabet; you are not expected to know Braille contractions, eight-dot Braille symbols… That kind of thing.) Scott Royer had written an awesome puzzlehunt guide with a walkthrough for one puzzle. I was working at Google's engEDU team, hearing about Instructional Design and Theories of Learning all day. There are plenty of those Theories running around, but most agree: if you want someone to remember what you just taught them, give them a way to apply what they learned right away. So we wanted some more sample puzzles as exercises: nothing super-amazing, but something straightforward for Morse code, something for anagramming, something for indexing… Writing a puzzle with the only constraint "It should use Morse code" ain't so easy—you can do anything. If we had a theme, that would jump-start plenty of puzzles. But what theme?

I'd been reading the Shady Characters blog, reading about the history of punctuation. Most of these stories are of the form: over history, several symbols indicated the same thing. Before there were modern quotation marks, there were: different marks out in the margin, indented text with marks at the left edge; marks at the left edge with a different mark embedded in the text; different marks embedded in the text. But #'s story in the blog was different: # had been around roughly forever, but it meant different things over time and was called by different names.

So I used # as the theme for some sample exercise puzzles. Because # meant different things, there was still some variety. Several months later, there were quite a few puzzles. As the blog continued, more puzzle ideas resulted. Someone familiar with Swedish pointed out that # was a map symbol for a lumberyard. As you would expect, that inspired some lumber-ish puzzles.

Anyhow, when the book came out, I picked it up. It's a fun read; it's probably smoother to read the book than to pick your way through the blog. Usually, I'm a Kindle kind of guy, but I'm glad I got this book on paper. So far, most of the history of punctuation is tied up with the history of printing: scribes' marginalia, early typesetting. The physical book illustrates a lot of the type-ish things by using them itself; I suspect that wouldn't work so well on a Kindle. I read it over, got yet more puzzle ideas. But you might like the book even if you're not using it to get puzzle ideas.

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Notes on "Presentation and conversation with Nonchalance" Adventure Design Group Meetup

I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to keep secret some things I learned at Nonchalance's presentation at the Adventure Design Group hosted by the lovely Go Game people. But I'm not sure exactly what; not all of the presenters were mic'd so well. So I won't say much; maybe I'm saying even less than is allowed. I'm not being coy, just not so sure what was requested; there were many syllables but not all reached me.

Not that the presentation was spoiler-y. A panel of GC members addressed the crowd. They talked about the feeling they were trying to evoke; I'm guessing the feeling they're trying to evoke with their experience-in-development. (Later on, they said that the games of Nonchalance had had the mood of whimsy and absurdity, but that they'd perhaps drifted into that instead of that having been the plan from the beginning. So…maybe it's interesting that they're telling us the mood they're going for, like a pool player calling a shot.) But there was plenty of coy we-can't-tell-you-because-oo-woo-secret-squirrel-club stuff going on, too.

(Still, even amongst the coyness there was stuff to gnaw on. A member of GC led the audience in an activity. That's not so weird. Except—this GC member also mentioned that she's very much into personal agency. So it was strange…out of all the members of GC, why have her lead the audience in an activity in which we weren't really doing things very deliberately, but just following instructions? Just a coincidence? Some manipulation by a leader GC who's spent a lot of time thinking about cults and Esalen? Or…or maybe I just needed more to keep my brain busy as we got past the crafted presentation and it was gnawing on stuff that wasn't there?)

Afterwards, there was Q&A, and it started out with more cutesy evasions. But then we got an answer that was, while not spoiler-y, not gratuitously hiding stuff either. Ellen Juhlin asked: why give a presentation then? But she was kinda hesitating as she asked it, because by the time the microphone got to her, we'd got a straight answer or two. On GC, Jeff Hull says he doesn't like to talk about his art. But Uriah Findley and Kat Meler were able to talk about what they're trying to do. It's not easy stuff to talk about; and when it comes to describing experiences, words are treacherous—the memory some word triggers in my head isn't the same as the memory it triggers in yours, of course. But you could get an idea: why choose this medium instead of another. What makes a compelling experience. If participants change their life in X way after playing, these artists might have a sense that they've succeeded.

So it started out as cute-but-I-dunno-if-I-wanted-to-stay-out-late-for-this, but the Q&A got interesting.

Before the event, many folks announced upcoming projects. Usually there are perhaps three announced; this time there were a lot. Maybe a dozen? A lot. Allen called for DASH volunteers. Nikolai talked about an upcoming SMS puzzlehunt that Mastermind is running(?). Other folks talked about other games.

Amongst the upcoming events: along with the usual artists-I-haven't-heard-of, a couple of familiar names: Brandon Dillon and JP LeBreton of Doublefine. I'm hoping that they'll talk about Hack and Slash, a game which "breaks the fourth wall" for computer nerds. I played a sort of proof-of-concept version of the game: it's a computer game that came with its source code. You could figure out how to do things in the game by playing the game... or by reading the source code. That's an oversimplification, but I really liked the way that game messed with the usual boundaries.

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The Noun Project sponsored an iconathon to create and compile a collection of little drawings to represent educational topics. Many icons were designed, two of which caught my eye. Games for Learni...

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Link: Puzzle Pile interview about Lumber Party In which we find out that The Octothorpean Order is partly about puzzles but also partly about instructional design, human cognition, and the limited power of written instruction to inspire action. T...

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Link: Can you code better than a fourth grader? What if we're talking about a Vietnamese fourth grader? Neil Fraser went to Vietnam, and since he's a programming/educating nerd, he checked out the local computer science programs. He didn't just ch...

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Newbie Game RFP There's this sketch of an online puzzlehunt that's aimed at puzzlehunt newbies—it doesn't expect teams to be able to recognize, e.g., semaphore flags. This game would stick around—if, yea...

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Playtest went well. Wow, I figured folks would conk out after an hour or two, but they just kept going and going. Not everything got tested with n00bs; some folks showed up who'd played in puzzlehunt...

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Book Report: How to Sharpen Pencils I'm a technical writer. I write instructions. I often team up with a "Subject Matter Expert," someone who's really good at doing something. I ask them what they do and they write it down. You might w...

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Message to Puzzlehunter Wanna-Bes Someone smart asked for some draft email text they could to a San Francisco-area puzzlehunter wanna-be. So I wrote this: Playing in puzzlehunts is fun, but can be kinda like diving into the deep en...

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Wanted: Wanna-Be Puzzlehunters near SF You've had this conversation. They ask you what you did last weekend. You say you puzzlehunted. They say OMG that sounds amazing, I wanna play. You encourage them to look at some MIT Mystery Hunt puz...

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Jotting Notes on Fundamentals of IRL Game Design It's a seminar by @jettstein. (You think I'm typoing "GC summit talk by Bob Schaffer" really badly, but no: instead of watching a GC Summit video today, I did something else.) I attended Fundamentals...

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Book Report: A New Culture of Learning It's a book about learning; it's a book about culture. Our culture has brought forth all of these fancy new communications technologies. If there are some facts I need to know, I can probably look t...

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This week's snoutcast had an interesting tidbit "future events: bikes? Seattle? stay tuned!" And also some thoughts on puzzle-based learning if you're an educator. They're interviewing a math teache...

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Book Report: Too Big to Know We know a lot, and nowadays we know that we know a lot. I read a lot of books. But I read only a teeny-tiny fraction of the books that get published. And books are, in turn, just a teeny-tiny fractio...

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Book Report: Puzzle-Based Learning I recently reported on the first couple of Winston Breen books. And then Joe Fendel asked me if I'd read the Gollywhomper Games book. Apparently, puzzle-based young adult fiction is a thing? Back in ...

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Book Report: The Art of Game Design The Art of Game Design is pretty awesome. This book is about design. In theory, it's about game design. But if you're designing something for humans, this book contains plenty of wisdom. I think thi...

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Book Report: Apprenticeship Patterns For some reason, I thought this would be a book of mentoring patterns, but that's not what's going on here. This is a book for a computer programmer who wants to learn more about the craft. If you'r...

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Musicians about the Internets Yesterday, I went to a party at which I knew almost nobody. (Well, I knew some folks, but they mostly showed up at about the time I had to leave.) What's an introvert to when faced with a crowd like...

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Book Report: Organizational Patterns of Agile Software Development This book is about software development process. I guess it's aimed at project leads, project managers, and managers. But it's organized into Design Patterns, a form loved by many computer programm...

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Book Report: Sane Asylum This book is about Delancey Street, mostly about the way it operated as of 1974-ish, based on a visit by an East Bay reporter. I grew up with a big Delancey Street building in my neighborhood, but fr...

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Book Report: Strengths Finder 2.0 Strengths Finder 2.0 is an online personality test disguised as a book. The test administrators charge you to take their test. To make the idea of spending $25 to take a personality test palatable,...

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Not-Really-Puzzlehunts are Everywhere, even Denmark At work, I work with training/educator folks. Tonight, I posted a message about stuff I'd read this evening. But it's not confidential or anything so I guess I'll post it here, too: LARPers run a...

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Book Report: Influencer Good grief, it's another pop psychology book. I've been reading a lot of these recently, it seems. I swear, if I have to sit through another discussion of children who can/cannot delay their consump...

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Book Report: The Air We Breathe This was a fun novel. As with other Andrea Barrett novels, the heroes are scientists, so I'm inclined to be sympathetic. This novel is narrated in the first person plural, by a community of people....

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Book Report: Principles of Instructional Design This is the third book on instructional design I tackled reading. It's also the wordiest. "When one begins to think about the application of learning principles to instruction, there is no better g...

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Book Report: Designing Effective Instruction Notes about another Instructional Design book. Please pardon the dry nature of this book report. Again, emphasis on measuring learning. Consider making up the final exam questions before you write...

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Book Report: Developing Technical Training Please pardon this book report: these are my notes from the book, not the usual wry and insightful commentary. "Instructional design", as near as I can tell, is a movement to apply some rigor to les...

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