Signage, literacy and wayfinding, part 1

By Gordon Rugg

Here’s what a typical piece of signage looks like to about 10% of the people visiting a public place such as a hospital or a school.

blackletter signage

About 10% of the population have significant reading difficulties. They might be able to figure out what a sign says, given enough time. They might not.

Here’s what a typical piece of signage looks like to another significant proportion of visitors.

grainy sign3

A lot of people have visual problems; this is particularly likely to be an issue in places like hospitals, which people with visual problems attend for treatment. Signage can also look like this to people with good eyesight if the lighting is poor or the weather is bad.

So what can you do about this problem? There are some simple, cheap solutions which aren’t as widely known as they should be. That’s the topic of this article.

banner Some classic types of landmark: Images from Wikimedia Commons

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Guest Post: Representing lesson structure graphically

By Gavin Taylor

Lesson structure can be seen as a core aspect of teaching; the method in which lessons are planned can influence the whole learning process. Most teachers plan the structure of their lessons using a few well established techniques. One is a three level approach commonly known as a traffic light sequence, as shown below.

figure1 v4

This traffic light system can be used for assessing pupil progress and for differentiation of tasks, as well as clearly showing the lesson structure. This system however has various limitations. For example, this system implies that unless a pupil “moves” from one colour to another, progress has not been made, even though the pupil’s understanding may have been deepened. The criteria for progress also have to be correct; a pupil could, for example, achieve the red objective in the figure above without completing the amber, as these may not be progressive objectives.

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Trees, nets and teaching

By Gordon Rugg

Much of the debate on education uses diagrams to illustrate points being discussed.

Many of those diagrams are based on informal semantics.

The result is often chaos.

In this article, I’ll use the knowledge pyramid as an example of how informal semantics can produce confusion rather than clarity.

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Representing argumentation via systematic diagrams, part 1

By Gordon Rugg

This article is a short introduction to some basic principles involved in representing argumentation, evidence and/or chains of reasoning using systematic diagrams.

This approach can be very useful for clarifying chains of reasoning, and for identifying gaps in the evidence or in the literature.

As usual, there’s an approach that looks very similar, but that is actually subtly and profoundly different, namely mind maps. That’s where we’ll begin.

A mind mapSlide1

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Logic, evidence, and evidence-based approaches

By Gordon Rugg

So what is “evidence-based” anyway, and why do so many people make such a fuss about it?

In this article, I’ll look at the context of “evidence-based” and at some common misconceptions and mistakes about it.

It’s a journey through the limitations of logic, through the legacy of theology on modern debate, and through the nature of evidence.

It starts with a paradox that took over two thousand years to solve, involving pointy sticks and tortoises.

The arrow of logic and the chain of evidence, plus a tortoise and a charm bracelet0header2Images adapted from Wikipedia and Wikimedia; details at end of article

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The Perils of Premature Pigeonholing (or, What Shape is the Internet?)

By Gordon Rugg

This is a picture of my scroll boxes.

scroll boxCopyleft Hyde & Rugg, 2014

I use them to keep my scrolls in.

They’re a good example of the problems that arise when someone tries to cram a new idea into an old pigeonhole. A lot of the problems in current debates, such as the debate about the future of education, arise from that type of problem.

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Gendered language in Shakespeare

By Gordon Rugg

To what extent does the language of Shakespeare’s plays indicate a male-dominated world? One way to see is by looking at the distribution of gendered words within the texts.

The figure below shows the location of the words he, him, his, she and her in Midsummer Night’s Dream. Each of the tiny rectangles represents a word in the text; the coloured words represent the keywords, and the blank rectangles represent the other words. This representation ignores linebreaks in the original text. The images are roughly equivalent to a miniaturised image of the text laid out as a scroll, with the keywords marked with coloured highlighter.

In each pair of images below, the nominative forms of the keywords are in red, and the other forms such as accusatives are in green, to show whether one gender appears more often in an active role.

(Apologies to any readers who are red/green colour blind; the Search Visualizer software itself takes account of colour blindness in its options, but shrinking the images down to fit into blog format loses the contrast.)

The column on the left shows the distribution of the words he/him/his in Midsummer Night’s Dream. The column on the right shows the distribution of the words she/her in the same play.

There are more male pronouns, but the difference is not huge; both male and female pronouns occur frequently throughout the play.

Here, for comparison, is the corresponding figure for Romeo and Juliet.

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