mobile first, a musing

a recent buzz word related to development at work — mobile first, or more specifically mobile first design — is today a key consideration for content providers and technological solution builders as mobile devices are everywhere, and these devices serve as one key source through which we consume contents around us. but, is mobile first the sole consideration, where learning is concerned? well, how about this — if there’s a first, there’s a second? mobile first certainly does not mean mobile #only; so what’s next?

(acknowledgement: (c)联合早报 副刊 Lianhe Zaobao 5th Jun 2019)

any discussion of technology and learning (or ‘digital learning’ some would prefer), it is always #ThinkAffordances — what is your design/objectives of learning, and how can technology (e.g. feature/function/tool/app/platform) enable your desired learning design? those of us who have experienced it would agree with me that chat (aka instant msging; e.g. WhatsApp), and even fb wall post+comments do not quite afford deep discussions that lead to rise-above of ideas. expressing individual’s ideas is easy; but to build on each other’s ideas, extend the ideas, improve on the ideas, counter-propose arguments, provide different perspectives, many of these acts of co-creating a common meaning is lost within the scrolling messages. in short, fb wall post+comments set up do not afford deep (digital) learning, currently.

so, what does? discussion forums (DF) do afford deep learning as described above (of cos, i will propose that knowledge forum (KF) is specially designed for this and is thus good-er). however, DF as we know it traditionally (oh btw, it’s a 20+ yr old technology), does not go well with the idea of mobile first design. the way discussions’ organised on screen traditionally, including threading, quoting, branching off, referencing back to other posts, is difficult to automatically fit on screens while displaying the discussions in way visually good for participants or readers of discussions. DF, in order to become mobile-first needs a rethink of its good old interface.

the term DF still invokes a tool-centric perspective. taking the affordance perspective, we can, and should examine what are the affordances of DF (and even KF) in enabling deep learning, and create them within existing mobile-first friendly solutions. in the process, DF as we have experienced it, may become a past, and it’s perfectly fine from a technological advancement perspective. the affordances of DF lives on.

going back to the fb wall post+comments idea, how can we improve it to afford deep learning per DF? first, we will need to invoke the concept of sub-walls (cf. discussion threads; sub-forums), where there can be more than one walls (cf. fb). and here’s probably a list of ‘requirements’ i would like to see:

  • there can be any number of sub-walls as a learner chooses to maintain.
  • to create a new sub-wall, one can select any existing post from the main wall or any sub-wall (together with existing likes, sharing info and comments), and pipe it into the new sub-wall.
  • each sub-wall has an unique identifier (e.g. a URL) that enables one to link back or to point to it in any post, comment in any (sub-)wall.
  • sub-walls will be arranged in reverse chronological order by default; and so are the posts and comments within.
  • one are allowed to pin any sub-wall, or any post within it, so that it is always on-top.
  • one can create and add a title/topic for each sub-wall to indicate the discourse topic to other participant/viewer.
  • one can define and add tag(s) to a sub-wall to facilitate personal classification, search and retrieval
  • everyone can add comments to any contents within a sub-wall
  • when adding a comment in sub-wall, one can upload images, documents, media, hyperlinks as part of the comment
  • visually, one should be able to easily identify any sub-wall that contains a new activity or reply/ to him/her; the ‘new’-ness visual cue is individualised and user-specific.
  • visually, within a sub-wall, one should see up to 3 levels of hierarchical nesting for comments to a post. this hierarchical view allows one to easily identify the relationship among comments and to focus their attention over selected comment(s) as desired.
  • participants will receive notification of new comment added to a sub-wall to enable them to return to continue the discourse (viewer can choose to follow and be notified too)

to end off, #mobilefirst (design) is not #mobileOnly (design); learning sciences folks can do wonders with computing folks when the two groups pool their brains together (:

to end off x2, finally, may i wish my Muslim friends:

(acknowledgement: creator unknown; as seen shared by darren)

[afternote] a note for self, it took 5 hours for this post to be first mooted in the morning while flipping newspaper, to connecting it with an idea@work, to typing and organising the ideas, to finally publishing it to the www & fb. now, who says learning (online) is fast? not for the slow-learner-me definitely (:

demystifying the learning process

saw this not-too-new 2017 article on mindshift introducing some ideas teachers can help students to see the (true) nature of learning, and help them develop useful habits of learning. these ideas were proposed by Barbara Oakley. ignore the title of the article cos to me, EVERYONE struggles, from time to time, and whether one would like to admit it or not.

some lines, including words from Oakley, in the article that caught my attention:

“…the common experience of students who reread their notes and think they know the material — only to enter a test and find that they cannot retrieve the information. ”

“students tend to equate speed with smarts, Oakley suggests sharing this metaphor: ‘There’s a race car brain and a hiker brain. They both get to the finish line, but not at the same time. The race car brain gets there really fast, but everything goes by in a blur. The hiker brain takes time. It hears birds singing, sees the rabbit trails, feels the leaves. It’s a very different experience and, in some ways, much richer and deeper. You don’t need to be a super swift learner. In fact, sometimes you can learn more deeply by going slowly.'”

“Learning is all about developing strong chains.” (cf. chunks)

“familiar metaphors allow a learner to draw on a concept they have already mastered and apply it to a new situation. Or as Oakley says, metaphors ‘rapidly on-board’ new ideas.”

“…’Pomodoro Technique.’ Developed by Francesco Cirillo, this strategy uses a timer to help the learner work and break at set intervals. First, choose a task to accomplish. Then, set a timer for 25 minutes and work until the timer goes off. At that point, take a five-minute break: stand up, walk around, take a drink of water, etc. After three or four 25-minute intervals, take a longer break (15 – 30 minutes) to recharge. “

“…I would tell students, you don’t just have to be stuck following your passion. You can broaden your passions enormously.”

one idea chunk came to my mind as i read the article: micro-learning. what myth(s) are pple propagating with this term and it’s associated ‘benefits’ for learning i wonder. is learning fast? how often is learning fast?

affordance 能供性

“affordance” 一词在最近的聊话中经常会涉及。但其实也不是最近的事,应该是12470在2014年开始时就已经常要接触到了。but i just realised i have not blogged an entry on this so very important term. so here we go:

affordance 华文我选择使用“能供性”作为翻译。affordance在我们涉及科技的谈话中,它其实是指 technological affordance. 但无论affordance也好,能供性也好,这两个词都还是太抽象了。如何解释得较容易理解和被接受,我尝试将能供性进行扩展,即:



增强版乐学善用互动平台 (aka iMTL)中的协作便利贴为学习提哪些可能呢?

  • 每个学生都能有机会发言了 (every student has a voice;从语言学习的角度,能够作语言输出是关键的)
  • 学生都针对同学的发言进行交流讨论 (meaning negotiation & meaning making in collaborative learning;从学习的角度,意义的理解的建构或许不是他人可以灌输的)
  • 你还想到其他的能供性吗? (:

i shall end this quick post here. 如果你在作报告或写论文需要整理文献出处,feel free to cite this post:

Tan, Y. H. (2018, May 17). Affordance 能供性 [Blog post]. Retrieved from


陈育焕. (2018, May 17). Affordance 能供性 [博文]. 取自

若要对affordance有进一步的了解,欢迎参考拙文中的说明 (:

lastly, 要谢谢 Thomas忠伟 for engaging in knowledge co-creation together at Keming Primary this afternoon, and inspiring this post (:

technological advances – intuitive AI

saw this TEDxPortland video shot last year only recently. while revisiting it that i noticed the opening words of the presenter:

“How many of you are creatives, designers, engineers, entrepreneurs, artists, or maybe you just have a really big imagination? Show of hands? … That’s most of you. I have some news for us creatives.”

what’s the significance of this short opening exchange?

i was quite surprised by some responses of people after they have watched the video, for example, “i feel scared”, “what if the machines are going to replace us”, “i admire those who are retiring soon”. but there again, these are quite normal too. however, i did not quite figure out the paradigm behind people with such responses. until, i revisited the video, and heard the opening exchange a second time.

my current hypothesis: people who produces such (downward spiral) responses are not knowledge creators. such words represent the mindset of industrial age production workers – routine, mass-production, clock-in-clock-out, predictability just to name a few. there’s no right or wrong judgment here. but in our business of preparing children for the knowledge age (or augmented age in the video), and where teachers’ beliefs influenced their actions, we need to think like and become a knowledge creator ourselves. what can we do to facilitate this shift in a major bulk of our teachers who learnt and grew up and laboured in the industrial age paradigm for a large part of their lives? how do we help teachers to shift into the creatives, designers, artists mode of thinking?

almost forget, here’s the video:


learning theories for teachers

thanks to si hui for pinging me on variation theory, and i chanced upon this piece of gem created by professors at HKU:

what teachers should know about learning theories website

it’s many hours of reading and hard work to produce this piece of excellent quick reference for teachers. extending this idea, we could perhaps create something similar for SLA/CL teachers, bringing together learning sciences and SLA works and making it accessible to our CL teachers (: