July 29, 2011 § 6 Comments

“Design must seduce, shape,
and perhaps more importantly,
evoke an emotional response.”
April Greiman

One of my tasks these days is to take a language plant, one I’ve slaved over in the past, one where I’ve twisted each letter into position by zooming in and out to gain overall perspective and tweak the details, so that it makes sense and appeases the linearly logic left brain, and has a balance and beauty that pleases the emotional right brain.

I take this plant and reproduce it using the new tool my developer is working on, the working title being the “plant maker”. In tech-speak, I’m doing UX – user experience. My objective is to make the plant in a fraction of the time, and still maintain the quality.

Using the plant maker must feel just right, so easy and natural and intuitive that you’d have designed it exactly the same way, if you’d wanted to. There won’t be a user manual as thick as the Yellow Pages. In fact, there won’t be a need for one at all. The functionality – what it does – and the control tools – how they achieve this – must blend like coffee and cream.

So if you’d like to see where we’re at, and perhaps gain a better insight into language plants in general, then please come to my talk at the RSCON3 Symposium, this Sunday at 1.30pm UK time. You will be most welcome, and your comments and questions will be actively listened to. I’d like to hear your UX, and I’m sure one of you will come up with a better name for the plant maker.


July 19, 2011 § 7 Comments

“Some people walk in the rain;
others just get wet.”
Roger Miller

Here in England, summer has set in with its usual ferocity. The raindrops are running down the window in fits and starts, some stopping dead for an eternity it seems before suddenly hurtling down an invisible expressway to join up with another one and gather momentum in unison to reverse Aesop’s outcome and overtake at just the last second the sluggish, tortoise-style competitor and claim gold.

I was observed last week, and assessed, in the summer school where I’d taken a few weeks’ work. The feedback session was fun, not least because my assessor was an understanding soul who was full of praise for the fun and dynamism we had had in what other teachers in previous weeks had complained of as being a particularly difficult class.

She was so nice, or perhaps gullible, that I was even able to get myself off the hook for not having a lesson plan. For 20 years, this has been my bête noire, but now, thanks to Scott, not that she’d heard of it, I was able to back it up with Dogme theory. I suggested that she learn about it, along with language plants, those bendy little things she’d taken a shine to that had sprouted up on my board throughout.

She’d come in 20 minutes after the start, to give us time to warm up. Well, with eleven teenage boys, yawning and sprawling, it was more time to wake up. The dynamics couldn’t have been more different from the day before where I’d been booked for a Language Garden training day with sixteen teaching assistants in a primary school, all women, up in the attic on the fourth floor in the cosiest library I’ve ever been in. Here energy emanated from everyone, pairs and groups buzzed with excitement and enthusiasm, working with interactive language plants, discussing how they’d use them in class, mixing up SVOA sentences for effect, it was a perfect day.

But faced with lazy teenage boys, the way I do it, the only way I’ve found that works for me, is to inject the energy myself, chalk and talk, thinking on my feet. Pairwork, I find, just doesn’t work. They will talk to each other, but that’s of the moment, and not due to some pre-planned activity, no matter how focused on them and their feelings and their lives it is.

She’d asked how I felt the lesson had gone. Well, I said, I felt my role was to be the instigator of a hunt, searching for something to talk about, and when we found it, to go with the flow and add language bits in, like how “honey”, a new word to them rhymes with “money”, which wasn’t, and which led to one bright spark piping up that although honey is sweet, money is sweeter, till this ran dry and stopped, and they clammed up, so I’d push and prod until something else caught their interest and we could shoot off again at breakneck speed, the lesson, all two and a half hours of it, stopping and starting, speeding up and slowing down, without order or direction, but which, afterwards, had a route that could be traced back logically, just like the raindrops on my window.

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