Interactive Lesson Plans – step forward ZingTree

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I’m a visual thinker, I always have been and always will be.  I remember back at school sitting in classrooms and staring at blackboards, whiteboards and at teachers spouting off things that I will never remember.  I have one of those minds that will only remember things unless I’ve actively engaged with it i.e. let’s chat this through in great detail or it’s mapped out.

It wasn’t until I was at university that I was told I had dyslexia.  Let me just state that it’s minimal, I mean minuscule but it means that if I am sat in a room for longer than 30 minutes where someone is talking/ lecturing I switch off and lose interest – this is not good in lecture halls where they are dark and hot.

So when I write my lesson plans I’ve always felt that it is such a chore and boring and that creativity was being sucked out of me! At the moment my plans are electronic – I hate paper (not literally) but I find is such a waste. You plan a 2 or 3 hour session where you then throw away the paper at the end or file it in a place you’ll never remember in the those horrific ‘polly pockets’ – don’t even get me started on those!  All my plans are electronic on google docs.

As they’re electronic I felt that I need to spice them up a little –  inject a littlelife into them and this started with the use of colours – you know, simple things such as  different columns is subtle tones that made them easier to read.

Before you know it they had progressed into mind map resource that I could distribute to the learners.

Wrap Up

These are great when students are mid-way through a project that needs to be completed soon – I can distribute these electronically, they will then locate where they are and follow the Yes/No options until they have reached the end – Sign Off.

Until recently I thought they were working great, but then it struck me – “why not make them into an interactive resource?” In the age we live in there must be some online software that could convert these into a click-through journey where the learner is unaware of where the end is?

The answer, after some research was yes, there is something out there and it comes in the form of ZingTree. ZingTree, from what I gather was originally created to help train and streamline call centres and customer support systems by crafting interactive decision trees.

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Once you have got to grips with how they are built (and I appreciate this may take a little time) they are incredibly easy and fast to make.  After a bit of time I found the Visual Designer (see above) the fastest and affective way to create a Tree.

I tested it on my students and they found it really beneficial.  Normally I’ll hear someone be cynical about something like this but they genuinely found it beneficial as the questions offered solutions to project issues but also delivered more scope to improve with the next level of questioning.

On top of all this you get analytics that tell you how many users are going down certain routes in your questions. This is incredibly useful when adding stretch and challenge work, but also it provides an accurate reading of where learners are in their projects – the stats don’t lie!

So is it all too good to be true, well yes but there is one sticking point – education budgets are being slashed, especially in Further Education (thank you D.C.), and once you have created a ‘Tree’ and launch it to your students you only have 30 credits.  That’s 30 students getting one Tree and then you are done for the month.  You can pay for extra credits but it’s a little expensive.

The ‘work-around’ is that you can publish your Tree in their gallery and then you can use it forever but can no longer edit (make sure you duplicate it before publishing) – this is normally done within a couple of hours.  I produced a very basic, quick and simple Tree here – this is the end product of the image above.

Overall, it’s a great piece of software that I’m looking forward to using and hopefully develop into a really great teaching resource – watch this space, I’ll update more once I’ve delved deeper beneath the surface!

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