Interactive Lesson Plans – step forward ZingTree


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.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 22.00.25

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!

Khan Academy vs Mr Maslow


First up let’s be clear – I love the Khan Academy.  I think what it has achieved is ground breaking and considering it was created in 2006 and has reached so many people is amazing.

I was doing some planning this week and I had a thought; as good as the Khan Academy is to what level is learning achieved?

Me being me I turned to good old Mr Maslow and his hierarchy of needs to examine a little further.

(Forgive me at this point but I’m going to assume that you all know the model of needs that I’m talking about and how it relates to learning if you don’t read up on it here.)

If we analyse the levels of needs we see that ‘self-actualisation’ is at the very top.


In order to get to the top you need to have passed through the 4 other layers of needs and it’s here that I have 2 main quandaries.

1: Can a website alone offer you things like close relationships or a sense of security let alone a sense of recognition from others?

2: Does independent learning hinder the path towards self-actualisation?

I suppose what I am trying to say is this – there are key fundamentals that only the classroom can offer such as peer analysis, group work and interaction!  As a lecturer in Creative Media Production that specialises in moving image I can tell you that the 3 areas where I see the learners develop most are team work, confidence and social interaction – and I’m talking of the face-to-face kind here, not social media.

These 3 areas are only possible through class/studio time where they are able to develop personally and technically. Don’t get me wrong, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of YouTube videos that are great for tutorials in specific software techniques but nothing beats having a tutor sit with a student who has specific learner needs and explain how a piece of software works (I’ll post about this soon).

Maslow (1970) stated that the highest level is self-actualisation, or the self-fulfilment.  Behaviour in this case is not driven or motivated by deficiencies but rather one’s desire for personal growth and the need to become all the things that a person is capable of becoming.  If this is the case does ones desire for personal growth really possible through a website or does it need human interaction? Honestly I don’t know as I can’t speak for the millions of people who use Khan Academy.

Just a quick conclusion then – Khan Academy is great on a certain level.  It’s empowering learners and teachers in how we develop as individuals and is also a great resource for the classroom (interestingly though nothing much appears when you search for media in the context of creative media).  The work it’s done across the globe is unparalleled and should be congratulated, however – nothing beats having a person in the classroom that can meet the requirements of individual learners that will assist them in their quest up the hierarchy of needs.

For further reading on Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs check out his book here.  A sort of opus for educators, learners and those who like this sort of thing…

There goes my weekend…new website for icebreakers/teachers


I discovered a really cool website last night.  Well, I say “I” when really it was an “Ed, you should check this site out” – let’s call a recommendation over a dinner party (do people still have dinner parties? Very Downton Abbey).  The discovery was Sporcle and it will change your life. The site is a treasure trove of quizzes, brain games and trivia and it means that you will never, ever be bored again.  I tested it on some 2nd year Level 3’s (18-19yrs) as an “it’s Friday, we’re waiting for the weekend to begin so let’s get this lesson out the way asap” icebreaker and although they probably wouldn’t admit it, they secretly loved the 10-minute challenge of naming all 50 states.  FYI, none of them managed to do it – 32 was the record. Sporcle Dig a little deeper into the site and you’ll discover more activities to do with languages, sciences, English – one of which is on Palindromes and as well as other ‘dromes’ I’ve never even heard of but excellent for those teaching English as a foreign language. Anyway, enjoy and let me know of how you have used it in your classroom.

Precision Robotics and Projection mapping demonstration


Feast your eyes on this – a moving screen and projector on robotic arms. What is the result – a live performance that fuses technology and creativity.

I watched this and thought that some of it must have been done in AE but it hasn’t – it’s all completely live and opens up new possibilities in filmmaking. Created by the folk at Bot and Dolly their mission is to advance motion control and automation as a creative medium, and build world-class tools that enable others to do the same.

It’s amazing – I’ve watched numerous times already!