Monday, November 27, 2017

Evidence-based vs science-based. Is there a difference? (Yep. And it matters.)

As many of you know, I have chronic migraines. Science shows that they aren't headaches. Rather, they're a neurological condition and extreme pain is one (of many) possible symptoms. But most treatments mainly deal with preventing or stopping the debilitating pain. Is that good or bad?

Angela Stanton, PhD, is a science researcher and writer. Her insights about what migraines are, what causes them, and what's needed to live with them are radically different than what we are hearing from most evidence-based medicine. Angela analyzes what science from various fields (neuroscience, nutrition, and others) have to tell us about what could be most helpful going forward.

My own experience with her protocol for migraineurs has been positive and I plan to keep using it. Evidence-based practice for migraine has had little success, according to Angela. I might have to agree. My migraines have gotten worse over time and the treatments are sometimes (almost) as bad as the condition. Evidence-based practice in training, however, has provided great tools for better outcomes. So evidence-based practice is needed when it is effective.

Evidence-based practice is a hallmark of professionalism in any field. It means what you do has been shown to be effective based on well-designed research. No matter what the field, doing what research says is effective typically makes sense.

But there is a gap in evidence-based practice. Science regularly offers new, different-than-expected, and inconclusive insights. There are tons of examples of this in the field of nutrition, for example. Consider the foods and diets we're told are good but are subsequently were found to be problematic. Soy is a good example. Or the foods and diets we're told are bad for us that were subsequently found to be good (eggs, for example). Evidence-based practice is based on what we already know. But science evolves and changes.

Because science is evolving and changing, we need to go beyond evidence-based practice. Science-based practice goes beyond existing evidence to what we are learning from new research and science efforts. Science-based practice is difficult. It means putting together pieces from different studies and making sense of things that don't seem to make sense on their own. It can mean combining cross-domain knowledge (such as learning and usability). It means new theories (based on emerging science) and new things to test (with research).

In my two recent books, Write and Organize for Deeper Learning and Practice and Feedback for Deeper Learning, I selected tactics primarily based on current evidence. There are places, however, where research is not so clear. I analyzed emerging research as well as existing evidence. But since most learning research is not done with a training audience, it took time to find the right research. Schooling and higher education have very different goals than training. Research in these environments doesn't always apply.

Which is better, evidence-based or science-based? We need them both.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Saved by a PDF (The easy way to do complex Kindle formats)

When I prepared my first Kindle version of Write and Organize for Deeper Learning, I spent days trying to format the document so it would look good on Kindle. Amazon's Create Space lets you upload a Kindle document and see how it appears on a Kindle emulator. When doing this, it became clear that weird bullets (like a checked checkbox) didn't translate. So I kept making changes, checking them on the emulator, and fixing anything that didn't look good.
But the emulator can't show you what your document will look like on different sized screens. Since the Kindle app can be loaded onto smartphones, tablets, and other devices, people can view Kindle books on a screen that ranges from small to large. And therein lies the problem. A table or detailed image that looks good on a computer screen Kindle app may look terrible on a smartphone Kindle app. And mine did. Because my books are filled with tables and complex images, I needed another approach. Some people recommended making my tables into images and I tried that. But it wasn't a good work-around, in my opinion.
I didn't know what to do about this so I reached out to Diane Elkins, the author of the E-Learning Uncovered books. And she told me to try the Kindle Textbook Creator. It turns a PDF into a Kindle document. Using reflowable text and images simply doesn't work well with very complex formatting. At least today.
When you buy a Kindle that says: [Print Replica] they used the Kindle Textbook Creator. The Kindle doc is formatted EXACTLY as your book is formatted.

Why multiple-choice questions are (too often) problematic

Research shows that too many multiple-choice questions are written poorly and therefore create bad assessments. A few of the common issue...