Teach on Mars contents authors: Lesson #11 – the decision process

Teach on Mars contents authors: Lesson #11 – the decision process

Dear Authors,

Plato said over 2300 years ago “A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers”.

How would you rule on Plato’s above saying? Do you believe the way people make a decision on something is straightforward? Apparently not!

Several studies show that our decision process is influenced, as we may suspect, by internal dynamics including our past experiences and temper but also by external factors, to name but one, the trainings we receive.

Let’s try to drill down into this topic a bit! How to take advantages of the science of how we make decisions in the creation of mobile educational content?

First, in her book The art of Choosing, Sheena Lyengar demonstrates that people associate control to the ability to make choices, people need to feel that their actions are powerful and that they have to make choices. Consequently, the more learners can make choices during their training, the more they are satisfied and motivated.

Tip: Give learners a sense of choice to keep them motivated

Teach on Mars illustration on choices:


The training suggests an agenda… … But leaves learners with the choice of the sequence.


Quiz, training games, word picking… The training is full of activities offering learners … the choice of the answer!

Be careful, though! people always want a lot of choices but remember less is more, and people who have too many choices usually end up not choosing at all – the “jam” study!


Second, people would care about time (more than about money). Studies conducted by Jennifer Aaker and Cassie Mogilner show that a person’s experience with a product tends to foster feelings of personal connection with it, and referring to time typically leads to more favorable attitudes—and to more commitment. Learners’ decision to browse through a training would then also depend on the time and experience required to complete it.

Tip: Reference time and experience in you training introduction to keep learners motivated

Teach on Mars illustration on time and experience:


Present the experience that the training will bring


Reference the time for completing the training


What other factor might impact the decision of a learner to be interested in a training? According to a study realized by Marieke de Vries in 2008, people in a happy mood estimate the value of a product higher when making an intuitive decision. We can influence someone’s mood easily, with a short video clip or an amusing little detail in passing. Therefore all that is required to motivate learners is an open enquiring mind and a pinch of humour!

Tip: Spice a training with some humour to keep learners happy and therefore motivated

Teach on Mars illustration on spicing a training with a pinch of humour:

 IMG_0566 IMG_0567


Returning to Plato, what would be your opinion on his quote above after reading through this paper?

Does he leave you with a multitude of possible interpretations? Does his spirit put you a good mood? The decisions is yours!

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Are beacons a masterpiece?

Are beacons a masterpiece?

You get in a department store, your cell phone rings. This is a welcome message! You keep moving forward and dwell in front of a shelf. New post: this time, a voucher on the product you are staring at! This is enough to convince you that you are at the right place!

The use of smartphones is growing and some marketers have found a way to take another advantage of it: use the Bluetooth capabilities of these devices to identify, locate and tease people in their shops. To do this, they simply install beacons!

What is a beacon and how does it work?


A beacon is a small, low-powered, durable and low-cost piece of hardware that radiates Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) signals. These signals aim at waking up compatible apps installed on smartphones and tablets within a range of about 50 meters. Developers design mobile applications with location-based actions and notifications i.e. actions and notifications that are triggered when they are within range of the related beacons.

When did these small but sturdy signposts appear? …

Apple pioneered the use of beacons. In 2013, the group started to equip all of its some 250 US Apple Stores, before extending their use to their international points of sale. Since then other retailers have followed, Macy’s chain and American Eagle Outfitters to name a few.

… And how long will they last?

The market potential is huge. According to some ABI Researches, it is estimated that over 800 million smartphones will use the indoor geo-location by 2018. This will become as common as the GPS today.

What about privacy, one might ask?

The use of beacons should not be too intrusive. A balance needs be created, not to drown smartphone holders under a barrage of messages and promotional offers, as much as many applications already send notifications to their users. Privacy worries are valid, but as long as beacon programs are optional, consumers are receptive.

How could beacon serve mobile learning? …

Beacons may be used to create proximity-based learning applications. Let’s imagine visiting a museum. We place beacons around the museum, and develop a learning app that allows visitors to get extra information on their phones as they walk around the exhibits. Beacons may also allow unlocking contents based on the context, where the training takes place: a factory, a building in the case of employees on boarding programs. With beacons, trainers can set up educational track games, with the release of activities when learners are at the right physical place. There are many options!

… And how will beacons serve Teach on Mars applications?

The answer in the pictures below, taken during Teach on Mars workshop held on Wednesday at the “Solution RH” forum! Nicolas and R2D2 animated the galactic stand G42 at the Solution RH forum with the use of beacons to boost Teach on Mars mobile learning applications. A beacon scotched to the approaching robot triggered the action of releasing a training module when Nicolas and his smartphone were in sufficient distance.

A highlighting innovative moment!

20160323_165445 IMG_6370-2 IMG_2407

Teach on Mars contents authors: lesson #10 – let’s focus!

Teach on Mars contents authors: lesson #10 – let’s focus!

Dear Authors,

What grabs people’s attention? Here is a key topic for a trainer, addressed in this 10th lesson!

After traveling the behaviour of our brain with respect to the vision, reading, colours, memory, emotions and thought, let’s see now what attracts us, what holds our attention and how!

First, attention is selective. Among the things for which people unconscious endlessly scans the environment, there is … sex, food, danger and their own identity. So, failing to start a training with a sexy video, remember to always reference the name of your learners in order to secure their responsiveness.

Tip: Always reference your learners’ name to secure their attention.

Teach on Mars illustration on grabbing learners’ attention:

IMG_0508 (1)

Reference learner

IMG_0511 (1)

Engage learners


Second, attention is time limited. People can focus on a task about 7 to 10 minutes at most. Hence we should keep tutorials under 7 minutes in length or introduce new material or interruptions to hold attention longer.

Tip: Keep tutorials under 7 minutes in length because attention is time limited.

Teach on Mars illustration on limiting tutorials’ length:


Time-limited activities


Time-limited tutorials


Third, many psychology researches have proved that people can’t multitask. Whether young or holder, confident to be multitask or not, we may be good at switching back and forth quickly but we can only listen or read one thing at a time and are actually not multitasking.
In the context of education, it is therefore important to focus on one subject and on one step of the learning cycle at a time.

Tip: Multitask is a myth. Focus on one subject and one step of the learning cycle at a time.

Teach on Mars illustration on avoiding multitasking:


A coaching handles 1 subject


An activity handles 1 step


Let’s keep in mind that according to eminent psychologists, to name one, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, happiness would depend on our ability to grow a highly focused mental state. So let’s make happy learners by creating attention-catching trainings!

Lessons tips index page

Teach on Mars contents authors: Lesson #9 – To err is human

Teach on Mars contents authors: Lesson #9 – To err is human

Dear Humans,

In previous lessons, we explored the depths of our human thinking process, how complex it sometimes is and how we may enrich our contents by capitalizing on our brain understanding.

However, we have so far ignored a dark side! Mistakes! People always make mistakes. Whether from the perspective of a producer or a consumer, there is no fail-safe product. How can we anticipate potential errors? How can we figure out the kinds of mistakes learners are going to make when they go through a training activity? …

The following paragraphs give you some tips to handle any errors upstream and as a result, enhance the quality of your contents.

First, let’s assume that something will go wrong and let’s inform learners onward. When something seems erroneous or risky, it is important that users know what to do about it. Scientists have conducted researches and classified errors:

  • Performance errors are mistakes users make while fulfilling steps to complete an action. They may be commission errors (take additional useless steps), omission errors (forget steps) or wrong-actions errors (perform inadequate actions)
  • Motor-control errors are false physical gestures users make when handling an application device, like swiping a screen instead of touching it

These predictable types of errors should always be considered while designing an application in order to prevent users and/or inform them about the correct(ive) actions to take.

Tip: Anticipate potential problems and inform users on remedial actions

Teach on Mars illustration on anticipating issues: ToM Enterprise offers both downloading videos or playing them in streaming mode. A message warns learners in the process of choosing the streaming mode  that they will then need a connection to watch them. 


A preload video option


A warning message

Second, according to several studies, users’ performance to complete an activity depends on their level of stress. Overall, experts think that the more complex the task is, the less should be the stress level. And when the stakes go too high, errors start appearing (like the tunnel action, i.e. keep on doing the same action again and again, although it is not working).

To optimize its contents, it is therefore recommended to limit the stress associated to complex tasks and vice versa to increase the stress for simpler activities. In the context of educational contents, stress may be heightened by distracting elements such as colors, sound or movements.

Tip: Weight the stressors of an activity according to its difficulty.

Teach on Mars illustration on leveraging the stress level:


A reading activity
Boosted by videos


A challenge activity
Simple as possible


We now are a bit more trimmed vis-a-vis the human mistakes! In the next lesson, we will focus on… how we focus our attention!

Looking forward to writing to you!

Lessons tips index page


Mobile Learning to storm the language training sector in Japan?

Mobile Learning to storm the language training sector in Japan?

Bruno & Mariko

Mariko NAGANO,
Chief Operations Officer,
ALMA Publishing

Bruno Vannieu, a French teacher passionate about pedagogy, has been living in Japan for over 20 years. He has written numerous French and English textbooks and has been active in teacher training. He is currently an award-winning professor at Kobe University, one of the top schools in the nation. In this interview, he tells us about how mobile learning fits into a necessary shift in perspective towards second language learning.

1 – Bruno, what do you think of the Japanese traditional education methods, in the context of French learning?

Japanese children study only one foreign language, English, until their first year at university, when they are required to study a second foreign language for at least a year. The bulk of French learners are therefore complete beginners, and we have one year to convince them that French is a language worthy of continued study. Unfortunately, the whole Japanese education system is oriented towards comprehension (reading and listening), and leaves little room for expression. A lot of grammar, almost no communication… This is very detrimental to motivation and assimilation, and a big waste. This situation needs to change because French teaching in Japan is under attack and might disappear altogether if we don’t act decisively.

2 – What have you tried to do to inject dynamism into training techniques?

I have been taking part in the development of new French learning materials, geared more toward speaking and based on learning through automatisms (repeat words, grammatical constructions …). Our textbooks are becoming increasingly popular. On the one hand, information is gradually distilled: new language is introduced when it is needed and in the right amount. On the other hand, the goal of each lesson is always a communication activity. Lessons revolve around conversations about everyday-life topics.

The result is a motivating dynamic where students quickly learn to express themselves, where they can converse for a few minutes after an hour of learning ….

3 – How does mobile learning come into the picture ?

My coauthors and I worked over the last 15 years to create an original, efficient format for our textbooks, and I believe we have had good success. But a few years ago, I started having the feeling that I was hitting a kind of glass ceiling. Paper materials work well in the context of a class, with many interactions between students and teacher. But 90 minutes a week is not enough to assimilate the basic mechanisms of the French language. French grammar is notoriously difficult, and that’s not a myth! I felt the need to provide additional practice for vocabulary and grammar patterns that included sound.

So I started to test online gaming activities such as flash cards as a review tool for my students. I found it useful, but incomplete in terms of activity diversity, graphical design options, and teacher dashboard … The idea then came to me of using mobile learning, with a full range of tracked activities to train students.

Universities have computer rooms and provide e-learning solutions that are supposed to be used on computers. But the reality is that fewer and fewer students use computers. On the other hand, they are using their smartphones all the time, even while walking, biking, or commuting … In Japan, people pay a lot for their mobile plans, but their devices are largely sponsored by the operators, so students often change phones, and many possess the latest models. In my experience, 99% of Japanese university students have a smartphone.

4 – You have elected to work with Teach on Mars, a French start up, which is a long way from your “playground”. Why?

Teach on Mars was recommended to me by a consultant in new technologies for its native turnkey solution. Learning activities are varied and work offline, the backend allows you to easily manage learners and statistics, and content production is simple, instantaneous, and independent. It really is the ideal solution for teachers without much technical knowledge. Teach on Mars apps can be used on smartphones and tablets, and even on the web for the few students who do not (yet) have a smartphone. Teach on Mars has allowed us to quickly create a mobile learning prototype, “Drill Café”, to teach French to Japanese.

5 – You now have a mobile learning prototype in your hands, so what’s your next step?

In just a few months, we’ll be able to offer universities a blended learning experience consisting of the Teach on Mars digital solution on the one hand, and photocopiable worksheets on the other. The idea is that any teacher in any class can pick a lesson, get their students to practice the exercises before the next class, then have a successful communication activity in class. This is true blended learning.  I believe this could be a real opportunity for change in Japanese universities: it is difficult to get conservative teachers to adopt a progressive textbook for their courses, but they may be willing to give it a try if the solution is light and actually helps them teach more efficiently.

Blended learning with mobile learning tools is still very underused in Japan, so there is a lot of potential! Teach on Mars proposes a flexible and lightweight solution, one that may gradually help us change teaching practices. After beginning with French courses, we are looking to get into the much larger and more competitive English education market.

Bruno, thanks for sharing your experiences with us, and some of the “Drill café” images, your French mobile learning prototype. We wish you and Teach on Mars great success in Japan!

To be continued!