Developing custom learning objects

There are many ways that learning objects are defined, and no one universally accepted definition.  Common elements of learning objects appear to be:

  • Focus on learning objectives
  • A particular structure based on instructional design models
  • Use of metadata
  • Hosted in a database or digital library, providing opportunity for ratings and review
  • Simple interface and complex background infrastructure

So, what is the purpose in designing and developing custom learning objects?  For me, learning objects are designed to serve as learning activities providing content and facilitating experiences that lead to higher order use of new knowledge and skills.  The image below is a great summary of what a learning object is what the question still begs, how will this inform my development of custom learning objects?

For me, using the ADDIE model is the best way to develop a custom learning object.  The image below is great at explaining how the ADDIE model is relevant in this situation.  The analyse phase, is the one concerned with the key concepts in the content and developing the required tasks that will achieve the outcomes.  Design phases break it down into learning activities or steps, e.g. the different stages of a WebQuest.  It may also be appropriate here to design and deliver a pre-test in the learning object to identify background knowledge.  Going one step further, I think the develop stage is about the mode of delivering the learning object, the multimedia involved in engaging the learner. Scaffolding the instruction and developing instructional phases are to be developed in this stage as well, e.g. in a WebQuest this might be making sure that all instructions are clear and written with consistency.

When implementing a WebQuest, or perhaps a SCORM package that is a WebQuest, it will most likely need to be hosted in a learning management system.  This is the implementation phase, making the learning object available to the intended audience.  If there is face-to-face lessons that go with and support the learning object, working out the timing for this is also a key part of this phase.  Managing the student data developed during their completion of the learning activities should be determined here as well.  The final phase is of course evaluation.  Evaluating student data, any assessable objects and feedback given by students is a key part in assessing the effectiveness of a learning object in achieving the learning objectives and outcomes outlined in the first phases.  In a WebQuest or online SCORM package learning activity, I would include a student reflection form at the end of the module to gain feedback.

Learning objects in Scootle

I have know about Scootle since its beginning, and I have browsed it a little but I had not thought to consider evaluating the value of the learning objects being curated and shared in Scootle before.  Tonight I did a bit of browsing and one of the first resources I looked at after searching in Creative Arts > Music was a highly useful resource for visual arts and music lessons.  I have been teaching both of these subjects this term to a number of special needs students and the resource I came across is perfect for them.  I have evaluated the resource based on an checklist in Haughey. Margaret and Muirhead, B. (2005). Evaluating learning objects for schools.  Retrieved 25 March, 2015 from http://www.usq.edu.au/electpub/e-jist/docs/vol8_no1/fullpapers/Haughey_Muirhead.pdf. The resource I am looking at is Visual Art Starters: Painting the Music.

Integrity
The resource is aimed at F-2 years in primary schools, however, being that my classes in this instance are special needs and doing lifeskills, this is a suitable resource.  The resource addresses appropriate outcomes and content descriptors and it also says in the teacher guide section that:

“The resource has pedagogical value for the Visual Arts curriculum. The activities provide a framework for students to explore drawing and painting through different elements including colour, shape, texture and pattern, while drawing and painting to music; they offer opportunities for students to work both independently and as a class.”

“The resource can also contribute to students developing the general capability Personal and social capability, particularly in relation to self-awareness and recognising emotions.”

Usability
What I loved straight away with this resource was the way the activities were scaffolded under the headings of learn, apply, respond and extend.  These headings are tabs down the left hand side and really support ease of navigation for the users.  Downloadable objects are also very obvious, however, as an advocate for Open Education Resources, I am disappointed that the worksheets are not Creative Commons and available in a format that can be edited for customised usage.

Learning
The learning intentions and objectives are very clear in the introductory video for students and the teacher section offers substantial explanation of curriculum links and learning intentions. It is great to find resources that do this for educators.

Design
Pedagogically I believe the resource does a fantastic job of scaffolding the learning experience by introducing the topic and activities with a video that explains the whole process in really easy to follow, simple detail.  The video also helps to make connections with students’ background knowledge and make good learning connections.  The addition of extension activities and a glossary of terms supports the whole activity by catering for differentiation in learning abilities as well.

Values
This activity is great for making connections with students’ personal culture, backgrounds and values.  It is a very open and subjective task that facilitates student expression.

I’ve experienced a digital sharing space where there was the ability for others to comment on how they used learning objects in their own context and I feel that Scootle would be enhanced if there was a more open discussion thread allowed, not just a one-post-only review system.  It is great thought that we can rate and like the resources, and include tags.

Critical thinking and problem-solving technology solutions

When it comes to critical thinking, problem-solving, inquiry learning and higher-order thinking there is much that can be facilitated by technology.  First, however, what are the common threads between the models that cover these concepts.

Critical thinking

Criticalthinking.org. (2015).

Problem solving

Cothink.com. (2013).

Inquiry learning

Socstudmethods.wikispaces.com. (2015).

Higher-order thinking

Higherorderthinkingskills1358fst.blogspot.com.au. (2011).

It can be observed in each of these models that there is somewhat of a cycle and a hierarchy to each.  Analysis, inference and evaluation are key aspects of each model, as is reflection and observation.  Each model highlights the need for multiple skills in a range of areas and I do believe that technology support these.  Over the years there has been numerous examples of Blooms taxonomy that have outlined the technology tools and apps appropriate for facilitating critical thinking and problem solving at each level.  The example below shows some of the great online tools that support higher-order thinking.

When I have designed project- or problem-based learning programs, I have always make good use of technology affordances.  PBL is student-centred and student-driven and they are required to find and discover the bulk of information and answers for themselves, and to produce an end product that is a culmination of that learning.  This is more and more effective with the integration of technology for productivity and organisation, as well as for information and creative reasons.  The inquiry process is a little different (see below), however, inquiry learning is still very much about problems and finding a solution. Technology such as Google apps, is always going to be valuable in such activities and units of work.

The BEST method I think I could and have ever used to get my students to think more critically is to answer their questions with a question, and make them think more.  Like leading a horse to water, as the saying goes, we need to stop thinking of ourselves as the information provider and remember that we are a facilitator who should show the way and then help them to discover new and exciting things as they go.  I wish I could get my students to think for themselves all the time and not expect answers and all knowledge to come from others, they have so much more information at their fingertips than we ever had as students but they don’t know it because they can’t find it.  Therein lies another problem of itself.

Rerefences

Cothink.com,. (2013). CoThink – Facilitators & consultants – CoThink. Retrieved 22 March 2015, from http://www.cothink.com/ratio-approach

Criticalthinking.org,. (2015). 2008 Preconference Sessions (28th Intl. Conference. Retrieved 22 March 2015, from http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/preconference-sessions/631

Higherorderthinkingskills1358fst.blogspot.com.au,. (2011). H.O.T.S: April 2011. Retrieved 22 March 2015, from http://higherorderthinkingskills1358fst.blogspot.com.au/2011_04_01_archive.html

Socstudmethods.wikispaces.com,. (2015). SocStudMethods – Stripling Model of Inquiry. Retrieved 22 March 2015, from http://socstudmethods.wikispaces.com/Stripling+Model+of+Inquiry

 

Teacher preparedness for technology integration

Being in many different discussion forums for my uni courses this semester, it has already become apparent that the variety of knowledge and skills is wide and that there is little guidance at the local level for teachers implementing technology in the classroom.  What I mean by that is, there is very few schools which seem to have a clear vision for why they are using technology; how they are using technology; what technical knowledge and skills staff require; and, how they will develop staff and maintain competence levels with technology.  To me these are crucial questions and I do not think school executive are taking them serious enough, for reasons that might include: curriculum focus; NAPLAN focus; and, focus on other curricula areas.

One of the main areas I think that needs state-wide (if not national even) improvement is the standards for technology skill and competence that teachers should have.  Yes, we already have to do so much to meet the professional teaching standards and curriculum requirements, but are we not doing ourselves a disservice and our colleagues and students if we are not equipped with the technical skill needed to meet our students where they are at?  I really would love to see a simple set of standards, like the ISTE Standards, guide the universal practice of technology integration in Australian schools.

In ensuring I have competent technical skills and integrate technology intentionally, I have referred to a number of resources and models as guides, some are shared below:

QLD Governments Smart Classrooms
This is a great resource for guiding the digital practice of teachers and providing a benchmark to rest; questions to ask yourself about your own digital practice; and, a strategic plan for the QLD Department of Education’s schools that guides intended best practice integration of technology.

TPACK Model
For many years now, the TPACK model has been the front-running model in ICT integration.  The model is a 7-dimensional model that outlines the types of knowledge the ideal ICT integrator must have.  The three foundational domains of pedagogical knowledge (PK), content knowledge (CK) and technological knowledge (TK) that came to form the foundation of the TPACK model are then combined to create four additional knowledge constructs of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK), technological content knowledge (TCK), technological pedagogical knowledge (TPK) and technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPCK).  I have not used the TPACK model as a guide for my progressive skill development, however, it has informed the best practice strategies I aim to always implement.

The LoTi framework
Developed as a “a conceptual framework that measures levels of technology implementation” (Moersch, 1995, p. 41), the LoTi framework consists of 6 key levels ranging from Level 0 – Non-use to Level 6 – Refinement.  It has formed the foundation of many other frameworks, models and research studies (Stoltzfus, 2006; McMahon, 2009; Bose, 2010) and continues to prove relevant in ICT integration.  The framework has been designed to assist teachers in self-assessing their ICT integration knowledge and skills, progressively working towards higher levels of competence.

Whilst this framework does not outline areas of knowledge and key learning domains to specifically target when integrating ICT, it does target key 21st century learning skills and provides a potential platform on which to base a set of technology standards for a number of expertise levels in teaching and education.  For example, Levels 2 and 3 could be combined to relate to Graduate level standards, Levels 4a and 4b to Proficient level and 5 to Highly accomplished, whilst the Leadership level may link to Level 6 for the purpose of ICT integration.

The ADDIE Model
This model is widely utilised as an instructional design model, informing best practice lesson and program design with the integration of technology.  I have referred to this in designing lessons and units of work, as well as online courses.

I would love to see a set of standards like the ISTE Standards implemented in Australia, but until then, we need to have a united vision, purpose and projective as we work together to educate digital natives.

REFERENCES
Bose, S. (2010). Enabling Secondary Level Teachers to Integrate Technology through ICT Integrated Instructional System. Online Submission.  Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED511722.pdf

McMahon, G. (2009). Critical Thinking and ICT Integration in a Western Australian Secondary School. Educational Technology & Society, 12(4), 269-281.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054.

Moersch, C. (1995). Levels of technology implementation (LoTi): A framework for measuring classroom technology use. Learning and Leading with technology, 23, 40-40.

Stoltzfus, J. (2006). Determining educational technology and instructional learning skill sets (DETAILS): A new approach to the LoTi framework for the 21 st century. Retrieved from http://loticonnection.cachefly.net/global_documents/LoTi_Construct_Report.pdf

Educational Technology – Affordances

In my research and reading this week I have been contemplating the affordances of technology, where we have come from and where we are going with technology.  Some of the articles I have read, addressing the affordances of technology, focus too much on the negative impact of technology and not enough on the positive affordances of it.

The Internet is a wealth of information and it is tempting to think we can send students there for information and that they 1. know how to find the correct information; 2. know what to do with it; and, 3. able to interpret it and make meaning from it. However, we know this to be untrue from our own experiences.  As I was reading the Sanders (2006) article, I was concerned at the large amount of negative comments made about technology.  I feel that whilst technology does present issues as well as affordances that benefit the learners, it is often the issues that educators focus on more.  We must focus on the positive affordances and learn to go beyond the superficial layer of activities that most never move out of with technology integration.  There are opportunities for collaboration, creativity, communication, analysis and so much more, provided by technology.

The positive affordances I got from the Sanders (2006) reading were:

  • Technology does provide the potential for learners to become more critical consumers and users of information and technology
  • Communication opportunities are increased
  • Learners can learn through the experiences of others, e.g. those who have travelled and kept a blog, virtual reality excursions and so many more interactive activities
  • Learners can have “technically personal experiences of learning” (Sanders, 2006, p. 4), e.g. through simulations
  • Access to information is anywhere, anytime
  • Ubiquitous access to multimodal forms of information

Hoven (2007) explores further affordances of technology when looking at how a Masters in Education program utilised technology to resolve some problems with timetabling, course content and pedagogy.  Hoven (2007) shares how technology fixed the timetabling issues by being open 24/7 online; communication was enhanced through blogs, wikis, discussion forums and chat; and, scaffolding of content using WebQuests.

I experienced Web 2.0 technologies very early in my career and they were a successful way to communicate and collaborate with my students right from the first time I utilised them in a class.  McLoughlin and Lee (2007) make great points about the affordances of technology when they discuss how content on social networking sites, termed “microcontent” (p. 664) is such small fragments that it can be “combined and recombined by individuals to produce new patterns, images and interpretations” (p. 664) of information.  They note that it is such technologies as web 2.0 tools that facilitate greater choice for learners and enable increased self-direction.  The authors state that it is by their technical specifications that the affordances of web 2.0 technologies are known as it is stated in those simple details.  E.g. Yahoo Instant Messenger makes instant messages possible.

Some other affordances listed include:

  • “Connectivity and social rapport
  • Collaborative information discovery and sharing
  • Content creation, and
  • Knowledge and information aggregation and content modification”  (p. 667).

What educators use technology for is often very different from the affordances of technology.  Do educators know the affordances of technology like they should?  How could this be changed in the future?  I hope that in the future we see technology continue to be a personal tool for learning in the future but in a way that is more natural and less intrusive on time and attention.  This will require all educators and students to have the knowledge and skills to confidently use their technology, devices and software, without requiring additional instructions, is this going to be possible?

References

Hoven, D. (2007). The affordances of technology for student-teachers to shape their Teacher Education experience. In K. Murphy-Judy, M. Peters, M. A. Kassen, & R. Lavine (Eds.), Preparing and Developing Technology-proficient L2 Teachers. CALICO monograph 6, San Marcos, TX: CALICO, 133–164.

McLoughlin, C., & Lee, M. J. (2007, December). Social software and participatory learning: Pedagogical choices with technology affordances in the Web 2.0 era. In ICT: Providing choices for learners and learning. Proceedings ascilite Singapore 2007 (pp. 664-675).

Sanders, R. (2006). The” Imponderable Bloom”: Reconsidering the Role of Technology in Education. Innovate: Journal of Online Education2(6).

Literacy in the 21st century

The definition of literacy in the Australian Curriculum is informed by a social view of language that considers how language works to construct meaning in different social and cultural contexts. This view builds on the work of Vygotsky (1976), Brice Heath (1983), Halliday and Hasan (1985), Freebody and Luke (1990), Gee (1991, 2008), and Christie and Derewianka (2008), who have articulated the intrinsic and interdependent relationship between social context, meaning and language.

This view is concerned with how language use varies according to the context and situation in which it is used. There are important considerations for curriculum area learning stemming from this view because, as students engage with subject-based content, they must learn to access and use language and visual elements in the particular and specific ways that are the distinctive and valued modes of communication in each learning area. They need to learn how diverse texts build knowledge in different curriculum areas, and how language and visual information work together in distinctive ways to present this knowledge.  (ACARA, 2015)

A common misconception I believe that many people have, is that literacy is just about reading and writing and understanding text.  However, it is much more than this.  As the above states, literacy is about the relationships between context, meaning and language. Therefore, each of these must be understood as a unique dimension of the broader topic of literacy.  When it comes to 21st literacies, the word takes on even more dimensions than the three above as the context is not only physical but also virtual, and the meaning is very ambiguous depending on the context and people in it.

Ernest Morrell (2012) unpacks 21st literacies in some detail in his youth literacy column. He terms it as ‘critical media pedagogy’ in the conclusions he makes that whilst our students are considered digital natives, they are limited in their understanding of the constraints of and affordances provided by the vast technologies available to them. Literacy is the marriage of context, meaning and language , however, 21st century students have invented their own language in many contexts, and it is not consistently implemented across all contexts.  Digital natives have gradually invented a SMS and screen language that is shorter than short-hand, however, when they speak to each other face to face, they don’t use the same terms as much.  It is a very weird culture sometimes that technology has become the catalyst for.

I have been contemplating for a number of years now, the role of a 21st library and librarian in developing literacy in an era of such diversity.  Morrell (2012) has inspired me to think about 21st literacies in more depth, as encompassing more of the following:

  • interpreting and developing an understanding of all text types, e.g. written, imagery, audio, web-based and so much more.
  • decoding and analysing texts, e.g. “television, film, music, the Internet, print media, magazines, murals, posters, t-shirts, billboards, social networking sites, and mobile media content” (Morrell, 2013).
  • producing and reproducing knowledge in multimedia formats
  • creating digital information sources
  • discerning validity of digital information sources

And so much more…

REFERENCES

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) (2015). ‘Literacy – Background – The Australian Curriculum V7.3′. Retrieved 9 March, 2015 from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/generalcapabilities/literacy/introduction/background

Morrell, E. (2012). 21st‐Century Literacies, Critical Media Pedagogies, and Language Arts. The Reading Teacher, 66(4), 300-302.

Meaningful learning experiences

It’s been an interesting week and I have felt challenged by my reading and interactions with colleagues in my university studies.  I am someone who is fortunate enough to be very metacognitive in my own learning.  I am always conscious of my thoughts and thought-processes, and how I am interacting with academic stimuli.  I can’t say that I have always been like this but when I studied educational psychology, in first year of my bachelor degrees, I learned a lot about constructivism and metacognition, how the brain works and how it develops.  It was this knowledge that drove me to understand my own learning processes at a much deeper level.  That course changed my life, and many learning experiences have continued to effect me profoundly since.  What kind of learning experience are most effective?  Meaningful learning experiences.

Reading Howland, Jonassen and Marra (2012), a lot resonated with me about the dimensions of meaningful learning that are identified.  The authors share the figure below to outline the characteristics of meaningful learning.  As a teacher in the 21st century, I have become more and more conscious of providing students with learning experiences that are authentic and ‘real-world’ relevant to them.  I believe this falls under the ‘Active’ part of these characteristics because the real-world relevance of content and activities is observable to students.  I guess its like the saying: “Seeing is believing”.  If students see the relevancy of something they are learning in the real world, then they are engaging in a meaningful learning experience.

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 11.37.08 pm

So, where does technology fit in with this idea of meaningful learning?  Howard, Jonassen and Marra (2012) say this: “Technologies need to engage learners in articulating and representing their understanding, not that of teachers.” (p. 4).  That’s it!  There is always so much debate about how to appropriately integrate technology with schools and classrooms, however, now is the time to ensure you are knowledgable and skilled when it comes to engaging learners in utilising ICT and be prepared to let go of the reigns a little bit more.

How I make learning experiences meaningful?

Active (manipulative/observant) – I like to get my students to manipulate their understanding of a topic and recreate/re-represent it in another form to show the depth of their understanding.  For example, the demonstrate their knowledge of orchestral instruments, I have gotten them to rewrite the information in the form of a first person introduction.  This category of meaningful learning is similar to constructive in a way.

Constructive (articulative/reflective) – I have always valued time set aside to critically reflect on what I have learned.  I always try to encourage my own students to reflect before they begin engaging in a new learning experience and then again afterward so that they can learn to understand their own learning processes and how they learn.  In this area, I have encouraged students to keep an eportfolio or diary of SMART goals in order to regularly reflect on their learning, using scaffolded apps like Tools 4 Students.

Cooperative (collaborative/conversational) – The benefit of Google Apps and an LMS like Moodle is that collaboration and conversation online can be easier set up.  Students in my classes have frequently used Google docs to write a document together and I have had a lot of experience as a student and teacher with discussion forums.  I find that students really do start thinking more critically and deeply in collaborative and conversational environments, inspired by others, and perhaps competing with others.

Authentic (complex/contextualised) – PBL units of work are a fantastic way to create learning experiences that are authentic.  In my previous school, all PBL had to be embedded in real-world relevant topics and activities.  Their PBL units of work would often culminate in a product that would be entered into a competition or be used in a public showcase.  Video products are a great way to disseminate information and have long-lasting physical evidence of the learning.

Intentional (goal directed/regulatory) – having learning outcomes explicitly stated and visible is a great way to help students become goal directed and to encourage them to regulate their learning by checking for outcomes achieved.  In online learning, I always try to include outcomes for each section of learning developed.

I will continue to reflect on the model proposed as I seek to always create meaningful learning experiences for those I work with.

References

Howland, J. L., Jonassen, D. H., & Marra, R. M. (2012). Chapter 1: What is meaningful learning? In Meaningful learning with technology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.