Hogeschool van Amsterdam

Creating a digital learning object

Gepost op: 1 feb 2016 | ICT Services

How can you get a simple wikispace to work as an effective platform for the development of effective learning objects?

I work in the Languages department of the School of Education, HvA, and this mini-project sits in one of the first year modules (Reading to writing), where students get to develop their critical reading and academic writing skills.

The ‘grassroot’ project is not so complicated. At the end of block one, the students need to produce an argumentative essay, and in the run up the focus is on planning stages: from collecting information or data, to analyzing grouping and selecting, to presentation and then to evaluation and conclusion. It was decided to link the research and planning phase to their teacher training process more - so instead of independently going through the process of researching and writing an essay, they would work in research groups, and turn the process into the process of creating a digital learning object for others (e.g. high school students) to learn from.

It has been tried before with a different set of student in a minor focused on technology in education - but I wanted to try it out here as well.

Selecting the tool

The last time I attempted this I used wikispaces, but this time I have opted for the wikispaces for education platform. It seems to be much more suited to the idea that educators work with multiple small groups within one space, and the functionality has been stripped down to focus on this eventuality. So that’s a good start! I was able to wonder around and finally work out the best setup for the space. There could feasibly be around 15 or 16 different groups working on this 4 week project - so it could get a bit messy. However, I suspect that with a good introduction from the two different teachers that will be doing this within their course, it should get on track quite quickly.

Planning the activity

The activity has been designed with a strong emphasis on the premise that work, learning and professional development are never things that happen (successfully) with individuals: humans are a social being and everything they do sits within a context of other people working towards - if not shared - then related, dependent goals. Partnerships and collaborations are the essence of a well-functioning workplace, and yet most mainstream educational goals seem to relegate group work - leaving it in some sad unexplored nowhere.

The activity needed to be simple enough that groups can rotate and work on different, new wikispaces every week for four weeks. As each subsequent group will be dependent on the previous groups efforts to move forward, it has been decided that each group will present their wikispaces each week, to explain their work, and to encourage them to produce it in a way that will help the subsequent group to adapt it, enhance it and move to the next stage.

Training the trainer

I teach one of the groups and the other group is taught by my colleague. What was really formative was to sit with my colleague and explain the process. I had assumed that the description of the activity, as I had written it, would be simple to follow and our meeting would be a mere matter of fine-tuning. How wrong I was! It highlighted the importance - when using technologies for a specific purpose - that you set aside a session with students to present the tool, walk through the functionality, with a clear eye on the ‘desired’ end goal and how it is intended to be used. I knew this. I know this. And yet, so often I forget this when it comes to doing it.

Finger’s crossed!

Next week will see the first week of the course - with the introduction and explanation and formation of groups - and then the students will be off, in their groups, using the space and hopefully populating the space with interesting, usable material for the next group to make sense of. Here goes!