Friday, 2 January 2015

Useful content

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Adapted from Reynolds, R  The Future of Learning Content 2012

Is content still king in schools?  The learning process is evolving because of technology.  The shift from analogue content to digital content is causing a number of changes.



1.     Tethered learning has become mobile.  Students are no longer tied to their classroom or their bulky textbook.  They can study anywhere and at any time on a laptop, tablet or smartphone.  Study materials have become tactile – we can touch, feel and interact with content in ways that we previously couldn’t.  Content can be presented in a variety of ways – useful video and animation complement text and flat illustrations. Example - http://dynamicscience.cambridge.edu.au

2.     In the ‘traditional’ chalk and talk classroom information was broadcast to students all at once.  Whether the students were listening to the teacher - reading a text or doing exercises, activities or tasks – they did it together, at roughly the same time.  But it is no longer a necessity to only teach to the common denominator any more.  Some online learning resources have built in Task Managers that allow teachers to assign different things to individuals or groups of students.  This allows teachers to alter the pace and difficulty depending on each student’s ability and current level of understanding.  This is powerful because it helps those falling behind to catch up and it prevents those who find a topic too easy from getting bored. Teachers can assign useful content according to the needs of each student. Example - http://www.hotmaths.com.au

3.     Generic content – exercises, activities and tasks that are used in a classroom by all students - can be, and are becoming, personalized.  Feedback is often instant.  Online resources offer hints and tips when a student makes a mistake – encouraging exploration and self-correction.  Teachers can see instantly how each student in their class is performing and identify areas that need whole class revision or take action to help one student with a particular recurring problem. Some resources have multiple-access points to lessons.  A student can approach a new lesson by watching an animation, trying out a ‘walk-though’ trial and error exercise or simply reading a text – there are useful personal choices to be made about how a new subject is approached.
Example - http://www.hotmaths.com.au

4.     Homework, tests and some classroom work have often been done in isolation.  Students sit alone, work alone and submit work to the teacher in isolation from their peers.  Tools are becoming available to allow students to interact with their classmates online but in a ‘safe’ environment regulated by the teacher.  Students are connected outside the classroom and can collaborate on group projects, seek feedback from peers and work with friends to improve their understanding and the quality of the work they submit – much as we would expect in a real-life work situation.  Isn’t this a more useful preparation for life after school? Example - http://learningfield.com.au

What all this adds up to is a change in direction of how students interact with learning content – from inside to outside.  Instead of content being served up to all inside the classroom, it has become much easier for students to interact with more useful content, relevant to the individual, outside the classroom.

So, for digital content to be useful, it needs to offer the same curriculum relevant learning material as was always the case in the analogue world, but content also needs to be tactile and visually engaging, personalized or ‘personalizable’ for the learner and should promote student learning outside the classroom as well as inside.