The second assignment for the course I’m currently teaching has a second assignment where learners are required to design a unit plan that uses ICT to amplify and transform student learning. Given the nature of the learners, their backgrounds,and the curriclum most use there is some significant scope and benefit in collaboration. Not as in group work, but as in seeing what each other are doing, making comments, and drawing inspiration. The following is an attempt to figure out how to encourage this a bit more. (There are 300+ of them spread throughout Australia and a few sprinkled further afield).
Comment and suggestions are welcome. Though with short time frames, I’ll probably go ahead with whatever I decide below. Some background, the institution/course uses Moodle as the LMS. The course uses the LMS heavily. Students are also required for the course to create their own individual blog (Google “edc3100 blog” for a taste) and use Diigo initially as a group resource, but also individually.
The immediate thoughts
- Moodle Q&A forums
- Moodle database activity
- Blogs and Diigo
At the moment, this appears the approach I’ll go with.
- A “distributive” unit plan template.
The idea is to start some initial sharing now and encourage on-going engagement over the coming weeks.
Moodle Q&A forums
Such a forum allows people to see what others have posted, but only after first posting their own thoughts. This is already used early in the unit planning process to get students demonstrating their ability to identify different types of learning objectives. This is primarily used as a type of formative assessment.
Simple to set up and works ok for the task it’s currently used for, but it’s not conducive to people keeping an eye on people’s unit planning progress. For example, if I were an early childhood educator I might want to focus only on those. It’s also not a great place for discussion. A discussion forum also isn’t their own space and isn’t integrated into the unit planning process.
Moodle database activity
Have used this in the past. Allows students to contribute certain information and also to query and search for specific information. Hence a way to focus on units that are relevant.
But not a great space for discussion. It’s not a tool the students use regularly, hence a learning curve before good use can be made. This is a problem for the course as the students have already had to climb a few learning curves. It’s also not integrated into the unit planning process.
Blogs and Diigo
Haven’t used these in combination yet. The idea would be that students:
- write an blog post describing their initial plans for their unit;
e.g. talk about the year level, the learning objectives.
Given that students (in theory) already have an OPML file imported into Feedly for their specialisations, this would generate a collection of posts that would appear in those feeds. Raising awareness.
In theory, BIM (the Moodle module used to manage student blogs) can be set up to track whether or not students have completed written this post. Adding a bit of class management capability.
- bookmark that post with Diigo and tag it with the year level and codes for the content descriptors; and,
The Australian Curriculum (which most use) has a unique code for each content descriptor in the curriculum. Using that code as a tag should make it easier to see who else is doing what you’re doing.
- actively search and follow those folk doing planning similar units.
A “distributive” unit plan template
This is the holy grail solution I’d love to implement, but just will not have the time.
The “distributive” view is based on this paper and the idea that learning/cognition is: situated, social, distributed, and protean.
To complete their unit plan, the students have to use a provided Word template. Using prior knowledge and the contents of the course learning paths the students are meant to fill in the template with the appropriate information. It’s a fairly standard approach and suffers from the standard problems. Mostly, the unit plan template appears to be based on a view of learning/cognition that is not all that
If the learner has a question or a problem, they have to leave the unit template and head over to the LMS or some other location to find an answer.
The unit template provides no affordances for learners to share insights and experiences and for those to be visible within the unit plan the individual is working upon.
The unit template is dumb. It doesn’t provide any guidance or do any work to help the learner complete the learning path. e.g. if the learner selects a certain collection of learning objectives, the unit plan doesn’t automatically provide a list of the commonly associated assessment criteria for those objectives. It doesn’t provide points to other units that have been written around those learning objectives or the feedback given to those units.
Learners can’t change the unit template in anyway.