Friday, June 13, 2008

Learning Objects & Other Useful Outdated Things

Tēnā koutou katoa - Welcome to you all
The End of Static Learning Objects
I read about the perceived demise of the learning object, or at least the preparation for its passing and I wonder.

I use learning objects, now called learning resources, in my teaching. They can be integrated into parts of modules and used for spot learning when necessary. They’re interactive and kids like them for this reason.

I’d never consider making up a module that contained more than one or two learning resources. I apply my Death by Chocolate metaphor

A poor chef may include chocolate as an ingredient in every dish, but it is a shortsighted one who excludes its use altogether. If the only recipe available that includes it is mediocre, then chocolate should be off the menu. Good chefs choose menus wisely.

Learning resources are easy to use. They can be sent by email, in a link or embedded as a link in an html or word file. They are splendidly useful when students need a patch somewhere in their learning, or need a shot of repetitive practice in a skill routine.

Here’s one suitable for year 10 and above on drawing graphs. Here’s another on body defenses, another on acid-base titration curves, one on genetic crosses and another on practice in circuit calculations. You can tell that I’m a Science teacher.

Fun for kids:

Learning resources can be fun for kids as well as assisting with their learning. Complex learning resources built around a theme can take advantage of virtual environments as in this year 10 Digital Electric Lab, or the guided Journey in the Solar System, or the mini-projects on the Southern Night Sky. My feeling is that there’s life in the old RLO yet.

The Lone Ranger:

Before I built my own web-based set of learning resources (they used to call people like me Lone Rangers), I'd look for sites on the Internet that I could email in a link to students. I still do this from time to time but these are rarely interactive in the way learning
resources should be and there can be other problems.

Reputable sites on obscure topics are often hard to come by. The special site I spent so long looking for might suddenly disappear, leaving the frustrated student the option of getting back to me with the same plea for help. Or worse, the content of the site may change and the whole focus of it may alter, putting me in a professionally compromising situation. That doesn’t make me feel safe, let alone how I feel about the safety of the kids.

How safe is kid safe?

There are still some useful ways of using the Internet safely, however, and I’ll explain one here. I have found it specially good for helping kids with projects.

I use Onekey. I find it more flexible than Gogoogle for Onekey permits the use of Boolean search symbols – not necessarily for the kids to use, but for me. Let’s say there’s a project where kids need to gather data from various sources (and not always the Internet). If the objective does not involve having to do an Internet search (a task fraught with problems for poorly supervised distance learners) the student can be sent a safe list of sites.

Safer, reliable links:

Here’s a way that ensures safety and reduces the likelihood of sites being unavailable when the student goes to use them.
I never list the individual sites on the digital worksheet. I tweak the search criteria so that I have a suitable number of hits on the final search: 10 to 20 is a good range to work from, depending on the project and student ability. Then I use the resulting search address for a link.

Here’s the criteria I used for listing suitable sites on a project involving making huge soap bubbles:

+huge +soap +bubble -gum -vending -wax -lube -bath -punk -nitro +mixture +recipe +glycerine

I enter the criteria in the search line and do the search. Then I copy the resulting search address into the Huge Bubbles link in a word or html file with the rest of the worksheet instructions. When the student accesses the link, it may not necessarily list all the same sites that I saw. There may be a few new ones and others may have dropped off the list, but it is almost certain that they will all be relevant to the topic.

The more time spent tweaking the original search criteria the greater the success.

Advantages of this method are:
  • it delivers a safe list of Internet sites
  • the sites invariably all work
  • they are always relevant to the topic
  • I can roughly control the range of sites listed.
Ka kite anō - Catch ya later


takefive said...

This looks like a terrific method. Is this similar to saved searches in Google? Have you tried that? It seems like it is.

I think this is NOT an outdated idea and would be extremely useful.

If you paired this up with my idea of having students evaluate the pages for their authority, relevance or whatever is appropriate for the lesson...well, I think that would be the perfect situation for my classroom.

Thanks for offering this idea.


Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Marsha!

I'm glad you find this so useful - yes I'd the idea in mind when I commented on your post, that you might pair up the method here with what you were doing with students evaluating pages for their authority.

Yes this it is the same idea as the saved Google searches. Either way, it permits you as the tutor to put the search address in a link for future use. This can be in a web page, Word, or whatever.

Catchya later