Whoops. Sorry about that...
Fancy starting a blog post with a live, rearing and ready to go actual example! No time to read about it first, no chance to even decide if it's worth looking at. Bam! You're being asked to give it a try. Go on - punch in your name and give it a whirl.
A bit of a first for this blog, I must say. I just hope it didn't cause any offense...
In any case, if you've already given it a bit of a run through (it isn't terribly long, only the first set in a three-stage overall learning resource) you might already have noticed and reacted to two key features--ones I personally think are extremely important--the notions of interactive discovery learning and embedded language support to cater to variable levels of literacy proficiency (in what is essentially content-based learning material).
Admittedly the facilitation of both discovery learning and language support in this particular resource is (at this early stage of development) a bit simple and limited (less kind readers with deep instructional design experience might even call it a little crude and one-dimensional). Then again, being geared at about Certificate II level, it's supposed to be reasonably simple and have an approachable 'rhythm' in terms of what learners are asked to do and show.
It is interesting (to me at least) how authoring tools for what are essentially 'pre-programmed' learning resources can be applied in ways to help the learners build and document their own learning about complex concepts from initial guesses to edited reports.
This online application, created in Articulate Storyline, was adapted from a more traditional paper + powerpoint resource at the request of the colleague who authored the core (content) material.
It was already set up as a limited 'discovery learning' activity, with learners looking at a table with three columns. The first column listed nine key aspects of fitness. The learners were asked to complete the second column (alongside each key aspect/term) with their initial guesses as to what they meant. They then watched a simple powerpoint presentation in class (or accessed it in self-paced mode from their Moodle course page) and wrote down the more formal/technical definitions for each term alongside their own initial guesses.
The online version applies this as well, with some important variations.
First, it begins with a visual guessing activity where the learners make as many attempts as they need to apply the nine fitness terms to appropriate pictures. I often like to start with something that is visual, guessing/trial and error, (inter)active and 'failproof.' Get the learners seeing things, doing things and experiencing simple success right from the outset.
Secondly, I thought there was too much pressure in terms of the request to 'punt' and then compare that punt to a very technical definition. I was also somewhat worried that learners might initially develop a 'relevance' resistance factor. So I built in some 'help' explanations to take the potential sting out of what the learners were being asked to do, and two more layers: (1) a chance for the learners to edit and improve their own definitions for the terms, and (2) a challenge to think about how the various fitness aspects could be relevant to their own work/work roles.
Third, there was the challenge of the technical definitions being not only miles away from learners' initial guesses, but also potentially intimidating based on the level of language used. From the language and literacy angle, rather than just 'dumbing it all down', I felt that--on the condition that the language was adequately explained and supported--this could be a chance to extend and consolidate language and literacy. Hence mouseover functionality was applied to difficult words to trigger simple definitions and explanations, drag-and-drop activities were added to reinforce those words and their meanings, and a help prompt added to the edit/improve layer to remind them yet again of those complex words (and to encourage the learners to try and use them).
So exploring ways to cater to variations in language and literacy proficiency or confidence was a priority, with the important condition that those who need it can access help and scaffolding, while those who don't can basically 'get on with the job.' There was also some deliberate restraint: despite all the different language and literacy highlights and interactive activities possible, it was important to keep things reasonably quick and short. Leading the learners into a forest of literacy with/after every slide could not only cause them to lose all sight of the fitness aspects, but also erode their willingness (or belief in their ability) to try and complete the overall resource.
Finally, I wanted more in the way of overall consolidation to show the learners their own work and development. A 'Learning Stage' summary was added after work was completed with groups of three fitness aspects. This summary lists the learners' own input in a sort of report documenting initial guesses, edited/improved explanations and their thoughts about how that particular aspect of fitness applies to real working life. This in turn becomes excellent outlining/drafting material for a follow up written report.
So there you have it: some simple content and activities to address basic applications of discovery learning and language/literacy support and/or development. If you haven't already done so, you might like to work through the sample embedded above and look for some of those features in the learning material.
There's also a YouTube video about somewhere (at the time of writing, currently lost in the lands of uploading and processing) which demonstrates how I built out this particular resource and what I was thinking with each stage/tool. If you're interested, leave me a comment and I'll come back to the post later and embed that particular screencast.
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