Build it and they will come?

The online learning or “cloud” experience is a powerful and increasingly popular tool for educators Denton, D. (2012).  We are always looking for ways to engage our students in an immersive environment with rich opportunities for collaboration and engagement as we approach pedagogy in the classroom.  Web-based learning platforms and the design and necessary structure of these online learning platforms are mentioned in the readings.  I followed these particular readings with interest because of the learning environment we are trying to create at the school as a professional learning community.

The Google Docs Suite is central to the collaboration we need as teachers with very busy professional lives.  In the reading it is clear the docs need to follow a constructivist or cooperative learning approach in order for the learners to have an immersive experience.  Denton mentions several approaches to use with Google Docs including group projects, simultaneous discussion and collaborative rubric creation as examples of how learners can interact with each other in a mutually beneficial way (Denton, 2012).  At our school, we are using Google Docs as a collaborative tool in teacher’s professional growth plans, as admin meeting agendas, and as a place to list concerns or requests.  As I look at how we are using the Google Docs, I see now the only one in the above list that falls into a “learning” category is the TPGP example.  The science department is using Google Docs as a place for teachers to share, analyze and come to common consensus on what assessment comments will be used in D2L.  These comments will be directly linked to the program of studies and have a “parent-friendly” vocabulary.  I believe this instance of using Google Docs falls into Denton’s definition of a cooperative learning framework.   The other examples I mention above are using Google Docs on a surface level; a place to to list things.  This also serves a purpose though.  It allows teachers a very easy way to get familiar with Google Docs and therefore makes it easy to use as a learning tool with each other or the students in the future.

The next tech push in our building will be to create a website designed to help teachers with the use of iPads coming to us for use with our ELL student population.  Lynch and Horton make it very clear the old adage “Build it and they will come” is not true when it comes to websites (Lynch & Horton, 2011).  Websites have to tread very carefully through the design process and if it is intended to be a learning tool, it has to follow some form of learning model such as ADDIE (Lee et al., 2002 ).  I will be working closely with my technology mentor teacher (TMT) at my school to cover the web design process steps such as, knowing our audience, communicating the top 3 goals of the project, and researching current sites which already exist regarding these same goals.  After doing some of these critical first steps, we will then be prepared to move into the actual design of the site itself.  The creation of a functional, useful site is going to take more time than I had first thought but the process of knowing what it is you want to create (your end goals) is a crucial part of the process.  The A in ADDIE stands for analysis and it is important we analyze exactly what we want our learners to know after they have visited the website BEFORE we begin to create the site.    

References

Denton, D. (2012). Enhancing Instruction through Constructivism, Cooperative Learning, and Cloud Computing. Techtrends: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning, 56(4), 34-41.

Lee, W. W., Owens, D. L., & Benson, A. D. (2002). Design Considerations for Web-Based Learning Systems. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 4, 405-423.

Lynch, P. J., & Horton, S. (2011). Information architecture. Web Style Guide, 3rd Ed. Retrieved from http://webstyleguide.com/wsg3/3-information-architecture/2-organizing-information.html.

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3 Responses to Build it and they will come?

  1. rslobodian says:

    Hi Rob…
    I am very excited to hear about ipads coming to our school and that a Google site is being built to assist teachers. I was wondering what would be included on the site. I know when we started building help documents for D2L it was so important to think of design and as you mentioned, especially analysis first. I don’t want to be over-critical of any particular website, but we have all been to a teacher resource site that becomes useless due to poor design; so many become a giant page of links with no direction or invitation to become engaged in the site. Thanks for your interesting post Rob that reminds us that we need to think of design for our LT3.

  2. monicachung7 says:

    Rob,
    I like to hear that the teachers at your school are collaborating and learning through Google Docs and I really wish the same would occur with are grade team planning group, especially in the elementary schools. I like how you are talking about the work and time that it will take to create a website that would be engaging to the targeted audience. My one reflection was on the D2L sites, where the majority of my time is spent looking through ePD sites by our District. In some of the sites, it is difficult to navigate through because there is an insane amount of information on the site especially the ELA site for French Immersion teachers. It just looks like a never-ending list of things to look at and refer to.

    I was pleased to see that you have referred to Lynch & Horton’s (2011) Information architecture in your blog because I found that the visuals they had provided as well as the pointers in creating web pages very helpful, especially under the section of “Site Structure” where they mention the importance of balancing the information and menu pages. Not too shallow or too deep, “[w]ith a well-balanced, functional hierarchy you can offer users menus that provide quick access to information and reflect the organization of your site” (Lynch & Horton, 2011). Once it is finished, it would be great to have volunteer teachers go through the site to ensure that it does engage them and if it is simple to browse. Any questions, concerns and suggestions should be considered for revising.

    Here is a video I found on how to create an engaging website.

    I found some of the ideas such as social validation and power of faces to be quite interesting, especially for teachers who are always looking at things more critically and would like to voice their opinions. Through feedback, it can help the designer to make edits on the webpages.

    Thanks for sharing!

    References:

    Website usability testing for web designers INTUITIONHQ. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.intuitionhq.com/blog/2011/08/how-to-make-your-website-more-engaging/

    Weinschenk, S. (2011, July 20). HFI Animate: 7 Principles that make your website more engaging with Dr. Susan Weinschenk [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=3J85SUZFXNM&safety_mode=true&persist_safety_mode=1&safe=active

  3. gnjorgensen says:

    Hey Rob,

    New iPads, so exciting! I am also in the position of having new iPads for students, but am having to wait for my board to determine how to best address the Apple Volume Purchasing Program. I don’t want to bu a whole bunch of apps and then have my board decide to pay for them. Back to your situation, designing a website is much more difficult than I had ever imagined. There is so much work to be done at the beginning. I have great appreciation for well designed websites. I guess that’s why the designers are called webmasters!

    To help in your efforts, I thought I would find some resources that may be of assistance.

    http://www.ipadenglish.net/
    http://thejournal.com/articles/2011/05/02/ell-to-go.aspx
    https://sites.google.com/site/karen4eld/ipad-applications-for-eld
    http://esltechies.com/tag/english-language-learners/

    Good luck with your iPads!

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