I was working with one of my clients/partners on an opportunity to develop classroom learning on a tablet. The first push is to get something to show teachers and trial in a classroom. It’s not yet going to be socially enabled, nor particularly mobile, nor yet augmented with resources; the point now is to demonstrate capability to develop compelling interactives (pretty much regardless of whether it’s a tablet or not).
As context, they’d sent me some storyboards that I’d responded to with some comments. They actually started from a good point, but there were nuances that needed to be teased out. Their questions led me to think through some principles that underpinned my recommendations. In the course of their questions, I talked about these perspectives:
Start with visceral experience: I want to ground the learning in their world. I want to start with phenomena that they understand, and have them do a little free exploration followed by some focused tasks, but at a qualitative, experiential level. Drill down from the bigger picture in the world, to intermediate issues, to why this in particular is important, and have them actively explore the relationships.
Connect conceptual to formal: after the learner has an experiential basis, then link it to formal representations. Help the learners connect their actions to the tools used to structure our understanding. At the end of the day, at least in this domain, we want them to be able to use the formal representations to solve problems that their capabilities can’t solve with their bodies (e.g. applying forces in microjoules or gigajoules). As a guide, the point is not to teach science, say, but instead to teach them to be scientists, using tools to solve problems. Finally, they should be taking measurements, transforming to manipulable representations, transforming the representations to a solution, and then applying that back to the world.
Focus on action, not content: rather than require learners to view this video or that document, make them available. Ideally, the only required elements would be the series of activities, and the information resources surround the activities as options. The challenge of the activities, and quality of the content, would ideally drive the learner to the resources, but there might be required quick overviews that point to deeper resources, and individuals who struggle might be pointed to the content.
Launch with a meaningful context: I suggested an overall task that would ultimately need to be performed, using a recognized problem as the motivation for learning this content, though there are other ways. However, you do want to harness learners hearts as well as their brains in the endeavor. In this case it was about saving people’s lives that motivated going through the course to be prepared to come back and provide the knowledge of what force to apply, in what direction.
And in one I didn’t convey, but is implicit in the learning situation but could and should be implicit in the development of the learning experience:
Scaffold the learning process: don’t assume that the learner is equipped for learning this way, provide support. Pedagogical support can be through an agent, and there has to be feedback involved both addressing the content and the process. If only requiring the activities, the evaluation, inadequate performance might trigger a requirement to view content, for example. A pedagogical avatar could be useful.
All of this is based upon a research base in learning theory, even the emotional side. There could be more involved, as I had ides for options in being social, and actually being mobile, which are currently beyond the scope of their engagement, but the point is to start with a visceral and active base upon which to drive motivation for content, formalisms, and ultimate mastery.