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Inside Teaching : June 2011
Inside Teaching | June 2011 10 THINGS I’VE LEARNED 30 7DESIGN There are so many tools to try online, so many resources to consider, that finding the right one for students can be confusing. Uncovering the resource that will allow students to achieve the right outcomes is crucial. Some offer a veritable swiss army knife of options. More features, however, may equate to more distraction from the task at hand. In my experience, tools online that do one thing and do it well, with a simple but straightforward design, are often more desirable. In particular I look for white space, a design uncluttered by promotional material or peripheral images. White space suggests a resource’s core content is particularly valued. 8NAVIGATION AND CLUTTER Resources with a clear and logical navigation, consistent throughout the site, are valuable in the classroom. Students are less likely to become distracted, drifting from their purpose during a lesson. Too many links and too many competing options crammed into the navigation only serve to confuse, and signal a lack of forethought in the overall resource design. 9PROMOTION Numerous usability studies have shown that young adults have far less success than older adults in differentiating between promotional material and genuine content online. Increasingly, promotional material is becoming more integrated into the genuine content we seek online. Marketing campaigns are more sophisticated. Transmedia strategies that target us with a promotional message from multiple points rather than having one simple tag line are now common. Giving students an understanding of how media influences them online, and how to discern real content from promotional material is crucial. It’s also important to focus on the fact that media companies are now more at the mercy of their audience than ever before. Young adults are in an empowered position, and need to recognise that they are in the driver’s seat, able to use their influence and be heard. 10 AVOIDANCE AND FAILURE A learning object that is neglected or used poorly can devalue it in the eyes of the learner. Interactive whiteboards that catch dust in the classroom or laptops that are used for only the most basic tasks will encourage the notion that they’re not valuable tools for learning. Students need to witness us seeking out answers with these tools, and we need to involve them in our exploration. Technology is fickle, however, and always expecting that it can be relied upon will lead to disaster! It’s important that students see there are alternatives. Having a good non- tech alternative is important, and sometimes pen and paper can be the best tools for the job. Martin Jorgensen is a teacher and educational consultant, with additional qualifications in professional writing and editing, and corporate experience in usability, design, content management and technical writing. He builds free online literacy tools that are used by thousands of teachers, home school networks and students all over the world each week to explore narrative in and out of the classroom, and regularly presents professional development sessions for the Teacher Learning Network. LINKS www.tln.org.au REFERENCES 2010 Kids & Family Reading Report: Turning the page in the digital age (2010). New York: Scholastic. Available at www. scholastic.com/readingreport