This is the third post in a series I am writing about the ICT in the classroom unit I am coordinating this semester. The aim of the unit is to give initial teacher education students the opportunity to consider critically a range of issues of concern to all teachers who use ICT in their classroom. The unit is based on authentic learning principles and students use a range of technologies as cognitive tools to produce a meaningful unit of work that they will be able to use in their future teaching studies and careers.
This post describes the first task students completed (Task 1) and provides general feedback about the task.
Firstly, students needed to research key design and implementation issues for creating a website. Suggested design issues included: website navigation, layouts, fonts, colours and readability. Suggested implementation issues included: copyright, accessibility and credibility. They then needed to research the affordances of a range of web creation technologies to determine which technology they would use to create their own website. Next they needed to create a three page website which included basic information, an image of them-self and a three page report about their research. Finally, they were introduced to three social technologies (Skype, Diigo and Google Docs), asked to join the Skype and Diigo groups created for this unit and to add their website details to the Student website file on Google Docs. All students were encouraged to add their own website and other resources they thought were relevant for this unit to the Diigo group and to share ideas and questions with their peers on the Skype chat. Full details about Task 1 are available on the ICT in the classroom companion website.
Why Skype, Diigo and Google Docs? The main reason is they offer students the opportunity to explore different types of online tool; Skype for text, voip or video communication, Diigo for content curation, highlighting, commenting and sharing resources and Google Docs for online collaboration. There are many different tools available, however, I find these tools offer a variety of useful features and they are easy to use.
Task 1 was generally very well done and we were impressed with the quality of the websites and reports. It was clearly evident that most students heeded the advice they read about design issues as all web sites displayed good design choices, user-friendly navigation and a professional appearance. Implementation issues were not as well addressed as quite a few websites lacked acknowledgments for images or included images that appeared to be obtained from copyright protected sources.
Copyright can be very confusing, however, anyone publishing on the web should understand what work created by others they can and can’t include on their own websites. The Technology Toolbox for Educators has some good resources to help educators learn about copyright and creative commons. It also includes lots of links to help people find creative commons licensed work. I think I will do a followup post about copyright and include a “Copyright: crash course” video to help educators identify images they can use and ones they shouldn’t use. The main message being if you cannot determine who the original author is – do not use the image.
The best reports provided a brief introduction and then clearly identified a range of key design and implementation issues. After identifying the issues they went on to discuss how these issues could be addressed to create a professional looking web site.
Most reports included information about design issues. However, the best ones covered a broad range of issues whereas the weaker ones only discussed a few. The best reports also included a good discussion of the main implementation issues. However, quite a few did not address this aspect at all, or only very weakly. Finally, the best reports included APA style references to acknowledge where they sourced their information which enhanced the credibility of their paper and provided readers with the opportunity to explore issues of interest in more depth.
Overall the quality of most students work was very high.