Learning Landscapes in Moodle - Three Prototypes
Whereas a yo-yo craze of late has been flipped learning, I prefer to talk about a "learning landscape", consisting of potential learning pathways and resources on demand anytime, anywhere.
In our case we present the 'learning landscape' via Moodle.
Crucial to blended learning is the visual laying out of this learning landscape: the resources and options that learners have available to them.
Anyone familiar with Moodle will nod in recognition of the "scroll of death" problem: endless links running down a page, baffling learners, creating drag, killing momentum and clarity.
Revisiting a Year 8 unit this year we've gone back to the drawing board RE the visual layout of the learning landscape. Below I show the progression over the last few years:
This plain text table was an easy first step to escape the "scroll of death". By simply adding a web page on Moodle, then inserting a table, I ca assemble hyperlinks in a visually intelligible structure. In this instance, notice that:
- the columns have names
- each challenge is worth a certain number of points, listed
- the challenges are also colour coded
In 2012, I wanted to create a graphic to replace the table. I also added additional resources and options and presented them all on this graphic. The graphic is clickable... for instance each different rung of each tree is hyperlinked to the right Moodle resource.
My graphic designer friend can't bear this graphic, but hey, it was my next step and I'm pretty happy with it... it was better than the text table, surely!
I painted the trees on the 'paper' iPad app and then added clickable hotspots over the graphic using Adobe CS3, which is as easy as dragging a tool over the graphic to define the hotspot, then specifying the URL to go to, then exporting and uploading to Moodle.
Many of the same activities from the 2011 text table are in this 2012 version but I have organised the graphic as a visual metaphor, with learners climbing (levelling up) different skill trees. Those skill trees are founded on (grow on) the foundational ground represented by the icons at the bottom: the performance of a play.
This second effort did the job, but some clear shortcomings were that:
- there was too much choice - about 50 different challenges were encoded via hotspot hyperlinks onto the graphic.
- learners couldn't preview the challenges... the only way they knew what was behind each hotspot was by clicking
- as mentioned, the graphic kind of sucks... what I called "clouds" at the top, other people saw as "smog"... NOT THE METAPHOR I was looking for!
So, this year, let's iterate the prototype! Back to the drawing board, and this is the result:
This is my THIRD STAB at the graphic, and is superior by far!
I created this one with "Snag It", which is a lightweight PC program that, apart from various easily visual editing options, allows hotspots. (The Mac version doesn't allow hotspots.)
Snag It not only allows hotspots, it allows me to create "pop up" images when the student puts their cursor over the hotspot. This solves the problem of learners not knowing where a hotspot will lead them.
So when the cursor is over a spot, it looks like this (or 30 other things):
Now Snag It exports SWF files which are flash files, not iPad friendly. This is not a problem for us. Although we are BYOD from Year 5 to Year 12, our learners don't bring iPads.
I've also collapsed back some of the 50 choices in this graphic.
So MY POINT!? Just that this has taken 3 years to get to a layout I am happy with. I dare say next year I'll go back to the drawing board again.
And another point: if you're interested in personalising learning, especially via a web portal, you're going to hit this challenge: how to communicate the options.
Think back to the classic old Bloom's / Gardner's matrices... but why stop there? Options can be laid out in lots of different ways, so suddenly, the teacher, who is no graphic designer, like me, is faced with a visual layout challenge!
Prototype, test, iterate, is a great way of getting anywhere! I hope my versions, above, are encouraging to teachers just starting out on Moodle.
Finally, if you've been reading my last few posts, please note that this visual graphic or table is an "organisational frame" or "o-frame".
It is a crucial o-frame, because it allows different learners structured freedoms, that heighten agency without losing cohesion.
Bye for now!