Thursday, June 28, 2012

Designing for Collaborative Creation

Creating Together
Today, I focused on making my class site a place where my students are co-creators of our learning and exploration.  This was possible on our ning at a basic level (students creating their own discussions and controlling their personal pages), but there was not much they could do.  I have to admit I did not focus well on maximizing what they could do either.  My new site is going to different because I am designing it that way.  That is a key aspect of true digital design -- looking at what can be done because it is digital versus relying on standard print design principles.  I am not finished with my thinking about this kind of design, but I am pretty pleased with what I accomplished today.

Our Literary Timeline
I wrote yesterday about installing this and how I had not gotten it to work.  Today, I turned to my PLN, asking my good friend Susan Carter Morgan to try the plugin herself.  Susan is amazing! She loves to play and explore, and she helped me see that I could actually install a different plugin, iFrame, and use the embed generator to put my Google spreadsheet in.  I put in my example entry on Steinbeck, and it worked!  Look here!  I asked Susan why it would have worked today but not yesterday, and she said I had installed the Verite plugin yesterday and did not have the iFrame plugin, and the Verite embed generator works without the Verite plugin. She understood this from reading the Verite site, which I now could see I had read unsuccessfully yesterday.  I think I do not yet know how to read these sites correctly.  As with anything one is not familiar with reading, new decoding skills are needed, and I am still developing those for this kind of reading.  As an English teacher, to experience what it is like to find reading comprehension hard again is a really good reminder of what my students struggle with.  Looking at the bright side!

Back to the timeline -- it is AMAZING.  It is so visually effective -- the way you can contract and expand the timeline allows for easy exploring, and the high level of visuals users are allowed to add make the exploring interesting.  I already use Google docs with my students, so the interface being based in a Google spreadsheet is so user-friendly.  My students can start to create the timeline with me right away.

Custom Headers
In past years, I have had my students use Google Earth to track where our reading is in the world.  However, some of their laptops could not use Google Earth, and when those of us who did have it used it together, the school's bandwidth really slowed down.  I had already designed the custom headers to address my desire for students to see where we were reading, but I wanted to use ThingLink to involve my students more.

Enter the featured image (something else I learned about in my exploring today -- and I learned it on my own versus needing Susan!).  I have set a blank world map as the static header for my first page.  This is the map where we together will mark where our readings are through hotspots and each student will map where their choice readings are from.  This is even better than individuals using Google Earth because we will have one map showing where everything we all read is located.  I want this map to be static so it is not hard to find each time we are ready to map, and the first page is a perfect place for our reading world to visually expand with each text.  I am super-excited about this collaboration!

I also reworked a class assignment to use the rotating theme headers.  Each student presents one author we are reading during the year, so I have added to the assignment two things.  First, they have to put the author on the timeline.  Second, they have to make a hotspot on the appropriate theme header linking to the online part of their presentation.  With this, students can always explore the presentations on their own afterwards, and our bank of knowledge will grow through all of our efforts.

Thoughtful Navigation
The last thing I worked on today was my page's navigation.  With all of these ways for my students to use and create the site, I want the site to be clear on where all of these opportunities are.  Rather than have them have to wander to find where they and their classmates can be co-creators, I want them to wander through what they and their classmates have created.  So, I made a few navigation choices today:
  • I added sub-pages to the Book Reviews link.  In the past, all of our reviews went onto the same ning discussion, which really became unwieldy.  So, we will put our reviews on theme-specific pages, and this will make it easier for all of us to look back to get good recommendations.
  • I was going to make a new page for the YouTube clips I show, but then I stepped back and looked at myself as a student co-creating this site.  My YouTube Videos are how I introduce my students to "I thought of AP English when ..." where I hope they will post connections they make outside of class.  So, I should do the same -- use this page for my connections because mine are the same as what I hope my students will do.
  • I added my Othello page under "Beyond the Texts" instead of making a new main navigation link like I had planned.  I am envisioning "Beyond the Texts" as bigger than I did initially.  This is where all that we do to expand our interaction with texts will go, and my introduction to acting Othello is exactly this.  I am also so happy to have the video I made on my site!  I put on the one I had even captioned -- I am proud of the audio and video work I did on this.  I hope you enjoy it!
Image Source: The Ideal School

1 comment:

  1. Maybe instead of having the students enter info into a spreadsheet, have them enter Google Form (which will result in a spreadsheet)? Cleaner interface for entering info!
    Is there a way you can do some usability testing with your navigation? Maybe have some of the following folks work through it and give you feedback:
    *other teachers
    *former students
    *young people like your students (aka, don't already "know" your class")
    (Just learned Blogger doesn't like the UL tag.)