Usability - Productivity - Business - The web - Singapore & Twins

Structuring IT lessons

Teaching complex topics is as much an art as it is a craft. To become an artist you have to be an artisan first. One of the tools of the trade are clear structures in your teaching materials. While working with Digicomp I was introduced to TeachART that anwers the question for adult education. Based on that knowledge and my 2 decades of training experience I found the following structure to work well for study assignements.
  1. Learning Goal
    Introduce the exercise and what you will learn. E.g. "In chapter 7 of 'Cullinary survival for geeks' we will learn how to prepare Spaghetti al olio."
  2. Learning Rationale and Time
    Explain why one wants to learn this specific skill E.g. "The dish is rapidly prepared providing advanced carbs for mental activity without distracting too much from other work. The light oil coating makes them tastier and plesant to eat."
    How much time should this exercise take. "Allow 25-30 minutes for this exercise. While the noodles cook (about 20-25min) you can chat with your classmates"
  3. Prerequisites
    What do you need to know to succesfully follow and complete this exercise. E.g. "Before attempting this exercise you should have successfully completed chapter 3 'Boiling Noodles'". Sometimes you can condense the prerequisites into a short statement: "All exercises are designed to be completed in sequence, the results are the prerequisites of following exercises". Of course you need to formulate the prerequisites for the whole class clearly: "You are a geek who is fed up with ready processed food and like to try something new. You can handle a kitchen knife without major injuries to yourself and others. You are willing to eat your own cooking - if we are successful."
  4. Success control
    Tell how the succesful outcome will look like, so students can gauge for themselfs how successful they were. This is very important. Try to give as much indicators as possible for a self assessment. For software screenshots are a good approach. Don't describe what to do (that's the next step) but the outcome and how to verify its success: "Your noodles will have a bite that is soft at the outside with a little firm core. You can see a gloss on the noodles from the olive oil but no puddle of oil below the noodles. See this picture..."
  5. Detailed Steps
    The "meat" of the chapter with steps to follow. Design them matching the audience. If you describe the steps in too much detail they become boring, if you are too brief students get lost. If an exercise includes steps done before, refer back to them. "Prepare noodles like in chapter 4. Use frying pan #3 to heat 80ml of oil. Use heat #2 on your oven ...."
  6. Food for thoughts / Things to explore
    What else could be done. What are variations of the task. This is an important buffer for your fast students. If they finish ahead of time they can deepen their understanding with additional exercises. "You can cut one clove of garlic before heating the oil and mix that into the oil when it is hot."
  7. Related information
    Where can the students find more information. Like variations of that exercise, background information or alternative approaches. "In our cookbook page 321ff you will find more spaghetti variations: spaghetti al pesto, spaghetti carbonara or spaghetti al pomodoro. A discussion on carbohydrates as brain food is on the course website together with tips how to pick the right oil for your taste"
  8. What's next
    Again you could shortcut that by the implicit sequence of exercises or you suggest a learning path. "The Spaghetti have boosted your brain functions, so you have completed your work assignement ahead of time, so you will learn how to reward yourself with a nice dessert in chapter 8: 'Pull me up - Tira mi su'"
So it is: what, why, how. Creating good materials is hard, time consuming work and as usual YMMV.

Posted by on 02 May 2010 | Comments (0) | categories: Software


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