The Final Countdown – Wellness or MOOC?

It is the end of the semester. I still have 44 projects to grade, four class sets of tests to write and grade, 80 reports to write (and a report generator to modify!), two COETAIL blog posts (and reading other peoples blogs too!), one GET certification, a job to find, lanterns to buy and two parties to attend… oh, and teaching! Given this, I was glad at how easy this blog post was to write! Going through course four I thought of so many things which would make for really cool final projects it ended up just being a case of which are my favorite two ideas. Which ideas will have the biggest impact upon the students of my school?

I chose two options that teach two of my passions in brand new, hopefully motivational ways: Wellness and Physics. Both are great possibilities because they utilize technology in a meaningful way and fulfill the requirement of a ‘unit’ that is redesigned with tech integration in mind.

 

Option 1 – The Wellness Approach

In the adventure, students can pick up quests from the quest givers (teachers are the quest givers, and the rooms with an exclamation mark on their doors have quests). Students then complete those quests and gain XP, stats and progress.

For this option what I would do is make a real life game out of wellness. The context of this would be based upon a real life problem – ‘the workers of tomorrow are too anxious to work, the world is in a critical position!’ for example. The game would have quests from quest givers (teachers), and the goal would have students learning all about things like getting a good nights sleep, spacing study, looking after eating habits etc.

This would hit several different elements of the COETAIL program:

  • Part of the adventure would focus upon digital citizenship.
  • It would be a gamified learning experience, with points, levels, challenges, teamwork components etc.
  • It would utilize experts from around the world in terms of videos and learning from experts.

The great thing about this is that its a big problem in our school at the moment, and it could have a really positive impact upon the students that take part. My goal with it would be for students to learn why more sleep is important, how to organise themselves so they improve their efficiency when studying, digital citizenship skills etc. Because of the scalability its easy to have lots of different strands that are happening all at once, with different teachers managing different parts of the quest giving and me managing the overall levels and web content.

For setup it could take a reasonably long time given the quantity of quests to be produced, and the website and systems that would need to be developed in order to log and track student points and completed quests. I think the biggest difficulty for me would be getting students interested and involved in the game so they take part and learn effectively. it would need demonstratable goals, and would have to run over a long period of time for students to see all the benefits.

For me, this project would be a shift in how wellness can be delivered, putting it entirely on the students to discover for themselves what it means to be well. I would set the quests to guide them, but it would be their journey. This is both what is great and scary about this. Students who do it well could have a really meaningful learning experience. Students who do it badly waste their time doing it and learn nothing!

 

Option 2 – The collaborative MOOC

This is the option I love the most. It uses Google heavily and it really moves my classroom into the 21st century. But the effort required to make it happen would be pretty big. This would be applied to the last unit of the year to help give me enough time to write the software, test the course offering and generate and find sets of resources that are good enough.

I started considering this because of a picture I have seen lots in the last few weeks of reading (also randomly on Facebook and twitter).

The 21st Century classroom doesnt require a teacher – it just requires direction, a tool [laptop/tablet] and collaboration (Img courtesy of Education Rickshaw)

This lead me to think how can this actually be achieved, where we have:

  • Student lead learning
  • Differentiated instruction based upon need
  • Peer support and use of the internet to connect students with similar needs

Many people are calling for it, few seem to be making a suggestion of how we can do it. Suggestions are rare because this is a big ask with no easy solution, luckily however the internet provides the facilities to do just this with a little bit of programming skill and time. So I started to imagine what a web interface would look like and need in order to fulfill these goals.

A mock up of what this could look like. The focus is really on the collaboration features and the students choosing how they learn.

As an example:

Imagine you are learning about fluid mechanics. The first unit might be buoyancy and you do a series of learning activities, directed by the student, to learn this material. They take the randomly generated questions to test their knowledge, but the system picks up the fact that they have calculated the weight incorrectly (but otherwise done everything else correctly) – so it takes them to a side module on weight where there are other learning activities. When they are there the system knows there are other students on this section of the unit and directs them both to table 4 in the classroom so they can work together. When they have demonstrated that they can calculate the weight the system takes them back on to the next unit, where it can again direct them towards students working on the same topic.

To achieve this in its full glory is dependent upon several factors:

  • Start soon! This should be fine as programming is a hobby of mine, and I am excited to start. It is also the Christmas holidays soon so I have time to get the basics together.
  • Getting appropriate libraries to make the collaborative features. TogetherJS has lots of appropriate features but is discontinued. Trying to find a library that allows easy and safe collaboration will be key. This will take the communication element of the development cycle off my hands and make it more reliable.
  • Having a lot of good quality resources which students will find they are happy using.

In terms of how students adapt to this, I am confident they will find it an easy transition. The software will guide them through the program and they will just be responsible for picking learning goals, collaborating and testing out on the modules. They are already used to using web interfaces with me, and I know they are reasonably good at picking up new ideas.

I think the huge benefit to this its its adaptability. Once the software is developed adding new courses would be a case of simply adding new content and new course structures. The other huge benefit to this is the no limitations on the collaboration. Using something like TogetherJS allows students to communicate with anyone around the world via voice, chat or video. It allows students to comment on one another work or watch videos at the same time. It would be a MOOC style software, with a much greater emphasis on collaboration.

The links to my COETAIL learning in this project are clear. Gamification, MOOCs, collaborative learning, reimagining the classroom, even visual literacy! It can even be used as a platform for teaching about digital literacy, and it advertises me! It is a course that will be run in ways which would be entirely impossible without technology, utilizing the best of the internet (simulations, videos, shared documents, chat, video, discussion etc) to help students learn. I would be freed up substantially in the classroom which would allow me to work with weaker students much more than I get to now. This could be the biggest win from this project.

 

Of these two options its hard to decide which to do. The option to look at student wellness and how it can be aided through gamification of learning is a worthy pursuit, but getting students engaged in it will be very difficult, and making the learning authentic enough to be captivating is also a real challenge. On the other had I have an option to revolutionize my classroom, but at a cost of time. It does sound like an awful lot of fun though! 🙂

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2 Responses

  1. Cary Hart says:

    Alex you and I should meet up! Your idea and my idea are so similar but I couldn’t come up with a decent visual, I simply don’t have the skill to show what I wanted!

    • Alex Bunting says:

      Well I sure am willing to share things when complete 🙂 I assume you are talking about the second option here?

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