Editor’s Note: Educational materials facilitate learning by providing content, structure, activities, and the opportunity for exploration, discovery, and interaction. For the trainer they convey knowledge, skills, and attitudes to the learner. For educators and scholars they stimulate thought to construct and scaffold higher levels of learning. Educational materials can be tested and revised for continuous quality improvement. They persist through time and across space to serve increasing numbers of new learners. Excellent materials are available on the Internet, but there are advantages to making your own….
This article is published also in: "The New Morning Watch: Educational and Social Analysis" athttp://www.mun.ca/educ/faculty/mwatch/nmwatch.htm
Making Your Own Educational Materials
Mental Operations Required
DECL stands for delivery, environment, content and learner factors that comprise student achievement. The “delivery factor” or “D” in DECL can be furthered sub-divided into the scope, sequence, strategies, and the presentation of the educational website. Two variables comprise the “environment factor”. Three variables comprise the “content factor”, and four more variables the learner factor. Student achievement is the weighted sum of the delivery, environment, content and learner factors (DECL). For an explanation of the variables under each factor in DECL see Mann (2005a). The importance of each factor in DECL can be weighted under certain conditions. The size of the circles in figure 1 indicates their emphasis and subsequent impact on student achievement.
Figure 1. Graphical comparison of educational materials development by emphasis
The “Learner” emphasis (left) the “Environment” emphasis, and the “Balanced” emphasis right. In Mann, B. (2005a). Research styles and the Internet. In Bruce L. Mann (Ed.). Selected styles in web-based educational research. (pp. 1-11) Hershey, PA: Idea Group Publishing.
Notably the varying weights added to DECL can also be represented mathematically. The small “b” in subscript in the formula indicates the weighting that can be attributed to any of the DECL factors.
Db + Eb + Cb + Lb = Achievement + some error
Now that you able to distinguish an educational website from an informational one, and have considered the DECL, your first step in developing educational material is to generate some ideas. A bonafide resource of ideas would be the Curriculum Guide within the jurisdiction in which you wish to teach. Consult the curriculum guide for the grade level you want to teach. Curriculum documents are written by experienced teachers and researchers with excellent ideas from which to develop an educational website. If for example you are intending to teach in a province in Canada, you can find information about education in each of the provinces and territories of Canada from Education@Canada. Education@Canada is an information resource sponsored by the Council of Ministers of Education in Canada (CMEC), as there is no federal or national department of education in Canada.
If you are intending to teach in United States, Education America has quickly grown to become the United States' largest educational e-recruitment service with over 900 employers posting thousands of jobs. In the US, there is the “No Child Left Behind Act” which education leaders at state and local have developed to effectively employ technology to enhance learning and increase student achievement. There are many American educational policy websites that may provide some good ideas for your educational website.
If you are headed to Australia, the Australian Council for Computers in Education consists of representatives from the state-based Computer Education Groups. It publishes the journal Australian Educational Computing and authorises the Australian Computing in Education Conferences - a good source of information for your educational website. See (Mann 2005b) for more information on educational technology policy in the United States, Australia, Canada and the European Union.
Once you have a short list of good ideas for an educational website, your next step in the process is to make a paper mock-up. Developing a paper mock-up means making a hand-drawn replica on paper with coloured pencils. The layout should be uncluttered and appropriate to the student’s abilities and reading level. Your foreground font colours and shading should have plenty of contrast against the background. Bright red and bright yellow backgrounds can make reading for average readers very tiring over extended periods of time. Please note however, that very bright background colours can be perfectly appropriate for in special needs situations.
Title. Make your title important, catchy and curriculum related. Add a missing or curious photo or graphic. Don't be redundant with your title, such as a title “Whales” and showing a photo of a whale. And don't give the answer away. Below the photo, add a statement of the curricular rationale. Say something about the school climate (K-1, grade 2-3, 4-6, 7-8, 9-10). Below that, write one or more stated objectives, goals, missions or challenges - behavioural component in "A-B-C-D" form (discussed below). Colour coding can help separate examples from instruction, and instruction from program directions. It is most important that your font colour is designed by instructional event, the colour of the text on the webpage matches the instructional event. The colours don’t matter per se, but once chosen, they must always be consistent across the entire educational website, to prevent distracting effect in student learning. Here for example, is a colour design rubric for an educational website:
INFORMATIONAL TEXT will always be presented in a blue font colour, usually under the photo or graphic(s) and above the scroll line. Informational text presents a brief, informal rationale about the
NAVIGATIONAL TEXT will always be presented in a black font colour.
INSTRUCTIONAL TEXT will always be presented in dark green font colour, usually under the brief informational statement as “Learning Objectives, “Missions” or “Challenges”. Instructional text presents the behavioural components to the educational website, that is the audience (the learner characteristics), behaviour (add your verb "distinguish", "describe", "demonstrate", or "summarize in your own words"), conditions (how - using the art paper? the protractor? the atlas? in front of people?), degree (when? what criteria?).
QUESTIONING (i.e., procedural facilitation) will always be presented in dark brown font colour.
PARTIAL FEEDBACK will always be presented in a pink font colour.
HINTS will always be presented in olive green font colour. Hinting is presented before requesting responses from students, whereas partial answers require a statement from them followed by feedback.
Other considerations are that the figure/ground contrast is evident, all graphics are clear and representative, all multimedia are related to the topic, and that there are several links, for further study.
Similarly, the right way to apply audio to an educational website is to think of sound as having a purpose or function - to compliment formatted text, graphic or moving image and assist students in shifting their attention between the auditory and visual channels. When the primary intent of audio is to orient learners about a future event or give feedback about a past event between web pages, temporal speech prompts should be considered. Alternatively, point-of-view (POV) sound should be used to provide opposite sides of an issue, or as a function of character in objective, subjective points of view. There are a few of the sound design possibilities with the SSF Design Model (Mann, 1992, 1995b, 1997b). Research with the SSF Model (Mann, Newhouse, Pagram, Campbell & Schulz, 2002) suggests that we can expect good immediate results in student retention, and even better results following a latency period.
Domains of Learning. In developing your own educational materials it is helpful to keep separate the different domains of learning – behaviour, from cognitive, from affect, from social. Also within the cognitive domain, its good to keep separate declarative from procedural knowledge, and both of these from strategic knowledge. This makes it easier to articulate what you want your students to do with your educational materials.
Educational Objectives. Now that you know to keep separate the different domains of learning, as well as the types of knowledge in the cognitive domain, it’s time to introduce “educational objectives”. The field of Education has long been known for setting objectives. There are two basic types of educational objectives that we use all the time – behavioural and cognitive. Some educators say “learning objectives“ to indicate intended performance or cognitive processes in their students. Others prefer to use the less rigid term “learning outcomes” to denote the consequence of instruction and practice. I’ll continue to use “learning objective”. You can use whichever term is most comfortable to you.
In any case, a learning objective can be defined as a statement written in “ABCD “ format; that is to say, the audience (A), behaviour (B), condition (C) and degree (D). though they won’t appear in this order in your statements. To maintain consistency between Gagné’s conditions of learning (Gagné, Briggs, & Wager, 1992), constructivist learning as well as learner-centred theories (see Richey, 2000), let's attempt to write a broad, fairly high level educational objective (i.e., cognitive strategy) for developing educational materials on the web
After reading this article on developing your educational website (the condition), the teacher (the audience) will be able to develop an educational website (the behaviour) to support his/her students, by completing a paper mock-up showing learning objectives in ABCD format (the degree).
Similarly, your web-based educational material should contain a few intellectual skill objectives and should appear near the top of the first webpage on your educational website. The verbs for intellectual skills objectives are straightforward. First, the student is asked to distinguish between one thing and another, say bears and other creatures. They may be asked to do this by constructing a table with columns and listing the differences within each of the columns. This “distinguishing” activity is called discrimination learning and is a low-level activity. Now that the student has distinguished bears from other creatures, they are asked to identify the characteristics within the class of different bears, brown bears, grizzly bears and so on.
Try this now with one of your own ideas adapted from your local curriculum guide. On the first web page jot down a few objectives, with a verb:
To distinguish between things natural or imagined: Procedural knowledge, discrimination learning, an intellectual skill.
To describe the identifying characteristics of a concept: Procedural knowledge, concept-learning, an intellectual skill.
To demonstrate a procedure step-by-step: Procedural knowledge, rule using, an intellectual skill.
To generate a new procedure for problem solving: Procedural knowledge, higher-order rule using, an intellectual skill approach to problem solving.
To summarize in their own words, recite exactly, or recall a fact: Declarative knowledge, verbal information learning.
To devise a plan, predict an outcome, or figure-out a new way: Strategic or generic procedural knowledge, a cognitive strategy approach to problem solving.
Remember to include the "A-B-C-D" format for each learning objective you have written, that is
Audience (the learner characteristics),
Behaviour (add your verb "distinguish", "describe", "demonstrate", or "summarize in your own words"),
Conditions (how - using the art paper? the protractor? the atlas? in front of people?),
Degree (when? what criteria?).
Finally add some associated links to websites. Below the links, add a "hint" if you want the student to construct something original on video or in PowerPoint, make a link to a page that tells them how to do that. Below that, add your email address with the note "If you have any questions, please email me at...". At the top of page 2 is your partial answer to the first objective, goal, mission or challenge stated on page 1. For example, if there are five things they must know, or five parts of a procedure to demonstrate, tell them two. And ask them for more.
In summation, this paper has suggested how you can you can make your own educational website, do it well, and as a consequence, avoid infringing copyright law, the moral rights of the author, and rules of the university. The recommended procedure has been to use a syntax-independent approach to educational website design, wherein you draw on paper before typing into a text editor, thereby keeping design and the coding decisions separate. The inclusion of paper mock-up as a pre-computer activity may improve teachers’ educational websites, as it has done in previous educational research (Brown & Mann, 2001). Regarding the organization of your educational website, aim for a clear focus. Don’t skip from one topic to the next. Provide lots of student guidance on one topic between webpages (i.e., multiple choice or constructed answers, full or partial answers, error-contingent or fault-free questions, elaborative interrogation). Learner factors (from DECL) should be students' attitudes toward the subject or topic, demographics (do all have computer access - if not it may have to be printed), their capacity to learn this content, and their competence with the language. Your language should be conversational and easy for students to engage in the tasks. Keep the sentences and paragraphs concise. Check your grammar, punctuation, and spelling. The next step involves the transformation of your paper mock-up into an off-line educational website by developing the HTML documents from your paper frames and displaying them in your Internet browser and then uploading web files to the schools or university server, which is beyond the scope of this paper.
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Bruce L. Mann, Ph.D. is from the Faculty of Education, Memorial University, St. John’s, NF A1B 3X8.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org . Phone: (709) 737-3416 (voice), 737-2345 (fax)