Web Tools and Learning Outcomes

So we’ve done some thinking about group learning skills and what’s needed for a successful collaboration. But, let’s get to talking about learning and collaboration with web tools. Whether you’re trying to collaborate within the same classroom or across the globe, I find that web tools have many advantages:

  1. They allow for both synchronous and asynchronous collaboration.
  2. Keeping up with the current version and changes made to a final product is easy.
  3. The community can be either open or closed, public or private, and can evolve during the creation process.

Whenever I work with teachers to plan a project using web tools, we first focus on the intended learning outcomes. We do this by beginning with an action statement – what will students actually do during this activity? The idea is to have the teacher determine the cognitive level of the activity and make sure it matches their intention. Some examples from recent projects are:

English: “I want students to describe the motivations and personal traits of the major characters in Chaucer’s Canterbury tales and analyze how these traits are clues to the character’s actions within the Tale.” The resulting project, ChaucerSpace, had students translate sections of Chaucer and create MySpace style pages for their assigned pilgrim.

Chemistry: “I want students to summarize the contributions of selected scientists to Atomic theories.” The final product was a series of Glogster posters created by groups of students.

Biology: “I want students to explain why an assigned animal is a member of a particular phylum, subphylum, or class and describe how it performs the seven functions needed for survival.” The students in this class created a wiki where they took on the role of an animal and wrote their report from the animal’s perspective.

Math: “I want students to create a digital lifestyles survey, analyze the trends and share insights from the survey, then compare and contrast their use of digital tools with that of their teachers.” This project used Google Docs, Spreadsheets and Forms to create the survey, analyze the results, and then report the findings.

Once we’ve determined what students should learn, we begin to look at tools that will accomplish the goals as well as strategies that allow for collaboration. In the examples above, the teachers created project outlines using Wikis, Glogster, Google Docs and Forms, but there are dozens of tools they could have chosen.

To help match web tools with learning outcomes, a group of fellow teachers and I have begun to create an online database (collaboratively, of course!) that allows teachers to select a Bloom’s cognitive level and/or a multiple intelligence and find web tools that will support their learning goals. Called LOTS (The Learning Outcomes TechSite) it’s a work in progress, but one I’m excited about because I hope it will simplify the task of matching learning to web tools.

So, now it’s your turn. What are the web tools you’ve explored either personally or with a class? What projects have you done or would you like to do with your students? Share your experiences and thoughts with us!

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