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How to achieve efficiency in digital educational content production by Anne Schanz

training with teachers in Bolivia

training with teachers in Bolivia

(re-posted from http://bit.ly/cxz9Wv)

Just before the resuming of classes after 3 weeks of winter holidays, Educatic invited some of the more motivated and IT-literate teachers for a 2-day workshop on digital content production. The game digitalization process I described in my post about the last workshop is taking up a lot of time and resources with high-quality, greatly localized and personalized, but hardly efficient results. Teachers have started to enquire on how to develop their own games without having to rely on the technical support by Educatic. Therefore, as opposed to the complex game development approach which involved many people during the last workshop, this time, it was all about how teachers could create their own digital learning resources.

With 8 teachers participating, some of whom had to travel for hours from remote rural villages, almost all those invited attended and thus five different “unidades educativas” (educational units, schools or educational centers of a certain level) were represented.

The tools chosen for the workshop were Jclic and HotPotatoes – both are software written in Java and allow the creation of simple educational games such as multiple choice quizzes, puzzles, riddles or association games. One of the main reasons for the selection is that they are both localized into Spanish – a requirement which is essential as, although taught at school, English is not understood by many in Bolivia.

The first day was aimed at teaching the basics of Jclic. Teachers quickly learned how to create an empty project, fill the media gallery and soon started to create their first rompecabeza (“break your head” – a Puzzle) or association games using sound, (moving) images and text. With the teacher’s computer skills varying from being able to manage a variety of software applications until just learning to hit the right spot when clicking the mouse, the instructor, Ronald, did a good job in adapting its explanations accordingly.

On the following day, HotPotatoes was introduced in order to give the teachers the opportunity to select their favourite tool. Both applications are available across platforms, allow multimedia integration and have a functionality to combine exercises to a teaching module, thereby defining secuence of exercises and levels of difficulty.
 

  JClic HotPotatoes
Licence GNU Lesser General Public Licence Freeware, support for paid licences ended August 2009
Types of exercises 16 different types:

Associations

Memory games

Text exercises: displaying, fill the gap, identify/sort elements, Jumbled word exercise

Cross word puzzle

Multiple choice

Short-answer

Jumbled-sentence

Crossword

Matching/ordering

Gap-fill exercises

Export Saving is only possible in the .jclic.zip format.

HTML code can be created to embed the file in a website calling the jclic java applet

HTML-page

SCORM (Learning Management System standard)

Zip-file

After taking the seminar, the teachers came to the conclusion that they preferred using Jclic for usability reasons. HotPotatoes, they found, required many more steps to accomplish a certain function than does Jclic. They complained that HotPotatoes offered less exercise types and lacked behind Jclic both, usability-wise as well as graphic-wise. Integrating multimedia – something all teachers were very eager to learn about – seemed easier to accomplish in Jclic as well as it comes with a media library concept where all media resources are stored and can be reused across different projects. However, for creating crossword puzzles, HotPotatoes was by far easier to use.

Profesor Walter, a teacher from the municipy of Challapata, had already attended a seminar on Jclic and came for the HotPotatoe extension. He has succesfully integrated Jclic in his mathematics lessons and finds that students are having more fun learning with the computer and ironically remarks that they often listen better to the machine than to the teacher.

Meanwhile, the challenge remains: how can you succesfully and efficiently capacitate teachers with poor computer literacy in a content production software obtaining high-quality pedagogic results at the same time? How can a technology-driven result be avoided? Couldn’t the games produced be played just as well with paper and pencil?

The answer is probably complex: on the one hand, technology should never be applied as a goal in itself but rather as a means to an end. On the other, the goal of the Educatic project is to integrate ICT in the school curriculum and to enrich classroom activities. Therefore, the quality of the project outcome should probably not only be measured by the quality of the content produced, but also by the skills as well as the motivation to understand acquired by teachers and students alike. What is more, I believe that each student who has begun to understood and gained interest in the vast potentials that offer ICTs is worth the effort. Soon, this student will have understood the “secrets” behind much better than his teacher. And be it for having played a crossword puzzle in his maths class.

Anne Schanz studied International Information Management at the University of Hildesheim, Germany. In her master’s thesis “Web-based communication in an intercultural learning project – analysis and development potentials of the Global Teenager Project” she investigated the effectiveness of use of online communication software within the GTP and analysed data from 258 participants in 11 countries. http://anneschanz.de/blog/tag/ict4d.

Read more about the 'ICT in Primary and Secondary Education' project which Educatic executes and IICD supports.

Location

Oruro, Bolivia
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