All entries for Friday 30 June 2006
June 30, 2006
Firstly, some definitions:
Of course such convoluted routes are usually circumvented through the use of bookmarks. The user jumps right into the required context, or at least one close enough to it so as to save time. In such cases other tricks are required to speed up the communication of context. In the Sitebuilder web content management system, each sub site (department, research project, sometimes course and sometimes even individual modules) have their own visual design (within the boundaries allowed by Sitebuilder). This design provides instant visual contextualisation. Warwick Blogs, however, is much more flat in terms of context. Each individual blog has its selected design (sometimes customised) and title. All entries are presented in that context. Even pages that represent entries with a single tag vary little in contextualisation. So for example, my Philosophy Research page looks just like my Baby Lawrence O-Toole page.
Thematic navigation may therefore connect content across contexts. This has obvious advantages, in that related content is automatically aggregated together. But more interestingly for learning and teaching, it encourages the end user to view related content from different contexts, and consider the differences between those contexts explicitly. So for example, a topic may appear in the module of a lecturer in Continental Philosophy, and in a module by a lecturer in Analytic Philosophy.
An obvious question to raise at this point is this: surely this could be achieved by the student doing a free–text search of all of the pages (or even the whole web)? Yes, but, if each of the lecturers were to consciously assign themes to their pages from a pre–figured set of themes (possibly even a taxonomical model), and the student were provided with that model as a guide to understanding the course, then they are given clearly specified and consistent concepts for understanding a diverse set of content or activities. This happens to be an important and widely respected pedagogical method. Curricula are in fact often designed as a combination of contextual navigation (modules, lectures, seminars, assessments) and thematics that run across those contexts (skills, concepts, competencies, objectives, values etc). Almost all of the modules that I am asked to look at work in this way. A diverse series of activities is undertaken, which have their own developmental logic. But alongside that diversity, a core set of concepts (often skills) are supposed to be the objective focus of development. However, frequently the problem is that the students and lecturers do not understand the themes, or lose sight of them in the diversity.
My table maps each of the following channels/technologies:
Static web site (Sitebuilder)
Blog, web log, online journal (Warwick Blogs)
Discussion forum (Warwick Forums)
- University wide
- Restricted group
Interview or recording
- Podcast (MP3 recorder, Sitebuilder)
- Online video (Video camera, Sitebuilder)
Against these parameters:
- Owners (in order) – in each case what type of person[s] has ownership of the channel? For example, an individual blog is owned by a single person;
- Broad or narrow cast?– is content aimed at an unspecified wide audience (broadcast) or a known/delimited audience (narrowcast);
- Audiences – who is it typically used for;
- Update pattern – summative or accumulative? Accumulative channels add new content to old (blog), rather than replacing it.
- Visual design – how does the look get determined? How much control do the owners have?
You can download the file from the E-learning at Warwick web site Please feel free to redistribute it as needed.