Thursday, March 6, 2014

Designing Effective Digital Lessons

When designing effective digital lessons and content for education, it is definitely more time consuming than people realize.  Not only do educators have to create the  pedagogy and lesson content, but they have to put in additional time and effort in order to make the digital content attractive.  The layout and design of the website is just as important as the course content itself.  The digital lessons need to be easy to navigate for the students.  

Over the past couple of years, I have had plenty of opportunities to design effective digital lessons for my students.  My first opportunity was to participate in a certification program to become a SMART Technologies Certified Lesson Developer.  I took the lessons that I learned and I applied them to the lessons that I was designing for my second grade students.  There were several students in my class who needed additional time to practice and learn the content that I created.   This was the perfect opportunity to implement a Blended/Online Learning experience.   These students could not keep up with the pace of the class as they needed additional reinforcement in order to master the skills of the curriculum.  I therefore used Google Drive in order to share my lessons with parents.  

This year, I am building a Blended/Online Learning course using Moodle as my platform.  Not only does this entail designing effective lessons, but it is also crucial to design a website that is inviting and attractive to my students.  I want my students to feel welcomed in their online learning environment.  When creating digital content, it is important to use text, icons, tabs, and other cues to communicate specific intentions throughout the lessons and the website.  Second, the website and lessons need to be easy to navigate by including recognizable icons, links, and other interactive elements.  Third, it is beneficial to provide a consistent layout from page to page by considering colors, object placement, fonts, and themes.   

In order to ensure that my lessons are easy to navigate, I make sure to keep the following in mind when creating my digital lessons, content, and website.  The online course design is just as important as the course content itself.  Therefore, it is important that the course design supports and enhances the delivery of my course content.  When planning the website page layout, it is important to consider visual esthetics such as emphasis, color, media quality, and visual simplicity.  Using more than three fonts and more objects than necessary on the page is visually distracting as can be using too many colors and icons.  I need to ensure that the size and position of objects is appropriate for student interaction.  I need my students to focus on the content, as opposed to becoming distracted by it.  

"It's not about the's about the pedagogy these new technologies facilitate." 

To sum it up, here are some best practices that I use as a guide when developing digital content.

1) Consider technology as a means to support pedagogy and the curriculum
       When developing my lessons, I planned to integrate technology to support my curriculum content.  I started with the curriculum content and the learning context first, and then I considered how to use technology to help enhance the lesson design and delivery.  

2) Design my lessons for responsive, student-centered delivery
     When designing my lessons, I always kept in mind all of the available tools to help adapt my instruction according to the changing needs of my students.  We all know that no two students are alike; students learn differently and it is up to us to create lessons that will motivate them to become independent learners.  Creating digital lessons opens up many new doors and possibilities; it is a great way to teach using a multi-sensory approach.  When designing my lessons, I would constantly ask myself whether or not my students would enjoy this, would it challenge them, and would it enhance their learning.  Last but not least, it was important that my lessons included opportunities for formative and summative assessment.  

3) Identify my intentions
    I ensured that I provided lesson instructions and cues for myself, substitute teachers, and students.  Being that students will be using the digital content at home, the instructions must be clear and explicit.  Providing a transparent design concept and organizing my lesson also helped me to base the lesson in good pedagogy.  

If I am excited to view and interact with my online course content, then hopefully my students will be just as excited to interact with it.

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