"Healthy Eating" in the Learning Designer

The Learning Designer is a community knowledge building tool that supports teachers in creating, modifying, finding, sharing and re-using learning designs (such as ‘lesson plans’). The software environment can automatically interpret users’ actions, because their design activities use formal learning concepts, such as Bloom's taxonomy of learning outcomes, and types of learning, i.e. through discussion, inquiry, practice, etc. This is underpinned by semantic technologies, which enable users to create computational artefacts whose properties are interpretable by the software. This means the tool is able to provide visual analytics, in the form of pie-charts, which represent the character of the designed learning experience. The designs and resources are further supported by intelligent recommendations using the community knowledge. The finished design can then be output to a document template, or uploaded to a common file for colleagues to import and adapt to their own teaching context.

The aim of the tool is therefore to support the teaching community in collaborating on how to design and express their good pedagogic ideas, especially on how to use technology enhanced learning (TEL) to improve their learners’ experience.

The Learning Designer provides:
  • an adaptive drag-and-drop timeline interface for planning conventional and/or technology-based learning;
  • a set of teaching-learning activities (TLAs) with customisable pedagogical properties defined in terms of the type of learning experience they provide, that can be dragged onto the planning timeline;
  • a set of existing pedagogical patterns for different learning outcomes that can be adopted and adapted by the teacher for their own context;
  • guidance on good practice that is related to their design, e.g. how to introduce TEL, or the alternative TLAs they could consider using;
  • a pedagogic knowledge base and semantic web environment that offers alternative context-aware ideas on alternative learning designs;
  • based on the teacher’s current design, an analysis of how the learner’s time is spent on different types of learning, and how much teacher time this will require – enabling them to experiment and see the effects of different blends of teaching and learning activities;
  • an option to export their learning design to a structured, editable document for sharing with colleagues and students;
  • a storage site for sharing designs with other tutors at the planning stage, or with students for comment, or for public use, depending on permissions set.

We created a learning design based on the ‘Inquiry into healthy eating’ session, which used the NQuire toolkit. Taking the basic idea for each stage from the NQuire website we created a sequence of 'teaching-learning activities' (TLAs), for a Block of sessions that began as a classroom activity, then moved to individual inquiry activities in the home, and then returned to supervised group activities in class, with learners making use of the NQuire toolkit at each stage.

Putting this sequence into the Learning Designer began with the Properties page, which defines the overall properties of the design (Figure 1).

Figure 1: The Properties page uses text boxes for the teacher-designer to insert their own free text, and drag and drop learning outcomes (categorised in terms of Bloom's Taxonomy) from the palette on the right. These are edited by the user to fit their context.

The detail of the pedagogic features of the learning design is expressed in the Timeline screen, where the user can drag and drop pre-defined TLAs onto the Timeline, and then edit in the specific values for name, group size, duration, activities, etc. in the sections below the Timeline (Figure 2). The width of each TLA corresponds to its duration. The learning experience it is likely to offer is represented by the coloured horizontal bars showing the likely proportion of learning through 'acquisition', 'inquiry', 'discussion', 'practice' or 'production'. The user can edit these predefined properties at the bottom right of the screen.

Figure 2: The Timeline screen shows each TLA represented in order on the Timeline. The highlighted 'Individual project' activity, lasts 3 hours, and uses the NQuire toolkit. The learning experience includes some 'acquisition', more 'inquiry', a lot of 'practice' and some 'production', given the nature of an individual project.

Because the software has information about the properties of each TLA it can offer suggestions (bottom left) for alternative ideas for the one highlighted – in this case it is suggesting that each learner might keep a blog of their project development.

At any stage the user can check the Learning Designer's analysis of their design, which is shown in Figure 3, in terms of the overall proportions of types of learning afforded by the design so far, and the likely teacher time needed for preparation (depending on whether this is from scratch or reuse) and presentation (contact time).

Figure 3: The Analysis screen provides feedback on the balance of the learning experience designed so far, and on the likely teacher time needed, depending on whether they are designing the activities from scratch, or reusing and adapting existing ones.

The Learning Designer can be downloaded at https://sites.google.com/a/lkl.ac.uk/ldse/