The Learning Element

Teachers use the Learning Element online tool to create their learning designs, ‘marking up’ the activities they select with the Knowledge Processes.

There are two aspects to documentation using the Learning Element: a prospective aspect (planning, before you teach) and retrospective aspect (rewriting after you teach, and saving best practices to a knowledge bank).

This is the overall architecture of the Learning Element:

  1. Learning Focus: curriculum area and learning level.
  2. Knowledge Objectives: intended learning outcomes and links to mandated standards.
  3. Knowledge Processes: activities, marked up for the ‘kind of knowledge making’ required of the learner (below), sequenced appropriately and with a range that accommodates learner diversity.
  4. Knowledge Outcomes: assessment processes: formative and summative.
  5. Learning Pathways: recommended follow-on activities such as other Learning Elements.

The Learning Element also has two sides: one side that speaks in the language of teacher-professional talk (so learning designs can be shared with colleagues), and the other side that speaks directly to learners in the language of the classroom (so learners can access a Learning Element and take a relatively autonomous role in their learning):

  1. The Teacher Resource Space: a curriculum and lesson planning environment, a scaffold for designing learning processes. Here, learning designs are created using the professional language of education: framing objectives, developing and sequencing activities and devising assessment. The Learning Element brings learning design into a twenty-first century web environment. It provides enormous ‘social networking’ capacities to share plans with colleagues, be they an individual colleague, the members of a division in the school, or a professional grouping extending beyond the school. Teachers are able to share Learning Elements with colleagues in their own institution and beyond, and discover re-useable Learning Elements via variables such as grade level, discipline area and topic. They are also able to adapt and rewrite others’ Learning Elements, giving due credit to the previous authors of a rewritten text.
  2. The Learner Resource Space: a place where curriculum content can be assembled by teachers for delivery to students, directly paralleling the Teacher Resource space. Here, the learning designs are translated into the language of the classroom, allowing autonomous and asynchronous (in addition to directed and synchronous) access by individual learners or groups of learners. This content may consist of a wide variety of sources, including original material written by teachers, links to web-based material, embedded multimedia content, scans of excerpts from conventional print texts, etc.

Side-by-Side Rendering of Teacher and Learner Resource: The Opening Screens of an Early Literacy Learning Element

Example of a Learning Activity in the ‘Being a TV Presenter’ Learning Element

The Online Learning Element Design Space: A Screengrab

Using the Learning Element:

  1. Brings the processes of documenting learning into the world of today’s ‘Web 2.0’ online media. This has many intrinsic advantages including ease of use, low cost, but perhaps most importantly the potential accessibility of content to colleagues, learners and interested parties in learning communities, such as parents. With accessibility comes transparency, opening access to whatever degree is determined by an individual teacher or a school. For instance, teachers may choose to open up their processes so other teachers can know what their learners have learned; learners can see where they have come from and where they are going; and parents can see what learners are learning.
  2. Places an emphasis on the teacher as learning designer, rather than their historic role as a curriculum implementer and a conduit of syllabus and textbook. It also frames the school as a knowledge producing community. For instance, the Learning Element will allow teachers to create grounded, localised versions of environmental studies, social studies or historical studies.
  3. Caters to learner diversity, allowing for multiple individualized or small group learning paths drawing from the bank of online-accessible lessons in a teacher’s own Learning Element portfolio or assigned by a teacher from the broader, consolidated bank of Learning Elements. It also encourages the creation of content that is directly relevant to local communities.
  4. Creates new efficiencies in a context where more is expected of our education system and resources need to be used wisely. Teachers reinvent similar wheels daily in their lesson plans and in the oral discourse of their classrooms. The Learning Element asks teachers to commit their learning designs to the digital record. This is more work, in the first instance, than a conventional lesson plan. For this reason, teachers would only document their best designs. However, access to others’ designs creates enormous efficiencies—a teacher in the same school may create a Learning Element of great local relevance, or a teacher in another school may create an excellent or highly rated learning design that another teacher wants to rewrite or adapt to local conditions.
  5. Fosters a culture of professional collaboration. The Learning Element supports joint authorship and team teaching. It encourages teachers to share their greatest curricular successes and most powerful professional insights. It is accompanied by the choice of either a conventional copyright or Creative Commons license, framed to encourage rewriting and adaptation of Learning Elements by acknowledging both original sources and new contributions to the text.
  6. Enables ongoing evaluation, accountability and reporting. The Learning Element allows teachers to make close links into curriculum frameworks and standards, literally with hyperlinks if these are online, or by citing the standards in the Knowledge Objectives area. It also provides a Learning Outcomes space for continuous, formative and summative assessment of student learning.

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