Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Different Kinds of Learning

At the moment, Tracey and I are doing a 3-day training course on e-learning - all about the basics of constructing online units of study, plus the whizz-bang software that creates the fancy extras. Yesterday we had 6+ hours of "chalk and talk" - where someone stood up the front and talked. And talked. And talked. With Powerpoints instead of chalk and blackboard. We were brain-dead by the time we finished. And then we both had to go and teach classes afterwards, but for me, the opportunity to actually DO something was a great contrast.

If nothing else, yesterday was a good lesson in what not to do, in how awful it is for our students if we talk and talk and give them nothing to do, and funnily enough, it was also a good example of how not to construct an online course (i.e. lots of reading but no interaction or activities).
Today, we have been learning how to use a program called Captivate (I now can see how shaky my hand is on the mouse!) and Photostory. But I think you still have to be careful that you're not creating stuff that is like television - just sit and watch. We all know how much TV puts you to sleep!
It's still all about involvement and engagement.

A bit like a novel really. It's very easy, with all those words, to rabbit on and on, to get carried away with the way your keyboard just keeps on putting those wonderful words on the screen for you. But what about the reader? I've put a heavy emphasis this year on reader engagement, because my students are writing YA novels. Much of writing YA, to me, is about point of view, about being right inside the character's head, feelings, emotions and reasoning. Often writers unintentionally distance the reader because they're still inside their own heads (as authors) rather than the viewpoint character's.

Part of this is voice. We watched a video on Monday about John Marsden, who is still probably Australia's best-known YA writer. He said that no matter how much of the plot he had worked out, how much he'd created with setting and theme, he couldn't start writing the novel until he heard the voice of the viewpoint character/narrator in his head.
For a reader, feeling as if the character is actually talking to you (via the novel) can be totally engaging, when done well.
Maybe I need to create a narrator for my online unit... a persona... a voice...

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