Classroom-centered Design: Minimizing the "Newness"

Using new technologies in the classroom requires at least three different kinds of newness: There’s the newness of the technology itself— how do you use the software? There may be newness in the classroom dynamics— perhaps students are working a computer lab, or in small groups. And there will likely be newness of ideas and concepts, because the technology is helping you pursue new aspects of learning. Helping teachers experiment with new technologies requires limiting the newness, so that there are fewer uncertain variables.

For example, consider the use of structured student worksheets. While they may not be ideal tools in terms of promoting student-guided inquiry, they are nonetheless useful stepping stones for teachers and students. They can provide students with step-by-step guidance with the software, and they can free teachers to focus on helping students with new concepts or instructional dynamics. Similarly, introducing a new technology alongside a familar concept can reduce the burden on students and allow them to focus on the novel technical aspects of the activity. I’ve discussed these and other examples at greater length, in my interview with Intel Education.

As with any other form of scaffolding, the structure is temporary. With time, as students and teachers grow accustomed to the new skills, concepts, and/or dynamics, the supports are no longer necessary.

Classroom-centered design asks us to consider the complete setting in which educational tools exist. Designers of classroom technologies need to consider the range of factors that impact the use of classroom technologies, the challenges they pose, and strategies for supporting these challenges in ways that allow practitioners to focus their attention on one or two “new” things at a time. Doing so makes classroom experimentation a more tentable option for teachers.

posted November 15, 2005 by matt

View comment:

I wonder if it might be more precise to say "unfamiliarity" as a more specific aspect of "newness". "Newness" as "novelty" isn't necessarily a problem per se, it may even be motivating. But when there are too many unfamiliar things introduced, the challenge of overcoming all of the unfamiliar might be overwhelming.
ben () - 16 11 05 - 00:10

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