The Learning Olympics

February 17, 2010 at 10:46 pm Leave a comment

So, in my Russian class (grade 8 & 9 combined), to practice our compositional, research, and speaking skills, and to incorporate a bit of current events, we’re following and report on the Olympic success of four nations: the USA, Canada (of course), Russia, and Germany.

The assignment involved using a template (combination of blank spots and pre-written dialogue) that the students could use to research a successful (i.e. medal winning) Olympian, and report back to class.  To do this successfully the student would need the following information:

  • A country of their choice, one that has at least one medal
  • Find an athlete from said country who has won at least one medal
  • What sport did that athlete win a medal in?
  • What medal (bronze, silver or gold) did that athlete win?
  • When did the athlete win the medal?
  • How many medals did that country win that same day?
  • How many medals does the country have in total?

While I figured this to be an easy task, especially since most students have experience navigating websites – it turned out to be anything but.

We used the www.ctvolympics.ca website, that although very nice to look at, is somewhat complicated to navigate.  I had assumed students, with internet access bascially their entire lives would be able to navigate such a website.  However, it was a avalanche of questions, issues and confusion.  What went wrong?

Although the students have much more time on-line than I do, as an adult, I can say that I have more experience.  I began web browsing prior to the actual world-wide web.  I grew up in an era of poorly designed web-pages and difficult to access information; the web was much less user friendly and far more ethusiast orientated than it is now.

Further, the websites geared at youth, such as FaceBook, MySpace, and YouTube are for the one or two click generation – most students have little idea how to successfully navigate multiple layers of a website – nor interpret the navigation information presented to them on those various layers.

To get to a medal event, required the student to navigate at least three separate webpages, with information presented in various locations and different fashions on each page.  The addition of numerous graphics, colours and advertising resulted in quite a “busy” browsing experience – and possibly overloaded the ability of the youth to interpret these webpages successfully – it was simply too much information!

Compounding this was that I was in a computer lab that did not have an LCD projector – thus I had to verbally describe where the students needed to go on the website, as opposed to actually showing them via an LCD projection of my screen.  Ultimately it was successful, in that they got the assignment completed; however, it relied on my ability to almost individual tutor groups of two or three students on how to navigate the website – a very demanding, and inefficient way of teaching.

As I get used to using online tools along with my face to face classroom, I hope to better pre-analyse and adjust for any potential problems – the biggest one right now is putting myself in the mindspace of a teenager when surfing the web – the abilities I have as an adult, to sift and sort through the junk and info. on the web is not yet developed in these youth – part of my role as an educator using technology is to help them develop the ability to search and sort, successfully, through the abundance of information (and garbage) available on numerous websites today.

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