We Design for Digital Literacy

In the Spring of 2013, we had the opportunity to work with Erica Halverson and T.J. Kalaitzidis at the UW-Madison Curriculum & Instruction department. We launched our first iteration of exploring how mobile technologies propel design-based learning activities. This took place during a six-week project focused on building and understanding digital media literacies. Students designed and developed their own mobile experiences using the ARIS platform. This course was structured with a one-hour graduate section, a one-hour undergraduate section, and two-hour combined workshop section, all happening back-to-back.

There were several goals of this course. First, to analyze and evaluate how digital mediums have changed notions of learning and literacy. Next, to understand affordances and constraints of digital mediums for representation, and apply those understandings in creating digital artifacts. We also hoped to be able to make appropriate design decisions and critically reflect upon the creative process and product. Finally we wanted to learn to work in deep collaboration with colleagues to achieve and advance productive ends.

“We didn’t have them take tests, we had them take on the role and discourse of designers”

We learned a great deal from this pilot study. Using a designed based research approach, a curricular design that facilitates this student activity was used and researched in the course context. In our team noticed opportunities to improve a number of curricular elements:

  • Reconcile student design visions with the affordances of the tool early in the process.
  • Prototype with non-digital media
  • Spread technical training throughout the activity for just-in-time learning of the tool.
  • Perform small warm-up design activities
  • Leverage the many communities the students have access to: Each other, Local technical support, the ARIS online communities, etc.
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