The fine print: How big?
Experience of making IT based resources in the past has taught me the rule: time spent making > time spent watching.
In the introduction of IT in the classroom though the UK National Curriculum the emphasis was on using lots projector based resources and whiteboards. Assuming the equipment worked as it should do (ie whiteboards attached on the other side of corridor walls that moved slightly due to cracks would always give a interesting experience) which was rare presentations were not as well received as could be owing to concentration span. Government produced framework material guaranteed to cause mental turn off the quickest!
So with the view in mind of the resource rule number one (time spent making > time spent watching) I am looking to try and get in an ideal world a ratio time spent making to time spent watching down quotient of 1. It is very easy to become technology orientated. You can forget that the 10 hours producing a resource may produce a unique technical application of your skills, but if one person sees it for it's 5 minutes duration the impact on overall learning is small. Granted if more people see it then the ratio goes down.
We can modify resource rule 1 for a time efficient resource to be: time spent making < collective time spent watching. Remembering individually tailored learning experiences there may be a degree of temporal separation from the various learners.
Experience of "playing" with Microsoft Reader when it first became available to produce differentiated texts for individual pupils showed IT was a resource hungry dead end. Since then a lot of resources have been supplied if buy the "right " course for the exam board. GCSE dumbing down apart there is a certain amount of recognition that not necessarily do we need to know how to produce the materials but know how to operate them. An analogy is a bit like that photocopier in a school where everybody knows how make a copy but very few know the difference between photocopy safe acetates and ordinary OHP acetates (there are still some OHPs being used). Or even more frequent there are some people know how to change the toner, fill the paper hoppers and clear a jam, while others just cause them by pressing a button!
How large can the resource be and what is the cost? A look at the "Quotas page" suggests there is a 5 GB free allocation for data. This is shared across the appengine applications (courses?) that you generate. The size might sound a lot but could easily be eaten up with a resource rich content. The daily useage quotas may be a little small for a large class with access and email limits if the free resource quota is to be adhered to. A cost estimate would be a useful first step to make in the general planning stage. This is also a good way to limit enthusiasm with the first rule of resources in mind.
A suitable spreadsheet needs to be used to give a cost estimates and run as a financial model. Having had a role with responsibility for resourcing an IT and a Science department budget control is a must as it also can generate time management as well. Traditional lesson planning methodology in classrooms relies on resources being to hand. Busy teachers do not always have time to reinvent the wheel in the non-It literate class room. When I trained PGCE students I used to recommended planning of 20 minutes per hour of teaching when all the resources were available. The what to teach should be there in the planning at the beginning of the of the period of instruction. In among the Google Wiki pages, 30 minutes of content for each chunk of topic per session is given as a guideline. Experience of designing Screen based resources has led me to the conclusion that for every 30 minutes of screen content allow at least a 2 hour planning window for simple content such as PowerPoint or Flash or even effective YouTube presentations. This is something that the various curriculum strategies did not address when we having to be all singing, dancing multi-skilled educators.
So the next blog will be looking a little further at the planning for cost and time budgets for the use of the course builder. After all time is money?