Learning Material Didactics 4

Here, you will find the fourth issue of the journal Learning Material Didactics from October 2010, which is a thematic issue devoted to a presentation of the project User-driven Innovation of Digital Teaching Aids. You can download and read the entire issue, or you can immerse yourself in the individual articles, according to your interest. (All articles are in Danish).


By Marie Falkesgaard Slot, project manager BIDL, and Ove Christensen, consultant EducationLab

Newer, smarter media and tools are invading the schools. Talk of digital learning resources is increasing and for a long time, the internet has been available to teachers and students for searching for information when preparing for teaching or completing tasks. For the various users, one of the challenges is to find out how these new technologies can be meaningfully incorporated into the teaching, so that they support relevant learning goals and support the processes that are part of the school context.

Read full preface

At the same time, it is a major challenge for manufacturers of teaching materials to find out precisely what is required of their products and in which digital teaching materials differ from analogue ones. There are plenty of free digital resources and tools available. But what is required of didactic teaching materials in order for them to better live up to the school’s explicit or implicit requirements – and which the producers can simultaneously produce in a fiscally responsible way?

This edition of Learning Material Didactics is a thematic issue devoted to a presentation of the project User-driven innovation of digital teaching aids. The purpose of the project has been to test questions that arise in connection with the development of digital learning materials. The project description states:

“The aim of the project is to develop and test new methods for user-driven innovation of digital learning materials – including:

• to carry out anthropological field studies of pupils’, teachers’, school librarians’ and educational consultants’ use of digital in order to uncover the users’ recognized and unrecognized needs
• to form an innovation network that can promote systematic collaboration between the publishing industry, distributors, customer field and research field
• to develop model sketches for new prototypes of digital learning materials in regards to “rapid prototyping” in workshops, i.e. rapid testing of model sketches used to articulate unrecognized needs
• to develop market opportunities and business models for user-driven innovation of professionally valid, digital learning materials.
• to spread knowledge about methods for user-driven innovation.  (BIDL 2009)

The realization of some of these goals should appear in the following articles, each of which have been developed with these purposes in mind. Here in the journal, we want to share a number of our observations and reflections with the field of practice we’re contributing to, i.e. students, teachers, school librarians, consultants, school leaders, publishers and others who work with and use learning materials in all shapes and sizes on a daily basis. Many people with different “roles” within the school field have actively contributed to the project with insights and knowledge and by making themselves available for the project.

The project is funded by the Danish Building and Civil Engineering Agency and, as mentioned, aims to provide new business models for the creation of digital learning materials, which are increasingly addressed and negotiated in a global learning materials market. This reinforces the need to test models that work in practice and in turn help publishers develop their business by developing useful digital learning tools that make a difference in the school.

The background for the project is that the Danish school system has gradually become equipped with relatively good technological possibilities for using digital materials. And the vast majority of schools have invested in a number of competence development courses, where teachers and resource people have been equipped to navigate in relation to the technical challenges that may be present in connection with the use of technology in pedagogical contexts. But research shows that despite the relatively upgraded “machine park”, the textbook and the copied sheets remain the cornerstone of teachers ‘and librarians’ way of thinking about learning materials – and using them. Therefore, it’s suggested that it is not the technology itself that makes a difference. It is this somewhat paradoxical relationship that the project has dealt with – and tried to intervene in, in order to develop methods that can support user-driven development of digital learning materials that focus on the school’s practice in relation to the use of learning materials.

The users have been at the center all throughout the project. Users are the key players in the use of learning materials, and the development of new digital learning materials must therefore bear the users in mind in the development process. Learning materials do not work in a vacuum but are part of a practice and they will only be used if this is considered meaningful by the users. So, it is not the technology, but the use and the users – the forms of practice – that are crucial in the development of new learning materials. There is no well-proven model for how digital learning materials are included in the school culture, so there is a need for other methods in the development of digital learning materials than by relentlessly transferring experiences – that is why user-driven innovation has been a central aspect of the project. Specifically, the involvement of user groups has meant that the project participants have consisted of teachers, school librarians, educational consultants, consultants from three university colleges and last but not least, three publishers who produce learning materials and have an interest in the development of digital learning materials. Altogether, the group has consisted of about forty people. The project was launched in 2009 and will be completed in mid-March 2011.

And the slightly larger perspective

When you look at what kind of knowledge has been developed, a number of interesting suggestions emerge on how learning materials and learning material development in primary school can be viewed from three different angles, which are also covered by the following articles:

1. students ‘and teachers’ use of digital learning materials: teaching
2. teaching processes 
3. school management

In the project, we have used a number of methodological approaches: anthropological methods, action research methods, cultural theoretical methods and so on. On our website, there is a number of video clips that document the empirical findings we have made – and which show how students and teachers work with learning materials. Two of the articles in this issue cover the methodological work of the project. In addition to these, there is a number of meta-perspectives that extend beyond these three levels. These are not presented in the following articles, but we will return to them in connection with the final reporting of the project at a conference on March 10th 2010.

Finally, we have also worked with business models for publishers who are challenged by the digital development which we have also seen in the music and film industry.

The articles

The articles all relate to the purposes stated in the Project Description. Margit Anne Petersen and Rikke Ulk reflect on the use of anthropological field studies. The aim of the study was to establish a “different view” of everyday school life other than the pedagogical, didactic and professional lense through which the school’s practice is usually seen. Among other things, the article presents a typology of how different users use and relate to new digital learning materials and the potentials within them. The anthropological study also shows that it is possible to give clear and simple suggestions on how digital learning materials can be designed beneficially.

Else Marie Okkels and Vinnie Lerche Christensen concretize in the article Motivation and learning in the digital space, how the teacher’s and especially the students’ work with digital learning resources can act as a motivating factor when it contains elements of aesthetic learning.

In the article Processes in teaching, Jeppe Bundsgaard and Thomas Illum Hansen analyze teaching processes in order to gain a greater insight into how more complex teaching situations can be analyzed and understood. The analysis proposes the development of digital tools for use in the planning of teaching – digital tools that have been developed based on the teachers’ specific needs.

Ove Christensen and René B. Christiansen’s main point in the article Leadership and teaching aids is that school leaders are important actors when it comes to integrating digital learning materials in school culture – and that leaders see technology and development of the learning materials area as a significant driving force for school development. The leaders also see digital learning materials as a lever for differentiated use of learning materials based on the teachers’ diversity.

Finally, in the article User-driven innovation of digital teaching aids – between genetics and complexity, Henrik Helms and Maja Klausen give an overview of the different innovation methods that the project has used. Among other things, the authors define and discuss what using a user-driven perspective encompasses. The article describes several sub-processes, and it becomes clear which processes and methodological measures the project has used and helped to develop.

Finally, in the journal, we bring a review of Didaktik 2.0 by Nina Dohnerup Dohn. The anthology is edited by Karsten Gynther and has contributions from a number of consultants from Læremiddel.dk who have participated in the BIDL project.

In the next issue of learning material didactics, another Læremiddel.dk publication is announced, namely Jens Jørgen Hansen’s book Læremiddellandskabet, Akademisk Forlag 2010.

Marie Falkesgaard Slot,
Project manager BIDL

Ove Christensen,
Consultant EducationLab

October 2010