Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Framework for Online Family LIfe Education

About 15 years ago I wrote a paper describing a framework for effective family life education. The focus of this work was developing effective print and F2F workshops. In the paper I described ways to work from content through teaching strategies to community implementation and finally evaluation.

As I reflect today on this work, most of it still seems relevant and important for new practitioners who are interested in teaching parents and families about issues related to relationships, parenting and so forth.

However, as I think about the online versions of family life education, particularly in view of the Web 2.0 tools, there are some important additional skills and knowledge that need to be added. In a separate post I have described the basic software tools and skills, in this message I want to describe the skills and knowledge that need to go with the software tools.

Online Family Life Education Skills and knowledge

Writing for online reading. Although good writing is good writing, writing for the online reading is somewhat different. It is like news writing in that the lead sentence is critical to capturing the reader’s attention, but effective online writing includes shorter sentences, paragraphs, more headings and so forth.

Learning 2.0 design. None of us knows exactly what we mean by “learning 2.0, “ but fundamentally it is about interactive and participatory design. My own suggestion is that we create microlearning activities such as questions and answers, problems to solve, surveys that invite opinions, short quizzes that test knowledge and so forth.

Social network design. If the first killer app was email, then the second killer app was social networking websites (eg., myspace, facebook , etc.) In both cases the common denominator was “social interaction.” This interest in social interaction provides a platform for family life educators to create social participatory activities around issues of family life. I think we need to pose interesting questions and describe interesting examples that invite comment and discussion. Also, we need to have people who have skills at encouraging interaction and discussion. We need to find ways for people to share their experiences, insights and challenges.

Strategic learning design. Most of what we will do in creating learning 2.0 and social network opportunities will be wrong and won’t work. The only way to improve this work is to create feedback loops by monitoring what engages people and improving our designs over time. Failing to learn how to get feedback and learn as we create educational materials would be a big mistake.

Collaborative design. Effective educational design in a learning 2.0 world requires that we are skilled in working with others to create the educational materials and the learning environment. It requires us to be collaborative designers and instructors. Collaboration is hard and often it is a slow process of persuading people to move in a common direction. Yet when it works it is powerful The most obvious example is Wikipedia. Here is great collaborative design. What would collaborative design in family life education look like? How do we create opportunities for contributions and conversation?

Open Educational Design. Every educators dream is to have a library of resources that can be drawn on to create new instructional products, courses, etc. There are many attempts at this work and it is important to continue to work on this effort, but we don’t yet have any particularly useful models. There are several open resource repositories and there are attempts at creating wiki educational institutions based on the Wikipedia model, but instruction is not the same as a textbook or an encyclopedia. No matter how badly we are doing in regards to open educational design, this is an important area to understand and for family life educators to develop new models.

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