2.2.1 Learning through Making

Learning through making is quintessentially a project-based approach to education. The approach values practical learning with work aimed at forming a strong connection between the head and the hand. This immersive approach uses intellectual stimulation and physical action to transfer both technical and social skills. Georg Kerschensteiner, one of the leaders of the German Reform Pedagogical Movement, defined “work” in the context of learning as both activity based and goal oriented (Scheibe, 1999).

His definition further separates manual work and intellectual work.

“Properly undertaken, manual work will develop a faculty for logical thought that is applicable to any other kind of activity and can be deepened at a later stage.” (qtd. in Röhrs, 1993)

A project-based methodology embodies both the mental and physical work Kerschensteiner proposed as pedagogically relevant in that learning projects seeks to transfer not a product itself, but rather the process of getting to the result. Although Kerschensteiner did not phrase this methodology as “learning by making”, he did define educational functions of what he termed “work”. Kerschensteiner defined seven relevant functions in this context (Scheibe, 1999):

1. Independence – the motivation to learn on one’s own accord, self-motivated acquisition of knowledge

2. Know-How – knowledge acquired through experience. Both Kerschensteiner and his contemporary, John Dewey, made a distinction between knowledge acquired through experience and knowledge acquired through “learning” (Scheibe, 1999).

3. Social and Technical skills – technical skills can be used in other contexts, separate from the learning situation. The social skills gained through learning by making (or as Kerschensteiner called it “work school”), reflect Kerschensteiner’s four competencies that he believed show strength of character (willpower, the ability to reason, tact and fervor).

4. Overcoming resistance – when learning through making, the project has to suit the learners prior knowledge. A task cannot be too easy, as true learning requires a learner to be dedicated to the task, endeavor to succeed, apply necessary tactics and strategies and have a very real motivation for completing the task at hand.

5. Relevance – the work must be relevant to the learner. If it is not, the learner will not assess herself and thus never improve.

6. Group Work – an element of socialization because group work involves advice, help and support

7. Scaffolding – Kerschensteiner formulated a scaffolding for educational endeavors after winning valuable insight from John Dewey, the so-called “father of project-based learning” (Jank & Meyer, 2005, p. 309).

Both Kerschensteiner and John Dewey defined steps that comprise logical thinking. Although their steps vary slightly (Kerschensteiner collapsed Dewey’s five steps into four), their theoretical outlook on effective inquiry is a relevant aspect to learning by making. The learner must first have a problem, and then she must identify what the problem actually is. The learner considers her problem, which leads to the identification of a possible solution. The hypothesis is elaborated upon to include possible consequences of solving the problem in that form or fashion, and finally, the learner must test the hypothesis (Garrison, 1999). Scaffolding learning material guides a person through the steps of this process at each granular theme or learning objective.

Cultural anthropologists and researchers funded by the MacArthur Foundation‘s Digital Media and Learning Initiative released a new learning model called “Connected Learning” in the first quarter of 2012 (“Researchers Introduce New Model of Learning, Connected Learning,” 2012). This model (see Figure 5) is based on a large body of research and includes Connected Learning principles and core values that compare to Kerschensteiner’s seven relevant functions.

Connected Learning

Figure 5: Connected Learning Model by Connected Learning

These principles state that education in the modern world needs to be:

1. Interest-powered – the researchers state that “learners who are interested in what they are learning, achieve higher order learning outcomes.” (“Connected Learning Principles,” n.d.) This requirement is on par with Kerschensteiner’s function “Relevance”.

2. Peer-supported – This principle is a modern extension of Kerschensteiner’s function “Group Work” as it too has an element of socialization as a required function in learning.

3. Academically oriented – The third principle proposed by the Connected Learning Model aligns closely with Kerschensteiner’s overarching definition of the Work School. Kerschensteiner states that this method is applicable at all levels from simple crafts to academic subjects (Röhrs, 1993).

The Connected Learning model further describes values and design principles for modern education that mirror philosophical ideas and information presented during the Reform Pedagogy and Progressive Education movements.

A connection between the theories circulating at the end of the 19th century and those educational theorists are calling for as a solution to problems existing in the modern educational landscape are not very different from one another. The revival of an interest project-based approach to all educational endeavors is at the heart of the “Learning by making” approach.

2.2.2 Gamification

In his paper “Why Games Work and the Science of Learning,” Murphy (2011) explores the correlation between the tenets of learning and those of game play. Through the exploration of Edward Thorndike‘s basic laws of learning (and their extension by other psychologists and pedagogues), Murphy found that the reason games work in learning is because gaming applies the same laws that improve learning. Murphy concludes that the actions in gaming and the laws that Thorndike defined as the basic laws of learning are “almost exactly the reasons why games work” (Murphy, 2011).

In his conclusion, Murphy (2011) goes on to say,

“Game design and instructional design are fundamentally just two ways of looking at the same problem.”

Considerations such as motivation, practice and intensity are important in the development of both learning materials and game play, therefore it makes sense to inject game mechanics into learning material to increase not only retention of taught information, but the desire to learn in the first place.

It is important to understand that implementing game mechanics in learning materials does not necessarily mean creating a full fledged game. It means using certain game-like qualities to change the way that people interact with a particular piece of content, thereby increasing motivation. Using game mechanics in learning can increase motivation to learn, support the need and desire for feedback, increase the learners practice habits, give positive emotional support, create immersive and intense learning experiences and give the learner agency over his or her own educational endeavors. Additionally, from the institutional point of view, implementing certain game mechanics allows for a systemic approach to evaluation of content and programs.

In essence, learning materials and their didactic structures in this educational concept are designed to have what game designers call “Flow”. This term was coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1990) and refers to

“the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”(Csikszentmihalyi)

There are many different game mechanics, which fall into three overarching mechanic types. The first, “behavioral game mechanics,” focus on the human psyche. These mechanics use cognitive and emotional motivations to win external motivations (such as points, levels, etc). The second type, “feedback game mechanics,” are those games that complete feedback loops (in which the player does something, something happens, player receives feedback, with the learned information the player does something else). Progression game mechanics are those that create a structure for gradually displaying progress. (Gamification.org, 2011)

The most valuable game mechanics to work into open web or open source projects and learning materials are:

1. Cards/Tokens/Points – “points” doesn’t necessarily mean “points,” it is more a tally of what a user has done. Anything that a user can collect can be considered “points”. This educational concept uses badges, which can also be considered a kind of point system.

2. Levels – the more “points” a player receives, the more “levels” the player advances. This is implemented by making certain actions impossible until a user has a certain number of points. It means that the “level up” leads to the unlocking of content. Levels will make a user curious, and curiosity is enough motivation to keep a person involved. In an educational concept, “levels” is analogous to the scaffolding of a particular program.

3. Status – is the ability to show other people what the player has accomplished and receive positive feedback for those accomplishments. This functions most succinctly by giving people a title based on how many levels they’ve achieved. This is quite common on the World Wide Web. On many forums, wikis and blogs trusted contributors are called “gurus”, or a similar term denoting influence, and new contributors are called “newbies”, to denote a certain lack of experience.

4. Rewards/Prizes – Extrinsic motivation is a big factor in participation whether it be in gameplay or learning or politics. Being able to offer something increases participation. Figuring out what one has to offer, beyond learning and self-improvement, is the tricky part. Completion of a learning module may lead to notoriety, publicity or material goods, while participating at a learning event leads to a stronger professional network or free food.

Of these four mechanics, the assessment mechanism used in this concept, badges, falls into each mechanic. As “points,” it’s clear how badges can be construed as a game mechanic. Badges are also levels given that a learner cannot earn an advanced badge before meeting the basic badge requirements. As an indicator of status, and as soon as badges are able to be used as real world proof of accomplishment, the reward aspect will be obvious as the badge as proof of skill accomplishment can be used to augment resumés, thereby helping a learner display applicable skills useful for employment.

Human beings are naturally competitive, so the challenge is to create learning opportunities that embed competitions, contests or tasks that aren’t just about winning, but also “playing the game” (e.g., learning). The best way to have mass participation and therefore an onslaught of learning, is to allow multiple “winners”.

Tiered winning is a great way to get repeat participation. An excellent example of this was run last year as part of the Open News project. Round One was an open call for entries, 60 “prizes” were available to win. This round had open feedback from the community at large, and participants were rewarded with feedback. The prize for Round One was a spot in a summer learning lab that boasted excellent technology and journalism keynote speakers, collaborative creation and access to an extremely intelligent group of people. Round Two was a prize AND a competition. Round Three was a learning by making event in Berlin, this was the prize for Round Two winners, and it too was attached to a competition. The winners of Round Two received a free trip to Berlin and were pitted against each other for the grand prize of winning a yearlong fellowship within a news organization.

The genius behind this structure lies within game mechanics. Through their participation, people are offered real world experiences and contacts, creating a bubble of trust and clear motivations, and inspiring further participation. In those real world experiences, the participants gained a variety of skills (i.e., they learned). Those who did not advance were rewarded anyway (in Round One with feedback and exposure, in Round Two with knowledge gained through the learning lab curriculum, in Round Three with a free trip to Berlin). Because they were rewarded, they are more likely to participate in other competitions of this kind.

Which game mechanics to implement and how to implement them is something to be thought about. There are a lot of different types of games, and therefore, a lot of game mechanics. There are different game personality types (“Personality Types and Importance in Gamification”, 2011), so the implementable game mechanics depend on the target audience. Because this educational concept is aimed at a wide target audience, the game mechanics used vary.

The refocusing various efforts to work together rather than in an autonomous matter combine the elements that make for a great gaming experience. Turning educational initiatives into a series of interconnected “games” encourages more participation, which means more people increase their web literacy level.

2.2.3 Blended Learning

The US Department of Education (DOE) has published extensive research on the effectiveness of blended learning as compared to purely face-to-face instruction or purely distance based (i.e. Online) instruction. Through a systematic search of empirical evidence on the effectiveness of E-Learning and a meta-analysis of this evidence, the DOE (Means et al., 2010) determined that:

“In recent experimental and quasi-experimental studies contrasting blends of online and face-to-face instruction with conventional face-to-face classes, blended instruction has been more effective, providing a rationale for the effort required to design and implement blended approaches. When used by itself, online learning appears to be as effective as conventional classroom instruction, but not more so.” (p. xviii)

Thus, it can be said that a blended learning approach to educating adults in the target group on web literacies would be a more effective approach than a purely offline or purely online concept.

Figure 6: This figure illustrates the specific nuances of the Webmaker initiative on each of the four levels where blended-learning can occur.

Blended learning has been defined many times, but most definitions are simply variations on three common themes. Blended learning combines a variety of delivery methods and a variety of media, and it combines face-to-face instruction with online instruction. Since all learning situations involving web literacies combine multiple instructional methods and multiple types of media, blended learning is simply the combination of online and offline educational engagement (Graham & Bonk, C.J., 2006). “Educational engagement” in this context is defined not only through the learning situation itself, but through the production of the educational programming and materials. This is the definition of “blended learning” used for the purposes of this thesis.

Four levels are described by Graham and Bonk (2006) at which blends can occur (see Figure 6). They identified blends occurring at the activity level, course level, program level and institutional level. For the purposes of this educational concept, the levels are defined as:

1. The Activity Level – Encompasses the learning activities for skills relating to the didactical micro-model. The learning activities involve a granular outline of skills relating to each of the five sections outlined in Defining Web Literacies (Chapter 1.6.1) and further defined through the Course level.

2. The Course Level – Encompasses at least one of the five sections outlined and further defined through the program level.

3. The Program Level – Encompasses the interest based program outlined in Chapter 1.3. This level will determine other valuable skills relating to the individual interest.

4. The Institutional Level – Encompasses the organization responsible for both the creation and implementation of the learning program. This level will almost certainly always be blended, as the educational concept proposes that using an open ethos leads to better curriculum through the collaboration of a variety of stakeholders.

Creating a concept that varies in blending aspects on all four levels will create a fluid model that is effective for each and every learner, regardless of uncontrollable variables such as socio-economic situation or profession. Additionally, such a model is extremely efficient at the institutional level, as blending at this level implies cross organizational cooperation.

Figure 7: Budral Khan’s Octagonal Framework

Several attempts at a cohesive framework for a blended learning approach have been made, and, as with the definition of “blended learning,” these attempts reflect similar concepts. This thesis applies Badrul Khan’s Octagonal Framework (Khan, n.d.), a widely used and accepted conceptual framework, for creating a meaningful E-learning environment with eight dimensions (see Figure 7). When each of these eight dimensions is considered in a concept, the learning program creates a meaningful learning experience (Singh, 2003).

1. Institutional – This dimension references the organizations ability to adequately address issues concerning learners.

2. Pedagogical – The combination of content, target audience and learning objectives into an appropriate strategy for delivery.

3. Technological – Addresses the need for suitable tools and systems to deliver a blend of content and resources. This dimension is also concerned with the technical requirements of those tools.

4. Interface Design – The interface needs to be designed in a way that supports usability for a learner. This means creating a space where the learner can switch back and forth between content types as well as delivery methods.

5. Evaluation – No program is complete without the ability to measure and judge effectiveness of the program.

6. Management – This dimension takes into account the issues of managing a blended learning program. Because such a program is more complicated than a linear program, the management dimension addresses the delivery of multiple content types and the logistical issues that may arise.

7. Resource Support – Aside from the learning content, learners need a variety of online and offline resources organized for their use. This dimension also deals with the need for actual support from a counselor or tutor.

8. Ethical – Developing a blended learning program takes accessibility into consideration. The ethical dimension deals with issues like cultural diversity and localization. (Singh, 2003)

2.2.4 Combining Methodologies

To combine learning through making with gamification in a blended learning environment, it is important to consider the eight dimensions of Khan’s Octagonal Framework on each of the four levels on which blending occurs. Then consider the relevant functions of project based work as Kerschensteiner described and as the Connect Learning Model further underlines. Adding game mechanics in the curriculum supports these functions. The result is a functional blended learning program that uses gamification in the curriculum.

In essence, the blended learning curricula created for each interest group outlined in Chapter 1.3 are forms of baseline curriculum that allow for Mass Customization as outlined by Schickentanz (2005). In this concept, the baseline curriculum is used to train the target group to run a modified version of the same curriculum in their own classrooms or organizations. This allows the content creators (Mozilla and its partners) to iterate on the materials based on feedback from the pilot audience (i.e. the formal and informal instructors). In this way, the concept is product-oriented because the management focuses on improving the product in tandem with the customer (Jank & Meyer, 2005). Data collection is completed through both informal methods as well as a formal survey (see Chapter 2.4). The instructors become co-designers of the materials, and those materials are modularized. Instructors can change the order of the lessons and the activities and develop courses or lessons that are suitable for their own target audiences. In addition, because the pilot audience has direct communication with the content creators and direct influence on the content itself, the learning materials can be both customized and personalized to suit the expertise of the individual instructors. This process leads to a stable, yet flexible relationship between the content creators and the educators that use the materials (Tseng & Piller, 2003).

The first sessions of a course are run for informal and formal educators. Once these educators have completed the project(s) and activities, they have the necessary web literacy skills to turn around and teach the course to their own learners.

The Mozilla Popcorn program intends to provide a course entitled “Introduction to Web Native Filmmaking”. This course is the first in a series of film and media related courses run through the Popcorn program and is used as an example for the implementation of the concept covered in this thesis. The goal of the “Introduction to Web Native Filmmaking” is to help learners plan and develop a collaborative web native film project and think critically about the subjects and topics they choose to approach. Learners will learn how to work together to solve problems in both digital and real-world environments. Web literacy skills are presented and developed and learners will develop a base understanding of terms and processes used in Webmaking. At the end of the course, learners should know a variety of collaborative tools that they can use to express themselves on any topic, academic or other.

Although this concept outlines the example course as a six week course, the face to face sessions of the course can also be provided in a single day over a seven or eight hour period.

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