Friday, February 26, 2010

Attention is a River: Part 17

River I had an interesting discussion yesterday afternoon with the students on the final year module I'm teaching. In addition to lectures, tutorials, online notes and all the materials on the VLE, I've been drip feeding them extra virology tidbits relevant to the lecture topics via the virology tag on MicrobiologyBytes and the MicrobiologyBytes Facebook page.

Or at least, I thought I had.

To make life easier for them, I put a link to these sites in the VLE sidebar from the course site. In class, we had a chat about Blackboard discussion boards - Do you use them on any of your modules? - No. How many of you have looked at the MicrobiologyBytes links? One.

Why not? Probably a number of reasons, but the basic one being - it didn't command their attention. Discussion, feedback, reading - all the good stuff in education - doesn't happen via links in the sidebar. It only happens when those activities take place in the river of attention. There is no learning in the silted up oxbow lakes on Blackboard. That's why the river design of Friendfeed is so powerful, and why I'm disappointed with the information puddles on BuddyPress and Ning. Of course, if you're used to splashing around in the shallow end, navigating a wide river of information is scary at first. When we talk about these things, most people say to me, I don't get Friendfeed. Neither did I , for a long time. That's where educational design comes in, and what we're currently working on.