A Window on Your Educational Soul

June 20th, 2012 by Dan Barstow

Music playlists are windows to the soul (or so the general wisdom goes). Your taste in music, including your personal favorites, reveals much about your personality, your lifestyle and your values. So too your favorite websites.

Do you bookmark your favorite websites in categories or sequence the most important ones first? Have hundreds of favorites? Or a top ten list? However you manage them, your Web, music and other playlists are an essential part of keeping your technical life efficient and effective.

Such a “playlist mentality” is becoming increasingly clear in education. And the teachers we’ve interviewed have requested personal playlists of Molecular Workbench activities and models.

Needless to say, each teacher has his or her own style of teaching, manifested in how they use MW. Some use it mostly for classroom demos, others focus more on direct student use. Some use MW just a few times during the year, others almost weekly. Some use it during class time, others assign MW activities for homework.

Teachers also vary in how they sequence topics during the year. One chemistry teacher might teach organic chemistry late in the year as a synthesis while another might teach it earlier as a way to whet the appetite and spark questions.

The MW development team confronted this diversity challenge (and opportunity) early on. It was clear we could not create, for example, a single master flow of MW activities for high school chemistry. Instead, we need to support differences among teachers by providing a rich variety of activities. Teachers can select, adapt and integrate models and activities into their own style and classroom flow.

As we’ve been documenting in videos and articles, we are now creating a Web-based Molecular Workbench system, which will give teachers more flexibility in how they select and sequence the activities. At the simplest level, they’ll be able to use standard browser tools to bookmark their favorites, organizing them in whatever flow they want. And our teacher interviews have pushed us even further in thinking about design.

Our goal is to include the ability for teachers to store personal MW playlists – with even more information than you get in a bookmark, such as level of difficulty and duration of activity. Teachers will be able to provide playlists to students or share them with colleagues.

We still have to work out the details, but we’ve heard from teachers and high on their wish list is a personal playlist with lots of flexibility to meet their needs and style. That’s the best way to make sure MW is effective and widely used!

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