Designing a module-based Set of Summaries to help Students & Teachers
learn about Using Design Method for Problem Solving and Education

by Craig Rusbult, Ph.D.

I.O.U.This page was written in September 2011, and hasn't been revised since October.  But I will revise it again soon, in early-February 2012.  Today you can see the format-and-structure of my website about Using Design Method for Problem Solving and Education, beginning with its homepage.

WHY ?  —  A Problem and a Potential Solution
        My links-page about Ideas for Education begins by explaining a problem and some solutions:  "I'm excited about these ideas, but I realize that other people are busy with other ideas that they find exciting, and things they must do.  Therefore, in addition to the explanations of my ideas in web-pages, there are four shorter versions" plus an I.O.U. for the proposals in this page, for computer-based instruction modules that will let students and teachers "explore freely, learning as much as they want (in 1 minute, 5 minutes, 20 minutes, or more, in whatever time they are willing to invest) about various combinations of ideas."
        Computer-based instruction modules offer practical benefits in three ways:  matching the learning styles of many students;  using less classroom time if modules are assigned as homework;  reducing preparation time for teachers.   {more}

WHAT ?  — 
My Goals for a Satisfactory Solution

        1. CONTENT:   The instruction modules should include descriptions of ideas
  • at different levels, from beginning to advanced, for readers with differing abilities & background experiences,
  • with different lengths, for readers with differing types & amounts of motivation to learn, and differing amounts of time they can invest in learning),
  • for different purposes, either primarily to teach Design Method (at differing levels of a simple-to-complex progression) or to provide support for Design Activities (across a wide range of subject areas & ages,* as in a wide spiral curriculum).     * This range includes Conventional Design (of products, activities, or strategies), Science (for a designing of theories & experiments), and Strategies for Learning plus physical skills such as athletics, musical performance, or language pronunciation.
        The first two factors, levels & lengths, are related yet distinct.  We should provide explanations with different levels and/or lengths, plus illustrative examples and applications that can be explored by readers who are interested, or can be ignored.

        2. NAVIGATION:   On each page, links will show users their options for "where they can go next."  Supplementary sitemaps (of several types) will show "the big picture" and the many possibilities for exploration.    { update in 2012:  As explained in the website's homepage, the main sitemap shows "where where you've been (green links), where you are (red highlighting), and where you can go (blue links)" in your explorations. }

        3. EFFICIENCY:   Currently there is some duplication of ideas in my web-pages, when similar ideas are described in different pages.  This wastes time for a reader.  In constructing a set of modules, I want to minimize this duplication — one goal is to explain each idea once (although with differing levels & lengths) — with a navigation structure that lets readers know “the ideas that are available” and how to find them.
        The current duplication is partly due to design (because some duplication helps to make each web-page a little more self-contained), and also the historical contingency of my writing, because when I began making the current set of web-pages my educational vision was less thoroughly developed than it is now.  But in my continuing development of these ideas — hopefully by working cooperatively with other educators in a productive collaboration — I'll try to aim for logical wholeness on a larger scale, in the entire set of modules.  I think this can be done with a minimum of duplication.

HOW ?  — 
Producing the Modules

       I'm beginning to explore the possibilities offered by Case Scenario / Critical Reader Builder (CSCRB), a software authoring tool with many useful features that include:  a two-frame foundation that lets users see two pages at once, and offers linking-flexibility in organizing the navigation structure both internally (within the set of modules) and externally (to web-pages or media);  content can be offered in frame-pages, pop-up windows, or rollovers.  I think CSCRB will help me achieve the WHAT-goals described above, and I'm looking forward to the process of development.    { update in January 2012:  Although the overall structure of my summary-website was inspired by the format capabilities of CSCRB — its two-frame format, linking flexibility,... — I've decided to develop my website without using CSCRB. }


This appendix contains ideas from late August, in my first version of this page.  You can ignore everything below, which in the future (I'm writing this on October 20) might be revised to bring the ideas up-to-date.

        In writing these "shorter versions," conventional web-pages offer advantages (over print publishing) but they have limitations.  Therefore, I'm beginning a search for ways to use computer programs for instruction that will improve on the advantages of web-pages and be less restricted by their limitations, in a progression from print publishing to web-pages to computerized instruction.
        In the first paragraph, I explain why "I want to develop shorter descriptions of the ideas in this page."  When I wrote this, I was thinking about shorter web-pages, but... since then I've been thinking more about how, although web-pages offer many advantages, they also have limitations.
        the advantages:  Compared with print publishing (in journals or books) that is super-static and is only linear, static web-pages are superior in many ways, because writers can make a short version (2 minutes, 10 minutes,...) and tell readers “if you want to learn more about this, click here.”  And we get color for free.  My web-pages have lots of links, inside each page and to other pages, showing the network of possibilities that readers can explore, and making it easy to explore because a link takes a reader to the proper place, and then they can return to “where they were” by using their back-button.
        the limitations:  Despite their benefits, web-pages are limited for both writers and readers.  After I get a new idea, for example, I think of the many places this new idea could be used, typically in 3 or 4 pages (or page-sections) with different lengths (2 minutes,...) and different perspectives (some focusing on Design Method itself, others on its educational applications,...).  Writing the new idea into all of these places is extra work for me as a writer, and then an interested reader must follow the links from one place to another, and the 3-4 versions will be variations on a common theme so there will be some duplication that is time-wasting for a reader.  Thinking about these limitations has motivated me to search for better ways to use the advantages but avoid some of the limitations.

One possibility for interactivity, especially when modules are used for design activities, is to guide problem-solving activities by using a high-tech version of the progressive count-down clues used for these problems about feathers & coins.

comments:  Below is a wish-list of features that, in August 2011, I wanted to use for interactive computer-based instruction.  Since then I have decided that the features below (#3 and #4) may not exist in current software for writing instruction, so I've decided to focus on what I can do with #1 and #2 (which are included in the WHAT-goals above) by using the CSCRB software.

In making a set of related Instruction Modules, each of which allows interactive choices by a user, here are some features I'd like to have:
        3.  NAVIGATION STRUCTURES that are easy to understand and use, including characteristics from some or all of these:  sitemaps (conventional or visual), menus & submenus (in side-bars, or maybe pull-down menus), and breadcrumb trails.  An ideal format might be a relationally-logical visual sitemap to show funnel-and-fan, branching, idea-clusters,... as in a concept map.  In any of these, and especially in a visual sitemap with history-breadcrumbs, a useful functionality would be to show a reader's location-and-history within the visual sitemap – saying “you are here” – to let a user know “where they are (and have been)” in an overall process of learning, and “where they can go” to help them make decisions that will let them learn what they want, in a more effective way.  Perhaps we can offer alternative structures, including both conventional sitemap and visual sitemap.
        4. EASILY-PRINTED PAGES (both for pop-ups & web-pages) that a reader can download as a word-file, easily print-format (by choosing margins, font size,...), and print.   /   Another feature that would be useful, although I doubt if there is a way to do it, is to let readers easily build do-it-yourself pages for printing.  A reader would select the pop-up windows they want to include, and all of this text (with bold, italics,...) would be combined into a word-file that they can print-format and print.
        In all of these (1,2,3,4), currently I'm just imagining what I want, in general terms.  But I have not yet begun to explore what is possible by using available instruction-designing programs, instead I just have the vague ideas in "HOW" below.  Basically, what I'm doing now is the "brainstorm" phase in a brainstorm-and-edit process of creatively generating ideas and critically evaluating these ideas, in a creative-and-critical process of design.

Ideas for Education