An Update On Professor Garfield

By October 20, 2016Blog, Uncategorized

I wanted to provide an update on the state of the Professor Garfield project since my project team started working on it last spring. 

Professor Garfield was designed to serve as a world leader in the direct, free delivery of innovative and motivational digital learning content with a primary emphasis on children’s literacy and creative expression. However, in recent years, the dialogue about literacy education has evolved. In the information age, digital skills are central to being successful in our highly connected Internet society. Over the course of a year, our team has used a five-step design thinking process to begin to position the Professor Garfield website as the leading voice in digital literacy education. The team conducted research in parallel to generating ideas in brainstorming sessions with in-service and pre-service teachers. From this, the team developed a framework and a medium-fidelity prototype. The prototype was designed to demonstrate how our framework could be incorporated into the new Professor Garfield website. The framework developed for the project is listed below.

  • Play: Students play an existing PGF module updated in HTML.
  • Create: Students create content that teaches them digital literacy skills
  • Achieve: Students receive constructive feedback and awards.

With a developed framework and full support from the Professor Garfield board, our team has shifted our focus to answering this question: How might we design age-appropriate activities that foster digital literacy? Specifically, our team is looking at potential activities that could support Orson’s Farm and Knowledge Box, both pre-existing modules.

Using our relationship with Ball State University Teacher’s College, our team holds weekly brainstorming sessions with twenty Elementary Education students. These brainstorming sessions allow the team to empathize with pre-service teachers as well as generate ideas that can develop into digital literacy activities. Last week, we challenged students to design two activities that meet an Indiana K-2 Computer Science standard while also fostering creativity, one of the eight petals of digital literacy.

After gathering the students work, the team creates paper prototypes. These prototypes are quick and dirty sketches that allow in-service teachers to imagine what an activity may look like, and determine if it is successful. This helps us identify if the activity meets standards, is age-appropriate and if it can be successfully implemented in the classroom. Our goal is to continue to evolve the ideas and create fully functional prototypes by the end of the semester. Our next step is to expand the scope of our brainstorming. After receiving approval from Ball State’s Institutional Review Board, a committee established to review and approve research involving human subjects, our team will begin holding similar brainstorming sessions with Burris Elementary School teachers. Working with in-service teachers will allows us to gain a greater understanding of what is feasible in the K-5 classroom.

Aside from brainstorming and prototyping, our team has worked hard to develop a digital literacy survey that will be distributed nationally. The goal of this survey is to better understand teachers perceptions and classroom practices related to digital literacy instruction. By understanding the current state of digital literacy, we can begin to better understand how to support teachers and their students in their digital literacy efforts.

Working on this survey, as well as designing brainstorming protocol has been particularly challenging for our team. There is a not a single definition for digital literacy. Our team struggled to balance how to phrase our questions. If the questions were bogged down with our specific jargon, the data was tampered because we swayed how the teacher answered. In contrast, if too little information was provided, answers would realm outside of our particular definition of digital literacy. To counteract this behavior, we removed the direct phrasing from our definition and inserted language that allows a teacher to answer the question while still providing valuable data. For example, our original survey provided the definition of meaning making then prompted teachers: I teach functional meaning making. To modify this question we instead asked: What type of homework do you assign that requires students to use technology? In order to validate the study, the team is reaching out to digital literacy experts to review the questions and conducting a focus group with teachers. In the focus group teachers will be asked to define their interpretation of the question. If the group agrees with their answer, the question is not flawed.

We’ll continue writing updates as we progress with this project – we are incredibly excited to see where it leads.