Active Learning – Creating Meaningful Artifacts

Assisting students to create meaningful artifacts is the third approach to active learning. Artifacts are concrete objects that students design, create and share with others. The concept of creating meaningful artifacts of student learning originates from the theory of Constructionism originally advocated by Seymour Papert of the MIT Media Lab. http://cyberartsweb.org/cpace/ht/thonglipfei/construction.html
This article will discuss the following two types of artifacts.

1. Personal Artifacts


Personal artifacts are objects shared between a student/team and a teacher and are the most traditional type of artifact found in education. Essays, project reports, creative assignments etc. are common examples. Personal artifacts are used to assess how well a student or team has achieved. This type of artifact is generally considered the property of the student/s and is returned to them after being marked. Classmates see the artifact only if the student decides to share it.

2. Learning Artifacts


Students create learning artifacts to improve the learning of their fellow students and occasionally future students as well as to demonstrate their competency. Learning artifacts help make the learning process more visible to everyone. Some examples of this type of artifact are:
Sophisticated, teaching resources: Students may have learned to produce animations and flash files in high school. These skills could be used as an alternative assignment and will provide you with an ongoing teaching resource.
Websites: Student projects and essays can be posted on a group website where they can be shared. In the following examples, papers from a graduate class from 1997 – Present are publicly available http://www.usask.ca/education/coursework/802papers/
Blogs: A Blog is an online journal where class reflections/articles can be posted and commented on. Blogs can be private to a specific class or public. For examples see http://www2.med.umich.edu/medschool/reality/ or
http://medicalstudentblogs.blogspot.com/ The university provides blogs to faculty and students at no charge. http://www.usask.ca/its/services/webpage_hosting/blogs/.
Wiki: A wiki is an interactive document that allows a group of individuals to edit content http://davidrothman.net/list-of-medical-wikis/ and can be used to create team projects, for problem-based learning, to share research articles etc. Wiki’s can be private to a specific class or public. The university provides wikis to faculty and students at no charge. http://wiki.usask.ca/ See my wiki as an example http://wiki.usask.ca/db/index.php/Main_Page
Podcasts: A podcast is an audio file that can be downloaded to a computer or mp3 player. Here is an example of a series of podcasts from the New England Journal of Medicine http://www.podcast.net/show/59568, or Texas Tech http://www.ttuhsc.edu/SOM/FamMed/TTMedCast/ttmedcast_SOAPnote.html. An RSS feed downloads podcasts to your computer automatically. Students could use software such as Audacity to create podcasts for a class website http://audacity.sourceforge.net/ or create and host them in a commercial site http://www.mypodcast.com/index.html.
Videocasts: Videocasts are a more sophisticated mashup of video and podcast. Here is an example from the National Institute of Health http://videocast.nih.gov/default.asp and here is how it might be created by students http://www.insidermedicine.com/daily-medical-news-volunteer.aspx or http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=YouthHealth. Vodcasts can be created quickly using Blogcheese http://www.blogcheese.com/
Creative Projects: Medical students at the U of S have an annual art auction and an example illustrating the history of medicine in Saskatchewan is currently hanging in the Westwinds Clinic. Activities like this could be expanded into the classroom to create multi-modal learning resources such as models, illustrations, visual mnemonics and simulations.
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