Learn to make online educational tools

Hi, my first post here in a zillion years. Does anyone remember me? (Except for Buttercup.)

For those who don’t know me: I teach at several universities and a couple of high schools, everything from “conversational English for future PE teachers” to real MBA classes. Never taught small children. In case this sounds like “look at me, I’m fantastic,” I should also point out that I’m crap at getting anything done.

I’ve been experimenting for a year or so with ways to do something a bit different, courtesy of a small grant from the Ministry of Education. For the last few weeks I have also been playing with an online “learning game” run by the World Bank Institute. These two projects look like they are going to converge in the next couple of months and I need some help paid for by the opportunity to learn something cool:

a) I’ve been trying to figure out how to use the web to build more interactive learning material. I’ve now got the hang of a system that enables me to ask questions of students and then give output or further questions based on that they tell me. This means I know how to build personalised interactive tests, make decision trees, collect data and produce charts etc., or simply create fill-in-the-blank activities which will give varying points for different acceptable answers. (eg -1 if you forget the capital letter.) It’s still experimental, and the demo stuff is pretty rudimentary - because there is an awful lot of work involved in building anything complex even after you have mastered the technical side of things. But if you want to sketch out a flowchart for an interactive story that takes ten years to navigate through, then I know how to make it real. Simple demo is here. (Work in progress.)

b) The urgentevoke.com project is billed as a crash course in saving the world, but lacks clarity in terms of design, process and objectives. The academic content is interesting though, and I have a team of high school students trying to complete 40 projects (articles and videos) by 12 May in order to qualify collectively as a Certified World Bank Institute Social Innovator. (It’ll be a nice thing for them to put on the university applications.) As I played with the site I couldn’t help getting drawn into thought about ways of improving it and making sugggestions. As a result, I received an email this morning from the organisers expressing interest in the idea of an open-source learning platform using their content plus whatever can be done with the cool tricks I’ve learned.

There’s no money available for this, it’s supposed to be ‘crowd-sourced’ collaborative venture using open-source (ie mostly free) software including social networking, a forum like this one, and a wiki.

So here I am looking at all the unfinished articles on my site and wondering how the hell I’m ever going to find time to deal with them while simultaneously building a multi-language learning platform.

The answer is that I’m not. Like I said, I’m crap at getting things done. The only way to do this is to start teaching other people how to do it, and let them practise on my site. Anyone who knows how to do what I can do would be free to add their own content - or take their knowledge away and start building their own site.

So, I’m looking for a few people who want to spend some time helping me out in return for knowledge that has taken me years to accumulate. The easiest way to contact me is tmwcYOURPANTS@TaiwanChallenges.com - remove yourpants first to avoid the spambots.