Introduction Blended Animated Teaching (BAT) is an online blended teaching solution comprising conceptually itemized schemes of work, tutor like teaching objects and practical classroom pedagogy.
To implement BAT pedagogy in a class an overhead projector and a simple sound system is required. By interacting with students, the conducting lecturer first prepares the students, then plays the animated lessons and assesses students' understanding via a range of online activities or exercises.
Here, the concept and makeup of Blended Animated Teaching and its pedagogy are described.
What is Blended Animated Teaching Pedagogy?
In a study about learners' experience from blended approaches, their success was suggested to depend on the selection and organization of resources and the way they are integrated into classroom teaching (Higgins 2003). The degree of integration determines how effectively blended resources are used and in turn their rate of return on investment.
Blended Animated Teaching (BAT) is a web based teaching resource that with its teaching pedagogy renders the greatest possible resource integration into classroom teaching and activities. It contains a number of web pages, each of which delivers meaningful wholes. This is in accordance to Hilgard's cognitive theory of teaching principles where it is suggested that the organization of knowledge should be from simplified wholes to more complex wholes (Knowles 1998).
In BAT, the teaching objects are organized in a strictly backward relating manner. This means that any teaching object might, if needed, only refer to concepts of teaching objects before it. Together the teaching objects makeup the scheme of work and act as the backbone for BAT's classroom teaching pedagogy. Figure 1 shows the backbone as a stack of teaching objects from simple at the bottom to complex at the top. This backbone plays a central role in BAT pedagogy.
Figure 1 : Blended Animated Teaching Backbone and Cyclic Pedagogy
The teaching objects of BAT contain a number of animations combining speech and moving images. This has been recognized as the most effective way of providing information for learners (Lee and Bowers 1997, Ratner 2002, Metcalf 2003). Faraday and Sutcliffe (1997) found better recall of propositions when they had been expressed by a combination of speech and imagery. Sutcliffe and Dimitroval (1999) suggest that best learning and recall specifically in explaining procedural concepts can be achieved when spoken text synchronized with step-by-step still or moving images are used to reinforce the message.
Figure 1 shows BAT's teaching pedagogy as a rotating and rising ring round the backbone which is aimed at supporting learners through their first three cognitive objectives of ?Knowledge', ?Comprehension' and ?Application' as described by Bloom (1956). This is done by preparing them to take on a new concept, telling and showing them what it is and then letting them practise it while educator is helping and assessing their understanding. This way we aim to help transform them from being able to recall taught material (Knowledge) to being able to demonstrate the meaning of taught material (Comprehension) and finally to being able to use taught material in new situations (Application).
Why Blended Animated Teaching Pedagogy Works? Diversity or differentiation is the biggest challenge that educators have to deal with in today's classrooms. Classroom teaching can be described as transmission of knowledge from educator to learners. This teaching approach, among practitioners, is often referred to as chalk and talk. In reality this transmission is only part of teaching and learning. The largest part of teaching and learning is achieved by an interactive two-way transmission between educators and learners.
However the one-way transmission of knowledge often is the starting point for teaching of a new concept. BAT's e-learning provisions assist educators only in this one-way transmission.
In the development of BAT e-learning provisions and pedagogy I consider diversity at curriculum level and learners' different degree of receptiveness to classroom teaching. This is demonstrated in figure 2 as ten containers of knowledge, some fuller than others. This diagram represents a typical classroom. Normally about 10% of them nearly meet the minimum required level of curriculum knowledge. Therefore, in order to engage the other 90% of students, educator will have to cover some of the very basic pre-requisites.
This means that for greater learner engagement, teaching has to begin from a much lower curriculum level, which often is not possible due to time limitations. So normally a compromise happens and teaching begins from a level that holds back and bores the most receptive students and stretches and loses the least receptive students.
Figure 2: Spectrum of learners' receptiveness to curriculum teaching
Though it is reasonable to expect that students should take personal responsibility of their own learning, the reality is that they often need guidance otherwise they will not become engaged with learning. BAT's pre-rehearsed and expertly presented and organized animated teaching objects increase the efficiency of classroom teaching so much so that even some very basic pre-requisites could be included and quickly revisited within the same time limits.
The efficiency of classroom teaching is further improved by making the same teaching objects available after class via the Internet. My experience shows that when directed by their teacher, students do use BAT's e-learning material to revise for an exam or to complete exercises as homework. Students who need more time to practise and take longer to comprehend can use BAT in their own time and at their own pace, knowing that their efforts will improve their classroom performance. This if used tactfully, can motivate and drive students towards fulfilling their potentials.
As explained before, BAT relieves the educator from the task of one-way transmission of chalk and talk teaching, enabling him/her to focus completely on the two-way interaction with learners. This will further improve the efficiency of classroom teaching. While BAT is delivering the teaching messages, educator can concentrate on identifying signs of learning difficulties by observing the learners. This is virtually impossible in traditional classroom teaching since transmission of knowledge absorbs most of the educator's energy.
Using BAT, weaker students can be encouraged to do a bit more in their own time to catch up or keep up. Students can be allowed to study off campus if that suits their personality, occupational and life style. Students with irregular attendance can be given the chance to keep abreast of class progress. Students with language difficulty and deficiency in basic skills can have more time to reflect back on the lessons afterwards without the need for recording them. Also students with increasingly shorter attention span can benefit from concise teaching messages of the teaching objects.
Using BAT, teaching material the teaching of a subject can be standardised, which meant that a subject could be taught in exactly the same way regardless of the lecturer in charge. Students would always benefit from the same concise, pre-rehearsed and animated teaching objects no matter who provides the extra classroom interaction.
BAT's web-based teaching objects cumulated around an expertly designed backbone or scheme of work and integrated in every moment of classroom teaching provides the most concise, consistent, continuous and accurate online record of what goes on in the classroom and hence provide the best support for learners and solution for diversity at curriculum level.
How Blended Animated Teaching Pedagogy Works? In BAT's pedagogy, teaching objects and lecturer's classroom interaction with learners are primarily aimed at achieving Bloom's first three cognitive objectives in three stages of:
Prepare Them: concerned with learner awareness or ability to recall
Tell & Show Them: concerned with learner recall and comprehension
Let, Help & Assess Them: concerned with learner recall, comprehension and application of knowledge
In Figure 1, the revolving segments is displaying the way that BAT's provisions should be deployed is a classroom. See a video of the way this pedagogy is implemented in the classroom.
First, students are prepared for taking up a new concept. Here educator's interaction with students is aimed at gathering everyone's attention and if appropriate, quickly recalling previously taught relevant objects.
Once the educator is convinced that students are ready, then using online BAT material, an overhead projector and a simple sound system, the animated teaching messages are played, which tells and shows students what the concept is. In the meantime the educator observes learners for signs of struggling and replays and/or explains parts if required.
Finally learners are encouraged to do a number of online activities at a pace that they are comfortable with allowing everyone to become fully engaged. These activities have an incremental design from simple to complex and relate directly to the topic at hand and may involve previously learnt concepts. In the meantime the educator observes, helps and assesses learners' understanding while moving around in the class.
Since classroom-teaching activities are aimed at helping learners reach Bloom's cognitive objective of ?Application' as explained before, the design of BAT's activities is important. Should the educator not be convinced that this cognitive objective has been reached during class time, students may be encouraged to complete more exercises as homework, revise the concept(s) for a test and/or various other directed, challenging and enticing home activities that will result in students revisiting the concepts prior to following teaching session.
Have there been any showcases? Yes. In 2004-2005, there was a successful implementation of this pedagogy at City of Sunderland College for students of level zero math by myself. The results, which have been reported in a submission for NTFS to HE-Academy, were astonishing. In 2005-2006 BAT was implemented to teach HNC and HND students learning the traditionally difficult subject of Programming. Again students' satisfaction of their learning experience and their overall performance was drastically improved. This is to be reported at an annual conference at Cambridge in September 2007.
In the academic year 2006-2007, two other practitioners at COSC used the same material and pedagogy in their classrooms and reported greater learner engagement and achievements. The full result is yet to be reported. This year we are also conducting a fully online, but lecture-conducted case studies titled as ?Math Aerobics' and are awaiting publishable results in July 2008.
The radical change from traditional teaching approach to BAT arouses curiosity and excitement among students. Imaginative animations and accompanying audio not only adds the extra stimulating flavour to our class, but also assures accurate and complete delivery of the important messages every time, all the time. Students remain completely focused and attentive throughout the time when the animations are being played. I believe that they feel confident because the material used during the lesson is also available via the Internet afterwards.
Some written comments from students;
?It has helped me a great deal, especially good to use when I haven't fully understood everything in class?
?You can go over something as many times as required until it sinks in. I have found animated-teaching very straight to the point. It looks like blackboard, chalk and someone talking at you.?
??especially useful for me as a night-school student when outside pressure has stopped me from attending.?
?It is a permanent source of research material, one which I could safely say I would have struggled to understand some aspects of the course without it.?
?You can see how certain things are done and how they work, which is easier to grasp than paper with lots text which does not always get read.?
?It is a useful tool for doing homework at home. ??
?I didn't have to wait for others to catch up.?
A testimony from a lecturer teaching Visual Programming on the second year of HND/C has indicated that 2005-2006 students are interestingly more confident and are progressing much faster than previous years so much so that she has had to generate fresh sets of activities and include topics she has normally left out from her teaching. The following comment is from this lecturer.
??The biggest difference in our students this year is their attitude to programming. They seemed to have overcome their fear of programming and they are more open to accept new challenges and exercises given. I attribute this to your work with them. ??
References Bloom, B. S. (1956) Taxonomy of educational objectives, the classification of educational goals ? Handbook I: cognitive domain, ( New York : McKay)
Faraday, P., Suttcliffe, A. (1997) Designing Effective Multimedia Presentations, in: C. Ware & D. Wixon (Eds), Proceedings of CHI '97 , ( New York NY :ACM), 272-278.
Higgins, S. (2003) Does ICT improve learning and teaching in schools? (British Educational Research Association).
Knowles, M. S., Holton III, E. F. & Swanson, R. A. (1998) The Adult Learner ? The definitive Classic in Adult education and Human Resource Development, (Butterworth-Heinemann), 74.
Lee, A.Y. & Bowers A. N. (1997) The effect of Multimedia Components on Learning, in: Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 41 st Annual Meeting (vol. 1), ( Santa Monica , CA : Human Factors and Ergonomics Society), 340-344.
Metcalf, D. S. & Bielawski, L. (2003b) Blended elearning : Integrating Knowledge Performance Support and Online Learning, (HRD Products (Press)) 224, 99-100.
Ratner J. (2002) Human Factors and Web Development , ( Lawrence Erlbaum Associates), 80.