Interactivity

A colleague and I were discussing interactivity yesterday, and noting the very different ways in which learning processes are described as ‘interactive’.

For some people, the notion/experience of ‘interactive’ is more related to ‘interactive multimedia’, for example as it has been produced on CDs over the past two decades or so – i.e., there is a learning object of some type that students can click links on to access additional text, audio, or visual components. There may even be self-test quizzes, or other similar exercises.

In my view, that type of ‘interaction’ is a limited one: it is a basic level of interaction between the student and the learning object, which may or may not (depending upon individual learning styles and the quality of the design of the object) impact on the ways in which the student interacts with – learns, comprehends, understands – the content.

Well-designed interactive learning objects such as these can and do have some value, but they are only a part of an overall teaching strategy.

Interaction in learning can, and should, be so much more than the point and click of traditional ‘interactive’ media. Effective learning occurs when students are actively interacting and engaging with the ideas – exploring, questioning, discussing, teasing apart, thinking through, analysing, critiquing, debating, problem solving, applying, redefining – and this happens most effectively when students are interacting with each other and with the teaching staff involved.

These are human interactions, and while technology can enable these interactions by collapsing distance and time, and enables access to content in a number of different forms, the technology itself neither learns nor teaches.

It is our teaching strategies – the ways in which we ask our students to explore the content and the ideas, and, increasingly, the structure and design of our assessment tasks – that provide a framework for interactive learning.

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