When I first started developing the idea for my enterprise Authentic Learning Activity (ALA), which is set in the virtual city called Porthampton, I always had a vision that the city would expand to contain more “properties” than the small number that I initially “built”. This sounds like a rather daft statement – what do I mean?
My vision is that other teachers (within my university or externally) would decide to develop similar units, using the same ALA principles, but rather than re-inventing the wheel, and developing the whole thing from scratch, they would set their activity within Porthampton also. This opens up lots of exciting possibilities, including:
- Sharing of common resources such as the Porthampton Council and Porthampton Bugle websites. So, for example, any teacher could write and publish any number of stories relevant to their own context on the Bugle website. This would also have the effect of increasing the content richness of these sites, which in turn means they end-up looking and feeling more realistic (I tried to do this myself initially by adding content which was not at all useful for my students such as the Porthampton FC weekly match results). Why is this advantageous? A site like the Porthampton Bugle that only contained information that was relevant to the unit’s context would look contrived (and I am trying to make this look as realistic as possible) but also I think it is important that the students have to work at seeking-out important information whilst filtering content which may not be so useful. It is cognitively more challenging and encourages them to think more deeply about the context.
- The potential for students to collaborate across programmes and institutions. My ALA students are learning basic business knowledge and skills and putting these into practice by dealing with a simulated client (a rather dodgy clothes shop with lots of problems). With careful coordination I can imagine a scenario where students, who for example are participating in a web design ALA, might work in collaboration with my students to quote for and build a website for this client too. My students would have partly answered their brief by recommending that they develop a new web presence for the client whilst the web design students would develop the site. Another example might be to engage students from a journalism ALA unit to develop and put into to operation a PR strategy for the same client (the Porthampton Bugle site would provide the perfect platform for delivery of this). I love this idea of students having to collaborate professionally in this way – it really extends the traditional classroom based learning paradigm.
- Each ALA is likely to be fairly unique, each requiring at least one new business or organisation to be “present” within the City. This will mean more Porthampton based websites which can be inter-linked and added to the growing city map. The simulated environment becomes so much richer for participating students as a result and the richer the environment the more realistic it feels.
I can announce that we have two new ALAs currently in development by academics who are really excited by these possibilities and who are therefore building their own scenarios within the walls of Porthampton City. One is at Leeds University and will be a social enterprise unit and the other is at Abertay University and is related to health sciences. How cool! We are currently developing the new ALA’s in collaboration and, although it is early days, have some exciting ideas about how we can start to blur the boundaries between each of them so that the students will interact with each other.
Both new units will run in 2011-12 academic year so watch this space. I’ll keep you posted.
In the meantime, if you fancy developing your own ALA unit please get in touch. There’s lots of real-estate available in the City, the planning process is a doddle, rents are cheap and we’d love to have you.
The Mayor is waiting for your call.