Digital learning objects and the development of students’ thinking skills

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Over the past decade, considerable resource has been invested in the development of bite-sized web-delivered Digital Learning Objects (DLOs) designed to assist students to develop specific knowledge and skills. Initiatives such as the now-concluded Australian Le@rning Federation’s DLO project and the BBC’s Bitesize programme have resulted in online repositories of objects being openly available to teachers to integrate within their curriculum. However while these resources are readily accessible, uptake and use appears limited to being fill ins or add-ons to other learning activities, rather than the result of deliberately planning to achieve a particular learning purpose. This Digital Smarts chapter reports on a study that used an innovative methodology to ‘go behind the screens’ while students working in pairs used two specifically selected DLOs to help develop grammar and problem-solving skills. It used screen capture software to record video and audio data of their interaction with the objects, which was then coded against a thinking skills framework to identify object design and content features that triggered thinking of different types. Data indicated very different levels of thoughtful engagement with each object, and notwithstanding their different purposes, suggests much can be done to improve the design and content of some objects to improve their learning performance. It also suggests that teachers considering using DLOs with their students need to be not only very specific in identifying appropriate learning objectives, but also critically aware of how learning objectives are represented and developed through the object’s pedagogical design.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDigital smarts
Subtitle of host publicationenhancing learning and teaching
EditorsNoelne Wright, Dianne Forbes
Place of PublicationHamilton, New Zealand
PublisherWilf Malcolm Institute of Educational Research
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9780473329723, 9780473329716
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2015. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • learning
  • objects
  • digital
  • DLO
  • thinking
  • design
  • pedagogy


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