We know there are important steps [pdf] you can take to ready students for an explanation of key concepts. Riley Lark is helping you do several of them very easily with his open source ActivePrompt project. While Dave Major and I continue to bat around very specific implementations of digital curricula, Riley has created an extremely open framework, useful for all kinds of purposes.
This is everything: the student sees an image and has to place a red dot somewhere on top of it according to instructions given by the teacher. It sounds too simple to be of any use.
You see where this goes, right? Even with the second prompt, which isn't explicitly "real world" in the sense that we usually mean it, students now have experience with the context, which makes it real to them.
Then we start to abstract it and help students work with these concepts:
These brief experiences help immensely to set up and motivate the explanation that follows. It would be great (note to Riley) if the teacher could establish the correct answer at the end of the task (a teacher dot) which would then inform the students how close their guesses came. Also: student names on mouseover, mobile compatibility, vertical lines, and horizontal lines.
You can play with it immediately on Heroku. Be sure to link up your creations in the comments so we can all play along.
BTW. My hope in sharing Dave Major's work and Riley Lark's ActivePrompt and my own experiments is that you will become agitated and unhappy with whatever curriculum you are currently using, and that you will express that agitation and unhappiness to the people who publish and sell you that curriculum. None of us are anywhere close to nailing the question, "What do you do on day [x] with concept [y]?" for the entire set of x and y. But before we answer that question, we need to define the modern digital textbook. So here's my pullquote definition, heavily informed by Dave and Riley's work:
The modern digital textbook isn't a collection of content to be consumed. It's a collection of experiences, of which content consumption is only one part.
Riley Lark's red dot is one of those experiences.
2012 Nov 29. Riley Lark takes you behind the scenes and shows off several creative ActivePrompts.
2012 Dec 4. Learning Catalytics (a for-profit product) seems to have done a lot of good work in this area already.