These innovative learning models are:

  • Learning by doing
  • Inquiry based learning
  • Interest based learning
  • Learning in group
  • Project based learning
  • Authentic or experience learning
  • Flipped classroom
  • Teaching by competences

From these perspectives, we propose features that the Dynabook should support in order to effectively assist both teachers and students. Collectively, these features look like a long wish list. The attached mind map shows them all.

Dynabook and features

Reducing this list to one feature per learning model gives a more realistic picture. Moreover, from one learning model to another one, some features overlap, those should be considered as dominant traits:

  • Drawing. A sketch tool for free drawing and writing, Dynabook should come with an electronic pen.
  • Simulation. Tools to reuse/adapt/glue simulations to explore and search for ideas or doing presentation.
  • Games. Several game models easy to adapt to fit teacher needs will be a valuable addition. Such games could be networked; learners will play the game in the classroom and finish it remotely from home. A collection of implemented games will be useful too for the teacher. Such electronic games will ease teacher's effort to produce electronic boards, cards, dice. Such artifacts will be shared from the teacher's Dynabook to the learners' Dynabook.
  • Group organizer. To help the teacher in work group organization, the Dynabook could come with a dedicated tool to write a script to organize the group tasks. Each member of the group will receive the script on his own Dynabook, with additional information as a relevant sub-task. Each member would report back his progress to the other members and teacher's Dynabooks.
  • Media contents. Media contents support project-based learning, it could be various forms of media and dynamic contents such as simulations.
  • Scaffolding. A teacher could use or craft Dynabook's tools to edit the authentic document, with the intent to reduce the complexity if necessary: an audio/video editor to cut and apply slow playback. An image editor to simplify and reduce a complex object picture to a schematic one. From the resulting tool it should be possible to both reduce complexity and to increasingly augment/reduce it to its original state. For such a scaffolded document, the learner could play with a ruler to restore its original complexity. For a technical document, one can imagine the same, and similarly for a geographic map, etc
  • Video transcript. With the ability to easily caption and index video, it now would make sense to allow users to jump from place to place on the video by clicking on the transcript. This will make it easier and faster to read the content after watching the video. It would also be desirable to be able to annotate the video by adding highlights and notes to the transcript. This takes a passive video and converts it to something that is much more interactive.
  • Competences network. Competences are strongly tied to the domain to be taught. The Dynabook could propose a generic tool to represent such competences as the association of knowledge and task. This representation could take the form of a network of competences as explored in iStoa.

Features present in several learning models wish list:

  • Text processor with tagging categorisation and ad-hoc searching tool (in learning by doing, inquiry based learning, flipped classroom)
  • Question tool (Learning by doing, interest base learning)
  • Tools to collect and representing data (Inquiry based learning, authentic/experience learning)

This gives us a reduced list of eleven features. Some of the features cover a very large domain. For example, under simulation one can read geometry micro-world, physics simulation, geography dynamic map, language simulator, algebra computer system. The Dynabook concept was envisioned to be user learnable and extendable with the Smalltalk language. This remains the common red line to all these features.

Therefore we can ask ourselves, how should such user-created software be written, saved, shared, extended? The topic is beyond the scope of this analysis from a learning model perspective. It should be addressed from a technical perspective to pursue the implementation of the proposed features.

A third perspective on the Dynabook concept may be found in the academic disciplines point of view. A mathematics teacher may want a textbook with mathematics equations (equation editor), geometric sketches (geometry micro-world as Dr. Geo), and exercises to assist in various forms of calculus training. A history teacher may want a malleable timeline tool, and access to an iconography repository. A geography teacher will appreciate a malleable vectorial geographic map that can be freely annotated.

Although we can not hope to anticipate all evolving needs and requirements, viewing from the academic disciplines perspective will ensure a better acceptance of the Dynabook among teachers.

Any opinion on the topic? If so leave a comment for further reflection.

Thanks to David T Lewis for his editing.