the WWILD Team
Team Concept Paper
Email Lloyd Rieber if you have questions or comments about this web site.
Wide Interactive Learning Design
A Short History of the WWILD Team
Lloyd P. Rieber
The WWILD Team concept was born around April 1999 when I was teaching an undergraduate class to pre-service educators about educational applications of microcomputers. The class had been working on developing online lessons and I was trying to have these students recognize and understand the importance of meaningful learner interactions within a content area in lesson planning. (I am a big proponent of going beyond what I call "click and browse" courseware, that is, web pages that explain ideas in words and pictures, but do not provide any activities for learner.) Of course, these students were just beginning to learn how to construct web pages, so programming interactive learning activities was quite outside their skill level. So, we began searching the Internet for activities to go along with their lessons. We were not looking for online lessons, but rather activities that could become part of the lessons these students were developing. The idea was to simply point to the online activity from within their lesson. Of course, these activities were located on web servers all over the world, so there was the risk that many of the activities would not be available when the students' lessons were implemented. But, this seemed like a risk worth taking because of how much value the activities added to their lessons. Interestingly, any two students who linked to the same activity would likely be designing very different lessons -- this is part of the idiosyncratic nature of teaching. The end result were a group of good online lessons that gave serious consideration to all of the events of instruction. Searching online for quality activities is very time-consuming, so we did our best to catalog all of the good activities we found using a simple searchable database using FileMaker Pro.
At the same time, I was teaching graduate courses in educational multimedia development. Students in these graduate courses typically spend 100 hours or more developing interactive lessons that last for only about 30 minutes. With my undergraduate students in mind, I began to advocate a modular design of online instruction in these graduate courses. Although the graduate students were designing complete lessons, I wanted them to design the interactive elements in such a way that other educators could take advantage of them in totally separate lessons. This strategy leads to the creation of reusable interactive learning objects that we just started to call interactive modules. This is all in keeping with my belief that teaching is very idiosyncratic enterprise leading to as many creative designs to teach a single lesson as there are creative teachers. I also wanted to capture the excellent work of our graduate students and make their projects available to others worldwide (this idea eventually led to "The Best Archive" concept; more about this in a moment).
I gave this a catchy little name to capture the spirit of the concept. I think it still works well -- World Wide Interactive Learning Design Team -- and I have yet to think of a better name. I also built the first WWILD Team web site. Cara Pasley, then a beginning masters student in our department, did an independent study with me. Together, we refined the WWILD Team site and Cara found a nice collection of interesting sites to put into the database. Due to a variety of reasons, such as a lack of time and resources (people and otherwise), the WWILD Team web site largely remained unchanged until May, 2002. The web site's functionality was limited to simple searching. Also, while people could submit new modules to the site, there was no way to easily update the modules in a password-protected way. Although I had made several presentations about the WWILD Team idea, the site's limitations made me hesitate in promoting it in any large scale way.
Though I couldn't work much on the WWILD Team between 1999 and 2002, its ideas and concepts behind it remained one of my passions. As I presented its underlying ideas at seminars in our Department, several students, most notably Evan Glazer, a Ph.D. candidate in our Department, challenged me (in the most positive of senses) to consider its potential as a learning community, where teachers could have a place to share their views and opinions with each other about interactive learning. My own contribution to this idea was my goal of making the WWILD Team a place where K-12 students would have a voice. After all, they always were, in my opinion, the most important members of the WWILD Team. Also, as more excellent work was done by our Graduate Students, I especially became mindful that the WWILD Team could serve an important niche by preserving and disseminating their work. Many of my colleagues had lamented with me during this time about how wasteful it was not to have Graduate Student work be used in schools or the community. So, in the Spring of 2001, Ron Zellner of Texas A&M University, Simon Hooper of the University of Minnesota, Glen Holmes of Virginia Tech, and myself decided time had come to do something about this. And so "The Best Archive" of graduate student work was born, using the WWILD Team web site as its home. We made our first presentation about The Best Archive in November, 2001 at the AECT conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Several other universities quickly joined the effort: The University of Houston, the University of Memphis, Utah State University, and Northern Illinois University.
I completely overhauled the WWILD Team web site during February-May, 2002 using Macromedia's Dreamweaver UltraDev 4. The functionality of the web site was improved to include advanced searching techniques and a range of member options, such as the ability submit reviews of activities and create bookmarks. Perhaps most important, I was able to give the site a sense of a community by creating a member registration system and connecting the site's various elements directly to the member options. Members can learn more about each other through their profiles and the kinds of activities they submit to the database and their views as expressed in their reviews of activities. I hope members take the time to e-mail others to discuss these things. Time will tell if these features really do lead to the feeling of an online learning community.
Of course, the future of the WWILD Team is much more important than its history. There is still much that can be done to improve the WWILD Team site (for example, I'd like to incorporate a bulletin board soon) and I look forward to hearing suggestions from members. (I know, I should create an online suggestion box.) Most of all, I look forward to seeing teachers, parents, and students use the WWILD Team as a help in their educational work and play.
It should be noted that the WWILD Team web site is a nonfunded resource and its maintenance relies totally on volunteers. Although I designed most of the site's content, a variety of other people, mostly graduate students at UGA, deserve much credit, such as Cara Pasley who was mentioned above. The current web site organization was designed by students in the EDIT Studio in the summer of 1999 under the direction of Gary Shattuck, Gretchen Thomas and Kim Clapper. Alan Castetter designed the WWILD Team banner graphic. I designed and constructed the site's database connectivity using Macromedia's Dreamweaver UltraDev 4, though Michael Orey lent valuable assistance when several key problems arose during the ASP programming.