Tarja Kröger
The Diversity of Www Learning and Teaching Materials at the Website "Virtual Craft Place"

Key words: learning and teaching materials, virtual community, hermeneutic text analysis, content analysis, meaning of craft, learning theories, form feature


The subject of this study was the web site "Virtual Craft Place" (in Finnish "Käspaikka"), and especially learning and teaching materials in it. "Virtual Craft Place" was founded in 1996 by innovative textile craft teachers who wanted to try out new information technology for sharing teaching and learning materials. Käspaikka has been in operation since 2000 in partnership with the Virtual School -project organized by the National Board of Education. Nowadays the website consists of about 500 www documents related to craft and design, craft education, and research. The web site is available at http://www.tkukoulu/handmade/.

The purpose of this study was to analyze and define the kinds of learning and teaching materials that have been produced for the web site "Virtual Craft Place" (in Finnish "Käspaikka"). It is typical of postmodern time that it cannot be taken granted what kind of learning and teaching materials are and should be produced. Although the criteria for such materials have been investigated, few studies have attempted to find out the underlying attributes; that is, the qualities that are typical of some www learning and teaching materials and the qualities that distinguish them from each other. A more comprehensive view of learning and teaching materials, and the description of differences and similarities may contribute to more conscious and systematic creation and use of learning and teaching materials. In other words, the present investigation relies on the idea that rather than being random and unsystematic, creating learning and teaching materials should be based on conscious ideas of craft (content), learning and form features. This study, therefore, is aimed at describing, specifying, identifying, and analysing the learning and teaching materials at the web site "Virtual Craft Place".

Learning and teaching materials on the web site were approached from three different perspectives: (1) the phenomenon "craft", (2) learning theories, and (3) form features. The content meaning of craft tells us how craft is presented in learning and teaching materials. The aspect of learning theory tells what learning theories are emphasized: behaviorism, cognitivism, or situated cognition. Form features show how the message is presented. Form features include the specification of a format, the structure, the interactivity type and the type of learning and teaching material.

This study endeavours to illustrate what learning and teaching materials are like when they are related to the meaning of craft, how they inevitably concern learning, and how they should venture into form features. In order to make them more manageable, it is important, even necessary, to outline what kind of learning and teaching materials are included in "Virtual Craft Place" and to categorize them.

The specific questions of this study were:

  1. What kind of form features are used in the learning and teaching materials of "Virtual Craft Place"? Are certain form features preferred over others?
  2. How is the phenomenon äcraftä presented in the learning and teaching materials of "Virtual Craft Place"? Are certain representations preferred over others?
  3. How do learning theories take shape in the learning and teaching materials "Virtual Craft Place"?
  4. In what ways are craft representations related to learning representations and form features?

  The data used in the study consist of web sites ( = 204), which can be described as learning resources. The data were first saved on a CD-rom disc in the spring of 2001, and a second time in the autumn of 2001. The web site was established in spring 1996 and restructured in autumn 2001. The data of the study consist of web pages published in 1996-2001, the period before the reform.

  In this study a qualitative approach was used; i.e. the researcher looked for qualities that were typical of some learning and teaching materials and qualities that distinguished them from each other. The study is based on hermeneutics, more specifically on the philosophical hermeneutics of Hans-Georg Gadamer. Analysis of the phenomenon äcraftä and analysis of the learning theories in learning resources were based on a content analysis; and analysis of the form features of the www-sites was based on the Learning Object Metadata (LOM) standard.

The results show that the web site "Virtual Craft Place" includes various representations of craft. Craft is expressed as an activity, a product and knowledge. The most typical form of craft activity is making a craft product. Craft as a skill-oriented activity is also a typical form of craft. Craft as a design-oriented activity and craft as an art-oriented activity are not so typical forms of craft in learning and teaching materials. A website was created to present the findings of the study. The address is http://www.tkukoulu.fi/%7Etkkroger/tyypittely/tyyppiinfo.htm.

The results indicate how different learning theories are reflected by the learning and teaching materials. Behaviorism, cognitivism, and situated cognition are reviewed as foundational learning theories. Learning theories were seen through the following dimensions: (1) focus of learning, (2) methods of learning, (3) control of learning process, and (4) support for learning.

The study produced a more comprehensive view of the learning and teaching materials in the context of crafts, learning theories and form features; at the same time, it raised some interesting questions about the relationships between these perspectives. Furthermore, it contributes to our understanding of similarities and differences of learning and teaching materials.

Hopefully this study will make teachers and teacher trainers to see "Virtual Craft Place" as a forum for developing craft education in schools. Outlining the forms of contents, learning theories, and form features creates both theoretical and research-oriented starting point for the discussion. Furthermore, teachers and students can utilize the results of the study in practise in planning new resources for the web site "Käspaikka".

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