Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Interview with Bridget Clementi, BlueKids.org: Innovators in E-Learning Series

Game-based e-learning for students in grades 4 through 8 is an effective way to teach health education. Wisconsin-based BlueKids.org is both popular and effective, and provides courses in injury prevention, wellness, self-esteem, drug education, and more. Welcome to an interview with Bridget Clementi, executive director of Children's Health Education Center.

What is your name and your experience with e-learning?
Bridget Clementi is executive director of Children’s Health Education Center. Bridget joined CHEC in 2000 to work with the organizations’ injury prevention team. During her tenure, she established prevention programs and expanded the center’s injury prevention programming throughout Wisconsin. In 2008, she was promoted to executive director. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and holds a degree in communication and public relations.

What is BlueKids.org? Please describe how it started and why?
BlueKids.org e-learning programs are innovative, online, game-based learning courses that deliver effective health and wellness topics to students in grades 4 through 8. With computers becoming more commonplace in the classroom, and children growing up more comfortable than ever with technology, educators have had to adjust their teaching methodology accordingly. Studies have shown that hands-on learning leads to greater retention than traditional textbook lessons. Engaging, interactive learning also allows students to develop the necessary critical thinking skills needed to make the right life choices as they get older and are faced with more complex decisions.

Children’s Health Education Center, a member of the renowned Children’s Hospital and Health System, created its Bluekids.org e-learning programs as an interactive way to educate kids on a variety of health and societal topics. These e-learning programs use web-based games and activities that allow children to become more involved in the learning process, enabling them to better retain the information discussed in each lesson.

All BlueKids.org programs are supported by Moodle, a learning management system that provides teachers the ability to track students’ progress and collect pre-test and post-test data.

What is the mission of BlueKids.org?
CHEC is the lead organization behind BlueKids.org. It is the mission of CHEC to develop and deliver engaging, interactive health education programs that help keep kids healthy and safe. CHEC accomplishes this mission by offering on-site field trips, outreach and e-learning programs.

Please describe the top three courses.
CHEC has been offering innovative online, game-based learning programs under the trade name of BlueKids.org for the past four years. It’s Up 2U and Drug Defense: Get UR Facts are designed for middle school age children, and teach the important topic of alcohol and other drug use and abuse prevention. The Real U, for middle school age children, helps develop positive mental and emotional health attributes. BullyFree Basics, for upper elementary children, teaches the basics of bullying, including both prevention and intervention techniques for bullying and related violence.

These online courses utilize design elements conducive to game based learning by implementing strong narrative context and attending to the theories proven to enhance overall learning. This advanced level game based curriculum requires higher order thinking, analyzing and synthesizing skills based on Bloom’s Taxonomy. The content has been reviewed by professional medical and teaching staff and is designed to capitalize on the attention given to intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

Why do people like BlueKids.org?
BlueKids.org e-learning programs are easy for teachers to implement and the kids are happy to learn this way, so it’s a win-win situation for everyone. Using advanced game based technology and applications, the programs are developed in a way that engages the students, provides for problem solving and thinking on behalf of the students, and builds motivation from within the student.

99% of the teachers have a positive view of the online courses and would recommend to another teacher.

90% of the students like the online course format.

Are there a few things you're planning to change?
We continue to look for new ways to engage the learners and improve the outcomes of the courses – knowledge, attitude and behavioral intent. Specifically, this summer, we will build in more skills-based approaches to learning in an obesity prevention program series that will launch in the fall. The series will have programs available to school districts with students in kindergarten to grade 8.

What types of techniques are you using in your e-learning to encourage interaction and collaboration?
Participating students spend approximately six sessions in the computer lab followed by six classroom discussions with the teacher using this blended approach to learning. During the classroom time, students interact with each other and the teacher to bring the online lessons into their own context of classroom, school, home and community. The greatest value comes from the interaction between the teacher and the students, and the ability for the students to have dialogue and discussion around these “social” topics. This allows them to share stories and gain ideas for dealing with the issues. The teacher is guided by a comprehensive teacher’s guide that contains stem questions, objectives and all activities.

Are you using social networking in any way?
At this time we are not using social networking sites.
We have a grant proposal in process with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, where students will be divided so that half of the class will be in groups using the blended approach and the other half in groups facilitated asynchronously. The asynchronous facilitation will be conducted by a highly trained group of high school students called the Teen Health Crew. These students will be trained in asynchronous discussions, web etiquette and protocol, and will be supervised by adult professionals.

Do you have to be careful with privacy (health & kids)?
As administrators of the program, we do not assign individual logins and passwords to students. Each teacher we work with provides us with the number of logins/passwords that they need and we provide them with a generic list that they match to their classroom students. This way, we have no knowledge of the individual students’ names or any personal information. In addition, for any evaluations that we conduct, we need to go through an internal review board through Children’s Hospital and Health System to ensure quality and validity of the study.

How can BlueKids.org help develop human potential?
BlueKids.org e-learning programs are devoted to developing human potential. For example, ATOD (Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug) abuse is a universal problem that this research will assist in mitigating through self care education to change knowledge and behavioral intent. The data for depression and suicide attempts is no better, and the prevention of bullying through our BullyFree Basics online program is a beginning in the quest to stem violence of all types. The evidence is extremely strong, or you might say overwhelming, that kids that are depressed, using ATOD or are afraid do not learn well…thus destroying the opportunity to excel.

For more information, visit www.HealthyKidsLearnMore.com or www.BlueKids.org.

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