2015 Through a Looking Glass

PROLOGUE

My 2015 resolution was to be an unordinary instructional designer.

THE ZOMBIE ENGAGEMENT MODEL TO THE RESCUE

Mostly I design transformational learning experiences. It's a relative phrase, though. The learners I support are clinicians: doctors, nurses, and other healthcare staff. A good chunk of their professional development (PD) comes in the form of conferences. Conferences are mainly sit and get events, often accredited. My challenge in 2015 was to increase engagement. I accomplished this through butts-out-of-seats (BOOS) activities. My model: teachers and students in K-12.

Sketch of a person's reflection in a mirror

At CUE15 in Palm Springs, CA I heard a teacher mention the Zombie Engagement Model (ZEM) of instruction. I'm pretty sure she made up the term. I haven't been able to turn up anything about it even after researching it for most of the year. It got me to thinking though. What are zombies after? Brains. They want our brains and the know-how that resides therein. Successful zombies get and consume brains by moving around. Woe to the stationary zombie.

Here's what months of research into the Zombie Engagement Model revealed.

1. Squiggle like you mean it, at every opportunity.

Squiggles

My work involves collaborating with subject matter experts (SME). It used to be that I would take pains to learn as much as I could about the content side of a project before meeting with a SME. No more. Since I started practicing design thinking the SMEs tend to do the heavy lifting. I squiggle what I think they say (dark lines in sketch). Then they tell me how it really works (red lines in sketch). This saves a lot of time and effort. In fact, in the projects I worked on in 2015 SMEs did most of the prototyping and testing. Want to be in the know? Squiggle.

2. Be seriousless.

Screen capture of a Spock like avatar

I learned about Plotagon in 2015. It's an animation app on my iPad. I use it to mock up ideas and storyboards. Sometimes, heck most of the time, my ideas are so different others don't get them right away. Plotagon helps me make ideas visible. Sharing out an idea quickly engages like nobody's business. It gets people talking and moving ideas around. Want real engagement? Be seriousless. @ChristyCate gave me the heads-up about Plotagon.

3. Roll Your Own

Photo of the Urbie and his granddaughter Carly

I wanted 2015 to be unordinary. I didn't get there being conventional. It involved learning alongside a diverse group of people. Carly was one person I learned tons from. She's my granddaughter. We like shiny objects. I used to fear misses and fails. They don't faze Carly in the slightest. In a safe environment learning is play. Take risks. Get it right the nth time. Be unordinary.

4. Show your work

Screen capture a a person with her arms in the air confronted by a zombie

Share what you do with others. Blog about it. Tweet like you stole it. Which, when you stop to think about it, you might have. I don't live or work alone. I interact with a great many people in person and virtually. My work is influenced by those I'm with. Give credit where it's due and show your work. @JaneBozarth turned me on to this.

5. Slow Down

(Image created by @davidtedu and @clonghb, used with permission)

I learned about micro narratives last week. I used to ask questions to encourage others to share their story. Then I'd figure it out and move on. What I think I'll do next year is continue encouraging others to share but then ask them to figure out and share what it means. I think this will enable me to produce higher fidelity learning experiences. I was encouraged to do this by slowing down one day and giving a listen to Dave Snowden.

EPILOGUE

My blogging hit its stride this year. I have two blogs, PuzzlingMix and Connect the Dots. I don't have a set schedule for writing and posting. I do it for myself. They're reflective journals for the most part. Want to see how my year went: Check out the blogs.

I learn from teachers that teach in K-12 schools, mostly through meetups at EdCamps, CUE, AZK12 hackathons and the eLearning Guild. Most of what I learn is transferable to adults: strategies and activities. The true gems, like the Zombie Engagement Model, spike my interests. How Might We (HMW) is a phrase I repeated a lot in 2015.

My 2015 takeaways: learners ain't zombies. Through context rich (stories and scenarios) experiences learners get up, engage and collaborate with their peers and make their learning visible. Be the unordinary instructional designer.

Thank you to my PLN for helping and encouraging me to be unordinary. See you in 2016.

 

Salt & Paper

PROLOGUE

Successful companies and ideas born in garages and kitchen tables is the stuff of modern-day legend. I wonder if mine's got legs?

SALT

So I'm doing a session at the eLearning Guild's mLearnCon in Austin in June. I've been running through some ideas of how it might work. I'm trying for an immersive learning experience where participants will, well, participate. I think the best notes a learner can take are the stuff they make.

Photo of a paper with notes on a kitchen table

PAPER

I've been digital for so long it was weird the first few minutes I spent writing with a mechanical pencil. Mrs was helping me capture some elusive ideas. Me sketching on my Paper app would have made it difficult for her to see what I was doing, hence the paper and pencil. In the actual session I'll have some tools to make sharing visuals much easier. Or not. It might be worth a brief elevator-pitch of a story to engage people by contrasting rapid with how it's done back at the office.

We, Mrs and me, played around with our ideas at the kitchen table. Later we went to Michael's to pick up some craft supples, the things one associates with design thinking and prototyping. You know, pipe cleaners, ice cream sticks, sticky notes, rubber bands. Mrs kept trying to get me to buy in bulk, thinking it was for the session in June. No, I'd say. “I only need enough stuff to take pictures for marketing.”

EPILOGUE

Not really. I mean, yes, I took some pictures of pencils, sticky notes, and rubber bands that I later tweeted.

Photo of an iPad screen and design thinking prototyping stuff

Mostly I played with the objects and thought thoughts. We're gonna have us some fun times in Austin.

 

Favorite Teacher

PROLOGUE

“The Major..” — CDB (Christina Davies Beeson)

FAVORITE

I met CDB in 1971. I was a high school sophomore enrolled in her College English 2 section. I hadn't chosen to be in her class; some clerk in the office had decided that she and I were a good fit. Surprisingly enough, I didn't realize until much later, we were.

Photograph of Mrs. Christina Davies Beeson

(Photo credit: San Bernardino Sun-Telegram)

CDB was the first Teach Like a Pirate (TLAP) teacher I'd ever met. She was in your face dynamic. She expected results.

TEACHER

Back when I taught multimedia production and Flash development I copied her style: creative presentation to engage students, setting high expectations for assignments that students thought up themselves, and being accessible. When I design learning experiences engagement and interactive are my watchwords.

EPILOGUE

I didn't learn about TLAP until 2013. It amazes me how what was old (CDB's approach) is new again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cruise Director

PROLOGUE

“Stay between the lines. The lines are our friends.”

Sketch of safety scissors and a bottle of glue

CRUISE

Where did I first hear that cautionary phrase? Maybe it was that late summer morning in '61 starting kindergarten?

Today it's a refrain when training a skill: engage but watch the time. Learning should be more than watching out for boundaries. It should be like a cruise to somewhere. It could be.

DIRECTOR

Cue me. This is where I come in. I do instructional design. “I'm a cruise director for learning.” I reply when asked what I do. “I design learning experiences that get people moving and making.” It's a good conversation starter.

EPILOGUE

I'm in He's The Weird Teacher (TWTChat) book club on Voxer. Chapter 1 was about one educator's teaching philosophy. Being The Weird Instructional Designer I totally get where he's coming from. I'm going there, too.

 

 

 

 

 

Gap-Toothed Training

PROLOGUE

“Do you mind if I put you on hold for a moment whilst I research that? Thank you.” Click.

 

GAP-TOOTHED

A challenge instructional designers face is when there’s a gap of some time between when a training program is rolled out and when the skills workers learned are put to use. I call this gap-toothed training. Websters’ defines gap-toothed as a space between two teeth. It’s seems an apt metaphor

Sketch of a school house and a factory separated by a gap

TRAINING

Some years ago I was brought in to help with a problem. Initial sales of a telecommunications product were initially high; sales dropped precipitously a few weeks after product launch. Root cause: gap-toothed training.

 

EPILOGUE

I got an RFP that looks gap-toothed. Facilitated blogging seems a good solution. Tell a story about a potential problem and have workers blog solutions. It should keep the training alive and vital.