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.

 

Begin with the bend in mind

INTRO

I'm doing a talk on interactive presentation design at AZTEA's Fall tech conference. In the spirit of #lrnchat and #ShowYourWork here are some things that helped me ideate and produce the experience.

WANT INTERACTIVE? MOVE

What's wrong with this picture? In a typical conference session attendees mostly sit. If they have wifi and a mobile device they could be doing most anything. How can the presenter make participants out of attendees?

 

TELL ME A STORY, THEN GET OUT OF MY WAY

How about walking participants through a story a little at a time?

Maybe something that talks to us at an emotional level.

Or that asks us to think really hard about about what we want.

Maybe having someone near to guide us?

OUTRO

So that's the gist of the idea. Three simple slides telling a story.

 

Zombie Pedagogy Matters

PROLOGUE

Pedagogy comes before technology when designing learning experiences. Whom are we designing learning experiences for, devices or people? I’m writing this post in response to a blog post by RJ Jacquez suggesting elearning is dead.

ZOMBIE

I work with several devices on any given day: a Dell notebook, a MacBook Pro, an iPad, a Blackberry, and an iPhone. I do different things with each device. I don’t do the same things on all my devices. How would a single instructional experience apply across all devices all the time?

Instructional designers, and the learners we support, are not zombies. Context, where a learner is and what they are doing matters. Squeezing learning content from a laptop screen to a smart phone screen doesn’t extend a learning experience. It constrains it.

PEDAGOGY MATTERS

How do you interact with your mobile phone? I use mine for taking pictures, texting, and making calls. I have a lot of apps that I don’t use often. Mostly they’re there for quick one-off tasks like uploading a photo to Instagram or checking the weather. I tend not to read on my phone. For reading and watching video clips I have my iPad.

My tablet’s form factor enables me to consume a richer variety of information than my phone. iPad, for example, is good for doing research in the field. I have apps that enable me to rapidly produce a range of information types including video clips, spreadsheets, presentations, and documents.

Pedagogy has to come before technology.

EPILOGUE

I started using Plotagon after reading a tweet about it by digital innovation consultant Christy Cate. I think I was accessing Twitter from my iPad at the time. A few minutes after downloading the app I created my first story.

While it’s true the story can be played back on any device that works with YouTube what the learner does with it matters. Are they looking at the clip while finding an emergency exit? Head down while moving down a corridor there’s a good chance they’ll miss it. Maybe the device is running an app that shows them where they are in a building relative to the exits?

Pedagogy, the mindful application of instruction, comes before technology.

Transformational Learning Experience Design

INTRO

During tonight’s #TLAP chat I got a DM (Direct Message) from someone asking for my spin on transformational learning experiences. This is my short answer. Note that I support adult learners.

TRANSFORMATIONAL

Butts in seats: When I think about learning that’s what comes to mind first.

Teachers talk while learners..

Can you identify with this scenario: A teacher, an overhead projector, slides, and a darkened room? How did it feel to you? Maybe it’s a computer-based training application where the learner reads, clicks, drags, and navigates to the next screen.

LEARNING EXPERIENCE

I think learning has to be experienced for it to stick. It’s moving around a learning space. Maybe it’s using an app on a mobile device to research, draft, and create.

How I like my courses to flow: the teacher shares a story on the thing to be learned. Then there’s a conversation where questions are answered and additional details are shared. Note that the details need not come from the teacher.

DESIGN

We have lots of experience with stories. A well crafted story elicits its own meaning to the person hearing it. This is where context comes in. Given a learning objective wrap a story around it.

The stories I like to use describe something bad that has or could happen. Sometimes the stories are about opportunities. The learner brings their own context or need to the learning space. The learner does or produces something that brings closure to the story. I like to think it ends happily for teacher and learner.

OUTRO

Learning should be about more than butts in seats. Learning should be about movement, collaboration, and making the learning visual. Designing transformational learning experiences means learners are actively engaged, sharing perspectives with other learners, and creating something real that says “See? I got this.”

Suggested reading: Teach Like A Pirate by Dave Burgess, Pure Genius: Building a Culture of Innovation by Don Wettrick, Professional Learning in the Digital Age by Kristin Swanson, and Invent to Learn by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary S. Stager.

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.