Dark at Night

INTRO

My best road trips usually begin by dark of night

REFLECTING ON THE LONG TRIP HOME

I came this close to making it to #EdCampSD in San Diego. Something came up and I missed making it three in a row. No biggie. I have some time now to reflect on my recent #ReimaginePD experiences over the past few weeks.

Over the ear photo looking through Urbie's car's back window
 

It's rare that I experience collaborative professional development close to home. It's almost hundreds of miles away that I travel to meet with other educators to, basically, “see what happens.” Often time the takeaways can be expressed in a few words. In St. Louis last month what I learned resolved down to being mindful. Whatever it is I find myself doing I can trust I can do it being mindful the heart of an entrepreneurial person continues to beat in my chest.

Thing is, being an adult about it, learning sticks when it's memorable. Which means like a boomerang it keeps coming back.

Photo of a flea market alongside a rural Missouri road
Which is why I often stop by cool things I pass, sometimes to peruse, other times to photograph. I don't know what I know until I make time take time to see where it fits.

ON WHY MOST ANY LEARNING EXPERIENCE CAN BE MADE SURVIVEABLE

At EdCampYosemite educator Jon Corippo shared this slide.

Photo of Jon Corippo's life about if a thing was going to make a difference it already would have

There were, maybe, thirty people in the room, educators all, and me, a learning experience designer. That means there were that many interpretations. What I took from Jon's sharing is doing differently. But not with stuff. And definitely not with tools. The constant in my work life and probably teachers', too is people. I have people to train up. Teachers have kids to educate. Methinks we have tools aplenty.

Photo of a dusty mountain forest fire road

What I need is to dare more. Sensing danger ahead because I haven't been this way before do I turn back or forge ahead? In this instance, once the butterflies had grown to the size of dragons, I turned around and found my way by revisiting the path I had previously taken.

Some PD (Professional Development) fills me with dread. What I think is fear of being called on to do something among strangers is scary. But maybe the scary feeling can be adopted, adapted or coopted, to teaching and learning. Then again, maybe the dread comes from the fear that this PD is going to be more sit and get?

I understand that somewhere near San Diego today an EdCamp is underway where teachers made stuff with cardboard. How might we use ubiquitous stuff like cardboard and tape to make PD surviveable? I use survivable here in the sense the experienced rescued me from the job's doldrums and dropped me off in a place where I can excitedly share my tale.

OUTRO

I had her for 10 days, my DJI Phantom drone. I bought it at a BestBuy on my way to Yosemite. She was a dream in the sky.

Sketch of a DJI Phantom drone

This was the best I could do drawing the Phantom from memory. I returned it Friday. In a couple of weeks I'm getting the Next Big Thing: a Mavic Pro drone. It's smaller and goes further. Best, it's got the same great camera and is more portable.

Like many my family sometimes went on road trips. Papa liked to leave before dawn, when it was still dark. He called it “first light.” It was exciting making final preparations for the adventure to come, going off into the unknown. Flying my drone, I still have my Parrot Bebop2, is like that. Going on a trip, not knowing for sure what lay ahead. I love PD like that.

 

Zones of My Proximal Development

PROLOGUE

How do I self-motivate when the going gets rough, tough, boring or other? Someone asked me that the other day. Here’s my take.

Photograph of a tilted water tower

AND THE DIRTY LITTLE SECRET IS..

Reflection. I hold myself up to my existential bathroom mirror and take a long look. What does it feel like my eyes do when seeing something new?

Zones_of_my_proximal_development.jpg

  • Eyes rolled up 
    • I’m in my “Oh no!” zone. I don’t feel safe enough to start learning right away.
  • Eyes level
    • I’m in the “Let’s do it!” zone. What are we doing just standing around? Let’s have at it!
  • Eyes down (frozen on the spider/alligator/puppy-poop at my feet)
    • I’m in the dreaded “What the..?” zone. I’m having a problem fitting what I have to do with what I know has worked or not worked in the past (sometimes going back decades).
THE NEXT MOAN YOU HERE
 
The hard part, once I’ve reflected and figured out which zone I’m in, is not zoning out. That is, how do I overcome the Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) Factor and apply some grit and adopt a growth mindset approach and get on with learning? It’s easy to fall into the woe is me trap. Speaking from experience, it can be a lot harder to level oneself and just do it.
 
What I do is remind myself that I’m [most likely] not alone. (It’s a little like the OODA Loop I learned and practiced in the US Navy a long time ago.) I have support and help available. All I have to do is ask for it. Sometimes it may not feel like it. Depending on how peers and managers respond can kick one back a few steps. I’ve occasionally asked myself if it’s really worth it to keep trying?
 
EMPATHIC (ME)
 
A while ago, I think it was towards the end of 2013, I stumbled upon a different way to do Professional Development (PD). What I tripped over in my dark was EdCampWestTexas, now in its third year. Basically it was K-12 teachers coming together on a wet and rainy Saturday morning in Abilene, Texas. In a few short hours I was exposed to new ways of knowing. While most of what I left with was skewed towards educational technology, the main takeaway, the jewel, was Design Thinking (DT). DT is a problem solving methodology grounded in empathy, reframing problems, and prototyping.
 
It makes me a little sad, when I reflect on my past years practicing the art and science of instructional design, how technical I was. I should have empathized with the people I supported more. During my first-pass at design thinking, at a law enforcement training academy, I began the analysis phase of instructional design with a soft-question: What did it feel like doing/learning this thing? It made for a more human/humane approach I think. It had some serious benefits, too. The rest of the process took less time. The team was more involved than ever before. A complaint I often hear from other instructional designers is how hard it can be for people to keep meeting and deliverable commitments. Once I adopted a design thinking approach that reluctance to contribute gave way to some serious collaboration. 
 
If the empathy, caring, is there then so am I. If it’s not, it’s time to ask “Am I in the right place?” Maybe it’s time to move on?
 
EPILOGUE
 
I’ve been trying to learn something new for a few months now. I don’t want to get too deep into the details here. I’ve been in the “What the..?” zone for a while. I think I’m starting to see light at the end of the tunnel though. I’ve sought some serious help from some smart, dedicated and caring people. The hardest part has been learning by making mistakes. I still make some significant ones. Not giving up, continuing to pick myself up and owning the mistake, communicating clearly to clients and peers has made all the difference. 
 
How do I motivate myself to learn new stuff? Design thinking.

 

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.

 

Dee Ess One Oh Six

PROLOGUE

Eight six seven five three oh nine.

CALL LETTERS AND OTHER SIGNS

At 20 working in Los Angeles KFI AM was my radio station. Dick Whittington, Lohman and Barkley and other radio personalities helped make the long commutes bearable. At least it they did until that jackknifed taco sauce tanker truck accident on the Santa Monica freeway that hot June afternoon got me to enlist in the US Navy. But that's a story for another time.

KHJ, KTTV, KTLA and KCOP were the TV stations I watched growing up. They introduced me to The Million Dollar Movie where I saw Godzilla for the first time, Gigantor, Seymore and his cheesy sci-if movies and Felix the Cat.

More recently the stand-out call sign is ds106 and the daily create TDC hashtag. For some months in 2011-2012 ds106 and TDC helped connect me with my creative side. I was working at the FLETC (Federal Law Enforcement Training Center) in New Mexico in those days.

Rough sketch of a horse

Anyway, each TDC gave me a creative challenge to complete. I started most days with one. It helped ease me into my days designing learning experiences. It helped me find my groove.

EPILOGUE

A little while ago I was pleased to notice a retweet that mentioned a draw a horse TDC.

So I accepted the challenge and it's like I'm home again.

 

Awesome! I made another one.

PROLOGUE

Time was I used to avoid mistakes like the plague. I've since learned screwing up big time has its rewards, too.

NOTHING ADVENTURED NOTHING BRAINED

I dropped HumanMOOC today. I did so off officially and socially. Usually when I leave a MOOC I just stop participating.

Photo of a bridge's date stone

For some reason I felt compelled to leave a mark of some kind that I had once been there, a part of this HumanMOOC learning community. Something akin to the date stone architects and builders place on their works.

So what did I learn? These thoughts found a home in my brain:

  • My definition of online learning was incomplete. Going in to the course I defined online learning as that corporate look and feel experience where you're a class of one: a learner at a computer.
  • It can also mean an online university experience learning with others. I should have realized this given my MS Ed. was completed online.
  • I had some reflective insights for how I might make the corporate model of online learning a little more human. The biggie concerns media: Less of a focus on high production values might engage the learner to a higher degree. This is because of authenticity. I'm thinking about the photographs and home movies people shoot on vacation.
  • As cool as video and audio can be, the story matters more. It's like that pedagogy before educational technology stuff I learned through EdCamp and Twitter PD chats.

EPILOGUE

Anyway, I have some stuff to try out to see which ideas have legs.

Photo of a sign reading Everybody fights nobody quits
 

 

Road Blocks (To Mobile Learning)

PRELUDE

Like most anything in life if you want to do something right you have to know what you’re doing. Thankfully these days I’m part of a well informed and motivated PLN (Personal Learning Network) so there’s no shortage of ideas or places to look to help.

CREDIBLE

It helps to consult credible sources of information before beginning a learning and development project. With the pace of change in instructional strategies and educational technology I’ve learned research is an important first step towards achieving learning efficacy.

Sketch of three things that an instructional designer needs to design mobile learning experiences
I think based on my experience, education, and conversations with other educators instructional designers have to want to do what they do to ensure a good outcome. It has to have meaning (Roth, 2015, Location 674 of 3773) to you beyond a paycheck. It takes a lot of time, creativity, and effort to stay the course.
Design thinking offers a simple humanistic approach to connect with learners and the subject matter experts I often depend on. How learners will interact with the learning experience that gets created matters greatly (Buff, 2013). I usually ask learners directly what they prefer and then confirm it through prototyping and observations.
Much of what passes for elearning is boring and mostly disengages, rather than draws in, learners (Quinn, 2005, p2). Believing in your project, getting to know as much as you can about learners and how they will experience the learning offers the best chance of achieving your learning objectives.

EPILOGUE

I like drawing out my ideas. I usually figure out what to present to customers by telling stories. Here’s the story I produced on the way to writing this post.

Images of a zombie instructional designer hunting brains

REFERENCES
  • Buff, T. (2013). Top 5 Design Considerations for Creating Mobile Learning. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/1I3jJBt
  • Tipton, S. (2015). Lesson from Edutech Australia? Planned Failure. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/1JadukA
  • Quinn, C.N. (2005). The Seven Step Program. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/1HDkKTA
  • Roth, B. (2015). The Achievement Habit: Stop Wishing, Start Doing, And Take Command Of Your Life. [Kindle iOS Edition]. Retrieved from Amazon.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pin the Tail On the Edustory

PROLOGUE

Yields of next generation CPUs fabricated on semiconductor wafers were trending down, and with them profits and bonuses. Something had to be done, and quick.

Sketch of a line chart showing goal and actual yields

 

PIN

I inherited a course that sought to train workers how to use a loss control system (LCS).

Sketch of an overhead projector presentation
Sadly, it relied on Powerpoint slide after slide in a darkened room.

 

TAIL

You can guess at the result.

Sketch of snoring from a classroom
The learners were disengaged and yields continued to decrease. What to do? What to do?

EDUSTORY

I reworked the course design. We wanted technicians to be able to identify losses and document near-misses that almost resulted in a loss.

Building on an accelerated learning strategy I designed an activity to do just that.

The class began by introducing learners to the LCS components. This took about five minutes. Questions were asked and answered.Sketch of someone removing objects from a wall

Learners would then pull simulated wafers (our product) from a cloth covered wall where they had been held by Velcro.

Sketch of a wafer with a scribbled note on the back

A yellow sticky note on the back of each wafer told a story about what happened to it. Some stories were losses, others near-misses.

EPILOGUE

Learners then determined, based on the LCS criteria, how to document what happened on a worksheet that simulated the online data gathering app.

Sketch of a worksheet

It was my first successful transformational learning experience design. I didn’t know it at the time, but I’d been following a design thinking problem solving model to get there. Getting learners up and moving around, I know now, was straight out of Teach Like A Pirate.Sketch of Edustory, date, and name