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.

 

Unrequieted Love

INTRO

My Bebop2 drone by Parrot met its end a couple of Sunday's ago when it decided to “fly away” into a pecan grove somewhere between Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona.

Artist sketch of a red Bebop 2 drone crashing into a pecan grove

A LOVE AFFAIR

I loved that drone. It was the replacement for the fifth one I bought. I got each one at Best Buy because of their liberal return policy. The drone is a dream to fly. It gives my view a little more reach.

OUTRO

I love it so much I got another one. I can't wait to fly again.

 

Size is anything

PROLOGUE

I got a drone the other day.

SIZE ISN'T EVERYTHING — IT'S ANYTHING

Coming back from an EdCamp Sunday I stopped to fly my BeBop 2 drone. I'd had it aloft a few times already. But those were in my backyard to get familiar with its controls. The spot I picked to see what the drone could do was about an hour west of Phoenix, Arizona far from any airports. It was nestled among two hills that would probably keep larger aircraft away.

I flew the drone up and down this way and that for a while. It was fun let me tell you. After a while I remembered the Bebop 2 is good for about 25 minutes flying time before the battery is completely drained.

That's when I noticed the tower.

Photo of a water tank

I flew the drone towards it. Not being sure how far from my iPad (an app on it lets me drive the drone) the control signal was good for I moved briskly with it. I decided to try a flyby.

Anyway, now it's a couple of days later and I've just read a blog about PLN (Personal Learning Network) size shared on Twitter by @elearning.

Screen capture of a tweet leading to blog post

Its author, @Tracy_Parish, wrote about these rings of PLN scope.

Sketch of concentric circles

Here's the thing, when I engage with my PLN it's usually in one or two ways: conversations on Twitter or long drives to gatherings. Most of the gatherings are with people outside the instructional design discipline.

EPILOGUE

So why did I get the drone? Officially it's for an RFP response. Unofficially it's because in the past year I've seen some members of my PLN light up about drones. The first time was during CUERockStar Vegas when teachers got on the floor on their bellies to see a drone in action. The second time was at a San Diego CUE event where someone I know through Twitter won one.

As my drone flew around the tower at an altitude of about 15 metres I stopped worrying about how far the control signal reached. I was deep into the WOW zone wondering where the drone might take me.

So how big is my PLN? A few at a time.

 

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
 

 

Re: Run

INTRO

“Shoulder to shoulder and backs to the wall..” Sound familiar? Maybe not the exact phrase but the sentiment?

Photograph of a Saguaro cactus

Saguaro cactus somewhere in the Sonoran Desert

I was nine years old the first time I heard the phrase spoken, clueless what the words meant. They were spoken by Bob Steele acting in the role of Trooper Duffy, a member of F Troop.

RE:

F Troop was a 1960s TV comedy about a misfit Army outpost set in the 1860s. I got to thinking about it during a meeting last week. My job as an instructional designer, like some people's jobs, isn't all fun and games. It's an iterative job that can become very technical quickly.

I like being a designer. I like serving people, aiding them in their development. One thing that makes my job fun is storytelling. Another is finding patterns in things I see and hear.

Photograph of a rock formation

Can you see the mama bear and cub?

Can you see anything but rocks in the photo above? I was out on walkabout the other day near Desert Center, California when something grabbed my attention. Looking at it for a few long moments what I saw reminded me of a family of bears: two adults looking out for their cub.

RUN

Typically instructional design involves analysis to identify gaps in knowledge or performance and to learn about the ecology where work and learning occur.

Sketch of several shapes that resemble bears

When I meet with customers and subject matter experts I ask them to tell me stories about what they perceive a problem to be. I take notes: written, sometimes typed. Lately I've started sketching, too. I've found it offers two very different but hugely important benefits.

  1. With sketching comes clarity. Quickly.
  2. Drawing is a very old human activity that brings people together.

Which brings me back to Trooper Duffy. The group I was working with were old school. That is to say they were uncomfortable with my sketching. To them analyzing a problem had to happen the way it had always happened, slowly and methodically.

 

OUTRO

I'm going to be working on this project through at least February. Besides doing my usual instructional design thing I'll also be modeling new innovative stuff that I've learned. Like analysis through storytelling and sketching to decrease, perhaps drastically, the time it takes to get busy prototyping. Another new thing I can't wait to take out for a spin is visual thinking for formative and summative assessments. It'll be like Private Dobbs, F Tropp's bugler, blowing reveille to wake everybody up.