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.

 

Take a Waze

INTRO

EdCampAzusa was marvelous. But it was only the beginning.

GETTING THERE AND BACK (OR THE JOURNEY IS THE FORWARD)

This past Saturday found me in Azusa, California. I was there to participate in EdCampAzusa, a gathering of educators for a day of unstructured, I like to say organic, professional dvelopment/personal learning (PD/PL).

I wanted to come away with more perspectives on how educators view and experience professional development: how it occurs, what questions are asked, how answers are processed. I wasn’t disappointed.

There were two EdCamps on my radar last weekend: EdCampAzusa and EdCamPalooza. Both were some distance from my home. The latter was more than twice as far away. I would have gone to it still, but the threat of bad weather made the decision for me. In both instances I would be going somewhere I hadn’t been before. The process I depend on to get to new places is Waze. Waze is an iPad app. I enter the address of where I’m going and it gives me turn-by-turn directions. If only learning were that simple.

When I leave an EdCamp it’s usually with more questions than answers. That’s where reflection, connections and Twitter chats with my PLN and serendipity come into play. Yesterday morning I had a conversation on Twitter with John R. Walkup (@jwalkup).

Fuzzy thoughts coalesced into understanding when I read that.

OUTRO

It’s challenging (and fun) applying what I learn with and from teachers into my instructional design craft. It can take some time, sometimes a long time, before the pegs fit. Light bulbs glow brightest when I hear something in a meeting and something clicks. I suggest it, sometimes withouth considering the organization’s culture, and then conversations begin. I love that part. It’s amazing when a half-baked idea leads to a chance to prototype. The resultant mess, an incredibly organic thing, completes the journey. It’s marvelous to be a part of.

 

Role/Roll Your Own PD (Professional Development)

INTRO

Why should kids have all the fun when they learn?

ROLE/ROLL

I’ve got a granddaughter. She’ll be two years old next month. That kid learns so much so fast. She’s fearless about it, too. She knows what she's about and rolls with it.

Photo of OldPa and Carly

Watching her the other day gave me an idea. How does a two year old learn compared to an adult? So I came up with this table based on information contained in the websites referenced below; I probably got the citation form wrong but it’s been a while.

Role/Roll Your Own PD (Professional Development)

References

Child Development Tracker, PBS Approaches to Learning, Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/parents/childdevelopmenttracker/two/approachestolearning.html August 23, 2015

US Department of Education, Adult Learning Theories, Retrieved from http://bit.ly/2yoAdults August 23, 2015

YOUR OWN PD

Who designs your PD learning experiences? If your answer wasn’t yourself I suggest you take a step back and rethink it. Who knows your interests better than you? Who knows where you want to go and what you want to do in and with your life? I suggest you take some time, as much as you need, to come up with some questions that may shed some light on where you might go for answers.

I'm going to be presenting this at a conference in October. I'll share more about it later.

OUTRO

This entry’s a work-in-progress. I wanted, no needed, to get this thought down for later. I didn’t want this one to be, like too many others, an idea that flitted in for a moment and then was gone forever.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

MRPtA Draft 00

PROLOGUE

“Every picture tells a story, don't it?” — Rod Stewart

MRPtA

My mLearnCon proposal was accepted by the eLearning Guild: Yea! So now the work begins.

Screen capture of mLearn conference agenda
 

DRAFT 00

I had thought to do my talk on a case study but during a chat on Twitter someone suggested a different spin.

Screen capture of a tweet suggesting my talk be done workshop style.
EPILOGUE

So that's where I'm at now, ideating how it might work. Good things happen, I've found, when you throw ideas out there.