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Final Reflections and Evaluations December 12, 2014

Filed under: 5210 — S. Michele Holmes @ 4:32 am
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The semester is almost over for my Instructional Design course, and it is time for my course mates and me to reflect upon what we have learned about instructional design. One of the reasons I began this graduate program is because I discovered that what I love most about teaching is designing lessons and activities. What this course did was define and formalize the processes I was already using resulting in a greater appreciation for the practice. When first introduced to ADDIE and the idea of designing for instruction, it seemed as though the steps needed to occur in separate, compartmentalized stages, but this is not the case. They actually overlap a great deal, and moving into subsequent steps may be necessary to finish the current, and likewise moving backwards to go forwards.

One major difference between what I do for my students and the projects I completed for my clients is meeting each population’s needs. For my students, I develop and implement the lessons, so I do not have to explain the implementation to an instructor or a client. Teachers often must adjust instruction on a whim due to unforeseen issues or immediate feedback from the students. When designing for a client, understanding exactly what they need then creating a product I will never actually teach feels much more accountability-driven. Something I did not expect was missing the closure I would normally experience from teaching a lesson after I created it. Also, understanding the content to be delivered in the instructional design, at least at a basic level, is essential. Even if a content specialist is involved, I still need to comprehend the gist of what will be taught. I would not feel at all comfortable working with some of the information my course mates designed.

As for what I have learned from the evaluation phases of my projects is that having clear goals for the final outcome is crucial. This is not always possible depending upon the project, but it was true for both of mine because of clear-cut beginnings and endings of the courses. Sure, they can both be adapted for future use, but these will never be ongoing projects. I imagine an ongoing implementation such as online educational software would have a much different process and experience. The evaluation of Project B revealed that the rubric was the most valuable tool to the audience, but the job aid and the development of a timeline were the most beneficial to the instructor. One idea I would like to ponder more is accessibility of the software used to make the final product from multiple devices and locations. The audience was asked to create PowerPoints, but Prezi is another possibility which can be accessed from the Internet.

Setting deadlines, communicating with clients, observing some of the implementation were all important lessons learned on my journey to become a better instructional designer. Being flexible and having a wide skill-set are also critical. The ability to receive constructive criticism and feedback and utilize it to improve the future iterations of the product is also helpful. Teachers often comment that once teachers become administrators, they forget what being in the classroom is all about. I wonder how having experience teaching will influence designing instruction at a professional level in the future.

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Professional Instructional Design December 10, 2014

We are wrapping up the semester and finalizing our 2nd projects in my Instructional Design class.  We have been asked to explain what it means to design instruction and identify what skills are required to do it professionally.  Designing instruction involves creating some form of media for the purpose of providing information someone is expected to learn.  How this is done may appear different depending upon the job, but the basic process will be similar.  One possible design process referred to as ADDIE involves analysis, development, design, implementation, and evaluation.  While this may work for most initial projects, designs are often revised and updated as the need arises.  So a shortened version of ADDIE may occur repeatedly.  Consider the implementation period.  Much of today’s digital designs are continuously implemented but still need revising on a regular basis.  Therefore, most educational software developers update their programs according to the school year and upload those edits during the summer.

Thinking of designing professionally, three key skills are necessary.  Being knowledgeable of design software and techniques is essential to creating successful design.  Designers must keep themselves updated with latest technology, trends, and software updates.  Consider how software also gets updated on a regular basis.  Sometimes the updates are simple changes, but sometimes the entire software product is revamped.  Even the experienced user and designer must spend time learning where the tools have been moved to.  Expanding one’s skill set will certainly increase how valuable one can be to future clients.  I ponder how clients often do not know what software would be best for their need or situation; perhaps they are not aware of all the possibilities.  It will be the instructional designer’s job to hear what the client needs and help their client choose the best vehicle to articulate their ideas.

Having a background in teaching, knowledge of national and state standards, and experience with a variety of educational materials is also a key skill to being an effective instructional designer.  Even with efforts to nationalize curriculum, state standards vary across the country.  I have myself experienced issues with materials created for national standards having to be modified to Texas state standards.  No matter how the company attempted to “fit” their materials into the standards, they did not fully address the expectations or all the specificities.  Also, the TEKS are revised and updated regularly, and although designers are not involved with this process, they will experience the brunt of revising and updating websites, textbooks, consumable workbooks, etc. once the updated TEKS are adopted.  Having actual classroom experience assures the designer will consider the logistics behind implementing their products.  Teachers rarely use materials at face value, so designers must consider how teachers will modify their products, pairing them down or expanding upon them.  Designers must consider the ages of the intended audience.  If the designer has no experience with the busy brains of a first grader, they may have difficulty creating materials the child can handle.

Perhaps the most important skill to an instructional designer is a combination of time management, communication, and organization skills.  Keeping up with benchmark and final deadlines keeps clients happy, but there is more to time management than deadlines.  Understanding the time involved with creating materials in various applications is essential.  The client may simply need paper-based materials to be converted to a digital form; this may not take very long unless the client has grand ideas about the interactivity of the digital form.  However, creating materials from scratch or into a form which requires a great deal of planning or involvement of many people takes more time.  Taking a project and breaking it down into smaller mini-tasks is something every designer must understand.  Speaking of involving many people, strong communication skills will keep all parties “on the same page” while addressing everybody’s ideas and needs.  Sometimes clients have difficulty articulating exactly what they want; they may not be able to put their needs into words.  Instructional designers well versed in different forms of communication can assist the client “flush out” their ideas.  Rarely would a professional handle one project at a time, so managing multiple projects at once requires the designer to keep all aspects of every project organized.  Using calendars, reminder applications, project management programs, folders, and other organizational tools will facilitate the designer’s effectiveness.

 

Regulation and Communication November 16, 2014

Filed under: 5210 — S. Michele Holmes @ 5:12 am
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My Instructional Design course mates and I are well into our second design projects.  Because the second project will require no benchmark assignments as we work through the entire ADDIE process again, we will be required to regulate ourselves and our clients on our own.  I see both advantages and disadvantages to this.  As a professional instructional designer, our clients and supervisors will not want to see all the ADDIE steps in separate documents at specified periods.  We may have to update them on a regular basis, but what it will look like could be different from project to project.  So the advantage of Project #2 is a more authentic version of what we could experience in the future.  However, having little experience with the process AND the freedom to work on our own schedule is . . . well, to be honest, somewhat scary.  At least we still have our safety net in place, meaning that we can contact our professor at any time for feedback and guidance.

So in this case, we must regulate ourselves and others to a greater extent to achieve the final goal.  As for self-regulation, we will have to set our own deadlines, be accountable to ourselves, and evaluate our own work.  Regulating our clients will involve guiding them through the process, helping them set timelines, and communicating with them more regularly.  Project #2 will be more challenging than the last because my client and I are creating the project almost from scratch.  We will not be held to the standards and guidelines of an outside organization unlike the last project.  Plus, my client is not experienced with either the needs of the population the project is being designed for or the technical skills required to create the project.  I have already been experiencing a greater degree of regulating my client because of all these factors.  On the other hand, I am finding the freedom to develop the design more liberating than I felt with the first project.

Communication will be even more necessary for this project because of what it entails.  The last project was much more structured and well laid out prior to me turning it into an online course.  The only real communication between my last client and I was to check-in with her about my own progress and obtain feedback as needed for my professor.  This time, my new client and I are starting with a loose idea I developed a few years ago.  We will basically be creating all aspects of the final product with no expectations other than our own.  Our communications already feel much different.  I see myself taking on a much larger role in the development and design stages because of the client’s limited experience.  She requires more guidance and support.  I anticipate future communication will occur more frequently and appear less formal.

 

Thoughts on the First Instructional Design November 2, 2014

Filed under: 5210 — S. Michele Holmes @ 2:09 am
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My Instructional Design course mates and I have finished our first projects and are in the beginning stages of our second projects.  We have been asked to stop and reflect upon our experiences with the first project and consider how these experiences have prepared us and will affect our work on the next project.  Perhaps the most important part of the first project was to walk through the entire ADDIE process step by step. Although each of us had completely different projects and outcomes, the ADDIE process could be applied to all of them.  Plus, the ADDIE process is not at all what I have experienced in public education (see Analysis & Design Working Together), so it has been interesting to experience the full process and compare it to what I do at work on a regular basis.  While my course mates and I will still work our way through the ADDIE process for the second project, we will have fewer benchmark activities to turn in.  I view this as an opportunity to go through the steps more quickly perhaps even allowing more freedom to move in and out each step with less structure.  I should feel more intuitive and less organized but more authentic to what a professional instructional designer would do.  After all, they are likely to be accountable only to their clients and themselves.

As for what worked, my clients were highly knowledgeable of how their content should be structured and organized.  Their insight was valuable to the analysis and design phases of the project.  I felt these were the strongest aspects of this particular project.  However, the development of the actual materials was to me the most exciting and creatively rewarding phase despite the parameters I was bound to.  Because the analysis and design were well laid out, both these steps took very little time.  I ponder how working with a client who does not have clear objectives or vision and how much longer these phases could take.

As for what did not go so well, the limitations created by the learning management system were difficult to work around.  For example, if I created an activity or quiz and found there to be a mistake (which often happens) it was not possible to correct the mistakes without great difficulty, especially if course participants had already worked within the assignment.  The lack of computer experience among the young users was also a logistical issue my clients and I had not anticipated.  These both made the implementation of the project the weakest aspect, but perhaps the most valuable in learning the craft.  As I transform into an instructional designer, I must consider the weaknesses inherent in the implementation process.  Some can be anticipated and managed prior to roll-out, but others cannot.  It is our job as designers to minimize these weaknesses to the best of our ability and quickly address glitches.

That being said, I would like to go in a completely different direction with the next project and not use a learning management system.  Sure, tracking student progress will be a major consideration, but the freedom of using a website format to relay information will be a wonderful learning experience.  But perhaps the information could be structured in such a way that the users only access what they need to move them along with their projects.

 

Reflections on Method of Loci and First Project October 19, 2014

These past two weeks have been filled with implementing our instructional designs and exploring the potential of a mnemonic technique called Method of Loci or Memory Palaces.  My Instructional Design course mates and I have been asked to reflect on what worked and did not work using the method of loci to learn the process of Wilson’s (1995) Situated Instructional Design as well as how it could be incorporated into our designs.  We have also been asked to reflect upon the implementation and evaluation of our instructional designs including if we incorporated or ignored our client and peer feedback.

First, the method of loci or memory palace is a learning strategy which utilizes the visualization of locations to organize and recall information, especially large amounts of information.  This method typically involves using a familiar place such as one’s home for a sequence of location points with which to pair information to be recalled at another time.  Because the system relies on spatial awareness, some people like myself have a much better advantage over those whose talents lie elsewhere.  You see, I moved around a lot as a child.  My family moved to a new home, and I went to a new school almost every school year.  Sure, it may have been a coping mechanism at the time to be cognizant of the layout of my new schools and homes, but I later figured out that specific memories were also attached to those places.  My husband often compliments me for the quantity and detail of obscure memories I can recall from my childhood, but it makes sense because my memories are organized by places making them much easier to recall.  For example, I can remember that I read the book Helen Keller’s Teacher about Annie Sullivan in the second half of 3rd grade.  All the students had to create a diorama about a book of their choosing, and I can literally visualize all the projects arranged on the window ledges of my reading teacher’s classroom as well as what was in mine.  I actually attended two schools that year, so I also remember making Stone Soup during the first half of the year at the other school I attended.  After reading the book, each student was asked to bring a different ingredient to class one day to make soup.  Carrots were my contribution.  Seriously, this is what my mind is filled with . . . the fact that I brought carrots.  But ask me to remember either of those teachers’ names, and I am at a complete loss.  Funny how the mind works.

As for processing the four components of Wilson’s (1995) view on Situated Instructional Design, I considered and visualized where I usually am when I conduct each of these basic steps in my lesson planning.  As it turns out, the physical places where I think and work are fairly consistent, so it made sense to develop my visualization of the “path” based upon my physical locations.  I usually begin designing a lesson in the comfort of my bedroom relaxing and pondering how I will execute the goals of the lesson (desired outcomes), my own thoughts about what is essential to understanding the topic (values), and how either I or other teachers have taught the lesson before (acceptable conventions and practices).  The next step occurs ideally in the upstairs conference room of my school during a planning day as my department develop our activities together (plans for), brainstorming new ways to teach the same materials (engages in knowledge-generating activities).  The next phase of a lesson would take place in either my classroom or lab as the students conduct the activities we have prepared for them.  I facilitate the lesson (observe and monitor learning) and alter what I am doing when I see the students are not “getting it” or move along to the next activity if they show me they have already grasped it (make needed adjustments).  And then I return to the comfort of my bedroom to prepare for the next day reflecting upon how that day’s lesson went (reexamine goals and activities for improving learning).

So the real question is how this can be applied in the classroom?  I considered how I often I have my students visualize their own personal experiences when we discuss certain topics.  In fact, I pride myself in assigning homework which involves no paper or reading, only visualizing or observing.  So much of the physical sciences I have taught involve basic kitchen activities.  Inevitably, the students who spend time in their family kitchen watching pots of water boil, salt dissolve, and oil float in the water already understand the basics.  Much of our force, motion, and energy concepts are common playground experiences such as gravity pulling students down a slide, balls rolling faster on the wooden gym floor as compared to grass, or how a simple game of tug-of-war relies on unbalanced forces.  My students even get a kick out of taking a mental picture of their dinner plates as we begin our unit on food webs to initiate a discussion about where food comes from.  It makes perfect sense that the concepts with which they have the most difficulty are the ones they cannot truly visualize because they have no experience with them.  The fact that celestial bodies both rotate on an axis and revolve around another celestial body is difficult to “see” and requires a variety of diagrams, models, and observations.  They also struggle with picturing the slow changes of weathering and erosion needed to create canyons and river deltas because such processes take thousands of years and humans do not live for thousands of years.  Again, I support these lessons with photographs, models, and even time-lapsed photography.  It makes sense that as I ponder how to transform the entire 5th grade science scope and sequence into a video game, the location of where the concepts are observed must been considered.  We can begin our journey in a kitchen, then travel to the park, then to various locations on the planet (beach, forest, arctic circle), and eventually into outer space. But the situation is easy with science; reading and math will require more thought.

Now for some reflections on my instructional design.  First, because the implementation is still happening – my client and her students are only two weeks into it with four more to go – my evaluations are based only on what my client and I have observed thus far.  The copyright security and protection from child predators that a password-protected learning management system such as Edmodo offers are major advantages.  However, my client and I were bound by what the program can do.  My client would have preferred for the lessons to be more accessible to the students and organized by units or modules for easier access.  The students responded positively to the Facebook-style appearance.  They enjoyed being able to communicate with each other through their comments and having more control over their own learning, but my client and I both observed that some students are not as computer savvy as other and are struggling with the interface . . . something neither of us anticipated with today’s proliferation of technology in schools.  Based upon my client’s needs, I did change the deadlines in the system to meet some issues with student enrollment changes.  I would also prefer an easier way to grade/assess each assignment and monitor who has completed what.  My client is not as concerned about this issue as she was about giving written feedback to students through the comments.  If the system looks like Facebook, it should do a better job of notifying the students of notifications.  As for my peer suggestions, I broke up the physical arrangement of the activities in the job aid and adjusted the times designated for the activities per her suggestions, but I ignored the suggestion about giving more time to the introduction and ended up removing some information to reflect what would really be happening.

References:

Wilson, B. G. (1995). Situated Instructional Design: Blurring the Distinctions Between Theory and Practice, Design and Implementation, Curriculum and Instruction. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED383346.pdf.

 

Thoughts on Instructional Design October 7, 2014

Filed under: 5210 — S. Michele Holmes @ 3:50 am
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For the past two weeks, my Instructional Design course mates and I have been refining our instructional designs and working towards creating the actual instructional materials. As we review each others’ materials for feedback, our instructor has asked us to stop and reflect upon what we think about instructional design so far. In my last blog I discussed how I am struggling with the differences between the ADDIE model and the current back-planning model used in public education these days. But what I am discovering is that I REALLY like designing instructional materials. Actually, as I reflect back over my academic and professional careers, the designing of lessons and materials is what I enjoy most. This revelation is something to consider as I look to what the future holds for me. Allow me to elaborate.

As my husband is also a teacher, we often find ourselves “talking shop” about better teaching methods and materials. We reflect on our own educational experiences, and he often comments about how little he remembers from his K-12 days and how much I remember. While we both agree the more authentic and hands-on the activities and experiences, the more memorable they are to students, textbooks were the principal source of instruction when we were students, so understanding how to approach them was imperative. In our relationship’s early days, he and I found a commonality when it comes to instructional materials. When asked to recall information we had previously seen in a textbook, we both had a knack for remembering where in the book the answers were located, what else appeared on the page such as diagrams or pictures, and what titles and subtitles appeared on the page. Of course, these were the days of fact-based teaching with basic recall as the primary form of assessment. I had never even heard of a project rubric until I began working towards my teacher certification.

As an undergrad student, I devised study strategies involving interacting with the text because college requires students to be more independent about their study habits and strategies. I developed color-coding highlighting systems, wrote in margins of rented textbooks, reworked and organized notes, etc. in hopes of digesting the content more quickly. I became so obsessed with the idea of making the learning process faster and more efficient, I conducted two major cognitive psychology experiments and wrote research papers on the use of pictorial stimuli and the use of color in instructional materials for some of my senior-level projects.

When I entered the working world at the same time personal computers were becoming capable of more than basic word processing and mathematical computation, I explored the wonders of creating newsletters and flyers for my various businesses, developed staff meeting agendas and training sessions, and basically attempted to improve the appearance of any paper-based product I could get my hands on. I also spent endless hours developing PowerPoints, worksheets, and graphic organizers for my students in my early years as a teacher. As instructional technology advanced, I began to develop more interactive materials through digital formats such as smart board software and web-based content. This evolution and my awareness of it are just one of the reasons I chose to pursue an Instructional Technology degree.

I suppose in some form or fashion, I have been using the basics of the ADDIE model all this time without even knowing what it was. Rarely did I create something without having a purpose or a need, knowing my intended audience, or considering how the materials would be used. Usually the need was MY need, whether directly as a teacher making something for my students, or indirectly such as templates for my staff to create more uniform lesson plans. How involved the design phase needed to be really depended upon how complicated the materials needed to be. A simple flyer or newsletter rarely needed more than layout adjustments, while a staff training required more thought about logical sequencing and prior knowledge. But both of these stages felt very intuitive and informal. I feel I now have a much better grasp of just how thorough and formal these steps need to be, but by far, my favorite stage is still the development of the materials.

 

Analysis & Design Working Together September 22, 2014

My Instructional Systems Design course mates and I have been conducting our analyses for our first projects these past two weeks.  We will use the information we gathered in the near future to create activities tied to the learning objectives we’ve created, but first we must reflect upon our findings.  Although not specifically tied to the project, what I learned most from my analysis is how industry and education differ in how they approach the learning process.  Education is ever evolving into more structured and standardized practices.  It must function in repeating cycles of school years, semesters, and reporting periods.  The state of Texas provides teachers with the expectations to be covered in each grade and subject, so a teacher’s yearly scope and sequence is divided accordingly from an ending point, such as a state assessment, back to the beginning of the year.  She wants to make sure every topic is covered, yet allows for some flexibility in pacing should her students struggle or excel at a particular topic.  So for a teacher, the whole creating objectives process simply does not happen because the objectives are already written.  Also, the idea of a creating a lesson in response to a problem or issue is missing because the objectives are expected of all students without consideration of what they already know.  In contrast, industry trains people according to the job to be performed or as a reaction to issues or problems.  A new employee may already be familiar with some aspects of a job and not need as much training as someone with less experience.  Or a new system or product will be introduced requiring training, yet it will likely only be taught once to current employees.  The learning objectives are developed according to the learner’s needs and could be different for each employee.  In either case, the verb stated in the objective limits possible activities.  For example, if the verb is “explain,” then there are just a few ways to do so – verbal form, written form, or perhaps even some alternative form of expression such as a skit, video, or song.  Regardless, the learner’s final product involves writing and/or speaking to explain.

As for my project, I considered both education and training paradigms in my analysis.  I will be developing a training module to help students prepare for an academic competition.  The competition will take place on a specified date, and the final expectation is the same for all student participants.  These parameters are similar to current education practices because the learning must be completed before the deadline, and what the student does during the competition (expected outcome) is already determined.  However, by thinking more like an industry trainer and analyzing past performance, I found a true problem for which a module can be developed in reaction to the need to increase performance.  After all, this is a competition, and the student who answers the most questions correctly will be the winner, and my trainer client wants more students to place in the event.  Therefore, the activities should include not only presentation of the material to be learned, but also repeated practice to increase performance.  Essentially, my student clients will study 40 paintings including the name of the work and the artist.  At the competition, 15 pieces will be chosen at random, and the students will be expected to both identify and correctly write down the title of the painting and the last name of the artist.  Most of the training module will focus on ways to increase time spent studying the paintings and faster identification of the paintings.  The trainer client plans to meet face-to-face with students to work on the actual writing down of the information, including spelling and punctuation.  In an effort to increase study time, students will be encouraged to communicate with each other about what they are learning in a social-media platform.

When asked about how analysis and design are related, I must admit I am struggling with the idea because most of education is not “problem-centered.”  ADDIE focuses on identifying a problem and creating a way to solve the problem.  In education, the curriculum is already in place, so the design takes place without an analysis.  Teachers have very little flexibility when it comes to designing lessons other than putting their own spin on what someone else told them they have to teach.  As lesson designers they have very few “problems” to work with until the students have been exposed to the material and either don’t get it or already knew it.  Then the real issue is usually the students are not prepared cognitively for what they were about to learn, they have a gap in prior learning, or they have become bored with the lesson.  For example, how can a student truly understand adding or subtracting fractions when they don’t understand fractions?  At this point, the teacher does not design a whole new lesson for the entire class; she pulls the student at another time and reteaches the lesson at a slower pace searching for the gap or clearing up the confusion.  As for the student who already knows the material, the teacher must find a way to keep him interested by extending above and beyond her plan.  This perpetual analysis and her response (redesign, if you will) to it happens so naturally, rarely are they seen as separate steps.

One thought comes to mind concerning the Information R/Evolution video and how analysis and design affect each other.  First, understanding how information can be categorized and filed helps us see how the Internet can take the classification of information to a whole new level.  Consider a comparison to the human brain.  Humans store information in different areas of the brain, and the various parts perform different functions.  So just as a human may store a memory but have trouble retrieving it because the neural pathways are not strong enough, filing information in drawers or on bookshelves only to be forgotten about because we didn’t create multiple ways to access it results in failure to quickly find it again.  Using hypertext, tags, searches, hotlinks, and all the various ways to manipulate text on the Internet links information together creating stronger paths just as my repeated access of information in my brain creates stronger and more efficient neural pathways.

 

 
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