Carmine Gallo, a business communications coach and Emmy-Award winning former TV journalist, is the author of Fire Them Up! and 10 Simple Secrets of the World's Greatest Business Communicators. He writes his communications column every week.
My article Death of the Instructional Designer sparked off some interesting debate and provided some good points. In case you missed it, do view the comments posted for the article. The poll also showed that most readers believe that instructional designers do add value to content development projects.
Tom Crawford makes some interesting points in Is Instructional Design Dead. He also lists some competencies he believes an instructional designer should have.
Vaughan Waller argues that good instructional design is a crucial component of a successful learning program and always will be. I really liked this article.
Learning Circuits big question of Nov 2006 asks if ISD / ADDIE / HPT are relevant in a world of rapid elearning, faster time-to-performance, and informal learning?
Tom Werner calls for better design of the use of emerging technologies for learning.
Brett Bixler provides a long list of instructional designer required competencies and prerequisite skills.
I believe the traditional instructional designer needs to evolve. They need to have the following skills / knowledge:
- Ability to learn and understand content. While instructional design is content agnostic, it is imperative that the instructional designer understands enough content to have meaningful discussion with subject matter experts and other stakeholders.
- Interviewing skills and note taking skills.
- Ability to assimilate and chunk information.
- Writing correctly, clearly and concisely.
- Ability to collaborate with specialists in different areas (graphics, media, software engineering).
- Ability to write stories, dialogues, scenarios, narration scripts.
- Articulate proposed approach to stakeholders.
- Being creative, thinking out of the box.
- Of course, they must understand basic instructional design principles (this is the foundation), write correct objectives, structure the content etc. etc.
- Understand technology and tools used in creating a course. While there are specialists in various functions, it is imperative that the instructional designer also understands these tools, their basic features, limitations and what it takes to build the designs they are proposing.
Viewing different courses, sites helps you stay up to date. It is also a good idea to attend a few eLearning courses to get the audience experience.
Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies’s site is a good repository of various learning tools. Jane Hart invites contributions to identify top 10 learning tools that the learning professionals use. These are not elearning development tools but tools that allow us to learn ourselves. Jane’s summary of top 100 tools for learning from her 2007 survey makes an interesting reading.
Here are my top 10 tools for learning. Actually some of these might just be techniques. While I have listed some specific tools, in many cases, it is the technique that I found important. I have found very little difference in many of these tools and usually my favorites are the ones that I starting using first.
- Google – an astonishingly simple interface, this search engine is the place where I go first when I am trying to know more about something.
- Blogging – not a particular blogging tool, but just the fact of blogging has helped me know more and forced me to learn. It is a bit like teaching is the best method of learning. I use Blogger for my blog.
- Blogs – I find that I am reading and learning more from blogs than from other sources like magazines (online or paper), social networking sites, or company/product websites.
- Google Reader – RSS actually. I use Google Reader manage my feeds. RSS has really helped me stay up to date with new articles of various blogs and sites that I track. I really like this tool.
- del.icio.us – I work on three computers (if I include my mobile phone) and del.icio.us really makes it easy for me to track my bookmarks. But more importantly, I learn from the community to see what others are reading.
- Right click-Open in New Window/Tab – Okay, so you may argue this is not exactly a learning tool, but I find hyperlinks very distracting and if I click on a hyperlink I lose the flow of what I am reading. So I always right click and open the hyperlink in a new tab or window. This enables me to continue reading and if I do view a hyperlink, this allows me to return to my original document easily.
- Web-enabled mobile phone – I resisted getting a GPRS phone for a very long time for the fear of being chased by emails all the time (is there a phobia name for that, I wonder). But ever since I got my iPhone I have been absolutely hooked to its full browser Safari. This allows me to learn when I am not the move anywhere. Given our travel times now a days, I would recommend people getting a GPRS enabled phone with a browser. And the company deal from my service provider at Rs. 99 ($2.50) per month for unlimited usage is an absolute steal.
- Online conferencing (WebEx, Adobe Acrobat Connect) – I don’t have any particular software that is my favorite. WebEx was the most used online conferencing but I am seeing the usage of Adobe Connect increasing. Online conferencing for meetings and training is a great tool for learning and collaboration.
- Slideshare – In my view, the YouTube of presentations. This is a great social networking site for sharing presentations. You can access some really interesting presentations here.
- Wikipedia – Great place to find almost anything here.
I started started tracking statistics only in late Sep 2007. Last four months of tracking of my blog have resulted in the following statistics:
I still get most traffic by blatantly spamming the people I know about my new posts. I know I must stop that but no one seems to be complaining so far. Everyone’s being polite :-). I have started to get traffic from search sites and few other referring sites. I still haven’t figured out how to track RSS feeds to my site.
“When are you going to write about Tare Zameen Par on your blog?” wife asks me.
“I can’t write about that on my blog. My blog is about learning, content development and management. All the corporate stuff you know. I don’t write movie reviews on my blog.” I protest.
“Well the movie is about education and learning. It fits perfectly well on your blog.”
“But, it is still just a movie…”
“So what is your write up about iPhone doing on your blog? That isn’t even remotely about learning and education.” she demands to know. “If you can write about iPhone, you can write about this. It is your blog, you can write anything you want.”
“But I have readers from across the world now” I glance at the little widget on the left with scrolling names of various countries with the number of visitors. “What do they care about Tare Zameen Par?”
Wife peers over my shoulder and views the widget and then stares at me in silence, tapping her right foot lightly on the floor. I smile. Smile is my exit strategy when I lose an argument with wife. When you have a Special Educator for a wife and see a film on dyslexia, made by her favorite actor, you shut up and write about it.
In my view, Tare Zameen Par (TZP it seems is the horrible official abbreviation) is actually about the ignorance in our society about dyslexia and the suffering young children go through because of this ignorance. It is an absolutely beautifully made film, an extremely moving portrayal of the struggles of a young dyslexic boy. It is a film that will make you cry each time you see, it is a film that I want to own on a DVD. If I was a film critic, I would give it a five star rating.
The film attempts to educate the parents directly, and the teachers indirectly, about dyslexia and its impact on little children if not handled sensitively. In spite of the emotional portrayal, great music and fantastic production value the film falls short of a few critical details. As a society, we do need to recognize dyslexia and learning disability and need to handle it sensitively. At the same time, it is also important to know that there are special methods and techniques to teach children with learning difficulties. These methods are not just about an art teacher coming and freeing children’s minds to try out unconventional things. The film completely misses out the role of Special Educator. Special Educators play a very critical role in helping dyslexics and children with learning disability cope with their ability to read and write.
The film has been criticized by some of its not so positive portrayal of teachers. There are teachers and there are teachers. But if a film portrays ALL regular teachers poorly I would agree with the criticism. Not just the film portray teachers in bad light, it doesn’t do enough to educate them to be able to deal with children with dyslexia and learning disability. I would have loved to see if Nikumbh, the art teacher in the film would have been shown taking a workshop for the teachers about dyslexia and perhaps the school changing some of its policies.
The film could also make a case for inclusive education and the need for schools have Special Educators and Counselors. While the film shows a polio stricken boy as part of the mainstream class, it doesn’t do enough to provide a case for inclusive education for dyslexics.
Finally moving away from the film, I wonder if perhaps Minimally Invasive Education techniques might contribute to some innovative techniques and principles in inclusive education in schools. It wasn’t quite meant to solve the problems of learning disability, but is employed as a tool to enhance inclusive education; it could perhaps become a useful tool for children with dyslexia to copy with their learning difficulty.
An excerpt from Hole-in-the-wall website:
“Traditional Computer Based Learning (CBL) methods typically rely on one-way transmission of information. These methods are seen as extensions of classroom learning and thus viewed by children as restrictive. Consequently, results from such CBL initiatives have, at best, been mixed. In Contrast, Hole-in-the-wall Learning Stations seek to create a new paradigm in the learning process by providing unrestricted computer access to groups of children in an open playground setting. We believe that such an open setting will use child’s natural curiosity to stimulate learning. The essential features are:
Playground Setting - The learning station is set up in an outdoor playground setting which children can access at any time. It ensures that girls, who would generally not be sent to close room housing a computer, can now easily access the Learning Station in an open setting.The playground setting offers a host of other advantages. Unconditional access to Learning Stations ensures that both children in-school and out-of-school can use them. Another advantage is that the unstructured nature of this setting also ensures that children themselves take ownership of the Learning Station by forming self-organized groups who learn on their own. Finally an unsupervised setting ensures that the entire process of learning is learner-centric and is driven by a child’s natural curiosity.
Collaborative Learning - The learning station fosters collaborative learning among groups of children instead of following the usual school model of rote based learning (unidirectional). This allows children to explore, learn, share and learn even more as a result of this exchange of knowledge. This ‘multiplier effect’ of collaborative learning is utilized fully by HiWEL learning stations.
Optimum utilization of Learning station - In a traditional computer lab setting, pedagogy is ‘instruction based’ where focus is on dissemination of information. Moreover the access to computer is restricted by average usage time available per user (more so by the ‘scarcity mentality’). As opposed to this, HiWEL Learning Stations rely more on exploratory learning where children who can freely experiment on the Learning Station. Again, groups of children access the Learning Station leading to twin advantages of collaborative learning and multiple children using the Learning Stations at the same time. This leads to much greater impact on children than a traditional lab based setting.
Integration with the school system - A big advantage of the HiWEL learning station is that it fits in nicely with traditional schooling and seeks to reinforce structured learning through peer discussions, increased curiosity and better retention.In schools where the Learning Stations were installed, some teachers have reported improved retention and increased receptivity among children. There have also been early indications of constructive in-class behavior and better scores among kids using the Learning Stations. HiWEL Learning Stations thus seek to enhance the effectiveness of overall learning experience by integrating with the schooling system.
Learning to learn – Apart from addressing the issue of education skills, HiWEL Learning Stations address a more fundamental skill set –the Process of Learning itself. By encouraging children to explore the Learning Station, it seeks to impart them with problem solving skills and an ability to think critically. So, while a child learns how to use educational software, she also develops an ability to analyze, synthesize and evaluate information which in turn builds her long term ability to learn.
Projects by Children - The Learning Stations are used for various real life projects. These projects are designed to engage children in authentic tasks relevant to their daily lives. Moreover they are designed to be locally relevant so that children can directly relate to them. The children can then use the Learning Stations for culling out information, compiling data and preparing reports. This will help develop their personalities while engaging them in tasks which could be of use to local community.”