Evaluating Directions (and My Own Assumptions)

In class, my partner and I were assigned the task of learning how to jump a car with a dead battery.  I am slightly ashamed to say that I wasn’t 100% sure exactly how to jump a car. I thought I knew the basics. Open the hood, attach the jumper cables to the battery of the vehicle with the dead battery to the battery of a car without the dead battery, etc.

So when my instructor proposed this task I jumped (pun intended) at the chance to learn this skill. I am, after all, well-educated in many areas, but I must admit, cars are not my area of expertise. So we dove right in. There was one thing we discovered was assumed when dealing with this every day problem:

  • Creators of tutorials often assume their audience has a general understanding of car mechanics (which every person does not have)

Through a series of general searches we came away with two sets of directions to evaluate. Take a look at the linked video below. It was posted by a well-known auto parts chain.

How to Jump Start a Car Battery-Advance Auto Parts

Now look at the image below:

Image found at: http://i.imgur.com/Piwnj7L.png
Image found at: http://i.imgur.com/Piwnj7L.png and http://imgur.com/a/p36rk

I must admit, that had I attempted to jump a car prior to viewing the two tutorials, there may have been a mishap, and fire…and perhaps the need for paramedics. Just as you have to connect positive to negative terminals to complete a circuit or put batteries into a kid’s toy, I had assumed the same held true to charge a battery…not so!

As I looked at both examples, I began to wonder if I also assume things about my audience (my students) that may not be true. I thought back to tutorials I had created that involved a learner learning how to complete a task using only the video/written directions I had created.

When I post directions on the board, it is with the assumption that the students understand the academic vocabulary and have understood the connected whole group lessons. When I give students independent work, that line of assumptions continues. As a teacher with a high population of ELLs (English Language Learners) I know that I must explain the academic vocabulary so that my students understand what I am asking them to do. I provide a lot examples through modeling and anchor charts. I use video and other forms of multimedia as well. I am sure that what I am asking is not always as clear as I hope.

Still I am always striving to do my best. The folks at Edutopia put it so well:  

Before I end this post, I must add that nearly 48 hours after class I attempted to start my vehicle and got the dreaded CLICK! CLICK! CLICK! of a dead battery. Even though I did not jump the vehicle myself, I knew how!

Are Teachers Instructional Designers?

What is instructional design?

According to InstructionalDesign.org, instructional design is “the process by which instruction is improved through the analysis of learning needs and systematic development of learning materials. Instructional designers often use technology and multimedia as tools to enhance instruction.”

Merriam-Webster gives a simple definition for teacher: “a person or thing that teaches something; especially : a person whose job is to teach students about certain subjects.”

I think it is safe to say that educators that incorporate technology and multimedia into the planning of instruction, the deliverance of instruction, and the assessment of instruction are instructional designers. Teachers today, who incorporate 21st century skills into the very design of their teaching, are by definition instructional designers.

Do not misunderstand me, just because you add a video to instruction, does not represent an adherence to the principles of true instructional design. The incorporation of technology should improve instruction. It should allow for analysis of the learning and the impact of that instruction. So as we ask ourselves if we are instructional designers, we must also ask:

  • Is the technology we incorporate meaningful?
  • Is the technology we include an enhancement to the instruction?
  • Do we use the technology chosen because we want to or because it is the most effective way to instruct our students?

As an educator, I must constantly evaluate the effectiveness of my instruction. Finding the delicate balance between creating engaging lessons, lessons that are enhanced by technology, yet not overwhelmed by it, is the name of the game!. As I embark on that journey, I have to look more to the processes that make up instructional technology in order to truly do it justice. In the text we are using, Instructional Design for eLearning by Marina Arshavskiy, so many processes and models are being introduced. Right now, I think ADDIE will be at the forefront of our discussions.  I am looking forward to the learning…

Just something to ponder. Instructional Designer Pedagogy Word Cloud from digitalpedagog.org