Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Professional Development in Instructional Design

In the absence of growth, atrophy.

The world is constantly changing, and as a learning professional, your role is constantly shifting. To remain relevant and to have a positive impact in your profession, you must continually acquire and expand your knowledge and skills to improve yourself in your craft.

In this blog post, I will share some of my current thoughts on professional development in instructional design.

4 Strategies for Setting Professional Development Goals
  1. Be clear about how you will impact peoples’ lives. If you have this clarity, then your next step often becomes more clear. I have articulated my professional purpose in this manner: “My professional purpose and mission is to discover and share knowledge that inspires, empowers, and equips others to succeed in their careers and lives.”
  2. Envision your future self. What kind of a person do you want to be? What do you want to become?  Look at examples of people you want to be like and identify the traits you would like to develop. Who do you want to become in a year? In three years? Create a compelling vision of yourself and make it a reality!
  3. Have career goals. Your career is going to happen, so you might as well be deliberate about what you want to happen within that career. What is the next position you would like to hold? What is the dream job you want to work toward? Work to align your career with how you want to impact peoples’ lives.
  4. Create clear actions for reaching your goals. Be specific about the steps you will take – the skills you will develop, the people you will meet, and the knowledge you will gain. It is sometimes helpful to create a timeline for what you would like to happen, realizing that timelines and paths are fluid and ever-changing. Be sure to identify the most important step you must take and focus on that step.

Categories of Development in Instructional Design
There are 4 basic areas of professional development within the field of instructional design:
  1. Process knowledge and skills. These include project management and workflow, and the result of these skills is increased efficiency, quality control, and empowerment of designers. What knowledge or skills would increase your efficiency or effectiveness in your design processes?
  2. Technology knowledge and skills. These include technologies that deliver or enhance the learning experience, track design processes, evaluate learning, and manage the overall learning experience. What are your technological gaps as an instructional designer?
  3. Theory. These include research and theory on how people learn (learning theory) and how to help them learn (instructional theory). There are many theories and models for learning that are pretty innovative, and improving and refining your understanding of how to help people learn is quite important. In addition, younger generations experience information and knowledge differently than perhaps older generations do, and understanding their experiences and expectations will also inform how you design. How might you deepen or refine your theoretical knowledge?
  4. Self-improvement. You are the instrument through which all design takes place. You must make yourself the most effective “technology” possible. How could you improve and optimize your attitudes, beliefs and habits? How could you improve your health and mental sharpness? What could you do right now to make yourself a more balanced, well-rounded individual?

General vs. Specialized Development
I have a fairly high level of specialized knowledge in learning and instruction. I have been involved in teaching, learning and instructional design for nearly 20 years, now, including an MS degree, a PhD, several years of training and design experience, and years teaching ID to graduate students.  However, I have realized that I use a great deal of general knowledge and skills to make my work meaningful and useful. These general skills are not necessarily design-specific and might include communication, critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, among many others. Design skills are essential, but so are the general skills.

I will finish this discussion with two questions for your consideration:
  1. What design-specific knowledge and skills (e.g. technologies, processes, theory, etc.) do you personally need to develop to make yourself more effective as an instructional designer?
  2. What general knowledge and skills (e.g. communication skills, critical thinking, project management, political savvy, etc.) do you personally need to develop to make yourself a more effective professional?

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Types and Benefits of Innovation in Learning Design

Innovation in instructional design generally revolves around three major areas: Technology, Process, and Theory.

Technology - innovations in technology for learning typically yield several benefits:
  1. learning enhancement - appropriately used current and emerging technology can significantly increase learning
  2. tracking - quality technologies enable us to (a) monitor and measure student learning and progress, (b) manage learning experiences, and (c) manage the processes of creating and evaluating learning more effectively.
  3. delivery - technologies enable us to deliver learning experiences quickly and efficiently to broader audiences quickly and at relatively low cost
  4. management - technologies allow learners and others to manage their learning more effectively
Process - innovations in instructional design process should yield the following benefits:
  1. efficiency to reduce cost and time to produce instruction
  2. checkpoints and controls for creating quality instruction
  3. empowerment to the instructional design team to be creative and innovative

Theory - innovations in instructional theory, or how to design what the learning experience actually looks like, yield several benefits including (but not limited to):
  1. increased efficiency in the student learning experience
  2. improvements in meeting the defined learning outcomes and goals
  3. increased student motivation in learning
  4. increased ability for students to transfer their learning to the real world

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Critical Question: What Should I Do Right Now?

I just had an interesting and slightly stressful experience. Within about a 5 minute time period, I had the following take place:

  1. My brother contacted me about a design-related issue he wanted to talk through.
  2. My coworker popped into my office and asked me if I wanted to take a quick walk to a nearby cafeteria.
  3. I was trying to read through an article on instructional design leadership.
  4. My boss sent me an instant message asking if I could meet with him briefly about something he was concerned about.
  5. My wife called and asked me if I could meet with her the kids for an impromptu lunch.
  6. All of this happened with several other design, reporting, and management tasks calling for my attention from the back of my head.
Which would you do?

I imagine this is a common situation for many people these days. The options are endless, and the right decision is not immediately obvious. But we have to decide and move forward with confidence, adjusting our actions based on how things seem to be going. And hopefully we have guiding principles that provide us with guidance on how to move toward what is most important..

A few reflective questions:
  • How do you focus on what is important to you? 
  • What should you do right now? 
  • What will help you achieve your goals? 
  • What will uphold and support the values that are most important to you?
  • What is absolutely essential?

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Importance of Balance

One thing I have been thinking a lot about is the need of balance in life. Just like Mr Miyagi taught Daniel in The Karate Kid (which is, by the way, one of the best films of all time, in my opinion), balance in life is absolutely critical. Yest, it can be very difficult to find a balance that is healthy and produces the positive results you desire in life.

I been thinking about quite a bit because my wife, birth-daughter and I have recently adopted 4 children. For the past 8 months, we have worked to combine two families into one. We have worked hard to establish new positive routines that will bring a sense of family, joy and satisfaction to everyone.  As a result of this change, I have been thinking a lot about life and the need to achieve a sense of balance.

How do you you know when you are out of balance?
Striking a healthy balance means that all areas of your life are sufficiently cared for. It means balancing between happiness now and working for a better future. It means balancing time at work and time at home. It means balancing between focusing on your own needs and the needs of others.
Here are some great ways to tell whether your life is out of balance:
  1. Your emotions - your feelings will tell you when you are out of balance. Common feelings associated with balance issues include uneasiness, stress, anxiety, and unhappiness. (That reads like a list of side-effects like the end of a medication commercial).
  2. Your body - Often when things are out of balance, you will become ill, feel sick, have pit in your stomach, have tense or cramped shoulders, experience extreme weight loss or weight gain. You have got to listen to your body to and learn over time to determine which of these is affecting you the most.
  3. Your family - your family members know when you are out of balance. They may not like being around you as much. They may want to see you more. Perhaps you don't spend time with them as much as you would like to.
  4. Your supervisor - your supervisor knows when things are out of balance. She will notice your performance dipping, your engagement flagging, or your attendance faltering. 
Typical Life Balance Issues
So what are the areas of life that often become imbalanced?
  1. Enjoing Now and working for the Future at the same time
  2. Taking care of your Self and Others
  3. Maintaining Temporal needs and Spiritual health
  4. Having a life and work that has Structure but affords Autonomy
  5. Work hard but enjoying Rest
  6. Balancing responsibilities and time with Work and Family/Home
  7. Maintaining Control of your environment and Letting Go of what is unimportant
  8. Striking a balance between a life of Routine and Novelty
I plan to write about each of these balance issues from time to time over the coming several weeks.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

7 Ways to Build Your Emotional Immunity

If you're like most people, there are probably times when life gets you feeling like this guy:

As you probably know, it's hard to accomplish anything productive in this state - everything can seem dark, negative, unpleasant, and toxic. Feeling this way easily spills over into your attitude about your work, family, friends, and social situations, which can cause some major problems if left unchecked. Hopefully these negative times are infrequent for you - I experience this kind of a dip in my emotions from time to time, and it can definitely hurt my productivity and relationships at home and work.

 The ideal, of course, is to feel like this guy:

In this state, you are more positive, energetic, bright, upbeat, and full of resilient energy. When you are in this state, you feel immune to the negativity in the world and are prepared to deal with the obstacles that you face in life. You are more effective and positive in everything you do. But sometimes these feelings can feel fleeting or random. So, how can you build emotional immunity and maintain your positive energy? 

Building Emotional Immunity
Just like your body's immune system that prevents and fights disease in the body, you can build an emotional immunity to the noxious negativity that is part of life. There are specific things that you can do to build this immunity and increase your personal sense of vitality, energy, and health in life. Certainly, things that happen to you can affect your emotional state, but since you can't really control these things, you might as well focus on the things that you can control.

Below are seven tried and true strategies for building a powerful emotional immunity. These habits are like vitamins that keep your mind, body, and spirit in good health. 

1 Eat Healthy Food
What you eat has a profound impact on your well-being. Eat the foods that are nutrient-dense and avoid foods that deliver little or no value. Fruits and vegetables are powerful sources of nutrition. I find that I am most energized when I limit dairy, meat, and refined foods and focus on eating whole grains, fruits, legumes, and vegetables.

2 Exercise
Exercise has a significant impact on your attitude and your ability to succeed at what you are doing. It boosts your energy level and helps you stay clear and focused. When I lift weights, walk, run and stretch, I have a greater sense of health and well-being and feel better about my day.

3 Sleep.
Sleep 7 to 9 hours a night for optimal health. I have found that I need about 8 hours to be in a healthy, clear state of mind. When you have been working long hours or need to recuperate, sleep for 10 or more hours and you will find yourself significantly refreshed.

4 Prayer and Meditation.
Prayer and meditation allow you to go inside and connect with the source of joy, peace, and life. I have found this to be a profoundly positive way to build my mental and emotional strength and immunity.

5 Inspirational Learning
Read and listen to uplifting books and audio programs. These help program your mind with the positive and the pure and help you se the world from a positive lens. Listen to spiritual leaders who can provide you with perspective and messages of peace, hope and joy. I am constantly listening to motivating, inspiring authors and speakers as I commute to and from work.

6 Nurture Relationships.
Nurture and enjoy positive relationships your family and friends. Serve and support the people around you. My beautiful wife is my best friend, and she provides me with a great deal of love, kindness and joy. Uninterrupted time with her is a great source of joy and rest for my mind and heart.

7 Hobbies.
Be sure to take time to work on personal projects that give you a sense of purpose and enjoyment. I have many projects that I like to work on - blogging, writing, yard work, etc. If I don't work on these hobbies and projects, my sense of well-being decreases.

These are 7 ways to build your emotional immunity. I often use these to infuse my mind, body, and spirit with positive energy, and they bring me a sense of balance, joy, and purpose.

If you feel like you need a boost in your emotional state, try a couple of the strategies above. Give them time - try it out for 30 days, and soon you will find yourself in a healthier, more positive state with greater happiness and success in everything you do. Just like this guy.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Our Visit to Historic Williamsburg, Virginia

I mentioned briefly in a previous post that Katie and I have adopted 4 children. This brings our family total to 7 (including the two of us). The past 7 months have certainly been a stressful time, and we have jumped at the opportunity to leave for a week to spend time in Williamsburg, Virginia. This area includes Colonial Williamsburg, a key area on the British Colonies in the late 1700s, Jamestown, one of the first English settlements in the Americas, and Yorktown, a key battleground in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.

Travel and Learning

Travel is a critical way to learn and experience the world. Simply being in a place allows you to expand and develop and grow in ways that are often much deeper than through study along. I am particularly fond of these kinds of experiences wherein a location is designed to help the visitor learn about the history of an area. It has been a great experience!

The Westgate Resort

Westgate Resort in Williamsburg, VA. The exterior of the building is fashioned after the manner of the colonial style buildings in the area - red bricked and beautiful. Photo credit: tripadvisor.com
The bathroom at the lovely Westgate Resort. 

Colonial Williamsburg

We spent a lot of time at Colonial Williamsburg. This w as an incredible working village that houses dozens of original or rebuilt buildings from the late 1700s. This was an era in which the American Revolution was under way, and Colonial Williamsburg was one of the epicenters of change during that time. The likes of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and Patrick Henry served and led the people here. It was pretty amazing to walk where these great leaders walked. Here are some photos...
Here is Katie in front of the Governor's Palace. An incredible building rebuilt in the mid 1930s. 

The main room as you enter the Governor's Palace.
An incredible wood-burning stove (apparently called a "warming machine" 250 years ago) in the Palace. 

The Palace kitchen separate from the main building. This lady was making chocolate. I loved the old-school fireplace.

An impressive piano forte in the entertaining room at the Governor's Palace.

The ballroom at the Governor's Palace. The guide (I think her name was Emily?) was excellent.
Yes, that is General George Washington himself rallying the troops as they prepare to face General Cornwallis in key battles of the Revolutionary War.

I thought this was funny.

Going Sailing

Katie and I sailed on a schooner - The Alliance - along the York River. This was a pretty cool experience (although it felt like my toes were going to freeze off the whole time). We booked the experience through http://sailyorktown.com/.

The captain of the ship - Alex (I think). An impressive man with tons of sailing experience.
Actually, someday I hope to sail across the Atlantic Ocean. Probably from England to the Americas....

Just an interesting set of buildings in Jamestown...

Stuff I want to Build

At some point I plan to build an awesome rustic-style cabin. Here are some good ideas for it...

An interesting way to interlock the framing on homes in Jamestown.

Shingles for the homes and buildings in Jamestown. 

I got a little obsessed with the drainage features for some of the buildings. I am going to build something like this in our back yard in Columbus.

More drainage.

Even more.

Interesting fence structure at the Jamestown fort. No nails - everything is held together with pegs between boards.

A scene within the fort including a mini oven for baking. I have wanted to build one of these for a long time but always envisioned a giant horno like those used in the southwest. this seems much more feasible.
A closeup of the oven. 

I liked the simple design of this window. Just slide the wood cover to close the window...

A view of the joist system for holding the second floor of this building. Simple but effective.

These living structures of the Powhatan Indians were pretty impressive. Simple wood framing with weaved cat tails for protection from the elements.
The interior of the living structure. They would apparently burn a fire constantly and hang meat from the ceiling to smoke and preserve meat. A simple but beautiful structure.

Simple methods for joining the framework together.

Framing details.

Visiting Jamestown

One of the days we visited the Jamestown site.

The entrance to the Jamestown Fort. 

An impressive structure within the fort.

Details of the framing and window structure.
More buildings within the Jamestown Fort.

We boarded the replica of the Susan Constant, one of the three ships that sailed from England to the Jamestown settlement. The voyage took roughly 4 months with several stops along the way.

Me in front of the Susan Constant.

The lower level of the ship. This is a view of the rudder (not the best image).

One of the mini-cannons on the ship. A very impressive instrument, and tiny when compared to the cannons on larger ships.

It has been a refreshing, relaxing, much-needed experience. Katie and I have enjoyed our time together entirely kid-free (a rarity for us) and definitely needed the time to reconnect. We are excited to get home to see our beautiful children and slip back into life and continue moving forward in our goals and endeavors.