Objectionable Objectives

Camy Bean and her followers said it best a few years ago here: http://cammybean.kineo.com/2007/12/my-objection-to-learning-objectives.html

Learning objectives in the beginning of a project can be a signal to “listen up kiddies, and prepare to be bored”.  As a learner I also usually skip over objectives.  I’m afraid that to alot of people they are preceived as a signal to prepare for some really dull “educational” but good for you cod liver oil.  As you may know, I’m a career changer with only a few actual design projects under my belt so far.  It is my preference to try to engage and motivate the learner first.  Don’t get me wrong, I believe it’s crucial to have well thought out objectives in order to design effective training.  I just don’t believe it’s alway necessary to introduce them to the learner in the beginning of a module.

But the issue comes seems to come up again and again with every project I do.  My current project is a live webinar/presentation about an emerging technology and how it applies to e-learning. The goal is to get us used to presenting and inform other students.   So I jumped right in, and was having a grand old time making something which I think will have a nice flow and be interesting and informative. Then it occurs to me that I’m not using proper ISD techniques because I’m not writing, much less including the old “Objectives:  Here’s what we are going to learn today bullet one, two, three etc.”.    Will I be marked off for this by the teacher?  When I asked him he said (to paraphrase)  . . .

“at least let us know what we are going to be learning”  if you are going into several points in the presentation then it would be good to have bullet points”.

Perhaps this is a good compromise, and won’t make the presentation start off too stiffly.  But I do wonder from the point of view of a portfolio piece, will not having formal objectives in the beginning be seen as a mark against me?  Will I be judged as someone who doesn’t understand ISD principles?  Or worse yet, as somebody “too creative” to be hirable by a company that does more routine training?

Notes on the Media that Matters Conference 2011

It’s not that you ever get to the point where you “know everything” about the industry.  However, I’m finding that equal to the actual knowledge you gain at an event like this is the reassurance and inspiration of meeting so many interesting people and hearing about so many worthy projects that face struggles similar to yours.   Here are some random highlights: -       “transmedia” is the new buzz word, but seems to basically mean the same as “cross platform” or “multi-platform” or “multimedia”.

-       Sponsors want to hear that your project is “transmedia”, even if they don’t really understand what they means or how to make it happen.

-       The Bay Area Video Coalition has helped many of the transmedia presenters at the conference.

-       Public radio producers are at the forefront of transmedia.   Story Corps has worked with animators to produce some wonderful (bring tears to your eyes) animations that have shown on POV and all over the web.  My son’s media literacy class has shown them as well.

-       Al Letson of the show  “State of the Re:Union” spoke about how he worked with filmmakers to make short video documentaries about the subjects they were doing radio documentaries on.  He said it was a matter of learning to accommodate each other – a radio person wants to practically shove a microphone in someone’s face, while a film person doesn’t want to see it at all.

-       Glynn Washington of the show “Snap Judgment” spoke of how he liked to do features based on documentaries.  He said that documentarians shouldn’t feel territorial about “their ideas”, as being featured on his show always lead to increase in sales.  He said he really needed to talk to “that guy” with the show about homosexuals in rural areas; it would be perfect for him.

-       Transmedia is seen as a way to attract more young people both to causes and public media.  The average age of an NPR listener is 56.  Non-profits are thinking of how they will attract the next generations of young donors and activists as well.

-       The gathering of useful metrics bedevils those of us in many fields – instructional design, documentary filmmaking and transmedia collaborations.

-       Once you create a budget, add 20-25% for the testing and refinement of digital media.

The case studies were particularly helpful.  They included:

-       Jacqueline Olive has a great project in development called “Always in Season” where a documentary about America’s history of lynching will be accompanied by a Second Life “Island” where people can actually interact in a lynching scenario and possibly try to change it.  When asked what would happen if a bunch of neo-Nazis participated, she said these possibilities are still being worked out.  The project will have a soft launch at sponsoring universities.

-       Roland Legiardi-Laura has a project “To be Heard” about under-privileged teenagers using poetry to change their lives.  In addition to the documentary, there is the development of a mobile phone ap that will allow poetry composed on smart phones to be posted as a stream on a website.  They poems could then be used by non-profits focused on the issues raised by the poems, such as child abuse, teen pregnancy etc.  He frankly said that the film would cost approx. $340K, but they would need another $120K to develop the aps etc.  To make the website truly sustainable they would need paid staff for a couple years so add another $240K.  They are well on the way with the fundraising.

This is a point I’ve been making for awhile – these interactive websites, Internet forums, online communities etc. are not “build it and they will come”.  They require active, time consuming moderation and nurturing to work.

-       Dean Hamer did indeed do a great presentation about the amazing outreach he and his partner Joe have been able to do with their film “Out in the Silence”. Some new quotable things he said were:

  • “The best thing that happened is that we had to make our film with no money”.    By this he meant that it allowed them to make the film their way without worrying about pleasing sponsors.  I also think it allowed the film to move forward, instead of being fussed over and polished more than was needed for its purpose.
  • “The limiting factor for our films is not whether you’ll see it on TV or a festival (or the web) but whether you’ve heard of it at all”
  • Giving away their film for free over the Internet not only resulted in an uptick in DVD sales, but allowed it to better serve its activist purpose.  A gay teenager in a rural area who wouldn’t want to be seen in public buying it, renting it, borrowing it from the library etc. would be able to see it privately in his own bedroom.

Notes on UMBC Training Forum – Presentation by David Mallon

David Mallon of Bersin and Associates gave a surprisingly engaging presentation to the UMBC ISD community. Yet afterwards I heard a lot of the same reaction that presentations about informal learning often get. Many comments seemed to be of the “sounds good in theory, but how do I actually sell it to management?” and “this will take away our jobs” variety. To paraphrase some of his nuggets of wisdom:

“don’t think of designing the “right” piece of instruction – think of putting the right people in the right place at the right time”.

“don’t talk learning theory to your clients – talk to them in their language of business metrics”.

“72 % of companies say they believe in informal learning, but 30% of their resources are focused there”.

“Information Architecture is a sister to ISD. Soon these fields will converge, as Information Architecture plays a similar role in learning environments as ISD does in formal courses”.

He also used an interesting term “community management” – where instructional designers go from designing training to being facilitators of the communities and systems where employees informally learn. This really made sense to me, as I recently did a study of an informal learning community for documentary filmmakers called “the D-word”. This forum works magnificently as a fountain of information about all aspects of documentary filmmaking, outreach, marketing etc. However, it requires over an hour a day from a moderator now that it is established. It took even more time in the beginning to set the tone for the group.

My introduction to the wonderful world of wireframing

I am currently taking EDUC 682: Instructional Technology Design and Development at UMBC.  This class is taught on-line synchronously.  Last week’s lecture focused on wireframing.  Many students were unfamiliar with this term, and confused about the difference between it, “storyboarding” and a “flow chart”.    Professor Mark’s was almost evangelical about clarifying the differences.  I think this is because in his experience in  the “real world” he has observed that being able to do all 3 results in much better planning and project management. In a nutshell, a “wireframe” is a prototype of a single page of a website or learning module.  A storyboard shows all the pages together in sequence. Only the flow chart allows for branching.  Thus if a learner doesn’t follow the lesson sequentially, but is allowed to skip ahead or repeat based on their learning needs the flow chart will show their alternative paths.

At Professor Mark’s company professional software is used.  I asked if there were any free on-line options for those of us who have already spent too much on software.  He pointed us to this site:  http://speckyboy.com/2010/01/11/10-completely-free-wireframe-and-mockup-applications/

I haven’t had a chance to test every program mentioned, but her are my preliminary results.  Since I have a Mac, your results may vary:

Lumzy was the best.

Mockingbird and Hot Gloo – no longer free

Denim – was able to launch application, but not to figure out how to work it.  Marks would slowly appear, then disappear

Cacoo looks to be the easiest to use and best designed, but very slow (constantly got what we mac users call “spinning volleyball of doom”}.  It exported an image as a png