Monday, February 12, 2007

The February BIG QUESTION!

What Questions Should We Be Asking? we go again! Everybody says all of the really great things before I get a chance to, so all I'm left with is "yeah, go look at what these cool people said".

Check out Mr. Oehlert's unique perspective and you'll also get links to the other smart people.

Me? Well, I think the biggest question is STILL, "Why US?". Why do we ("learning professionals") continue to think we have the answers that are special to it should be done...who should create it...and how should others consume it? Maybe the question is "Do we still add value to the new learning equation?"

Technology IS driving the changes in learning these days: Search (rip), create (mix), connect (feed). These tiny little words RULE the new world. Here it is put another way..."Do people really need us (ISDers) any more?" Or, "Does your company really need you (me, us) any more?"

This main theme continues to smack me in the head over and over and over again...ouch! Stop that! EVERYTHING we need...let me say that again...E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G, we need to know about creating effective media for learning is being done by OTHER professions. That's what keeps hitting me in the head...where's the added value from ISD?

Here's what specifically smacked me in the head over the weekend:
It comes from comic books and the contiguity principle.
First, the contiguity principle: placing text near graphics improves learning. Holy crap! Is THAT the best we can do? There isn't a bigger NO DUH that I can possibly think of.
If you want to understand how graphics and words relate and how to best apply them in your elearning...look no further than Understanding Comics. Scott McCloud has it nailed. Oh, and by the way he nails Storytelling as well which is, by far, the most time tested form of knowledge transfer known to man. Do we EVER talk about storytelling in ISD? No. Why? Because its about them and it's not about us. People tell stories intuitively with each other...without the meddling of an ISDer. People learn just find without us. And not only that, the web is making it possible for people to...GASP...learn from each other...WITHOUT us! Holy career crashers, Batman!

What is it that we actually bring to the party? That's the question I want answers too.

(My apologies to Ruth Clark for this. I am a big fan and highly respect her work. Its obvious that this principle had to be defined because so many people just didn't get it and needed to "see the research".)

Also, see the technical writers community for learning how to write...and see your local programmers community for how to program in your app of choice...and see the neuroscientists for brain-based learning...and the anthropologists for social behavior...and see your local high schooler for text messaging tips...and see professional photographers to understand pictures...and see your local graphics designer to understand colors impact on viewers...and see game developers to understand simulation...and on...and on...and on.


Anonymous said...

Hey Brent, I definitely want to make a response to your big question... in time... in the meantime, I was delighted by the post on Creating Passionate Users - Marketing should be education, education should be marketing, which relates nicely to topic.

bschlenker said...

YES! Kathy has a GREAT perspective on Corporate Training in general, but I also love her thoughts connected to marketing. Its made perfect sense to me ever since I started reading Seth Godin, Tom Peters, and others.
I look forward to continuing the conversation.

Tom Haskins said...

I love this Brent! Thanks for questioning the value of ISD in this way. I'm delighted that you're connecting to the value of storytelling and learning from fellow learners. Your "wild gamer" instincts are an inspiration to my blogging.

Anonymous said...

Convergence and Instructional Design

In 1998 I read one of those books that changes your whole perspective on the world: Visions: How Science Will Revolutionize the 21st Century by Michio Kaku. Whereas 20th century science decoded the basic building blocks of the gene, the atom, and the digital bit, Kaku postulated that 21st century science will be about the convergence of these basic elements into trans-disciplinary sciences. You’ve heard of many of these new cross-pollinated disciplines already -- nanotechnology, biotechnology, neuro-evolving artificial intelligence.

Likewise, instructional design in the 21st century reaps benefits from a wide array of social and physical sciences that were once in silos in academia.

As an instructional designer, I am a trans-disciplinary practitioner. Part educator, marketer, psychologist, sociologist, anthropologist, communication specialist, and cultural epicure, my aim is to change human knowledge, attitudes and behaviors by engineering transformative learning experiences. I integrate a wide range of design activities and information about my audience. I reference best practices from multiple disciplines, especially cognitive sciences and design research about usability, aesthetics and interaction.

Like other great design traditions of art and industry, instructional design requires the same sensibilities and disciplined approach. There is not only a place in training and education for the instructional designer, there is a cavernous void of need for the trans-disciplinary practitioner.

bschlenker said...

Tom! I'm honored by your comments and was inspired to post. Your blog took me in a million wondeful directions...thank you!

Mindy! Outstanding Comment! I agree. The future holds great things for the trans-disciplinary practitioner. Perhaps our role is to convince the world of this reality. You rock!

Karl Kapp said...


With all respect, I think you are mistakenly putting technology and happenstance ahead of good instructional design. An RSS feed is not necessarily good design nor is a mash up.

Blogs are horribly designed for quick, non-reflective learning (teaching facts). But are well designed for building discussions and sparking insight (teaching concepts)…we need to use blogs for what they are good for and use other design methods for what they are good for. ISDers know this, do all bloggers know this?

Simply placing text near graphics does not always improve learning (in fact, the principle of contiguity actually has two parts, Spatial and Temporal). Place the wrong term in the wrong place or utilize a confusing image and all of the sudden you do not have the proper learning.

Good ISD is not simply knowing one principle. It is knowing when and how to apply it as well as how to apply additonal principles in concert with each other.

I may know how to tag a word in HTML but that doesn’t mean I can program an entire web page. It takes more than knowing tags, good design takes more than knowing one principle.

Fortunaty for humans but unfortunately for learning research, learning can occur by a motivated human in almost any situation under any conditions.

So you ask, what value does the ISDer add? The value is efficiency and effectiveness. If we design instruction appropriately, it aids in retention and application.

The value of ISD is the DESIGN of the instruction. Yes, some people like Scott McCloud get it right the first time but many people in learning and development do not know what Scott knows intuitively. Other comic book writers have used the same tools as Scott and created crap.

It is not simply the principle of contiguity that makes Scott’s work so good. There is more to it than that.

You write "and see your local programmers community for how to program in your app of choice" I have used many programs created by programmers that were IMPOSSIBLE to use. Why? Because the program made sense to the programmer but not to the users...explaining this to a programmer one day I was told "Hey, this program would be great if it wasn't for the users...?" Duh, the user is the reason for the program. So, I am not sure that your assertion holds true for every programmer or for every tech writer or every cartoonist or every...I think you get the point.

Yes, there are awesome examples in those areas but as a universal...these classifications are not always as effective as someone who knows how to design instruction. Knowing the differences between designing learning for acquiring facts and designing a learning event to teach problem-solving is what every good ISDer should do. The application of instructional strategies are what makes instructional design a profession.

Without instructional strategies (like mnemonics, chunking, association) we are not needed but with all of the information overwhelming people these days, designing instruction to be effective and efficient and to aid in retention and application is priceless.


bschlenker said...

Karl! thanks for commenting and extending this conversation. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!
I do have a tendency to oversimplify in an effort to make my points and you raise significant and valid concerns.
I think your points support Mindy's idea of a trans-disciplinary practitioner. I love that. I'm not convinced that simply understanding instructional strategies like chunking, mnemonics , and association is all the that impressive when weighed against strategies, concepts, and theories that we steal from other disciplines. I want to respond to many of your remarks but...alas...the day job cries for my attention.
Your input is valuable and necessary in continuing this conversation and I TRULY appreciate your input.

Karl Kapp said...


Thanks for the comment, I would have to agree that in isolation, a single design strategy is not that impressive, however, it is the art of combining the strategies and techniques that make design critical. If we don't focus on the design aspect of ADDIE...then we should focus on nothing for design of content is what seperatates information from instruction. And, yes, the field has always borrowed (stolen) from other fields, but it is how we combine the different ideas that make ISDers unique.

I think you bring up valid points that need to be explored and I think that sometimes designing good instruction looks easy but is, in fact, not easy at all...good instructional design is not an happens because of a thoughtful intent to design instruction and not just provide information.

Thanks for bringing this discussion to the forefront. We need to emphasize that the proper combination of instructional strategies is what allows ISDers to add value.


PS. Day jobs trump blogs every time...if only we could blog for a living...wouldn't that be nice.