The Ghost of Questions Not Asked

This is IDIGOntario‘s 2nd post of the #9x9x25 Challenge

When I signed up to be on the IDIG team I very vaguely said that I would like to write something about the “Front End Analysis” phase of Instructional Design. Also known as the “what are we doing and why” part.

If you do this part well you can avoid making big mistakes down the road. You might even realize that you shouldn’t even do it at all. You also tend have that “come on, come on, let’s get going!” feeling buzzing around you. I am feeling that right now as we prepare to try a new way of delivering Ontario Extend in January. But no matter how many angles you try to anticipate, something will surprise you when you implement it.

A good example of this came from the scholarly project I worked on to complete my Master’s of Instructional Design. I created an instructional Alternate Reality Game (ARG). It was designed to help youth identify problem gambling behaviours and to know how to reduce their harm. I completed a lengthy front-end analysis in which I tried to anticipate who the learners would be and what needs I should meet to help them complete the game. I never considered that some kids might not be up for suspending their disbelief in what was meant to be a fun way to learn.

Tyra aka Chance the “missing” dog

The first test went great, with a group of ninth grade students who were asked to participate and agreed of their own accord. They had fun and were successful in taking the story to its conclusion. The final test run, however, was a different story. In working with the program facilitator for the gambling awareness group, we chose to bring the game to test it out on an entire class of (I think) 11th grade students at an “alternative” high school. I don’t recall too much about the make up of the class or the reasons they had enrolled in a “different” kind of high school. In general you could say that the students were rightfully kind of pissed off about how their education was going so far.

They didn’t want to pretend. They didn’t want to suspend disbelief. They didn’t give a damn about rescuing a fake dog. They completed the game activities, but it would have probably served them better to give them a handout describing the harm reduction strategies and to just have a frank discussion about how these things have affected their lives. I remember clearly the look one student gave me when he realized I was trying to trick him into playing along. That’s when I knew that this program was not even close to the right thing to bring to them. It was utterly deflating.

The results of the test run were that yes, students reached the objectives. Learning was measured to have happened. But the feeling in the room was not the fun buzz I was working toward in the back of my mind. It was a stark opposite.

I’m going way over 25 sentences by digging in to that anecdote. My point is that I did not anticipate, at all, that this idea of learning via a game would resonate so poorly with these students. I didn’t ask the right, or enough, questions in my front-end analysis. JR Dingwall’s post in which he did ask the right questions to help bring about a great result, is what got me thinking about what questions to ask in the beginning.

So I ask you, what are the big questions you ask yourself and others when you first sit down to analyze a potential ID project? How can you avoid making something that leaves students feeling flat and misunderstood?

“Question?” flickr photo by spi516 https://flickr.com/photos/spi/2113651310 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Like Driving a Minivan

This is my second 9X9X25 Challenge post for Ontario Extend.

The challenge asks you to reflectively write on the open Web about your teaching. For this post, I want to step back and write a bit about writing itself. Especially writing in the open. It can be scary. Maybe it doesn’t need to be quite so. I think it’s like driving. You are free to drive no matter what kind of car you have access to.

I drive a minivan. I’m sure lots of people dream of driving a Ferrari or some other fancy, luxury vehicle. I don’t at all. I wouldn’t enjoy it very much. I’d worry about scratching it or grinding the gears. No thanks, Ferrari. It’s all a bit much.

No joke, I’ve never enjoyed a vehicle more than our van. It does all the things. It goes around corners. Stops after it starts, starts after it stops. And I do it all feeling great about it because I don’t need to worry too much about getting hung up on a speed bump or if enough people are looking at me. It grinds no gears of mine. All the vehicles I’ve ever owned have been in this same non-luxury class, but this is the first time I’m really leaning in and enjoying the benefits.

It can fit my whole family in it. That family is then able to easily provide feedback/Q & A on where we are, where we’re going, why we’re going this way, and if, perchance, we are going somewhere where we can get a toy. Try doing that in a Ferrari. There’s definitely no feedback about the vehicle itself. As long as it’s going, no one cares.

I feel the same about my writing. It’s minivan-esque . I don’t have all the features like semi-colons, non-dangling prepositions, deep thoughts, or big words. But I can write. I can take people places with it. It might be a bit bumpy. I used to worry if my writing is good enough to be out here. I don’t any more because I realized it’s not about my writing skill, it’s about offering up what I have to say in the hopes that someone else can gain from it.

I sure enjoy writing now despite the lack of luxury features. I’m glad it allows me to get out there in a way that maybe lets me bring some people along or convinces others to join in. I never thought of myself as a writer, just as I’ve never thought of myself as a driver. I think I can and I should. I don’t wonder if my driving skill is good enough before I drive and I only had that one short driving course like 25 years ago. Let’s apply that moxie to our writing.

All this is to say that I hope that you are not too worried about how polished and supercharged your writing skills are to get out there on the road sharing your journey. This challenge is all about hearing some fresh takes on pedagogy. I hope that how you feel about your writing doesn’t stop you from getting in here and sharing your thoughts. Don’t worry about the Ferrari drivers. We’re all allowed on the same roads. You have something important to say and we would love to read about it.

Season 14 Abc GIF by The Bachelorette - Find & Share on GIPHY

Featured image: “Dude, You’re Driving a Minivan” flickr photo by happyskrappy https://flickr.com/photos/happyskrappy/4608104244 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

 

The Plan

This is my first post for the Ontario Extend 9x9x25 reflective writing about teaching and learning challenge. What I have, teaching and learning-wise, to be reflective about right now is Ontario Extend itself. So my 9x9x25 posts will either be meta-Extend, or Extend-ception. Not sure yet.

This post’s outline was provided by the band Built to Spill, in the lyrics to their song The Plan. I can legally share the live version of the song here. Well, the first 30 seconds anyway! Press play and read on.

The plan keeps coming up again.

The chance to try again doesn’t always come when designing and delivering some instructional thing or another. Ontario Extend, thankfully, is one of the lucky ones. We have delivered it in a couple different ways and gotten some feedback. We listened to it, grimaced a little, smiled more than we grimaced, and made some tweaks each time we launched a cohort.

And the plan means nothing stays the same.

Oh come on, Built to Spill, some things will stay the same! But yes now we’re lucky enough to be able to take some time to make some bigger tweaks and fill some gaps. Based on the numbers of those who have really engaged with Extend and the feedback received from those who have and have not fully engaged, we know that something is missing.

But the plan won’t accomplish anything.

HEY WAIT A MINUTE!

If it’s not implemented.

Oh yes. Good point. As I said above, something is missing. Extend’s implementation is a little too radical for the masses. I certainly take the blame for that as it has been implemented just the way I wanted. People do all their work in the open, in a few different places. It’s a little too chaotic for some (is it chaotic good at least?) I can certainly see that and I would love for as many people as possible to feel comfortable experiencing Extend.

So we are building a new piece to slot in the middle and connect it all. A one-stop shop that you can stay inside the whole way through, if you’d like. Or you can come and go as you please if and when you’re up for it. It will likely look a little more traditional. Maybe a little like this. All the other Extend pieces remain: The Daily, The Activity Bank, and the Domains Hub (where all the great 9x9x25 posts will appear!). I think of it like this; After creating the Extend modules themselves we built its playground, skate park, and splash pad. Now we’re building the community centre in the middle of it all.

We will be implementing and relaunching for (hopefully) the greatest Extend Cohort yet in January. But hey, it gave us the downtime we needed to run this awesome 9x9x25 Challenge. It’s almost like it was all part of the plan.

Photo by Med Badr Chemmaoui on Unsplash

 

We Go Down East

The University of Alberta Ski Team put on a fundraising party in the fall of 2002-ish. Being of the “drinking team with a skiing problem” mentality, they had themselves a fun slogan to print on the tickets.

We Go Down Fast

The only reason I still remember this is because the ticket printers made a little mistake and printed something else.

We Go Down East

Why did they think “we go down east” was a ticket-worthy slogan? They must have thought the fundraising was for a ski race in Quebec or something. Who’s to say? All I know is, as far as misprinted ticket stories go, it’s my all time favorite.

In another story of going “east”, a group of intrepid Ontario post-secondary educators are about to kick off the Ontario Extend East Cohort on March 6th. Together we’ll experiment, curate, and collaborate with technology for teaching and learning. We’ll do it all in the open.

It works a little (maybe a lot) differently than most P.D. events you may have come across. There are four pieces. One of them stays still and the others are on the move. The one piece that stays still are the modules themselves. Six of them: teacher for learning, curator, collaborator, technologist, experimenter, scholar.

The moving parts are where the fun happens.

  • The Activity Bank – A place to add your response to all of the various module activities. You get to see what your peers do with it rather than everyone hiding their work in a dropbox. For example, the “Please Allow Me to Introduce My Field” activity already has a few responses. You also get to add more activities. It’s a bank where any deposit one person makes can be withdrawn by anyone and everyone.
  • The Daily Extend – A place for short and sweet daily activities. Why? Two good reasons are that it allows us to easily connect with each other on a regular basis and gives us all low stakes opportunities to dabble with new tools and ideas. This is the Experimenter module reaching full actualization. And it tries to be fun. Like this one: Taylor Swift Curriculum Design
  • The Domains – This is the flow. Maybe sometimes a trickle, sometimes a babble, sometimes a flood. A central place where all of everyone’s work will appear. You’ll see blog posts that are responses to module activities, posts that are new activities, reflections, calls to action, new ideas and new plans. Hopefully even stories about misprinted fundraiser tickets. See the “East Cohort” central flow here. You’ll see this post there, because I threw my blog into the mix. We’ll show you how to do it.

What I hope and believe the Extend community can be is a slightly informal and loose yet strong and lively connection of faculty members engaged in teaching and learning with technology in the open. If you’ve ever felt lonely in your pursuit of providing great learning experiences to your students, you can say goodbye to that. It’s going to be awesome.

So far there are approximately 60 people from across Ontario signed up to participate. As in the misprinted ticket story, “east” doesn’t really mean much. Everyone is invited. And if March doesn’t work for you. We’re running the “West” cohort in May. We’ve even got a couple of current students lined up to join in and keep us on our toes.

If you want to join in, add your name here: http://bit.ly/ExtendEast

Comment below if you have any questions or comments. See you “down east”!

image credit: “No Fast Skiing” flickr photo by Joe Shlabotnik https://flickr.com/photos/joeshlabotnik/349939582 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

And We All Dine On

This page of the Ontario Extend Collaborator Module includes words that, when you read them, make your brain think that you might want to create an image of a dining table representing a project that you’ve worked on.

“Okay” my brain thought upon reading these words. “I’ll do that.”

Using the latest of bare bones basic visual editing software (Microsoft Paint for Windows 10) and the wonderful people of the world who openly licence their photography, I was able to piece together the dinner table for those involved in the making of The Open Faculty Patchbook. In reality, this meal would cost a bit over my budget since I’d have to fly people in from Tennessee, Ohio, and Cairo.

Oh and hey! Check out The Open Learner Patchbook and let me know if you know anyone who’d like to be at that dinner table by commenting below.

Who’s at your collaborative dining table?

(“lauren’s mermaid party” flickr photo by mom2sofia https://flickr.com/photos/mom2sofia/15479145327 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license)