How Can Instructional Designers Avoid The Sharks?

A few months back I discussed why Instructional Designers should have a “chess game” design perspective in mind… and hoped to dig into “some guiding principles for their practice” that Jason MaDonald proposed in his 2010 article in Educational Technology, Resisting Technological Gravity. The article calls our attention to the face that we as designer are often under tremendous pressure to abandon the essential characteristics of educational approaches, and settle instead for routine practices that do not preserve the level of quality those approaches originally expressed. Through the application of Jason’s proposed principles we can resist what he calls—“technological gravity” and perhaps not be pulled away for instructional quality and not settling for less than meaningful, inspirational, and valuable instruction.

Designers who have been in the field awhile understand what Jason is talking about, i.e., pressure the desire to cut costs, stress of working on too many projects at once, instance of common templates, formulas, etc. Let’s just run the SMEs through a process, chop their content up like we always do, make it look like we always do… oh and can you get that to me by Monday?

When I fall into these types of ruts, I try my hardest to read blogs like The 99%, watch some TED Talks, check out some of my favorite shows like The Pitch or Shark Tank, and even browse sites like KickStarter or Dribbble… to find inspiration or perhaps day dream of having that illusive idea. Jason found inspiration from the following quote from Don Beckwith’ 1988 article, The Future of Educational Technology (I need to get my hands on this and see the prophecies it might have foretold).

The ideal instructional designer is not one who follows all of the known rules, not even one who follows all of the known rules well. The ideal designer is one who breaks the known rules and creates new rules, thus enabling …  a type of creation not possible through the application of known, status quo, systematic rules.

So what we realize here is that the ability to resist this “gravity” is that we actually have to put forth some effort and aspire to have a high level of quality in our work. Yes. That is easier said than done. Yes. We all have various compounding constraints to deal with see Good, Fast, Cheep… Pick Only Two. But it is possible. So then, as Jason states:

How can instructional designers avoid this gravity, and better create instruction that is meaningful, inspirational, valuable, and even magical?

He proposes for us to be constantly reminded of what instruction is, how instruction is made, and what instruction is for. So I will tackle these in the coming posts…. But you may be thinking, why the image of the circling sharks? I don’t know. What do you think those sharks could represent?


About DaveHallmon

With experience in web, graphic, and instructional design, Dave maintains a balance between what is efficient and effective in every message. He always focuses on the why and how rather than "just doing it" to get the job done. By day he works at a leading university designing online courses that support 9,000 students in 64 countries. He works directly with faculty to brainstorm, design, and develop their online instruction utilizing the Adobe suite. He also teaches for the university as an adjunct faculty member in the area of web design. By night he is a devoted husband, father, freelancer, and adventurer of the outdoors. His other interests include LifeHacker, Science Fiction and Hayao Miyazaki movies, Settlers of Catan, and coffee with friends. He currently lives in St. Louis and has an M.S. in Instructional Design and aspires to pursue a professional degree in content marketing and strategy. Visit the links below for more information about his interests and design work.
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One Response to How Can Instructional Designers Avoid The Sharks?

  1. Pingback: Think Of Instruction As A Story: Are We The Riddler? | coffeeanDesign

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