IPT Seminar Nov 13th: Jenn Price

IPT Seminar, Uncategorized

This post is connected with IPT 690, a graduate seminar course in Instructional Psychology and Technology at Brigham Young University.

On Nov 13th, we had a current doctoral student in IPT, Jenn Price speak to our seminar.  Jenn is a designer by trade, and she also teaches the graduate IPT course in graphic design (of which I am hoping to take next semester).  Jenn’s presentation was about some of the lessons that she has learned as a self-proclaimed “hacker designer”.  I would like to talk more specifically about two points that she made (please note that I am paraphrasing) during her presentation.

Design is like the tithing of the Instructional Design process: You should spend at least 10% of your time making it pretty.

Even though I haven’t formally finished an instructional design process (not counting my own curriculum that I’ve developed), I feel like this is a pretty good rule to live by.  I’m increasingly becoming a believer in the power of the user experience, and how that user experience affects the ways that we perceive a product.  Now while I don’t know if this is true for everyone, I know that I am especially susceptible to good design.  When looking for a new web-based tool, I will often choose that tool based on the design of the website.  I personally feel that good site design is a pretty good indication of good product design — it shows that the designers have considered the whole experience.

Why should you use InDesign instead of Word?  It’s all about control.

I’m also a big believer in this principal as well, and while I haven’t learned InDesign (something I am looking forward to), I’ve seen this numerous times in the world of video editing.  Yes, iMovie is fine, but as you learn more and more about video editing, you will quickly see its limitations.  A tool like Premiere Pro is more open and gives you more control.  Yes, the learning curve is more steep, but you will hopefully only be limited by the constraints of your design, and not the constraints of the tool.

While these are only a few of the things that Jenn spoke about, these were the two that were the newest for me.  I’ve considered myself a hack designer for a while and I really want to gain a little bit more legitimacy.  This seminar helped to reinforce the thought that I need to spend some more time learning and refining my design skills.

Why I want to be an Instructional Designer


This post was written in conjunction with Dr. Richard West’s Foundations of Instructional Technology class at Brigham Young University.

For one of our first assignments in Rick West’s Foundations of Instructional Technology class at Brigham Young University, we were asked to give a brief synopsis of the field of instructional technology and how we see ourselves fitting into that field.  While I won’t pretend to understand the meaning of the many things that have been done before I arrived in this field, hopefully I can give some of the insights that I have received up to this point in my studies.

Thus far, my view has been vastly expanded in terms of what the field of instructional design and technology really is.  My frame of reference, up until now, has been the world that I am coming from — technical higher-education.  Within this realm, instructional technology was very technically focused.  That technology was  typically computer-based tools that I used to help my students understand and explore particular concepts.  The use of this technology seemed natural, as the technical nature of the program that I taught in (video production) lent itself to being a colony for digital natives.  I used these computer tools to accomplish learning because they were second-nature to the natives that I taught.  What I am now beginning to realize, however, is that the use of the tool itself within the realm of education does not necessarily make that a definition of “instructional technology”.  In my definition, the technology came first, and the instruction just so happened to be the location of the use of that technology.

In looking back through the history of instructional technology a few milestones stick out in my mind. The first is the use of instructional films around the turn of the century (this may be because I have studied film as an undergraduate and have been teaching it for the past 5 years).  Although its use failed to live up to the expectations of Thomas Edison to make books obsolete in schools, it still allowed learners to be transported to remote experiences with a fidelity that they might not be able to experience through other media such as text and photography.  The subsequent developments of instructional radio and television, offered little more than the possibilities of film, other than to change the method of delivery to end learners.  And while all of these delivery methods failed to deliver on their self-proclaimed promises to transform education, they still enabled us to have a rich media experience that can transform instructional materials beyond the bounds of the classroom.

While the introduction of computers to the classroom in the 1980s once again claimed to revolutionize education, I don’t think that it was until the birth of the internet and its ability to distribute rich media objects that the promise of this technology as an instructional tool was fully developed.  This coupled with the falling cost of personal computing and the growth of mobile devices allowed access to this instructional content in ways that really haven’t been seen before. Additionally, the rise of these devices and the internet allowed education to be untethered from the classroom.  Here is where I see my entrance on the stage.  My interests in instructional technology is in many ways born of this perfect storm that we are facing in education.  We have fast, ever-present access to the internet (which contains most of the knowledge in the history of men) and we have personal computing devices that allow us to be connected to that vast library of knowledge at all times (much to the detriment of our dinner party trivia conversations).  Yet with all of this connectivity and information, we have an opposite crisis in education:  skyrocketing costs for tuition, much of which is paid by the future financial aid debt of students; less access to higher education for those who are seeking it.  With the tools that we have now, it seems only natural that we can make our education system more efficient.

That’s my reason for wanting to become an instructional designer — I want to make education more efficient.  While I am not completely sure how I want to accomplish this right now, there are a few things that I would like to study that may help me point in the direction that I would like to go.  The first is the creation and implementation of Open Educational Resources (OER) and open classes. While many would argue that these resources have failed to live up to their intended promise, they are nonetheless making small strides in changing education.  These resources can make education more efficient by lowering the cost of enrollment for students, and by allowing instructors to reuse content that was created by other instructors in easy, copyright permissible ways.  While I’m not sure that “open” is the answer for everything at this point, it’s definitely a path that I would like to pursue in more detail.  Another avenue that I would like to do research in is online and blended-learning techniques.  Many schools (my former school included) are looking toward online education as a low-cost way to bring in additional revenue and a way to free up campus resources — I think research needs to be done into these areas to make sure that they are delivered in an effective manner.  A third area that I’ve recently become interested in is Adaptive Learning. Adaptive Learning allows individual students, through the use of their personal internet connected devices, to receive a personalized learning experience to help guide them through content in a manner similar to using a one-on-one tutor.  Adaptive learning seems poised to be another technology which can make our education system more efficient.

As a student that has been formally studying instructional design for two weeks, I don’t pretend to know all of the answers at this point — but I’m hoping to get some.  Many people in the practicing higher education elearning community question the validity and need for a PhD in this field.  I don’t see a PhD just as a degree that I need to get another job, but rather an opportunity that I have to ground myself in the work that has gone on before and hopefully make my own strides toward making our education environment more personalized and efficient.

From Open Source to Open Content


This post is in conjunction with David Wiley’s MOOC “Intro to Openness in Education”.

This week in “Intro to Openness in Education” we learned a bit about the evolution of open content.  Beginning with the “free” and “open source” software movement and later culminating in the idea of “open content” in the late 90s.

As an introduction to the idea of open source software, we waded through Eric Raymond’s “The Cathedral and the Bazaar”.  While much of the technical details of his paper went over my non-developer head, I found many of the principles being pretty on point with the collaborative environment of software development today.  I think one of the most difficult things for me, in not being a developer, is really understanding the significance of the difference between something being free and something being open source.  In my digital workflow, I enjoy many of Google’s tools: Calendar, Google Docs, and Gmail — in reality, I have no idea if these software packages are open source.  I enjoy using them because they are free and they are conducive to “sharing”.  My hope is that Google will continue to encourage this type of sharing through the products that they use.  If their software is not open source — I guess I run the risk of it eventually being shut down or put behind a pay wall (which I’ve heard they’ve done for Google Apps for business), but that is a risk that I am willing to take.  I feel that open source software is more significant to developers.  They are the ones who have the skills to contribute to such projects, and I can only hope that they can then take those projects and make them meaningful to me as an end-user.

As for open content and open licensing, these are things that I have more strong beliefs in.  They are an evolution of some of the principles that were espoused in the open source movement, but the content is more accessible and reusable to the end-user.  Open content is cultural objects for which the end-user can perform the 4 Rs on: Reuse, Revise, Remix, and Redistribute.  The more freedoms that the creator of the object gives to the end-user in the performance of these activities, the more “open” it is considered. While I believe in open content as a principle, I still have a few reservations in its actual practice.  Some of these come from my own use of these in classroom situations.

Reservations in using open content:

1. Quality

I think that quality has always been a concern in the use of openly licensed products.  I know that this has been a concern for some instructors in adopting open textbooks (I actually haven’t had too much experience in using open textbooks, so I can’t make a judgement call), as they figure free material can’t be that good.  I have seen the quality problem more significantly in another realm: music.  In my classes (I teach video production), I require my students to use material that they have either created themselves, or material that is licensed through Creative Commons.  Students are able to shoot their own video, but they have a hard time finding good music for their projects.  Music licensed under Creative Commons is typically produced by amateur musicians or Nine Inch Nails.  This results in their being a lot of bad music out there, and students can typically spend hours scouring through the Creative Commons section of Soundcloud to find a track that matches the quality of their video.  With many artists wanting to make money from their music, they are hesitant to openly license their songs.  What can be done to encourage more musicians to openly license their songs?

2.  Thinking About Openly Licensed Content in Monetary Terms

I recognize that I am partly to blame for this, but I find that my students still think of Creative Commons content in primarily monetary terms:  they use it because it is “free”.  I get questions like “Rob, what is that site that has the free music?” “What is the site where I can find those free photos?”  When students are rushing toward a deadline, they are not thinking about what music they can find that was created by an artist who wants to share the music that he created, they are thinking about where they can get that content for free.  Creative Commons is a system that frees us up to share content, however, the receiver is often only thinking about how much they are paying for that content.

Overall, I believe in these ideals. I want more people to use and practice these types of sharing, yet as of right now I have a few reservations about the implementation of licensing systems.  Have you had any similar problems?  Have you struggled with the quality of openly licensed material?  I welcome any thoughts and comments that you have.

Here is a mind map that I created to connect some of the ideas that we talked about in class this week.

Create your own mind maps at MindMeister

Finding Instructional Resources with Open Licensing


This week in Intro to Openness in Education we looked at the issue of open licensing. Open licensing is something that I became familiar with a few years ago as part of my job as a faculty member.  I found myself continually frustrated that there wasn’t an easy way for faculty like me to share the curriculum I developed with other faculty (actually, I was probably more frustrated that I wasn’t able to find curriculum that other faculty had developed — I really hate duplication of effort, and I wanted to be able to piggy back on someone else’s work).  While Open Educational Resources weren’t the easiest to come by when working in video production classes, I was able to find a few resources that helped me in the classroom.

What became more valuable to me in my curriculum was the ability to use openly licensed music, text, and video to assist my students in producing creative projects.  Previous to coming across Creative Commons resources, my students would frequently use copyrighted music and video in their projects.  While this use could be justified in terms of “fair use”, I found that the use of these types of works significantly limited what students could do with these projects later on.  I decided to instill a better habit in my students by teaching them about Creative Commons resources and requiring them to only use original content or content for which they had the license in their projects.  The uptake on this transition has been fairly seamless, and my students have become well adept at finding content for their projects using the Creative Commons search engine.

For this week’s assignment in the class, I wanted to search for resources surrounding digital storytelling, which is a class that I am currently teaching in my program.  I used Google’s advanced search feature (which incidentally is difficult to find these days) and I was able to find several resources regarding digital storytelling with the appropriate license.  One common theme that I found from the search results is that a majority of them are actually wikis of the Wikispace variety.  I’m assuming that this is mostly because of Wikispaces option to license wiki materials with a Creative Commons license.  The top results, however, were quite helpful as they tended to aggregate a bunch of content surrounding the topic of digital storytelling.  Here are the top sites that I found:

Since each of these resources is a collection of other (mostly) openly licensed materials, it would be extremely easy to remix and reuse these into my content.  In the instance of my own digital storytelling class, I was extremely grateful to be able to use Allan Levine’s work to be able to demonstrate to my students the many possible paths that their stories could take.

One downside that activity has shown is that this resource space seems to be fairly fragmented.  Many of the results that I came across had similar link listings on each of the wikis.  I think it would be helpful to have some more definitive resources to which many people are contributing to rather than having these disparate sites with a lot of duplicate information.  What are your thoughts on this?  Would the centralization of resources defeat the whole purpose of this openly licensed environment?  Or would it further decrease the duplication of effort that we face in the sphere of curriculum development?


Sharing Film and Education


This post is for IOE13 Module 2 – Why Openness in Education?

This quarter I am participating in David Wiley‘s Intro to Openness in Education course that he is teaching using the Canvas Network (Well actually, I think I am more auditing the class because it was “full”). The first module of the class asks us to think of a time where we learned using the language of sharing rather than the language of education. One of the strongest experiences that comes to mind was a Super 8mm filmmaking class that I took at Brigham Young University. The class was taught by documentary filmmaker Tim Irwin, and it has a reputation as being one of the greatest classes on campus. While there was a lot of traditional learning that happened in the class (learning about visual storytelling, lighting, and exposure) the greatest thing that I received from that class was a love of documentary film. Because actual celluloid film is a non-instantaneous medium, we would need something to do while we were waiting for our projects to get developed at the Orem Wal-Mart. During this down time, Tim would share with us some of his favorite documentary films. It was in this class that I was introduced to Michael Moore’s Roger and Me and Bennet Millers The Cruise. These films transformed my view of what a documentary could and perhaps should be. The documentary screenings weren’t specifically tied to any learning outcomes, but they had a dramatic impact on my life. As a result, I continued to seek out more documentary films, many of which changed my view of the world.

I would later share that love with an undergraduate film class that I taught as a master’s student at BYU. In this class entitled “History of Documentary and Non-Fiction film”, I was able to share some of my favorite documentary films.  These films included many of the classes that I saw in Irwin’s classes as well as a few favorites that I had picked up in the time between: Grey Gardens and Off the Charts: The Song Poem Story.  My hope was that by sharing those works, I would be able to influence the students in my class and encourage them to share the films that they love and the films that they create with others.

This process of sharing my love of documentary film is something that I continue to do.  In looking back, however, I am not always willing to freely share these films with everyone.  If I suspect that someone will mock my love of Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, I will instead show them a more mainstream film instead.  Sharing requires a certain level of trust, and if done correctly, it forges a strong bond that will last through the years.  Hence why I still have such a vivid memory of the films that Tim Irwin showed me over a decade ago.

At the end of all this, I can definitely see how education is not something that should be restricted to only those who meet artificial admissions or registration requirements, but rather it should be shared with all those who have a true desire to receive.