Instructional Design

This is from a letter that I wrote to a new Instructional Designer who asked about my HTML skills:

The crazy thing is that I learned HTML because I started doing this before there were any real alternatives to coding your own web pages. What I know of coding I learned because back in the 80s, you had to write or type in the programs you were going to use. (Of course, I was mostly interested in games.)

Many people don’t believe this, but none of the tech stuff comes naturally to me, but I learn as I solve problems. But with that said, there are some go-to resources that I use and there has never been a better time for learning web design because all of the resources one would need are free. Here are some resources that are in my current bookmarks:

  • The Missing Link: An Introduction to Web Development and Programming This has been a useful reference and is currently used as a textbook and reference in web design classes here and in Canadian universities.
  • Guide to HTML, CSS and JavaScript. This is a very useful library of code BUT one of the uglier designs on the net! Most programmers use libraries like these and then adapt the code.
  • Introduction to Web Accessibility. This was just updated in October of last year.
  • Online HTML Editor. This is a very useful site because you can enter HTML and it will show you what it looks like in the window next to the code window. This can help in learning to code and in de-bugging pages that have problems. There are links to more useful resources there as well.

One of the best ways to learn this kind of design is to put up a web page, wiki, or blog and start playing. I usually play until I break it. I will have learned from playing around and then I will learn again as I figure out how to fix it! Learning some HTML is a good idea because Canvas and other tools will do a lot for you but the out-of-the-box stuff sometimes is not very flexible. Then the tools start shaping the teaching and learning instead of the people.

The only design books I have consistently used throughout my career are Robin Williams “The Non-Designer’s Design Book” and Roger Parker’s “One-Minute Designer.” Those are both focused on print materials but are pretty useful for nearly any kind of design. I also have an ancient copy of “Graphic Design for the Electronic Age” by White, which is surprisingly still relevant even though it was written in 1988!

The technology piece typically makes up only about 20% of my work. On the education side, a few of the books and concepts that I have consistently used in my work are:

  • Building Online Learning Communities by Paloff & Pratt  This was basically the textbook for my certificate in Online Teaching and Learning. I have been really happy that this was my first experience learning about elearning – this book emphasizes community building and student support: too many instructional design programs emphasize technology and project management. Teaching and learning online or off is always about people and building relationships.
  • The Excellent Online Instructor by Palloff & Pratt  By the same authors but focuses on teaching teachers to teach online. Excellent resource for professional development.
  • Understanding by Design by Wiggins & McTighe  This is a standard text in instructional design. I find it provides faculty with a useful framework for teaching in general. We used this at Tacoma Community College to create their course development process.
  • Universal Design in Higher Education by Burgstahler  This book is a collection of essays on UDL but has a lot of practical examples. Most of what anyone really needs to know about UDL is online. One of the great thought-leaders in UDL, Brett Christie, just moved to Washington from California last year and I want to get SBCTC to get him to some of the local edu conferences.
  • Rhizomatic Learning: Community as Curricula by Dave Cormier.   This was an article I read back in 2008. It changed the way that I think about education and the possibilities and potential for teaching. This article led me to meeing George SiemensStephen DownesGardner CampbellRobin DeRosa, and Jim Groom. These transformative meetings led me to work on ideas around Connectivism as a learning theory and Open Pedagogy (I am currently working on this.)
  • Open Pedagogy  There is a good definition here and a good database of examples from Robin DeRosa and others.

I hope you don’t see this as a shopping list! I think of this email as a way to help you understand my own thinking about teaching and learning, instructional design, and a bit of my history – how I got to where I am and why I think the way that I do.

This email is beginning to look like a blog post! I have actually missed flights because I was in the airport talking to teachers about pedagogy! I had better send this before I think of anything more to write.