Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Ebb and Flow of Kick-Starting Creativity


Wow! Just wow!

Photograph of Urbie Delgado


Today I participated in the Digital Storyteller: Creative Bootcamp at Gangplank in Chandler, Arizona. Whilst I've spun a few digital stories in my day I wanted to learn this new Drafting and Crafting process. While similar in some ways to Design Thinking it differs in some significant ways.

How do I craft thee? Let me count the ways.

  1. Plan
  2. Checklist
  3. Brainstorming
  4. Drafting
  5. Crafting
  6. Measures


The drafting and crafting process I learned today begins with a statement that says this is where I am. Whether brainstorming, drafting, or crafting each ends with this is what I made. It's apparent right away what happened. In the bootcamp session, facilitated by Ita Udo-Ema, there is also a timer set to count down from 45 minutes. Before and after each round there is a question: What well did you do? This is followed up with advice. Afterwards there is feedback.


I tend to work digitally throughout my workflow. I liked filling out a checklist where I noted what I would do, what I did, and what I would do next. I did use apps. After the brainstorming I had this stack of stickies. I scanned these using 3M's Post-It Plus for archiving in Evernote.

I was reminded by how similar brainstorm, drafting, and crafting is to Design Thinking's define, ideate, and prototype.

Photograph of a stack of ideas on sticky notes


An EdCampAwesome session encouraged me to give video blogging a try. After each iteration I recorded a few observations. They're viewable at:

  1. Brainstorming
  2. Drafting
  3. Crafting

There were several times during the process where I felt energized. These coincided with feelings of being on the edge of my seat. It was fun. If this is creativity then I want more.


Inspired by Saturday's #WebComicChat I planned to create a comic of my own. I think I accomplished my goal. At the end of the bootcamp i noted two feelings. One, that my cartoon character looked a little like a sketchnote character. I could feel something well up in me at this point. This is the second feeling: What makes me think I can draw? The fact is, I can.

Sketch of a cartoon character considering a crossroads

This takeaway was straight out of what I learned through EdCamp. Making really drives learning home. It makes learning visible.





Monday, February 23, 2015

Desktops, Tabletops, and Tablet-Ops


Blackboards and college ruled notebook paper: Back when I started school these were the media teachers and students wrote on. Period. Mediums have, of course, evolved since then. During last Saturday's EdCampAwesome (session notes) in Royse City, Texas I had a glimpse on how much has changed.


One of the EdCampAwesome sessions I participated in was Moving to Learn/Kinesthetic Learning facilitatedby Cheri Froehling.

Sketchnotes of EdCampAwesome session on Kinesthetics in learning
One of the images she shared was of a young girl smiling over a sketch she had drawn, in marker, on the top of her desk. My immediate thought was, "Wow! Wonder how many erasers she had to clean after school?" Only of course, she didn't have to clean anything except her own dry erase markings on the desk. Said Cheri: "Naughty is engaging. Doing something you're not supposed to do in class helps learning stick more easily." Cheri and many of the teachers in the room with me had some great ideas, out-of-the-box for me, on how to engage body and mind in learning.


Which brings me to the adult learning environment I design for. Dry erase boards are everywhere in this space. Flip charts are common as well, providing places for notes to be written; hanging them on walls to be referred to later is a kind of group memory.

I wonder what might happen if the next training I develop has learners take notes or collaboratively work out problems on their tabletops? I haven't seen this done before, at least not with the encouragement of an instructor and the participation of others. I'm a big fan of the maker movement. Working out problems on something you think you shouldn't be writing on might make for an interesting learning activity.

In the adult learning spaces I design for learners working out problems collaboratively on their desktops might be a stretch. Maybe not. I don't know for sure but it's something to think about, talk about, and play with.


Which brings me to a project I'm working on now. It involves design thinking and rapid prototyping. What would adult learning look like if learners worked out problems collaboratively using the mobile devices, smartphones and tablets, many use every day? I've learned tons from the teachers I meet at EdCamps I've been to in Texas, Arizona, and California. I'll be sharing what I've learned during my Mobile Rapid Prototyping Through AppSmashing concurrent session at the eLearning Guild's mLearn Conference in Austin, Texas this June.


The other EdCampAwesome session I attended was Flipping PD with Don Jacobs. It involved doing brief video clips, micro podcasts I guess, to share know-how with peers. So I think I'll give this a try soon. My weekend was EdCampAwesome.



Saturday, February 21, 2015

High-Speed Reflections


Mrs and me have been married going on 24 years. One would think life partners would know everything there is to know about each other in that time. In my case, you'd be mistaken.

Photograph of graffiti on a wall with a windmill in the background


Somewhere near Weatherford, Texas driving along Interstate 30 at 75 mph something Mrs said as we were leaving Abilene struck a chord. I'd mentioned this cool job (for her) that I saw in an email. There was a pause as she absorbed the information. She told me how she would perform the tasks required by the position.


My initial thoughts were that she was jumping the gun a bit. She should be thinking of how she might apply for it. Later on, in the just before dawn darkness, I realized that this must be how Mrs orders thoughts in her mind. Many of the conversations Mrs and I have had over the years started like this. It's in my nature to start doing early. Mrs likes to think about doing before she commits to action.


So, where does this leave me? I think it offers me the chance to think a little deeper about the learning experiences I design. Typically they begin with a story to set the stage. I learned some time ago about how learning styles are a myth. But do people have doing styles? Do we have habits that frame how we respond to stories, case studies, and simulations?


Friday, February 13, 2015



I'm a John Wayne fan. Maybe it's because he looks like papa? There's this line he has In Harms Way where The Duke says, "She's a good ship headed in harms way." It's an allusion to a U.S. Navy warship headed out to sea during the opening days following Pearl Harbor. Thinking about raising children and helping them along the way so they're successful in school reminded me of the harm we can do to our children if we don't get it right.


My youngest is about grown. There is so much about her that's new. It scary, in a very good way, when I marvel at what she will do in her life. Though Mrs. and I raised her from a seed there is much about her that is unknown. I think this is wonderful. Realizing this while my daugther and I chatted over breakfast a few minutes ago reminded me there is always at least one more thing that can be learned.


I was lucky to be out of work here and there during the first few years of parenthood. I got to know each of my three girls in a very fundamental way. It's a wonder that I can still see in each one snippets of what they were like when they were little. Along the way being parents Mrs and I made difficult choices regarding where to live, who stays home with the kids because child care can be so expensive, and so on. You've probably made similar decisions, too. Anyway, reflecting on raising my daughters reminded me there is always room for improvement.


A few days ago someone asked for my perspective on how the curriculum night experience could be improved. Curriculum night is a rite of passage sort of event in Arizona (maybe everywhere) where parents meet their children's teachers a week or two after the new school year has begun. Topics of discussion include school and teacher policies along with a brief overview of what teachers will teach and students will learn. I replied, foolishly it occurred to me later, that I'd blog about it the next day. Only I didn't. I reflected on what I might say for most of a week.

I thought about the many constraints all those involved in the process face: children, teachers, parents. Time and distance were my main concerns. I usually worked far from home. With curriculum night happening on one night for all grades, classes, and students you can imagine what just getting there in front of a teacher requires.

A year and a half ago I encountered the EdCamp model of professional development courtesy of EdCampWestTexas. The unconference experience, where there is no preset agenda and participants make it up based on the interests of participants and know-how of those in the room, has had a profound effect on my personal and professional life. The EdCamps I participated in were always held on Saturdays; most were on site at a school; several were online via a Google Hangout.

So, after much reflection I think shifting curriculum night from its current model, where it's held for several hours after school on a weeknight, to an EdCamp model is worth a try. Making it an all day, say over six hours, on a Saturday might make it easier for parents to attend. Curriculum night could include all it had before plus a crash-immersion in what teaching strategies teachers use. This is a big deal. Until I started going to EdCamp I had no idea what teaching and learning was really like in my kids' schools.


So there it is Jeremy. Remake curriculum night so it looks more like an EdCamp.Take your time with it. Open it up so it's about more than policy. Curriculum night is not something you want to scale: Where, like Christmas, it happens over the span of two or three hours one night.

It'd be cool if the children could come, too. It's in everyone's best interest that we get this education thing right.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Buckaroo PD


"Wherever you go that's where you are." -- Buckaroo Banzai


I can't be certain. It was so long ago. Maybe it was Roy Rogers? I loved watching Roy and Dale Evans prevail over numerous bad guys most Saturday mornings. There's a lot of the buckaroo in me.

Anyway, I was prepping my professional development (PD) calendar the other day. It looks like I'll be putting in a lot of miles traveling here and there. It got me reflecting on the EdCamps I've attended over the last 18 months aro so; I'm up to 16 so far. I've been at it long enough that the ones coming up, for the most part, are version 2s. I mean that I participated in them last year, too.

Screen capture of a calendar showing several Saturdays

I have a few favorites: EdCampPACS is cool because it was there in Gilbert, Arizona last year I realized eachers face many of the same constraints instructional designers (well, at least this one) encounter every day. Last year's EdCampAwesome was, well, awesome. Texas EdCamps are special to me111. The events are great but what really makes them work is the time it takes to travel there and back. It was a 10 hour drive each way to EdCampAwesome from my temporary place in Roswell, NM. It makes for some amazing reflection.


Many times along the way I'd stop, literally in the middle of nowhere, and ideate. Walking or hiking the countryside during these times, being out in the fresh open air, wow how the ideas flow. It helps me make sense of all the new and deeper learning. Sometimes it takes a lot of time for things to come together though.

I first learned about Speed Dating at EdCampSD last October. Having half an idea how it could apply in my practice I included it in my DevLearn presentation later that month. I got some stuff right but missed on a few of the finer points. No worries there. The good people at EdCampLA a couple of weeks ago really put it together into a solid model.

Photograph collage describing a Speed Dating activity





I recommend the unconference EdCamp model as solid PD. EdCamps have been so good for me. I enjoy sharing with the motivated educators that turn out. It was a watershed moment a few months ago when I realized I'm an educator, too. I produce transformational (not boring) learning experiences for adults. This is in the world of learning and development. Instructional designers, at least most of the ones I know, tend not to teach face-to-face. Somehow the perception prevails that to be an educator one must have contact with students/learners.

Maybe it's a fine point. Maybe I still need a thousand miles of reflective thinking before I can get this idea of instructional designers as educators out right. I think that if you're involved, however many degrees seperate you from a student/learner, in helping people learn something new then you're an educator, too. It's more about connections than contact.


Happy trails to you.



Monday, January 19, 2015

Outtakes and Sense Making


"Got to pay your dues if you wanna sing the blues" -- R. Starr & G. Harrison


What is school? School is being exposed to diverse ways of knowing (and questioning everything).

Photograph of Newton's Cradle
My professional development journey went off on a tangent today. More often than not that's how I seem to learn best. What force launched me in a new direction? Questions 1 to 3 of a Twitter book club chat with the hashtag #lrnbk. The book? Kio Stark's Don't Go Back To School.
Screen capture of Twitter chat #lrnbk

Positive deviant that I am I may have tweeted my response too quickly and been misunderstood.

Screen capture of tweet


Stark's writings make sense to me. One's development isn't, and shouldn't be, confined by walls, syllabi, or accreditation. I'll go a step further: Learning should know no constraints at all. Stark is saying there are constraints. The institutions of higher learning offer education on a range of topics. Employers require documentation that a specific type of learning has happened. Individuals need something to frame.

I've had several careers: electronics engineering, military service with the US Navy, programming multimedia, and learning and development. At heart I am a problem solver. Ms. Stark needs to restate the problem. I disagree with her about misfocused energy.

Consider what is happening in the K-12 space. Significant educational problems are being talked about and more.Educators are collaborating to make learning experiences better. Many of the people I meet there are actively involved in growing their know-how through exposure to diverse ways of knowing via higher education so that model of learning and development still works.

In the trenches there are teachers like Dave Burgess (@burgessdave) advocating for more engaging ways of presenting the learning experience. Teachers Erin Klein (@kleinerin) believe that the learning environment matters. Teachers like Don Wettrick (@donwettrick) are giving students the opportunity to choose their own path to learning. All one has to do is visit an #EdCamp to see this energy in action.


I went through school in the 1960s and early 1970s. Back then learning was mostly rote memorization of facts and formulae. Worksheets figured in the learning process, too.

What are the limits of school? I think Stark is asking the wrong question. She needs to tweek its focus a little and ask what is school? One of Webster's definitions for school, the one I identify with the most, is "a source of knowledge." Maybe it's in a building. Maybe it's online. For me it's something that changes me: How I perceive the world around me. The change can and does happen any where at any time.I don't get why one would want to highlight those whom choose another path. They are everywhere.

  • The coworker lamenting about a missed promotion
  • The parent volunteering at their kid's school
  • The supermarket cashier with a textbook tucked under her lunch bag
We are learning. All you have to do is look up at yourself and the people around you. If you're not having a conversation with those around you then you should consider starting one.We still need something to frame. If you're so inclined and not currently engaged in another form of learning give Todd Nesloney's (@techninjatodd) Educator Learning Series (#EDULS) a look and learn and earn.

Screen capture of Credly badges


I have an M.S. Ed. I made a couple of tries for a Ph.D. before putting it on indefinite hold. You know what? It's hard. No, that's not it. Not really. It got to be uninteresting. Like one of Stark's highlights I chose a different path. And, whether you realize it or not, you have too.

I wonder what path today's K-12 students might choose?



Saturday, January 10, 2015

Design Thinking


"Walk a mile in my shoes." -- Joe South


Last year via a Stanford University MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) I learned how to put a new spin on an old problem solving process. I'm talking ADDIE (Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluate) and Design Thinking.

Image of two cartoon characters talking


Design thinking adds empathy with learners to the instructional design process. ADDIE's analysis phase typically involves working with subject matter experts (SME) to identify attributes, needs, and gaps. How learners feel usually isn't evaluated.

The instructional design process can benefit greatly if designers begin the process by empathizing with learners: feeling their pain and learning about their perspective.

Partnering with learners in designing learning means the chances of a miss are greatly decreased. Learners prototyping and tinkering with content and activities help produce experiences that meet real needs.


In my projects I advocate for eLearning that is brief and focused. Assessment comes in the form of making: producing evidence of mastery and sharing with peers and managers.

It's human science, not rocket science.