Sunday, October 25, 2015

Where The Teachers Are


I spent Saturday October 24 with a roomful of ELA (English Language Art) teachers at the Arizona K12 Center. We learned about educational technology tools, including how to leverage them to support teaching to Arizona’s college and career ready standards. Disclosure: I’m not a teacher. I do instructional design.


Me not being a teacher is a good thing. I don’t know enough to keep quiet when something was introduced during the workshop. It’s all new to me. Except that it’s not. I learn a lot about K-12 strategies and educational technology at the EdCamps I participate in. Through some applied improvisation later on I figure out how to apply it with the adult learners I support.

I get asked sometimes why participate in so many EdCamps? I think I’m up to 30 so far: EdCamps in Texas, Arizona, California and Washington, DC. It’s because I like the improv. Hearing about something cool I want to try it right away, or as soon as possible, before it gets stale. I view doing something that I just learned from teachers as improv because I’m flying without a net. I don’t know what the cues are. Not being a teacher means I’m not sure about context. So I give it a try and add or drop stuff as seems to make sense.


I hear now and then how we instructional designers need to be more innovative and creative. A lot of times the ideas that come back from “How?” involve advanced educational technology. Since EdCamp I prefer simpler more natural and humanistic approaches.

Photo of BREAKOUT EDU box

At CUEROCKSTAR Las VegasI learned about this Breakout EDU thing. The way it works is you get a box. But not just an ordinary box. Noooo. You get one with a sturdy hasp. About that hasp, it’s an electricians lockout hasp. There can be as many as six locks on this hasp.

Sketch of am electricians lockout hasp attached to a box

The teacher, or in my case instructional designer, crafts an engaging story. This is what teacher and author Dave Burgess calls “A Hook”. My name for it, after watching Jack Black in Goosebumps, is “The Twist.” Anyway, the learner or learners, once engaged, work to solve puzzles. The puzzles and their solutions are grounded in what the learner is being taught or trained on.


At AZTEA’s P3: Problems, Projects, and Possibilities conference I presented a session on designing interactive presentations. One of the things I demonstrated was the Breakout EDU box. There were “technical difficulties”, however, and I had to do some improvisation to get over the bump.

Here’s how it was supposed to go. First there was the trailer. Then the backstory. Lastly was the vital clue. Anyway, given technical difficulties I had to play all the parts live. I got to feel the learning. It was pretty cool. I have a whole new perspective on how to do it next time. I’ll definitely have some backup stuff, too.


One thing I need to work on, what teacher Chris Long calls Self-Development is the BOOS (Butts-Out-Of-Seats).


I think, and some research studies suggests, learning efficacy can be deepened when learners are actively engaged and moving around doing learning activities.


To review, why do I get most of my PD (Professional Development) from EdCamp & CUE? Because that’s where the teachers are.


Friday, September 25, 2015

Prototyping Guild Chat


I have an unscheduled trip later today. Two of my kids, Carly my grand daughter, and I are going to California. There's been a death in the family and we need to visit my sister. I don't want to miss tomorrow's Guild Chat so I prototyped what I'd share. In case I can't make it the prototype can be my input. If it turns out I can make the chat then the prototype was good reflection.


Plotagon is this 3D animation app available for iOS, Mac, and Windows. If you can type you can make cool 3D animation.

Collage of images showing the Plotagon user interface

As shown in the screen captures above Plotagon's interface has two areas: scripts and scenes. I first chose the scene and characters I wanted in my plot. Next I typed what I wanted the characters to say and do.

When it's all done I click Share (button not shown) and add some hashtags to make finding it easier.


Plotagon is an amazing app. It makes storytelling with animation easy and engaging. Here's the Guild Chat prototype.



Friday, September 11, 2015

Play Time PD


EdCamp Tucson is tomorrow, Saturday September 12, 2015. Unlike many unconferences that I participate in this one’s practically in my backyard, only 90 minutes away. Usually I travel hundreds of miles to EdCamps. I reflect on what I might learn on the way there. On the trip home I reflect on how I might apply learnings to my instructional design practice.


A few PD (Professional Development) conferences ago, it might have been CUEROCKSTAR, I heard someone describe PD as play time. I’ve been thinking a lot about viewing PD as a fun enjoyable thing to do.

When I was a child I loved when Papa would take me to the park. His experience and mine while at the park were, I believe, a lot different. Sometimes he’d bring the newspaper to read. Other times he’d watch me for a while then kind of zone out and relax. He worked in a Kaiser steel mill feeding coke into a blast furnace. I can imagine what relaxing in the shade of a tree in a quiet place meant to him.

How I experienced park play time depended on who was there, too. Sometimes there were friends I would run around with. Other times, probably more often than not, there were kids I didn’t know that I could get to know, play with, and learn from. Once in a while Papa and I would have the park to ourselves. I think he liked the quiet: me, not so much.

Fast forward to the present day: EdCamp Tucson. There will be lots of people there. It’s going to be held at CITY Center for Collaborative Learning. It’s someplace I haven’t been to before. Their website says it’s an “umbrella organization” but what does that mean? As it kicks-off we’ll post what we’d like to learn there. We’ll post topics we can facilitate conversations on. All this is standard stuff at an EdCamp; they have no preset agenda. Anticipating what will happen reminds me of my park experience. The best times, the ones that come back most vividly, are filled with memories of lots of kids interacting with each other in varied ways.

I was in Little Rock, Arkansas last week meeting with a development team. On my drive there and back, 2600 miles round trip, I stopped often to take pictures of interesting stuff. One of these times was near the village of Honobia, Oklahoma. It seems that every October there’s this Bigfoot Conference hosted by Christ’s 40 Acres.

Anyway, a little before Honobia was this big Bigfoot T-Shirt sign. I thought: “Kodak Moment”, so I stopped to take a selfie. Being alone it took a few minutes to balance my iPhone on the hood of my Pilot, set the timer so I’d have enough time to press the shutter release then run back up to the sign. I was huffing-n-puffing running back and forth trying to get the timing and my positioning right. Honobia is up in the mountains, high up. I was sweaty and breathing hard by the time I finally got it. Admiring the photo I took while I caught my breath reminded me of going to the park again: good times.


Why do I go to so many EdCamps and PD conferences? Is it for the keynotes? Is it for the pre-conference workshops? Is it for the concurrent sessions? Not really. EdCamps don’t have any of those things. The ATD conferences I’ve been to, the eLearning Guild’s DevLearn and mLearnCon have them and they’re informative and valuable PD resources. But where I really learn is when I interact with others. Talking about what their experience was like and then contrasting it with mine has the most value. How about you? Why do you participate in PD conferences?


Friday, August 21, 2015

Peas and Queues


During last night’s (August 20, 2015) #lrnchat this question came up: What advice would you give a 13-year old to prepare for a future that doesn’t yet exist?

screen capture image of question


“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” -- George Santayana

I reflected on this question at length afterwards. This morning over breakfast with Mrs I asked for her thoughts. We both came up with the idea that to get a clear picture of an indistinct future we should look to the past.

At 13 I was more or less clueless what I wanted to do for a career. I liked taking things apart and putting them together again. I remember being increasingly concerned about the Vietnam War. It was always on the TV news. I didn’t wanted to get drafted into the Army in five more years. There wasn’t much of a future for me there, I remember thinking.

Mrs and I recollected the technology we had at our fingertips at 13. For me this was in 1969. Transistor radios the size of a paperback book was it for portable entertainment. We had a color television in our home; it broke down a lot as I recall. At school there were overhead projectors and mimeograph machines. There were heavy noisy typewriters. We laughed at this, remembering what it was like having to load two sheets of paper into the thing and fumbling to get the mechanical tabs and margins and paper to line up just so.

Uncle Andres was a radioman in the Army during World War II. He lived some distance away from us so we didn’t see him too often. He’d bring gadgets on his visits. He showed me the first power inverter I ever saw. It was a kludgy thing with terminals on top (the connections were naked wire -- touching them could mean instant death). Car stereos: that was another entertainment device. I remember now why he brought the inverter: to power the car stereo inside my room. This is the first innovative act I can remember.

I had a couple of sisters who went to college. Stella was a teacher for a time. She ended up working for the Social Security Administration in an administrative and then later a managerial role. Avelina had a career as a nurse and later, after completing her Masters in Nursing, an educator. These jobs didn’t seem that interesting. The former involved working with the public and pushing papers. Nursing held little interest: antiseptic smells and those caps. The men in my life, Papa and my uncles, were workers: steel mills, cement plants, and manufacturing were where they worked. I guess that’s where I saw myself working too, when I was 13. The space race was going strong in 1969: July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. I had no idea what it would take to be an astronaut so I resigned myself to being earthbound.


Looking forwards I have lots of questions. I am planning to retire soon. How soon is soon? I don’t know. That’s another question. I think I would like to get a teaching certificate. Not to teach though. The certificate would add credibility to what I think I most want to do: help educators with their professional development (PD). But do I really need to get a certificate? I’ve met lots of educators the last couple of years through EdCamp unconferences. What if I were to present at conferences ideas on how to engage teachers in thinking differently about their PD? How might teachers take ownership of their PD and not rely on what their schools and district offer? How much control do teachers have now regarding their PD?

So many questions!


To 13 year olds everywhere who should be thinking about their future selves here’s what I recommend. Start by asking yourself what’s it going to be like? Take a good look at the past. Take a really good look at your own past. What do you like to do? What brings you joy? Start asking questions of the people around you whom you respect and admire. Google questions like crazy. That’s the advice I would give. Ask many questions.


I started this post on my new Chromebook in GoogleDocs. The lrnchat graphic was snipped from TweetDeck using SnapChat. Not being sure how to use my blog's web interface I opened the document (it had been saved on GoogleDrive) in Desk on my Macbook Pro. There was a moment or two of fumbling getting the lrnchat graphic inserted. Desk is weak in that area.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Write This Down


“Write this down."


A month from now it will be two years that my PD (Professional Development) has taken place primarily through interactions with K-12 educators. I started participating at EdCamp in September 2013. I became a card-carrying member of TCEA (Texas Computer Education Association) around the same time. My learning through CUE conferences and CUERockstar happened this year. It's time and effort well spent.

A few days ago I attended an Explore Teaching session at Rio Salado College. The experience was designed to give pre-teacher students a glimpse of what being a teacher is like. It was quite different from what I expected: the application of pedagogy and technology and engagement. No. It was basic stuff, some of which I had missed during my own K-12 educational experience. Though I had heard that “Being a student doesn’t qualify one to be a teacher." the deeper meaning of the phrase had escaped me until now.


My K-12 experience took place in the nineteen sixties and early seventies. I would have liked to have learned about Cornell Notes back then. That’s one cool way of note-taking. I liked learning how to use them as a study-aide too. It’s a more structured way of taking notes but I can see its value.

Beyond learning about note-taking tools I was a little surprised to find that not much else had changed. Teachers still stand at the front of a room pointing and talking. I was a little shocked when the presenter would say, “Write this down.” That was my first aha moment.


The EdCamps and CUE conferences I’ve attended have been dynamic learning experiences. They are heavily focused on educational technology. But the presenters always share how to apply technology to facilitate learning and enable student success. CUERockstar, the most recent K-12 learning experience I completed, was in many ways a capstone where everything came together: creativity, innovation, technology, learning experience. But what about the basics? The teachers I learn from have the basics down. Even the new teachers have student teaching and observation experience.

This was my second aha. Funny to think that it took me almost two years to figure it out. I don’t think I would have gotten it otherwise.


Since CUERockstar Las Vegas, it ended a couple weeks ago, I’ve tried two things. The first was creating an infographic and using it as a talking point with a subject matter expert (SME). It was amazing. It took my usual design thinking approach to interviewing, something I learned via EdCamp, to a whole new level. The ideas flowed. The SME ended up doing the initial workshop outline for me. This is a big deal because usually I create the outline and the SME reviews and approves it or kicks it back for edits. This saved us a LOT of time.

The other thing I tried was the Breakout Box experience. We, the SME and I, didn’t actually have a box. I explained how it was a box with several locks that needed to be opened and how problems had to be solved to unlock to locks. The SME and I were together for 90 minutes. It was at about the 25 minute mark I mentioned Breakout Box. We hit flow-state a little after.


The learning experiences I design are meant to enable learners to be better at solving problems. But what’s a problem? When the SME heard about the Breakout Box the problems all of a sudden seemed to become simpler. They weren’t problems at all. They were puzzles to solve. We could make the workshop a game. I learned from a podcast, I think it was with Jon Corippo, that rigor doesn’t mean harder. It can mean challenging. The SME said it before I did. “How about if we make it so the first activity is easy. They (learners) will have lots of time to solve the puzzle.” Yes. Each iteration of the activity learners have less time to solve the puzzle.


A week and a day after CUERockstar Las Vegas ended I earned the Rockstar Badge. Going forwards I have to approach projects using a simpler frame. I can already imagine how to make learning more engaging while consuming fewer resources by getting back to basics. I think I’ll enroll in the teacher program at Rio Salado College. Not to necessarily become a teacher, but to enrich my understanding of how instructional design can teach.


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Shiny Object Guy


I’m a “Shiny Object” guy.


I’m a Navy veteran. I served in the late seventies and early eighties for six years. Some memories from my experience have faded so much that I think they’re fantasy; others remain so vivid in my mind that they seem to have happened only yesterday.

One of the latter vivid variety memories happened on September 13, 1978. On that day I boarded an Air Force C-141 Starlifter. It would take me one half the way around the world to my first overseas duty station: NavComSta Diego Garcia. But that isn’t what this post is about.

What it is about is something that took place many months earlier. A standard Navy activity is reading the Plan-of-the-Day (POTD). During one such reading my instructor, I was then taking Electronics Technician 1 at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, read about a new program wherein students could dream-sheet a sixth choice of what advanced training they wanted to receive and where they would like to be stationed. A dream-sheet gave sailors the opportunity to provide their detailer (the Chief in D.C. who cut orders) input on where and what; usually we could submit up to five choices. He said if we asked to be stationed on Diego Garcia we wouldn’t have to bump one of the other choices to make room for it. So I did. I had no idea what Diego Garcia was.

Diego Garcia was, and remains, a shiny object for me. It’s difficult for me to tell this story because of all the tangentential stories about my time there that scream out to be told, too. Anyway, the gist of it is that as the Starlifter, after leaving Travis Air Force Base, flew over the Golden Gate Bridge (man how I wish I knew where that photo was) I was filled with a sense of wonder and joy for what was to come. It’s a rare feeling.


I have to work today. I’m worried it’s going to be a long one. At the end of my work day I’m going to be getting underway for Las Vegas. I’ll finally be on my way to CUEROCKSTAR. I signed up for it back in March after a CUE conference with Jon Corippo.

Jon Corippo and Urbie Delgado selfie

I was so motivated by the CUE experience. That CUE ball cap I’m wearing in the selfie with Jon is the first hat of any kind to be on my head since I left the Navy in ’83.

I do and I don’t know what to expect. I know it’ll be three days of learning with K-12 teachers from all over. Not being a K-12 teacher I have a fuzzy idea of what I’ll be learning. The past two years I’ve participated in something like 24 EdCamps. I’ve learned a lot about how our children learn during their K-12 experience. Some of what I’ve picked up has made it into the learning experiences I design. But the thing is EdCamps are brief experiences; several 50 minute sessions over the course of a few hours. I make connections with some teachers and encounter others during educational chats on Twitter afterwards. But CUEROCKSTAR will be different. It’s THREE DAYS!

I like to say that I design transformational learning experiences. That means learners will be butts-out-of-seats moving around doing stuff. They’ll be making their learning visible: to themselves, to their instructor/facilitator, and to their team back home. CUE ROCKSTAR will be transformational.


In my mind’s eye I can see the jewel that is San Francisco Bay through the Starlifter’s port-side porthole. A few minutes after leaving Travis I undid my jump seat belt and ambled over to the porthole (this wasn’t a smart move as the heavily laden transport plane, unlike a passenger jet, bounces and heaves like nobody’s business as it claws for altitude. I made my way past pallets piled with who-knows-what and gazed back in wonder at the bay, the bridge, and all that I had known before.

I’m going to be different after CUEROCKSTAR. It’s going to be different. How? I have no idea. That’s how it is with shiny objects.



Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sit n Get


My K-12 experience spanned from 1961 through 1974. My butt polished a lot of chairs in that time.


I can't recall many times, outside of PE class, where I wasn't sitting down in school. Sure, there were those terrifying moments working problems on the blackboard. But this activity wasn't something a kid looked forward to.

The classrooms I knew had rows of chairs. Desktop collaboration was difficult. Aside from the floor flat surfaces to spread out and collaborate on were few. I cannot recall a time when we used the floor.

Photo of urbie and his granddaughter Carly

@ErikWahl and @KidsDeserveIt if you want to move education forward then your delivery needs to get students' bodies moving.


I design learning experiences for adults. In the almost two years that I've been participating in EdCamp I have learned many ways to teach kids. I have been able to use some of these techniques and strategies and tools with the learners I support. The best of them involve movement.

Devices and technology give students reach: to information and each other. The information stores, libraries, that I encountered in the 1960s were places to borrow books. The Internet of the day, card catalogues, were slow and cumbersome and in the end useful only insofar as the library was able to keep the resource: book, periodical, or map. Accessing the resource required that I go to the library. Today the information comes to students through browsers and apps.

Students need to be set in motion. In a Twitter chat some time ago I heard about Heutagogy. In a nutshell I think its about going after learning. Students, whether adults or children know what they need. It's arguable that maybe adults have a more definite idea of their needs than children. I'm not so sure.


If we're serious about growing flexible, curious, and creative people we have to set them free to go after what interests them. It's our job as educators to design learning experiences that facilitate that chase. Set our students free. My granddaughter Carly is counting on you.