Becoming an instructional designer within the classroom

There are many approaches that we can find out there about using technology to foster a certain set of skills or literacies through educational experiences (could be face-to-face, blended or online). Some academic/researches do support the fact of bringing technology can indeed help engaging students in many different ways—making them care about the content/topic, produce excitement and interest in knowing or developing the skills needed for a class, etc.—but not all of these researchers cover one of the important parts that happen before the experience design (with technology): the instructional design.

Just to clarify, with this statement I am not assuming that some researchers do not care about this component. What I am trying to make clear is that, before jumping into the integration of technology in the curriculum, we need to think about our expectation of what we are teaching—what are trying to accomplish through the experience that we are about to design?—to later being able to design a proper, accurate and meaningful experience for our students (and for us).






There are many digital tools that are available on the Web, from which a lot of them are totally free (or offer a free-limited version). I believe that bringing these technologies into educational context bring two broad possibilities:


  • Designing learning activities using technology tools: this may be the most common way (but still really effective) to integrate technology in the curriculum. Creating significant learning experiences that will help in reaching the course/class outcomes in our students. Once we have our learning outcomes well defined, then we can start designing experiences with technology that can help enhance our teaching experience. 
  • Having students creating subject-matter-related digital materials: this option may not be as used as the first one, but it's been shown to promote great results and help in the promotion of students' initiatives and interests. The main difference between this approach and the first one is the fact that students are the one to lead the (technological) instructional design process. This means that educators will be directing or providing general guidelines of the sort of activity or material that students will create and later share and co-evaluate with their peers. This process takes the students through different stages of the design process: researching the content; identifying which is the specific area they will focus on the activity/material; searching, evaluating and choosing the digital tool that best fit with the activity purpose; sharing with their classmates; and (co)evaluating the designed activity. This whole process will make the subject-matter content to be more relevant to students since they have to make sense out of it in order to design proper digital educational materials. Having feedback from classmates also allows them to get a broader vision of what could be made in order to refine the materials. 
These two approaches can help educators define which is the best way to include technology in a class. It is important to have clarity that this does not mean that you have to apply one or the other in every class. Identifying how pertinent an activity (or technology tool) is, constitute an important part of the previous process to make before including technology for a specific lesson in the curriculum. Doing so without planning would be taking "a leap of faith" just to see how everything works.

Comments

  1. I agree completely that being clear first and foremost about the goals and expectations of a given lesson and planning a good instructional design must come before deciding whether or how to use technology. We should also realize that we don’t have to use technology for every lesson or goal, but that we should be judicious about when to use technology. A question for all: would you be willing to give students the choice of whether or not to use technology when we ask them to create subject-matter materials?

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    1. I really think that giving agency to students to weather or not to use technology is a good and wise move to make in our teaching. I think technology—when properly used—can be an excellent resource for our teaching experience. But also believe that we won't always need it to create a significant experience for our students and promote learning on them.
      That stated, I do think that they can become instructional designers of subject-matter content and materials without using technology.

      Thanks for your contribution.

      John

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  2. I appreciate you pointing out the importance of learning objectives of a lesson and thinking about how technology can help you accomplish those goals.

    Having students create subject matter digital materials seems to be very popular. I feel that while many of the programs/software tend to be free, they don't always tend to be user friendly.

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    Replies
    1. Hello Adrienne. I do agree with you, sometimes usability is not the best for some of the free-to-use digital tools available out there. Maybe one possible solution for this is giving the students some agency to choose a tool they feel comfortable using. It is impossible to know all the tools available out there since there are many being developed and updated periodically, so students could play an important role when it comes using something they are interested in and using it to created content/subject-matter related.

      Thanks for pointing that out.

      John

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  3. John, I really liked your insight. To be honest, I've never thought about the fact that students could create subject matter digital materials. My main question, however, is: in a foreigner language class, do we have time for that? No. So how could I implement that in a very demanding quarter system and syllabus?

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    1. Hello Pedro, your point is totally accurate and interesting. Many research studies have shown that one of the main issues that educators face when integrating technology in their classes is dealing with cultural context, meaning with this: institutional/college policies, technological infrastructure and macro-curriculum (in this case, pre-stablished curriculum) that are needed to be followed by instructors. This become a challenge, specially when there is no flexibility in an already created curriculum. On the other hand, when it comes to foreign language learners, I could imagine that maybe not all the subject matter materials should be complex enough to prevent students to make it. Perhaps doing simple material such a flashcards or other vocabulary-related material would be a practice that still fits in the "students as instructional designers" approach (with or without technology).

      I think you brought up a very interesting point to the discussion.

      Thanks for sharing.

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