For my entire adult life, I have been interested in what makes good instruction – the combination of teacher skills, resources, learning activities and connection with the learner that creates truly challenging and engaging instruction. Instructional design is a field that tries to answer that question. How can we learn to package and reproduce that excellence? Most instructional designers work in adult-learning settings, but my interest extends to K12 schools. Technology is a big part of good instruction nowadays, so my dual passions are:
How can we support people trying to create outstanding instruction; and
How can we support teachers, designers, and students trying to make good use of learning tools and resources?
My personal journey in pursuit of these questions is a sketch of my career. I began in the 1970s with a focus on instructional strategies, moving quickly to cognitive learning processes. In the 80s I learned how instruction fits in the bigger picture of supporting job performance, and applied artificial-intelligence methods to developing rule-based advisement systems. In the 1990s I started asking questions about ultimate ends – critiquing the goals and methods of psychological and technical approaches to instruction.
Presently my field is at a crossroads. Old models can’t keep up with the choices young people have for learning and communicating. Our efforts to control and repress these out-of-school tools and practices only make school more frustrating and out of touch. With some collaborators, I am exploring an aesthetic or experience-based approach to technology and education. In the same way that games can be extremely engaging through constant activity toward goals – we are developing a framework for approaching instruction from the learner’s experiential point of view – from the inside out rather than the outside looking in.