Sneak Peak – The Learner of the Future

Written by Dr. Greg Williams, Director of the Instructional Systems Development program at UMBC.

I recently read an article on Smart Blog on Education by Mike Fisher called “Snapshot of a Modern Learner”.The author describes how a young learner named Santos approaches his own learning. Technology is an important tool that helps this student learn. How he uses technology may come as a surprise to some people, especially those over the age of 40. He uses it to find information, communicate with his friends, play games, listen to music and more. To him, using technology is part of his life.  So why should his education be any different?

However, there is a problem. While his teachers look at technology as an event, Santos looks at it as part of his life. Most of his teachers do not use technology at all, or in a very limited way. He gets frustrated using textbooks that will not allow him to click pictures or icons for more information when he wants it. Even though he is a high school student, he exhibits many characteristics of a self-directed “adult learner”. He wants to find information when he needs it, connect with his classmates on his own schedule, and learn about things that are meaningful to him.

Santos is not unique for people in the same age group.  For example, my graduate assistant is learning Apple’s Final Cut X software. She has never taken a course in it.  When she encounters something she doesn’t know how to do, she looks it up online in an online users’ group.  In her view, taking an entire class would be a waste of her time and money. Her learning is based on a just-in-time approach, rather than a just-in-case approach.

Instructional designers know that analysis is a big part of designing learning. Part of that analysis includes examining the behaviors, learning preferences and competencies of learners. If we don’t understand how the younger generation lives, then it will be very difficult to understand how they learn. The Santos of today will be your employee of tomorrow.

If you are involved in the design or delivery of learning, I encourage you to read Mike Fisher’s entire article.

Instructing with Infographics

Visual representations of information, data or knowledge, often referred to as infographics, have taken off in the past year. If you spend a moderate amount of time consuming online media, you probably stumble onto a few a week. Fast Company even has an “Infographic of the Day” section on its website!

Have you thought about how these visual representations of data and information can be instrumental for instruction? Tom Kuhlmann explored the topic in regards to e-Learning in his blog post a few months ago.  In his post, he provided tips for compelling infographic design, such as highlighting only the most pertinent information and color/font choice.

Now, if your Photoshop skills are lacking, and your graphic designer(s) is/are already swamped, thinking about designing a complex infographic, like the one below on Envisioning the Future of Educational Technology (click to enlarge), may make you uneasy. Relax—there are many free resources out there that can be used to create stellar infographics. Just this week, Katie Lepi, a contributor to Edudemic, outlined 10 resources for do-it-yourself infographics.

This visualization is the result of a collaboration between the design for learning experts TFE Research and emerging technology strategist Michell Zappa.

While the resources outlined in the Edudemic article may provide the same flexibility as a custom-designed graphic, why not test the waters using these resources? As blogger and consultant Chris Lema points out in his infographic on “Sticky Teaching,” 50% of our brains focus on processing visual information, after all.

Register for ISD Now Forum and Workshop at UMBC

ISD Now Forum with Dr. Thiagi

Join us for UMBC’s ISD Now Forum & Workshop with Thiagi – Founder of The Thiagi Group, an organization with the mission of helping people improve their performance effectively and enjoyably.

ISD Now Forum – October 4, 2012 (free event)
Increasing and Improving Interactivity in Webinars
Time: 6 – 8:30 p.m.
Where: UMBC Main Campus, University Center Ballroom, 3rd Floor.

Learning Objectives:

  • Design an interactive webinar that incorporates structured sharing, interactive lectures, instructional puzzles, interactive storytelling, and online jolts
  • Facilitate a webinar that keeps the participants engaged in the learning process and encourages them to transfer and apply their new skills and knowledge to the workplace.


Next Day Workshop – October 5, 2012 (paid event, limited seats available)
Interactive Techniques for Instructor-Led Training
Time: 9 a.m. – 430 p.m.
Where: bwtech @ UMBC (UMBC Tech Center). You MUST Register for this event.

The workshop is activity-based and designed and delivered by Dr. Thiagi. Appropriately enough, it is a workshop on designing and delivering activities-based workshops. Dr. Thiagi will discuss Designing Interactive Strategies and Delivering Training Games and Activities.


Hope to see you there!
UMBC’s ISD Now Team

August is Connected Educator Month


Did you know that August is Connected Educator Month?

The U.S. Department of Education’s Connected Educators initiative is launching Connected Educator Month this month (August 2012) to help schools, districts, and states collaborate together for essential professional learning opportunities.

Throughout August, registrants will have access to participate in coordinated opportunities, events and activities in dozens of online locations to develop skills and enhance personal learning networks.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Connected Educators Initiative encourages educators from all levels and those who support them to participate.

To get started, all you have to do is sign up. The registration process is simple and quick on the Connected Educator Month home page:

Once signed up, you’ll get regular updates about:
• Webinars and other real‐time events.
• Forums on key education and community issues.
• Guided tours, open houses, launches, exhibits, collaborative projects, polls, and other special activities.
• Contests you can enter, badges you can earn, plus other resources ranging from starter kits to book clubs and classes to help you join the world of connected education or become more connected.

Do you collaborate with other professionals online and find it helpful? We’d love to hear about your experience. Please feel free to chime in with a comment.

How do you Incorporate Social Learning? (Do You?)

Earlier this summer, Jane Hart wrote about the “Social Workplace Learning Continuum” on her blog Learning in the Social Workplace. She proposes that the learning and development community stop thinking of formal and informal learning as complete opposites, and instead, apply the Social Workplace Learning Continuum thinking. Jane shared the following five ideologies for achieving this hybrid approach to formal and informal learning:

  1. Think “learning spaces/places,” not “training rooms”
  2. Think “social technologies” not “teaching/learning technologies”
  3. Think “activities” not “courses”
  4. Think “lite design” not “instructional design” -for organized activities
  5. Think “continuous flow of activities” not just “response to need”

Following these points will challenge instructional designers to always be thinking of ways to foster a collaborative and social learning environment, ultimately meeting the needs of  end-users whose skills with community and collaboration tools continuously evolves.

But it’s not just solely about training users to use social software or introducing them to a new community, as Jane says. Encouraging self-organization and collaboration is a critical component to truly embracing social/collaborative learning in the workplace.

To get a sense of how professionals are already integrating the Social Workplace Learning Continuum, and to gauge interest and willingness to apply this approach, Jane has launched a new survey. Head over to her blog to check it out (click “take our survey” at the bottom).

We want to know, too. How, specifically, are YOU making social collaboration part of your learning strategy? We’d love to highlight some innovative approaches in an upcoming blog post!