Designing for Motivation

Motivation was just one of a few topics included in the reading for my instructional design and technology course, yet it was one of the most popular on the discussion board. Some common questions and themes:

  • How can instructional designers harness motivation? (which somewhat suggests via “harness” that motivation is a tangible and unchanging thing)
  • The importance of making instruction relevant to encourage motivation
  • Determining the carrot-to-stick ratio
  • Who is ultimately responsible for providing the motivation to learn: the instructor, the student, or the designer?

One peer shared this fantastic metaphor:

I almost imagine the student as residing in a house. The content initiates from outside. While the teacher can try to make the scenery more interesting, learners are the only ones who can open the door. I think the secret is to get the learners peek through the windows and discover a need or reason for learning. Then, the student will come out and interact with the information, building their own understandings of the world. While this motivation may come from the fact that the information is personally interesting (“I love rain showers!”), it may be that it is simply in the learner’s best interest to acquire the information (“If I don’t come out and upgrade my roof, it’s going to leak with all this rain.”).

My own interest with motivation began the balance between extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation, and how ed-tech frequently designs with the former in mind, but researchers and writers frequently focus on the latter.

Keep reading for my thoughts… Continue reading

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(De)Constructivist applications of technology

In Foundations of Instructional Technology and Design (or Instructional Design and Technology), the reading is deep into learning theories and instructional theories and how each intersect with instructional design and technology (and, naturally, theories of instructional design and technology).

Or as one classmate posted, “Theories, theories everywhere…”

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for instructional designers and ed-tech developers to rely heavily on behaviorism and information processing theories. Drill-and-kill and test prep programs rely heavily on these theories. Stimulus -> Response. The response is often positive, constructive, and immediate feedback that, theoretically, will guide the learner toward improved performance. Gamification and game-based learning uses these elements, as well, although we don’t like to think of educational games as being gussied-up drill-and-kill programs. Some games are certainly more complex and offer interesting scenario-based problems, but not all, and not enough.

What is less common and more interesting how technology can support constructivism, where the learner creates meaning, or as Driscoll states in chapter 4 of Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology, “Learning is more a matter of going from the inside out.” Problem-based instruction and project-based learning have their roots in constructivism. Technological applications such as MIT’s programming software Scratch and Minecraft support constructivism. With each, “the learner actively imposes organization and meaning on the surrounding environment and constructs knowledge in the process.”

But what about deconstructing knowledge to then reconstruct it? How can technology help there?

This week two familiar ideas collided in just the right way. First, learning is a process of constructing mental models and schema. Second, it is very difficult to deconstruct these schema, which is to say, it is difficult to unlearn something or to relearn a new process or procedure.

So what if we delegated this problem to technology? Instead of using software to create meaning, visualizations, and worlds, what if we fed computers constructed information so that it could shake it up, and feed us back either parts or a reconstructed mental model? What might that look like?

Here’s where developments in AI could be useful. And here’s one example of what I envision.

Continue reading

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An Ethical Model for #IDT?

Last week, I wanted a model for ethical instructional design and technology, and this week I got it. I suppose I should do the reading one week in advance.

J. Michael Spector in Foundations of Educational Technology: Integrative Approaches and Interdisciplinary Perspectives offers his Educratic Oath (p. 16):

  •             Do nothing to impair learning, performance, and instruction
  •             Do what you can to improve learning, performance, and instruction
  •             Base your actions on evidence that you and others have gathered and analyzed
  •             Share the principles of learning, performance and instruction that you have learned with others
  •             Respect the individual rights of all those with whom you interact

Following this is the pyramid diagram:


While this model does provide ethical guidance, there are cracks made evident in the visual representation.

We’re educators or designers, and we’re used to pyramids; just think of Bloom’s Taxonomy or the Food Pyramid. When I see one, I think the bottom is not only foundational (read, “important”) but also the easiest (like with Bloom’s “remember”) and most frequent (like grains). The top is the rarest (“create” in Bloom’s) or least desired (“fats” in the Food Pyramid). So, am I to interpret that the basis of all IDT ethics is “[meeting] learning goals and objects” and that “do no harm” is like icing on the cake? I read on, and Spector states, “The emphasis in the current discussion is on the top part of this pyramid – do no harm.” So, should the pyramid be inverted? There are arrows indicating flow(?) or a relationship(?) between the parts, but the intention is unclear. It’s like this model acknowledges the systemic environment in which IDT inhabits, but it doesn’t fully commit.

What’s missing is how various values and perspectives that different stakeholders have within the IDT environment interpret and balance these values. For instance, take how differently an ed-tech programmer, a classroom teacher, and a student value one ed-tech product: PhotoMath. The programmer may value downloads, the classroom teacher may value students’ ability to do independent work, and student may value increased free time to create YouTube videos. Now, both the programmer and student may see PhotoMath as a tool for good, but the classroom teacher may view this tool as impeding learning (at least two strikes according to the Oath). We also know on which side of the debate these journalists expect their readers to fall by naming it “cheating.”

Which brings up yet another conundrum when considering ethics, cheating, and educational technology: the purpose of ed-tech. Spector clearly states the purpose of ed-tech is something that supports finding answers (#sliderule). The educator is someone who gets others to have questions. To me, PhotoMath seems to be very good at finding answers, so perhaps the problem here is educators need to ask better questions. The website itself addresses this problem in the FAQ:

I cannot scan word problems.

Photomath cannot solve word problems. This is a very complicated thing to do for a computer.

Another consideration is the context of the learning task and the application of ed-tech. Technology is supposed to make tasks easier and to provide assistance, and in some cases like with assistive technology (screen readers, voice-to-text apps, prescription lens, and carbon-fiber prosthetics) these tools help level the playing field. Yet, there are times we strip away these tools to have a true measure of an individual’s ability, i.e. an eye doctor appointment. To what extent PhotoMath inhibits a teacher’s ability to know whether a student worked independently, depends on the purpose of the instructional task: instruction, practice, or performative assessment. These measures highlight differences among learners, and the teacher can take steps to differentiate content. That seems valid to me.

However, I would discourage teachers from banning PhotoMath, and like tools, if they do so because its use might give some students an unfair advantage over other students. To level the playing field by bringing everyone to the lowest common ability by removing technology (we all know the teachers who don’t assign technology projects because students’ limited access at home) handicaps students in the long run.

So, returning to Spector’s ethical model, does the arrangement of ethical standards change based on the ID environment or the stakeholder’s purpose? Personally, I think a more apt representation acknowledges the need for substitutions and rearrangement of values. Perhaps something resembling Pentominos? But then, that’s not really an ethical model, is it? That’s morality.

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Classroom Pictures, Social Media, and FERPA

Recently I was asked this question from a teacher preparing a webinar for how to implement the new Social Studies standards in Georgia:

Can we use photographs of children in our class doing the activities we are including in the videos as long as we blur out faces and there is no identifying information on them?

Clearly the teacher is taking steps to protecting student privacy while also considering her audience’s need for visuals and examples. Assuming that there is no identifying information, the answer is yes.

But, not wanting to make assumptions, what exactly is identifiable information? How does FERPA define personal identifiable information?

To answer these questions, I found the following resources very helpful. So helpful, I’m listing them here before my own stab at sharing images and FERPA.

Continue reading

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Learning from Mistakes and Ethics #IDT

For my Foundations of Instructional Design and Technology course, I offered my thoughts on ed-tech cyclical failures and a need for ethical design.

Comments to my discussion board post, which is locked away inside a LMS, referred to ed-tech adoption and implementation within schools or ethics. After reading my initial post, one instructional designer from the corporate world wondered if teachers really did have that much influence in regards to what ed-tech sticks. Others commented on how ed-tech promises to be a cure-all, but never is, or how ed-tech needs deliberate planning and instructional strategies to support its use.

Regarding ethics, here’s the most insightful comment:

As for choosing ethics models, it seems like an impossible task. While educators can probably all agree on the loose expectation — to make teaching decisions with the needs and interests of students in mind — the specific behaviors this actually entails are elusive. We are back to the essential question, “What do students need?” This is a question educators, researchers, psychologists have been disputing forever. Standardizing an ethics expectation with a clear and actionable model is a tall task indeed.

So, with that, the long tail of ed-tech failures in classrooms and the quagmire of ed-tech, economics, and ethics.

After reading chapters 1 and 3 of Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology by Robert A. Reiser, I had two thoughts running almost parallel, as I’m sure in the future they will meet, I’m just not sure where and how yet. Continue reading

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What U.S. K-12 Teachers should know about #OER


In light of this week’s TES survey results on OER referenced by business , instructional technology, and  education sites, here’s what every teacher should know about OER and what policy makers and developers should know about how to support the creation, spread, and repurposing of OER.

When I first began teaching, many veteran teachers gave me free access to their instructional materials. Handouts, lessons, links, presentations, books, et cetera filled my once empty filing cabinets. Every May, when teachers retire, teachers descend to take coveted class-sets of materials (along with reams of paper, let’s be honest). Search #edcamp for links to shared resources and presentations. Note how many free lessons are available on Read between the lines of Alice Keeler’s post “This Job is Hard to Go it Alone – #stealEDU.” Teachers share. Freely. Openly.

And yet, Open Educational Resources – OER – are still not commonly referenced or used shared in K-12 schools.

At least not yet.

Late June 2016, the U.S. Department of Education acknowledged the need for guidance by publishing the #GoOpen District Launch Packet. The packet offers school and district leaders a detailed pathway for OER adoption, and it follows the #GoOpen initiative first launched in February 2016. Since then, OER and #GoOpen are gaining traction.

Although the movement is reaching mainstream, many teachers still don’t know some key issues around it: its complex definition, the surrounding copyright issues, the benefits and risks associated with OER, and methods to make OER sustainable. Continue reading

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Level Up PBL with Peer Review

Peer review title 2

Recently, Cathy O’Neil shared a guest post on her blog that responded to the recent study on race and police shootings. In the post, the Head of Data Science at Zocdoc and Adjunct Professor with NYU’s Center for Data Science, Brian D’Alessandro tears apart Roland Fryer’s findings that “On the most extreme use of force – officer-involved shootings – we find no racial differences in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account.” The major flaw: Fryer’s method of data sampling.

He notes some of the study’s limitations and flaws:

  1. The data came from a single precinct – a red-flag that doesn’t necessarily mean “cherry-picking data” but the study should have noted, “In Houston, using self-reported data…”
  2. The study didn’t apply this same analysis to other police precincts to see if the results were statistically significant.
  3. The data sampling method separated the “all shootings” population from the “use of justified force” population, which means they didn’t actually test their claim.

D’Alessandro doesn’t suspect Fryer’s team of wrong-doing, like manipulating data, but he does question why they released their findings before the peer-review process.

Peer review, he claims, would have caught these weaknesses and would have given the authors a chance to “temper their findings.” He adds, “I’d love for him to take his responsibility to the next level and make his data, both in raw and encoded forms, public.”

"ODDC Research Network Workshop - Berlin" by Open Data Research Network on Flickr  / CC BY

“ODDC Research Network Workshop – Berlin” by Open Data Research Network on Flickr / CC BY

This push to open data and the method of analysis reminded me (again) of the One the Media story “Editing The Culture of Science With CRSPR,” which is more about Kevin Esvelt’s appeal to the scientific community to “open all experiments to public scrutiny” than it is about gene-drive technology.

Both stories argue for increased openness in order to provide more inspection.

Why this matters is Fryer’s un-peer-reviewed study was picked up by the New York Times quickly, and the media will remember the original study more than any retractions, and journalists frequently will not question results or misreport them.

Which brought to mind a third story by John Bohannon, “I Fooled Millions Into Thinking Chocolate Helps Weight Loss. Here’s How.”

Read the full post for the science in the post, but here’s the set up:

I got a call in December last year from a German television reporter named Peter Onneken. He and his collaborator Diana Löbl were working on a documentary film about the junk-science diet industry. They wanted me to help demonstrate just how easy it is to turn bad science into the big headlines behind diet fads. And Onneken wanted to do it gonzo style: Reveal the corruption of the diet research-media complex by taking part.

The result was a published paper on the weight-loss benefits of eating chocolate. The researchers purposefully used a small sample (16 participants) and measured a large number of things (18) to ensure something would be “statistically significant.” After rushing the paper to a pay-to-publish scientific journal, they relied on a press release to alert the media.

The key is to exploit journalists’ incredible laziness. If you lay out the information just right, you can shape the story that emerges in the media almost like you were writing those stories yourself. In fact, that’s literally what you’re doing, since many reporters just copied and pasted our text.

My point in triangulating these three stories is not that we need better ethics training or that the general population needs to be more skeptical of science journalism (although, maybe, and most definitely).

Rather, what teachers should reap from this triangulation is there is a need to help students practice peer review. Continue reading

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Curriculum 21 Another Look: Global Trends & Global Learning 5/5

Ch 6 global learning

This last post in a series of global trends and global learning address both Vivian Stewart’s definition of global learning from her chapter “A Classroom as Wide as the World” in Curriculum 21 by Heidi Hayes Jacobs. The book was published in 2010, so after six years, it merited another look to see how these trends have changed and whether and to what extent that changes how we should understand global learning.

I’ve spent more than a week dwelling on examples of global learning and what students need to know, debating how wide a net to cast. What I eventually realized, however, is that when your classroom is as wide as the world, instances of global learning are everywhere and every learning experience is an opportunity add a global perspective. Strangely, the familiar quote applies, “Aqaba’s over there. It’s only a matter of going.” Global learning starts with small steps.

Global Learning

Stewart offers three dimensions of “global competence”: Continue reading

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Curriculum 21 Another Look: Global Trends & Global Learning 4/5

21 ch 6 eduIn the past three posts, I’ve discussed four global trends, as identified by Vivian Stewart in her chapter “A Classroom as Wide as the World” in Heidi Hayes Jacobs’ Curriculum 21. Stewart’s argument is we teachers and educators need to think about how to prepare students so they are ready to thrive in a globally connected and diverse world. Speaking of which, here’s the last trend:

(If you’re discombobulated, get oriented and start from the beginning here.)

 #Education Stewart gives one paragraph to education, and in 2010, that was a little naïve but acceptable. She noted the growing global talent pool and that other countries are catching up with America in academics. The big concern was that standardized tests do not measure “the thinking and complex communication skills” needed for the 21st century (101).

True then, and still true now.

But then 2012 happened: the year of the MOOC. Continue reading

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Curriculum 21 Another Look: Global Trends & Global Learning 3/5

21 ch 6 demIn her chapter “A Classroom as a Wide World” within Heidi Hayes Jacobs’ Curriculum 21, Vivien Stewart separated global demographic trends but lumped global security and citizenship together. But in my mind, each is its own trend while being part of a greater issue. What follows is another look these two (or three) trends and how multicultural education may help educators center their curriculum around content and activities that will build global skills students will need in light of these trends.

(This is the third of a series on global trends and global learning as defined in Curriculum 21. Read my musings from the beginning here.)

#Demographics Since 2010, immigration and migration have not only grown but exploded in some areas and the issue raises humanitarian and isolationists concerns. Rather than going into detail, here’s a list of some topical nouns – take it as a deliberate understatement knowing I can’t possibly give this the level of analysis it deserves: walls, Brexit, Syria, and children. I recommend this advanced copy of the United Nations’ International Migration Report 2015 for a better understanding.

Little did Stewart know what the future held when she said in 2010, “Life in the United States increasingly involves interacting and working with individuals from vastly different backgrounds and cultures – a challenge and an opportunity that requires new skills and perspectives” (99). Continue reading

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