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I’m Not with IT!

In case it isn’t clear, I’m not with IT. It’s not that I don’t like, respect, and occasionally find myself awed by what the I.T. folks do (and put up with) supporting myself and everyone else. I do. I really really do (I spent some serious time in that world back in the day)!

But now I’m a Designer with the Office of Digital Learning. I’m not “the tech guy” or “the IT person” or “the Canvas guy.”

The Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) defines the responsibilities of instructional designers as “the theory and practice of design, development, utilization, management and evaluation of processes and resources for learning. In other words, instructional designers use theory and research processes to design rich learning experiences that produce improved outcomes.

Take a moment to consider the entirety of teaching and learning online as a kind of gallery or art space. My work sometimes begins with collaborating on the architecture before the structure is built—and it always involves working on the exhibitions and sometimes the art works themselves—but it has nothing to do with building the building, maintaining the utilities, or keeping the whole place in sound working order. That’s what IT does and, believe me, you don’t want me trying to do their job.

Organizationally, it makes almost as much sense to think of Digital Learning as a part of Facilities Services, because we rely on the furniture and electricity, as it does IT because we use digital devices on the network.

Part of the issue with instructional design (beyond the usual tensions that come with the persistent faculty/staff divide) is that too few teachers understand that at its best—its most effective, yes, but also its most exhilarating for instructor and student alike—good teaching is at least as much art as it is craft. Good teachers are artists, and like creators of every kind, they operate in a vast world of techniques, theories, approaches, and even fundamental types of art that they know little or nothing about…a world that is as deep, resonant, and specialized as their disciplines.

Instructional design is about pedagogy, curriculum, engagement, and finally implementation, which will involve Canvas and the standard tools it provides access to, but might go well beyond it. Only at the point of implementation does technology enter the picture, when decisions must be made about what tools to use and when designers like myself ferret out the affordances of various technologies to help make those decisions.

If I have time, I’ll of course try to help anybody with anything, or find the right person to do so, but understanding what buttons to push to have a class in Canvas or launch and record a Zoom session isn’t what I do. Why?

Because there’s no one who has completely mastered the art of teaching online and who has nothing left to learn…and there is just one of me on a campus with, at the time of writing, 338 faculty and lecturers. I want to learn with—and from!—those who have vast experience, to help them enrich and increase engagement in their courses, as well as those who are just starting out…and everyone in between!

Note: I’m also not with it, generally, but that’s a different story.

Published inMeta/Me

One Comment

  1. Todd in Ireland Todd in Ireland

    You are my hero.

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