Professional Presentations

Giving a professional presentation? Look no further than this presentation analysis on the late Steve Jobs. This is a great breakdown and can give anyone a lot of great pointers on make a boring presentation much better.

 

Problem solving and designing

Tonight in my class I will be discussing various ways to design and one of those is called Open Space Technology (Read here for directions on how to conduct OST – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Space_Technology)

OST is a way to empower users/stakeholders to design and solve problems in a fun and safe environment. It generates individual and group creativity. OST is usually done face to face however given that my classes are virtual I have figured out how to do it online. To do it only you need to be able to form groups in a forum or chat room. Otherwise it can run just as would in a live face to face environment. Anyway, this is a great activity for instructional designers, businesses, software developers, etc to engage in.

Do you need a degree in Instructional Design?

I have written about this before but given that we are starting a new school I will reiterate my thoughts: Yes you more than likely need an instructional degree in order to be a good instructional designer.

Can you learn to be an instructional designer without getting a degree? Yes. In fact, you can learn about any subject through libraries, internet, etc. You have been able to do this as long as books have been available to the public. However, would you want a doctor to work on you that didn’t have an MD? and just learned through some internet resources? Sorry but you would not. Instructional design is no different. There is a lot that goes into the design process and being a good designer is not easy. I would never hire someone that was not trained in a very solid ISD program that taught them how to be an instructional designer and provided them experiences to apply it.

So where does the notion that you do not need an ISD degree come from? Most often, bad designers. I am sorry to say that but usually when someone says this they either do not have the degree or came from a bad program. Choosing a good instructional design program taught by qualified instructors is a whole other issue. But usually when I find these people that do not believe in the ISD degree and that you can learn ‘on the job’ I can ask them anywhere from 3-5 questions about design, that are vital to design, and they do not know any of the answers – why? Because they themselves are usually not good designers because they do not know how to really do instructional design. Because if they did, they would realize that you really need someone trained to do it well.

Just as an example. I run into this problem all the time with managers. Managers that were hired because they were good workers. Yet they were not trained in management. So they end up failing, messing up, etc and at the very least making simple management 101 mistakes that they didn’t realize they were doing because they had no training.

Some related blog posts:

How to become an instructional desginer

10 reasons to get a degree in ISD

What to look for in an instructional design program

Should you go to college

Back to school computer

What computer should you buy your soon to be college freshmen?

First, How much money can you spend? Unfortunately when buying computer you usually do get what you pay for. So if you are spending $400 on a computer expect it to deteriorate faster than a $2000 machine (as in it might last a year vs the $2000 machine that will last for 4 easily). Also, expect that the $400 computer components are probably already 3-4 years old and will have trouble running current software. A minimum I usually tell people is to spend $700 and get it on a good sale. Less than that and you are asking for trouble. $1000-$1200 is even better and what the majority of students need. And $1200-2000+ is what you need for a high end machine for gaming, computer programmer, graphic artist, movie editor, sound editor. Once you have decided your price point, then decide…

Do you need a Mac or PC? Well maybe Macs are already out of your price range. So you can skip to the next paragraph. If you are not sure which you should get ask yourself the following: Are you good with computers (tech geek) or going into computer science, engineering, business or a science field? Then I would get a PC. So much software only runs on a PC so you dont want to get into a class where something you are using wont run on your computer. If you are not good with computers and just need something that will last for your 4 years to write papers, browse the web, and be used in courses, then definitely get a Mac. They are great for those that are not tech people and usually will last 4+ years. I had one that lasted 8 years.

Next you need to decide what brand, upgrades, and where to buy…First, shop around. Look online and at stores. Take a sales associates words with a grain of salt. First they are trying to make a sale and they are NOT usually computer experts. If they were computer experts they wouldn’t be a sales associate at Best Buy or Walmart they would be working at a company making 60-90k a year. Secondly, they are NOT in your program and do not know what you really need. So do your own research. There are tons of back to school sales and all of the computer companies offer discounts for students. So look and compare. But what brand? If you are getting a Mac then you know you are getting a Mac. If PC however, there are tons of options out there. I would personally rather look components and price rather than brand per se but I do like Dell and Alienware (a dell brand) but there are many others out there too.

So what components should you be looking at? Disk space. How much do you currently use? I would recommend at least 250-500GB. Also remember there are free options for space such as dropbox so space might not be too much of an issue anymore unless you have tons of pictures, songs, movies (which all college kids have). Remember that if you run out of space you can buy a 1TB (1oooGB) hard drive for under a $100 at any time so don’t worry too much about the space issue. Next you have Ram. Get a minimum of 8GB but I would probably not get under 12GB if I wanted this to last for 4 yrs. My current computer has 32GB (and its 3 yrs old) just to put what you are buying into comparison of what is out there. Ram is one area where you need to upgrade. If you are a gamer or in a major where you need a fast computer get as much ram as you can afford. Then of course you need to consider the video card and processor. I usually try to get the best I can here as well. The least important thing for me is disk space as I can always upgrade that and buy more. As far as screen size, it doesn’t really matter – that is your preference. Get what you are comfortable with.

Should you buy a warranty? Yes. Please get it. I watch computers fail all the time. Please get it for at least 3 yrs if possible. Computers, especially laptops will wear out as they are carried from class to class and stuffed in a backpack. Keep in mind your school will fix computers as well so make sure you check with your school to see what they offer.

Should you buy Office and other software as an add on? NOOOOO. Wait until you get to college. Colleges will offer huge discounts on this stuff. For example you can buy the full office package at my university for $30. They have tons of software too so make sure you check before putting out big bucks on software.

Oh, and if you are wondering the answer is NO, a tablet cannot replace a computer. A tablet is a great compliment to a computer but you need a computer. You cannot get by with just a tablet.

 

What can you learn from games anyway?

I love video games and I love the lessons that they can teach to kids. So what can we learn? Well obviously a game geared towards math can teach a kid math but that is not what this post is focusing on. What I want to focus on are the FIVE MAJOR skills that you can learn when playing video games such as League of Legends, World of Warcraft, and Minecraft (keep in mind that not all games do these things so you need to be selective):

  1. You will lose. You cannot always win and games teach you that you will lose. I believe this is great because in today’s watered down culture we give kids trophies for trying in addition to winning. Games do not work that way. You only get the prize if you win. This is an important lesson that needs to be fully understood by kids so they know that they need to work hard to win in life.
  2. Problem solving. You will learn to problem solve. You don’t like losing? Guess what, you need to keep playing and practicing to get better just like real life.
  3. Teamwork. This is a skill that kids learn in sports. You cannot win a game by yourself. However, not all kids play sports. If a kid does not play sports I would definitely make sure they learn teamwork from a very young age and multiplayer games are a great way to accomplish this.
  4. Communication. You have to communicate with your team virtual in games. This is a great skill as many jobs are now virtual and you need to communicate with team mates, a boss, and clients in a virtual environment. You will learn how to greet, sign on/off, and online speak in general.
  5. Your imagination is the limit. Games like minecraft allow you to build and construct. Literally your imagination is the limit. This teaches kids to invent and create things that are not there. This thinking outside of the box is a skill that managers want and a skill that innovators like Bill Gates have.

League of Legends in the classroom?

lol

As many of you know, I am a huge fan of League of Legends. Its a game I play several times a week, if not more. Lately, I have been seeing LoL clubs forming on campuses (there is one at UNCW) and courses about this game. So can this game be used in k-16 education and how?

Can it be used?

It’s definitely a game that could be used in middle grades and up. However, there is not content in the game. Its a MOBA (Massive online battle arena) game where two teams face off to capture a base. But it could be used to teach skills. If you are unfamiliar with the game, think of it like a virtual game of capture the flag. But to answer the question, I absolutely believe a game like this can be used in middle, high, and college grades. But how? For what? and Why?

What?

It would be used to teach skills – teamwork, communication, and problem solving strategies. The game is set up to be played 3v3 or 5v5 so students would need to learn to work together on a team, fulfilling various roles, in order to win the game. You have to work together or you lose. You also need to communicate. This includes chat, voice, and signs (pings). You would need to learn to play the game, read the chat box/type in it, and talk at the same time. Additionally you need to learn strategies, which include solving problems that may change throughout the game. This is a skill that could be taken into corporate settings. Its a skill I have trouble teaching my graduate students so the fact that this game (or similar) can teach it is very helpful. In this way, the game is like real life – you work on a team, you communicate well, and you form a strategy to win. If you do not do it well or not as good as the other team, you lose. And you can keep trying until you do figure it out.

How?

First you would need the game, which is free, computers, and internet. You would also need microphones. Additionally, you would need to make sure students played custom games. You would not want them playing with strangers because when there is a game with millions of players, there are people who will swear and do other things like causing you to lose on purpose (called trolling). Thus custom games would be a must. So you would need either 6 or 10 people to play each game.

Why?

One simple reason – motivation. The game is fun. Why not play a game like this instead of doing another reading case study where students might learn these skills? My philosophy is that I should be making learning as fun as possible so it doesn’t feel like school. I want learning to be fun. I also want students to take learning seriously and if they could take this game seriously then the learning part would come naturally.

 

 

How to get into college

So you want to go to college? This post is not for the 18 yr old high school senior, rather, it’s for the person that didn’t go to college right away (or failed out at some point) and wants to go later in life. Later in life can be 20 yrs old or 60 yrs old. But this post will still be helpful to those college seniors as well it’s just not geared towards them. Why am I writing this? I teach in a graduate program and have a wide variety of students applying and I wanted to share my advice for those going back for a bachelors that they never earned or for their Master’s. So…

*here is my post on should you go to college which you may want to read first

1. Relax. I understand you are nervous but just relax. It’s school. If you want to go, then go. There is a program out there that will suit your needs.

2. It’s never too late. Again – It’s never too late. You can change careers or paths at any age. Will it be easy? Maybe not but I bet you any amount of money it’s possible. So yes it’s never too late.

3. Why? Why are you going? Do not just say you want to go to college and have a career. What is it you want to do? What do you enjoy? What are your hobbies? If you were independently wealthy and could choose any career what would it be? Then select a field/major based on that desire.

4. Money. I don’t mean cost of college. What kind of job will you get with your degree? Now I don’t think you should get a degree just for money, college is about learning and learning to problem solve. But you need to have some career path in mind when you choose your major. How much will you make? Once you know what you will make then you can start choosing a college…So next is

5. Cost. How much will it cost? The average undergraduate degree in the US costs 30-40k total. So its about as much as an SUV and spread out over 4 years. If you are looking at a public university you should expect to pay that much in tuition. Plus you need to consider your living expenses and health care. Its very easy to work part or full time and go to college. However, the more you work, the longer it will take to get that degree. And certain degrees, like biology will be more demanding and offer less time for work. So you will need to figure this out. Remember that there are tons and tons of scholarships out there. Also, there are tons of jobs on campus that you can have while you go to school which may even pay your tuition. If money is your barrier than you are not doing enough research and planning well enough. If you are looking at schools that cost 50k a year in tuition and money is a problem for you then you are already doing it wrong.

6. Online or face to face. Do you want to go online or face to face? Do you live near a university? There is tons of research to be done here. I always recommend going face to face if you can because of access to campus facilities and professors. Even if you go online at your local university that would be better than going online at a university across the country. Access to the campus is key plus you can always mix up your online or face to face classes, which is the best of both worlds. Also, keep in mind if you do decide to go online that its harder for many people. Why? You need to have a lot of self motivation to be successful online. It takes a lot of self discipline. So consider that. There are no right answers here. Just what works best for you.

7. Finding a school. What is the schools reputation? Who are the professors? Do the professors have websites? Can you see their resumes? If you cannot find this stuff out from the website I would be very hesitant to apply. You should be able to see everything online without needing to talk to anyone. Look at my post on finding a college here

8. Will I get in? Yes you might need to take some tests. Yes you will need to gather information. Yes you will be nervous. My advice, your past matters but only up to a certain extent. Professors want students in their programs that are motivated to do really well and will put in the effort to do well. If you have a rocky past (bad grades, bad test scores, prior arrests, etc.) do not assume you cannot go. You can. You just need to make sure you are showing them that you can succeed. How can you do this? Set up a meeting with the professors and talk to them. This helps a lot. If they have talked to you and know you are really trying and motivated they might let those other things slide. Also, if you do get rejected and you really want to go, sign up for a class. You can always take classes without being admitted. In that class do really well then reapply. I bet you will have no problem getting in after that. Now all of this is case by case and some programs have tough requirements but if you want in, you will find a way. Watch the movie Rudy if you don’t believe me.

9. Tests – yes you might need to take them. My advice is to to prepare, buy the book, take a few weeks and really study. If you do bad don’t worry just follow my advice is step 8. Some people are just prone to doing bad on these. There are ways to study and I will write another post on how to do that.

10. Have a plan. How long will it take you to graduate? Know this. Know exactly when you will be done. Then you can plan things like internships and such.

How to evaluate a professor’s teaching

This is a very good question. I recently wrote a blog post on how professors are evaluated based on students reactions to the course (as in do they like you are not). Unfortunately when doing an evaluation, this is least important compared to other criteria (not that its not important just that in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t tell you much). In that post I discussed how you properly evaluate a course by doing the following:

Step 1 – Student reactions. Did students like the training, process, course, instructor? This is the lowest and least important level. It doesn’t tell us if the course, instructor, or training was effective at all. This is the only thing student evaluations measure. Thus faculty are critiqued on whether students liked them or not. Not whether they actually taught anything at all.

Step 2 – Learning. Did the students learn what was taught? This is pretty important. If they learned the content then the course was effective. This is not measured on student evaluations.

Step 3 – Transfer. Are students able to apply what was learned to their jobs? This is very important. This is not measured on student evaluations.

Step 4 – ROI (return on investment). Was the training worth it? What were the benefits of the training? This is extremely important. This is not measured on student evaluations.

Personally, I only look at step’s 3 and 4 when evaluating myself. They are difficult to obtain but I periodically check on my graduates and they tell me what was useful, what they got from my courses, and they thank me for courses or information that they may have not appreciated at the time but then did when they started their careers. This is the exact feedback we all need to hear. All of my courses and materials are geared towards a career in instructional technology and design – so they are all practical and project based. I teach the students how to work, handle/respond to situations and clients, and how to excel in their careers. So I hope that my students give me that type of feedback but you never know until you ask and unfortunately we are not asking. So when doing a professor evaluation we should be looking at those important factors, not just popularity. I should note that my reaction/popularity scores are always good. I just feel that they do not tell me anything.

Having said that, when I fill out my annual performance charts I usually only have step 1 from above, provided by the school along with some quotes from alumni who lead me to believe step 3 and 4 were met. However, I do not think those quotes are really examined as part of my teaching because they are qualitative and not everyone will take them seriously. So I write this to call on faculty to start demanding that we examine whether learning took place, if the students are using it, and was the class worth it. Otherwise why are we teaching it (the topic or course)? Maybe there is justification (as in its an intro course that is needed to get to the more advanced topics and thats fine). But it’s something we need to consider. The teacher with the highest step 1 may not teach the students anything and this is a problem. As a result I am personally going to start doing a few things…

1. Do a pre and post test of content in my courses. This will evaluate student learning and will be objective (true/false or mult choice) and will measure low and high level knowledge. This will measure course objectives. This will tell me if students learned or not as I can compare the scores.

2. Send out annual or biannual surveys to my alumni asking them for input into how my courses and program is impacting them. What information are they using? What didn’t they get from courses that they needed?

I believe this information should be required of all faculty but since it’s not I will start collecting it and providing it for myself for my peace of mind. Hopefully I can start a trend here into better accountability for my own teaching and that of others.