If You Build IT They Will Come

ComputerThere are many thoughts regarding technology and innovation in Instructional Design.

The advice that is most often given is  Don’t Use Technology for Technology’s Sake.

What this means is that an Instructional Designer should not build instruction around the tool, but the tool should have a meaningful impact on the learning objectives. A tool should only be used if it will aid in the instruction and not hinder it. Technology will hinder instruction if 1) An instructor or learner does not know how to effectively use it and as a result, spends too much of instructional time trying to learn the tool, not the content and/or 2) The technology is so cool it’s a distraction.

In both cases the learner may lose out on the true purpose of the instruction because the focus is on the technology.

An Instructional Designer, therefore, must design the instruction with first, the learning objectives in mind, then design the instruction for the mode of communication (aka technology), whether it be Face-to-Face Instructor Led, eLearning, Mobile Learning, or self-paced study.classroom

However, let’s play devil’s advocate. What if we have an instructor that is so fearful (or afraid of looking incompetent) of technology that it dis-services its learners. An instructor that does not use technology to aid an instruction may be promoting an image of stagnation and as a result may drive away potential learners that were seeking “state of the art” education. Applying my business background here, it’s as simple as putting the right product with the right person at the right place. If the learners want technology-supported instruction, what’s stopping them from pursuing their goals at a competing institution that is giving them their needs?

As an Instructional Designer, is it best to force the technology, that is, build it into a classroom and instruction in the mere hope that the instructor will follow? Showing what technology can actually do in the real-life instructional environment may encourage the use of that technology. Or at least more so than a verbal description of the technology. In this way, showing how the technology can be applied to the instruction is a great way to stimulate the use. And the only way to show the technology is to have it.

And hence, taking from A Field of Dreams, If you build IT (Informational Technology), they will come. I hope.


About Julie Tausend Burba

Instructional Designer at Hulu, Ed Tech and Project Management enthusiast. MBA Technology Management, MS Management, BS Communications, Traveler and Cook.

Posted on June 3, 2013, in Educational Technology, Instructional Design, Teaching Tools and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. All excellent points – I get physically ill (when I’m not put to sleep) when a facilitator has built their presentation around PPT (as opposed to building the presentation around learning objectives and allowing PPT to help deliver the message). I’ve also seen some very cool technology applied in the classroom (from stellar PPT design to using text messages as a polling feature of a large audience). The big thing about technology, in my view, is that you need to practice, practice, practice with it (to grow comfortable with it) AND it’s helpful to have a back-up plan in place because even the best-practiced presentations can have the technology fail (the projector bulb blows, the internet goes down, etc.). Great post – thanks for the thoughts!

    • Hello Brian,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Yes, practice and frequent use of technology helps facilitators overcome the obstacles and challenges of using technology for instruction. I personally enjoyed using PollAnywhere to create polls with Twitter or Mobile Devices. I reiterate to my colleagues (faculty and staff at a University) that technology sometimes breaks, and it’s okay if it does, stay calm, and use your back up plan. It’s important to have files located in several places (ie Flash Drive and DropBox and Harddrive) for redundancy. And it’s okay to move on with the instruction if the technology does not work. We don’t want to waste valuable instructional time troubleshooting a problem when a learning objective can still be accomplished through the good old fashioned and reliable verbal lecture.

      Julie Tausend of Tausend Talks EdTech

  2. Carmen V. Krol

    Excellent post. As a former instructor, I definitely sympathize with not wanting to use a new technology unless it’s put in front of me. There simply wasn’t time for me to proactively learn about new technologies on my own. When I went to a presentation, such as for Zotero, then I actually used the technology. And there’s always something to be said about showing and not just telling.

    • Thanks, Carmen. It’s part of human nature not to realize how “cool” or useful something is until its visible. One issue I have is trying to get tools in the sight-line of our instructors when my leadership only wants those tools that we support to be promoted. So I cannot stimulate faculty interaction with the new technology because the leadership is hesitant in exploration.

      -Julie Tausend of Tausend Talks EdTech

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