My Evolution

I have been in visual design for several years and functioned as an Illustrator, Designer and Art Director. But I often found myself in the position of an unofficial trainer. For example, in a previous job I discovered their art department had Macintosh computers they rarely used to their full potential. It disturbed their manager that these expensive machines were mainly used to check email or research on the Internet. The artists feared the computer would replace painting traditionally. I proposed a solution. I would create a workshop that would teach them how to use Photoshop as one step in the creation process, like a new brush in their tools. It wouldn’t replace painting traditionally, but instead make the process more efficient, enable them to work with the design department in a more flexible way and equip them to take creative risks they hadn’t before. I then consulted with a few of the artists to gauge interest. Afterward, I created a manual, art, and files for the workshop. It ended up being a 2-day presentation with homework in between. Though the workshop brought a solution to the problem, it is a perfect example to illustrate my change in view due to the Educational Technology program. When I created the training I was the subject matter expert and fell into the trap of being focused on the content, not the learners or over time even the problem. I started with the problem, but then lost sight of it.

If I were creating this workshop today, I would begin the process with the Backward Design Model or ADDIE. I would investigate what the artists really need to know rather than share everything I know. I would focus on specific goals. A learner and contextual analysis would be used to discover: the manager and artists’ expectations of the workshop, the learner’s current capabilities, etc.

Also, my experience of “learning by doing” from the program has taught me the importance of project-based and authentic learning. Instead of just a homework assignment afterward, I would have included more opportunities within the workshop for the artists to practice what was being taught, using scenarios that were more “real world” for them. And finally, my workshop lacked an assessment tool. I hadn’t built in any means for determining whether or not they were grasping the techniques being taught. Today, I understand the importance of assessment to measure learning, to provide known expectations for the learner, and to measure the effectiveness of the actual training being used.

Talent and intuition led the development of most of the training I created in the past. But the program introduced me to a systematic approach to designing and developing learning. The beauty of the process is that each part is built off another. For example in the Backward Design Model the learner's problem determines the goals or objectives. The assessment is designed to measure those goals. The instructional strategies chosen are ones that will enable the Instructional Designer to make this assessment. The learning activities designed are based on the instructional strategies used. It is all interdependent and stemming from the learner's problem.

My Future

Coming to the program as a visual designer I had a limited view of what design was. My tools were brushes, pencils, paints, paper, and also graphic software, etc. There are rules in visual design but the process can be chaotic, unplanned, or led by a feeling of “what looks good.” It’s an exciting process and one I have enjoyed for several years, but I am ready for a change. The Educational Technology program introduced me to a new set of tools, such as; needs assessments, learning objectives, instructional strategies, evaluations, web development software, etc. The instructional design process is systematic and carefully mapped out. I love its sense of order, yet creativity amidst the order.

I hope to find a position that marries my strengths and where the systematic and creative can function side by side. We have a very visual society and story is an effective way to teach. When I worked as an Art Director in publishing I had to capture the essence of the story in one opening visual. In my current position I have to create or direct visuals that will attract a person to the product. In the future, I’d like to incorporate my ability to tell a visual story with my new abilities to design and develop effective training.

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