Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology – Robert A. Reiser, John Dempsey

Chapter 6 – The Learning Sciences: Where they came from and what it means for instructional designers

Here the authors illustrate how Instructional Design has evolved.

First we have the departure from behaviorist models of learning and understanding followed by the emergence of cognitive science and finally the rise of computer technology.

The authors refer to Papert’s belief that learning can take place in interaction with tools of construction. Papert also believed that learners construct knowledge as they make sense of the world around them.

This I believe to be very true. I still remember being young and trying to make sense of the world around me. Every time something became clear and understood I was able to quickly learn and identify it for future reference. What I find strange is how my ability to learn has changed. What I thought I learned and knew when I was 5 is not the same when I go back to it 30 years later. This always leads me to believe that I’m constantly making new sense of the world around me. Constructing new meaning even from prior knowledge.

The authors talk about Vygotsky’s belief that culture deeply affects learning. Vygotsky’s (ZPD) Zone of proximal development explored the idea of how learning happens collectively and in turn advances individual learning. We see this in the animal kingdom. A lioness will teach her cubs survival methods. Its with these tools that an older cub can fend for themselves.

One learning science I am particularly drawn to is Situated Learning. Situated Learning believes that learning in a classroom transfers right back into the outside world and creates a new learning experience. For both environments to bridge conditions in the classroom have to reflect those in the outside world.

I had a teacher in high school ask us to bring lyrics to our favorite songs for analysis. We all brought in something from the “real world” and applied it to learning. This exercise helped us to understand each other’s taste in music as well as how particular words moved and inspired us as individuals. I found myself actively seeking out some of my classmates music at the record store later that week.

The authors reflect on the importance of learning sciences to instructional design. “For an instructional designer using learning science they can contribute to the knowledge base by documenting and reflecting on the design process, and using it as a means to collect information that can drive theory”

This approach at learning is critical at understanding how our field works. It also makes for good instructional design. Our field has changed drastically in the past 20 years. I can’t wait to be see where it will be in another 20 years time.


Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology – Robert A. Reiser, John Dempsey

Chapter 5 – Constructivism in Practical and Historical Context

The authors reflect that in constructivism learning is a process of meaning making by interaction with the world. Problem-solving activities are regarded with high importance to help create new learning. Learning is seen as a social activity that happens in communities. A good example can be seen in the online game Quest Atlantis. Here children are exposed to a world of problem-solving that is virtual and also carries over into real world activities that are carried out in their local communities. The key element of QA is for children to work together through a series of activities that foster new learning.

In constructivism the learner also is encouraged to take responsibility of their learning. When you take responsibility for your learning you own your learning. Disney’s Club Penguin is a good example of this. Club Penguin’s purpose is to provide a place where children can play games and become global citizens. The games are learning devices that empower the children with knowledge and encourage community engagement.

Constructivism notes the importance of the learner taking center stage while the teacher steps of to the side and observes how the learner learns.

Some instructional models linked to constructivism:

  • PBL (Problem Based Learning) – here instruction is based around a problem. (IDEO is a company that utilizes this model in their approach at design)
  • Anchored Instruction – learning is based around a story or anchor. (a good example is using everyday problems to illustrate a math problem. this helps create a relationship between the real world and learning at hand. I personally like the counting pennies example. This kind of activity anchors learning with experience.
  • Cognitive Apprenticeship – learning through a master. We see this happen in most job places. You spend some time receiving training from someone in a company who is a (master) and you are the apprenticeship.
  • Intentional Learning Environments – learning through environment. This model refers to collaborate problem solving. A good example is learning a foreign language by immersing yourself in that culture. Someone living in France for 2 months will learn and understand French better than learning it through a book.

The authors also mention Higher Order Learning, how learning can be implemented in the real world, Affect and Emotion, connecting learning through the emotions, and Out of class Performance, internships.

The authors reflect that good Instructional Design depends on good theories of knowledge, learning and instruction.

What you ultimately want is to build a direct relationship with the world of learning. To really focus on the details of the doing.

Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology – Robert A. Reiser, John Dempsey

Chapters 1-3

Chapter 1 – Defining our Field (Educational Technology, Instructional Technology)

IDT – Instructional Design and Technology. It is difficult to describe our field since it’s constantly evolving. The pervasive themes in IDT are:

  • technology
  • research
  • development

The authors describe Instructional Media as the physical way instruction is presented to learners. This could be through a website, kiosk, cd-rom, game, phone application, even instructional books.

In 1963 Educational Technology was defined as the design and use of messages which control the learning process (planning, production, selection, utilization and management)

Our field is very process oriented and relies heavily on the theory and practice of design. This explains why the field is constantly evolving, adapting new ways of thinking and understanding how we think.

In 2008 the definition of Educational Technology changed to the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, managing appropriate technological processess and resources. Now we are looking at the ethical dilemma of how technology is affecting how we learn.

The authors define Instructional Technology as the analysis of learning, performance problems, design development, implementation and evaluation of instruction to improve learning.

Chapter 2 – Characteristics of Instructional Design Models

The authors talk about the system of instructional design as an integrated set of elements that interact with each other. They look at it systematically (moving through a process).

We see that Instructional Design is student centered. The focal point shifts from the teacher to the learner as a teacher. There is a meaningful performance, looking to solve authentic problems. It is important to measure the outcome of learning, observe all the data. Instructional Design is empirical, iterative and self corrective. We see a focus on group effort, building teams to solve problems.

The authors mention the importance of the Pebble in the Pond and Whole Task Approach. The task has to be approached with the complexity needed to master the problem. If all complex formulas aren’t included the knowledge can not be mastered.

I think that Whole task approach is an improvement to traditional instructional design. Good example being, Rosetta Stone. They get progressively hard, advance levels, as you learn vocabulary. I believe if new words aren’t introduced and new concepts presented that knowledge will not advance and the learner will be stuck in the learning process.

Another example is learning the control panel of a nuclear plant.

Demonstration – The task is to train a learner to properly use a control panel at a nuclear plant. User must read the manual. Take Tests. Ask questions about control panel. Observe the use of a control panel in a team and independent environment.

Application – In order to properly reduce risk of accident, test with a dummy control panel, be evaluated on performance. Do a virtual control panel simulation. Based on test results decide whether user is ready to use control panel independently.

Chapter 3 – History of Instructional Design

The authors define instructional media as the physical means by which instruction is presented to the learners.

Some media examples supplementary to the means of instruction

  1. Visual Movement/Instructional Films
  2. Audio/Visual Movement/Instructional Radio
  3. World War II – Film Education (Propaganda)
  4. Instructional Television. PBS – Public Broadcasting Service
  5. Computers as Instructional Purposes (CAI – Computer Assisted Instruction)
  6. Recent developments in social media: blogs, forums, social networks

The authors mention American educational psychologist Robert Gagne and his book Conditions of Learning. In this book Gagne talked about the different types and levels of learning. The main types of learning identified were:

  • verbal information
  • intellectual skills
  • psychomotor skills
  • attitudes
  • cognitive strategies

Gagne believed that learning should be organized hierarchically according to complexity. Different types of instruction can be developed from this hierarchical model. You wouldn’t teach a 4th grader about Nuclear Engineering and in turn you wouldn’t teach a Physicist with 4th grade terminology.


Usability Engineering – Process, Products and Examples – Laura Leventhal, Julie Barnes

Leventhal and Barnes talk about engineering and evaluating the quality of a user interface. The importance of interaction between user and interface, promoting active learning and usability measures.

First the authors look at the importance of understanding and documenting a user interface.

I find this particularly interesting because I find that when I go back and analyze old interfaces that haven’t worked for me that I can instantly identify what didn’t work. Sometimes the ideas that didn’t work for that particular project carry over and work perfectly for another. Documenting really helps to keep track of the evolution of a design.

The authors go on to discuss analysis and specification of the target problem. Analysis allows for the understanding and breaking down of a problem, while specification documents and describes in detail the nature of the problem.

Some guideline contexts provided by the authors:

  • Usability expectations – easy to learn, use and re-use (the user doesn’t want to be bothered with having to learn how to learn to use your product)
  • Needs – understanding the rationale for the new interface used. What is the new interface. The list of features/products. What environment it will be used
  • Feasibility – the costs and the resources. what is the platform.

3 suggested strategies for usability design by the authors:

  1. Use case analysis – the expect functionality of a system. Who will use the system under development
  2. Analysis using scenariosSBD (Scenario Based Development) from problem to eventual design
  3. Hierarchical Task Analysis – a hierarchical breakdown of all the tasks involved

Breaking down the usability in a point by point narrative form, like a story. This kind of narrative helps the engineer/developer to put themselves in the place of the user. To live the experience point by point.

When we learn the users understanding of the problem we can propose a solution.

The authors recommend doing a task analysis diagram with pictures that represent the problem, not the design of the product.

These graphical depictions storyboard the user experience through a possible sets of scenarios.

Effective Prototyping for Software Makers – Arnowitz, Aren’t, Berger

The authors give us 4 phases of effective prototyping:

  • Phase 1 – Plan
  • Phase 2 – Specification
  • Phase 3 – Design
  • Phase 4 – Results

For phase 1 (PLANNING) the authors ask to focus on the audience and not the software. To create a task, for example (how a user navigates from page to page on a website). To decide whether the prototyping is gonna be hi or lo-fidelity.

Many software makers find it constructive to create lo-fidelity prototypes, such as paper prototype models, that eventually help in the design of better products.

A hi-fidelity prototype helps a designer to understand the relationship between the user and the technology. A good example being a fully functional website that navigates through every link, even if all the pages are still blank.

For phase 2 (SPECIFICATION) the authors ask to pay close attention to the audience, where the technology is gonna live, how long will it be around, what it means to say, the medium in which it will be executed. Look at all the details and specifics of the media.

Is this gonna be a:

  • kiosk
  • website
  • cd-rom
  • mobile application
  • touch interface
  • voice recognition

For phase 3 (DESIGN) the authors say that the prototype has to be clear to all audiences. The visual aspect (graphic design) and information design has to be understood in the prototype. If you or a test subject is not clear about what this technology is gonna do then the audience will not understand what to do with it in the end.

A good example is testing the design on someone that hasn’t worked on the prototype. Observing how they react to it. If they seem lost, take notes as to what the behavior is, why they seem confused. Does it hold their interest.

For the final phase 4 (RESULTS) the authors talk about translating the prototype into an actual product. This process of evaluation helps in fixing problems that were overlooked or not fully understood during prototyping. It allows software makers to debug and fix problems, documenting for future reference and future design.

Interaction Design – Beyond Human – Computer Interaction – Sharp, Rogers, Preece

Chapter 10 – Human Perspective to development of technology based systems

Once again we look at the importance of understanding the user and their pre-existing skills/knowledge. The authors focus in on the conditions the product will be used as well as the constraints on the products performance.

You wouldn’t put up a kiosk with sound in a noisy environment like a NYC subway. If you wanted the kiosk to be effective, you’d set it up in an environment where the user can hear and process the information for effective use.

The authors ask:

  • What? – identify the needs/requirements
  • How? – gather data/analyze/interpret
  • Why? – getting it right

Before any design can take place we have to ask the question, What should the technology do? and How it should perform?

Many designers fail to analyze and understand their audience thus never truly understanding what the technology the want to design should do and how it should behave.

The authors insist in the importance of persona and scenario creations in order to understand the possible behaviors involved with the user. They go on to say “By telling stories we can focus on the human activity rather than the interaction with the technology”. This is very important in understanding how people react to technology.

Personas describe the possible attitude and behavior of an individual.

Scenarios describe the activities and context in which the technology will be used. The authors refer to scenarios as a “day in the life of a person”

What we are doing is predicting an outcome. Setting up possible scenarios to understand how people think and how they relate to the technology around them.

Blooms Taxonomy

Blooms Taxonomy is a classification of learning objectives within education.

The most current model being:

  • Remember
  • Understand
  • Apply
  • Analyse
  • Evaluate
  • Create

This model is iterative. it doesn’t just end in creation, for after creation we once more go back to seek out the knowledge to rebuild the model over and over again.

I’ve used this model for my ECT/DMDL PowerPoint wireframe.