The Case of the Reluctant Instructional Designer

I’m a reluctant instructional designer. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a passionate educator, but I have usually drawn the line on designing and multimedia. I never understood why I was taking Photography in Multimedia and developing an eye for art when I was just going to teach anyway. All that ever really mattered to me were content and pedagogical knowledge, and designing didn’t really fit in the bigger scheme of things, at least in my opinion.When I was a training specialist, classroom handouts were a very contentious topic for me. Rarely would a first day pass without a student handing me his/her flash drive and asking me to provide a soft copy of my lecture. I’ve always declined. When I was working as a consultant, my main concern was intellectual property rights. I had searched far and wide, and paid for those materials  and created those activities. The services that I had been paid for did not include rights to the materials I created. My second concern was issues on note-taking. I grew up before the era of flash drives. I never went to class without a pen and a notebook; I take offense with students with a sense of entitlement who thought that their role was simply to show up for class and turn in their homework and exam. I believe notetaking is a lost skill that helps students consolidate information and aids them in remembering information beyond the classroom.

Thus the handouts I reluctantly provided for my students were usually un-thought of and were obviously a bunch of pages thrown together at the last minute. When I was working freelance, these handouts were a mish-mash of items that I’d copy-pasted from the net. For frugality’s sake, I made it a point to squeeze in as much as I can on a single sheet. I used the smallest font size possible for reading and chose similar styles. Suffice it to say that I utilized every square inch and white space possible. Paragraph and lines were kept at a single space. Images were usually omitted, headings retained the same font size as the body but were in bold. It was not a pretty sight, but it served its purpose—or at least that’s what I believed.

Prior to taking this class, my idea of printed material was a scruffy, dog-eared handout containing barely legible notes of my professor from when he/she was a student. It pretty much looked like something that had been handed down several generations like a treasured family recipe. It looked like something that had been photocopied several times over and was pretty much worse for wear.

As I started going over the modules for this week, I realized that I’d been making so many mistakes in terms of creating print instructional materials.  More than conveying information, handouts can also be used to serve as a guide/skeletal outline and scaffolding for the students. The construction of handouts then is not to be taken lightly. A teacher’s choice of handouts would depend on his/her philosophy and the tasks and skills that he/she would like the students to develop. Handouts may serve a range of purposes and are best designed to still facilitate learning, critical thinking and collaboration.

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