Thursday, December 13, 2012

What's in Your Web?

Some colleagues and I have been comparing notes on various Web 2.0 tools and making predictions for the future of Web technology. I expected to find more agreement within a group that is professionally homogenous - we are all practicing (or studying-to-be-practicing) instructional designers - but we championed  Dropbox, Glogster, Prezi, Second Life, blogging, holographs and other technology in turn, with almost no overlap

It occurred to me that each of us continually self-selects the scope, specificity and mobility of our cyber-experience, which leads me to ask, "What's in your Web?" 

Sally Bacchetta


Saturday, December 8, 2012

It's Not Just What You Say

Truly, it's not just what you say, but how you say it that matters. Check out Font Conference for a humorous look at the power of typography in your instructional design. 

Sally Bacchetta

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Universal Design Learning

While researching for a project I recently came across the website for The Center for Applied Special Technology, or CAST. I was instantly hooked by what I read there, particularly this: “Universal Design Learning (UDL) is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn. UDL provides a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone – not a single, one-size-fits-all solution but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs."

The  CAST UDL Book Builder is a "free online tool (that) enables educators to develop their own digital books to support reading instruction for children aged 3 and up. Teachers create, edit, and save resource-rich texts."

When I clicked through to the Book Builder I found a collection of multimedia resources that enable designers and instructors to embed music, audio recordings of explanations or discussions, hyperlinks, and more into the lesson books they create.

One of my favorite resources here is the student response area, which encourages active learning and meaningful interaction with educational and instructional texts. 

For me, the “wow” factor is that the site and its resources facilitate multimedia instruction for all learners, including those who do not or cannot interact with visual media.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Should Learners Design Their Own Assessments?

Assessment is an oft maligned, misunderstood, and under-appreciated component of instruction, which makes it a perfect vehicle for evangelizing the value of instructional design. Think about it. If we can get instructors and students excited about assessment… if we can change perceptions of assessment from “a dreaded endpoint” and “a necessary evil,” (actual learner quotes), or “the worst part of instructional design,” (actual ID quote), we can do… a lot of other cool stuff!

But, how? That’s the question kicking around one of my instructional design circles, followed closely by the suggestion to include learners in the assessment development process. What do you think? Should learners help determine what their assessment will look like, what it will measure, and what the measurement will ultimately mean?

As a corporate writer/instructional designer, I am a strong proponent of collaborative development and of performance-based assessment. Here are three reasons why I encourage learner participation in the assessment development process.

  1. Much of my professional work is designing training programs for pharmaceutical sales representatives. Theirs is a performance-based occupation, and professional assessments have to reflect and support that. Musial & Nieminen (2008) describe assessment as “the art of placing learners in a context that brings out or clarifies what a learner knows and can do, as well as what a learner may not know or cannot do.” I believe that a learner knows, better than anyone else, the reality of their performance context. While a manager or supervisor may establish minimum standards of performance, only the representatives themselves really know how the context of their jobs change from day to day.

  1. I gravitate toward performance assessment as described by Fuchs: “Three key features of performance assessment are: (1) students construct, rather than select, responses; (2) assessment formats allow teachers to observe student behavior on tasks reflecting real-world requirements; and (3) scoring reveals patterns in students’ learning and thinking,” (Fuchs, 1995), which again, makes self-evident the need to include learners in the development of their assessments.

  1. Taylor and Lamoreaux “point out that for the brain to make meaningful connections, learning needs to be tied to physical, embodied experience: ‘The brain’s physical responses to the sensory data are recorded—literally, embodied— as experience, hence accessible to reconstruction as memory; without such physical responses, there is no basis for constructing meaning’,” (cited in Merriam, 2008). If it is the student’s learning that is to be assessed, then it is the student’s experience that is to be reconstructed, and who is better qualified than the student to participate in this process?

With all that being said, I recognize there are times when assessment should be designed without learner input. For example, when the task is to memorize a set of fixed definitions (e.g., anatomy, grammar, or accounting) or when the student is incapable of participating in the development process (e.g., a young child or someone with intellectual limitations).

At the end of the day, it is incumbent on the instructional designer to make the best choices regarding assessment, considering the interrelationship of the instructional objectives and characteristics of the learner, the environment, and the instructor.

Sally Bacchetta

Fuchs, L. S. (1995). Connecting performance assessment to instruction: A comparison of behavioral assessment, mastery learning, curriculum-based measurement, and performance assessment. Retrieved from  (ERIC Digest No. E530).

Merriam, Sharan, B. (2008) Adult learning theory for the twenty-first century. New Directions for Adult & Continuing Education, 119 (pp. 93-98). 

Musial, D., Thomas, J., & Nieminen, G. (2008). Foundations of meaningful educational assessment. New York: McGraw-Hill. Chapter 1, "The Nature of Assessment" (pp. 3–22).

Saturday, September 8, 2012

To ADDIE or not to ADDIE?

I spent my earliest days as an instructional designer blissfully unaware of ADDIE or any other systems approach to ID. I asked questions, listened closely to the answers, thought on my feet and found my way, never missing the models I didn’t know existed. It’s not surprising, then, that I’ve never fallen in love with instructional design models the way some other designers have. In The Attack on ISD, Gordon & Zemke (2006) suggest that the heyday of the systems approach to instructional design has indeed passed, which led me to ponder these questions
  • What are the benefits of following ADDIE or any other ID model?
  •  Is there room for an instructional designer’s creativity and free thought when using an ID model?
  •  What role should ID models and instructional theory play in the daily work of an instructional designer?   
What are the benefits of following ADDIE or any other ID model?
I find ADDIE and other ID models most useful for framing the multitude of tasks involved in an instructional project, especially when working with people who lack a clear understanding of instructional design and the role of an ID. Outlining the main tenets of a model helps to clarify the overarching purpose and importance of instructional design, and introducing more specific detail as the project evolves demonstrates the validity and distinct function of instructional design.

Is there room for an instructional designer’s creativity when using an ID model?
There is if the designer has the motivation, skill, and confidence to take responsibility. Ultimately, it is incumbent on the instructional designer to ensure the fit between the instruction and the learners. “The professional challenge lies in the selection of the appropriate model or portions thereof that will be the best fit for the trainer, the training environment, the audience, and the content to be delivered,” (Cowell, Hopkins, McWhorter, & Jorden, 2006). In much the same way, physicians and other healthcare providers apply a standardized protocol to every patient contact, but the specific actions they select within that protocol are based on their determination of the best course of action, considering the interrelationship between the patient, the provider, the circumstance, the environment, and other relevant factors.

What role should ID models and instructional theory play in the daily work
of an instructional designer?
They should inform the designer’s approach to a project and facilitate the designer’s efforts to deliver the “right” instruction for the unique interrelationship between the learner, the environment, and the instructional objectives. “The professional trainer has the opportunity and the responsibility to select a model appropriate to the organization and learning needs of the audience for which the program is directed. In doing this it is common for professional trainers to select and meld those portions of various models that best fit their situations,” (Cowell, Hopkins, McWhorter, & Jorden, 2006).

One of the most important things I have learned as an ID is that models and theories are meant to be tools; the instructional designer is the artisan. The minute a designer surrenders control to their tools, the project begins to fail. I agree with Gordon & Zemke (2000) that “the harder you try to specify exactly what the designer must do in order to be ‘doing ISD’ the further into the wilderness you wander. That way lies madness.”

Cowell, C., Hopkins, P.C., McWhorter, R., & Jorden, D.L. (2006). Alternative training models. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 8(4), 460-475.

Gordon, J., & Zemke, R. (2000). The attack on ISD. Training, 37(4), 42-53

Sunday, August 19, 2012

EDUC 6115-2 Course Reflection

I began this course with impatience. Although I typically enjoy deep theoretical

exploration, I doubted the immediate relevance of learning theory to my work, and I wondered if

this course was the best use of my limited time. Only later would I recognize myself in Merriam

& Cafarella’s (1999) description of adult-learners: “there is a change in time perspective as

people mature – from future application of knowledge to immediacy of application,” (Merriam &

Caffarella, 1999). Once I relaxed and embraced the gestalt, I found the intellectual stimulation I

crave and a seemingly limitless supply of new resources to expand my learning and enrich my


I have been surprised by the diversity of thought among learning theorists, and

struck by the breadth and volume of empirical support for dissimilar theories. Atkinson

and Shiffrin (1971) proposed a two-store information processing model, which Baddeley

(1998) rejected as being too simplistic. The concept of levels of processing evolved in

response and with scientific support from Craik and Tulving (1975) among others.

However, it too was quickly determined to be incomplete (Morris, Bransford, and

Franks, 1977; Moscovitch and Craik, 1976). Anderson (1990) introduces activation

level, Nairne (2002) stresses the importance of rehearsal, and Gupta & Cohen (2002)

assert distinctions between declarative and procedural memory; all of this under the

umbrella of cognitive information processing theory. 

The science of learning theory is far less fixed than I previously thought, perhaps

because of what Gleick refers to as a “sensitive dependence on initial conditions” (1987,

p. 8); perhaps it is a function of differences between, or fluctuations within, learning

styles (Gilbert & Han, 2002) or multiple intelligences (Gardner, 2003); or something else

entirely. What I can say definitively is that there is no universal “on” or “off” switch, no

categorically “right” or “wrong” way for me to learn or design instruction.

Keller’s (1987) notion that “the outputs of effort, performance and consequences

are affected by the shared inputs of the person and the conditions of instructional environment,

which include design, media, strategies, delivery,” expands my understanding of the

interconnectedness of learning theories, learning styles, motivation, and the unique role

of educational technology in motivational design, delivery of instruction, and cultivating

collaboration among learners.

“The span of time between learning something new, being able to apply it, and

finding that it is outdated and no longer useful continues to decrease. This phenomenon

is what Gonzalez (2004) refers to as the "half-life" of knowledge - the time span from

when knowledge is gained until it becomes obsolete,” (Davis, Edmunds, & Kelly-

Bateman, 2008). Considering that, educational technology seems a necessity today, the

importance of which transgresses differences in learning style or circumstance. The

readings and discussions of this course have prepared me to enrich my instructional

design with interactivity, collaborative problem-solving activities, graphic organizers, and

other technological tools (O’Bannon, Puckett, & Rakes, 2006).

I now understand attention, motivation, and learning as a complex interplay of

individual learner characteristics, the environment, the instructional design, and the

learning community. I take with me from this course a deep appreciation for Cercone’s

(2008) discussion of the importance of considering learning styles when developing

online learning for adults, particularly: “Lifelong learning may be enhanced if students

are motivated to learn by understanding their learning style,” (Coffield, Moseley, Hall, &

Ecclestone, 2004). I cannot embed personal assessments of learning style in every

instructional design, but I can work from a blended foundation of Gardner’s (1999)

theory of multiple intelligences and Palloff and Pratt’s (1999) suggestion that “students

learn best when they approach knowledge in ways they trust,” to craft learner-centric

experiences that I hope will engage and change my learners as this course has

engaged and changed me.  

Sally Bacchetta

Anderson, J.R. (1990). Cognitive psychology and its implications (3rd ed.). New York: Freeman.

Atkinson, R.C., & Shiffrin, R.M. (1971). The control of short-term memory. Scientific American,

225, 82-90.

Baddeley, A.D. (1998). Human memory: Theory and practice (Rev. ed.). Boston: Allyn and


Cercone, K. (2008). Characteristics of adult learners with implications for online learning design.

AACE Journal, 16(2), 137–159. Retrieved from

Coffield, F.J., Moseley, D.V., Hall, E., & Ecclestone, K. (2004). Learning styles and pedagogy in

post-16 learning: A systematic and critical review. London: Learning and Skills Research

Centre. Retrieved September 1, 2004, from 1543.pdf

Craik, F.I.M., & Tulving, E. (1975). Depth of processing and the retention of words in episodic

memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 104, 268-294.

Davis, C., Edmunds, E., & Kelly-Bateman, V. (2008). Connectivism. In M. Orey (Ed.),

Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from

Gardner, H. (2003, April 21). Multiple intelligences after 20 years. Paper presented to the

American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL. Retrieved from

Gilbert, J.E. & Han, C.Y. (2002). Arthur: A personalized instructional system. Journal of

Network and Computing Applications, 22(3), 149-160.

Gleick, J. (1987). Chaos: The making of a new science. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

Gupta, P. & Cohen, N.J. (2002). Theoretical and computational analysis of skill learning,

repetition priming, and procedural memory. Psychological Review, 109, 401-448. 

Keller, J.M. (1987a). Development and use of the ARCS model of instructional design. Journal

of Instructional Development, 10(3), 2-10.

Merriam, S.B., & Caffarella, R.S. (1999). Learning in adulthood (2nd ed.). San Francisco:


O’Bannon, B., Puckett, K., & Rakes, G. (2006, March). Using technology to support visual

learning strategies. Computers in the Schools, 23(1/2), 125-137.

Morris, C.D., Bransford, J.D., & Franks, J.J. (1977). Levels of processing versus transfer-

appropriate processing. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 16, 519-533.

Moscovitch, M., & Craik, F.I.M. (1976). Depth of processing, retrieval cues, and uniqueness of

encoding as factors in recall. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 15, 447-


Nairne, J.S. (2002). Remembering over the short-term: The case against the standard model.

Annual Review of Psychology, 53, 53-81. 

Palloff, R.M., & Pratt, K. (1999). Building learning communities in cyber-space. San Francisco:


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Putting the Pieces Together

Several weeks ago I was asked, "Through what methods, either conventional or unconventional, do you seem to learn most productively?" I responded, "I learn best through experience and most through failure. Success confirms what I believe to be true; failure reveals new truths," and “My thinking and experience are most closely aligned with Constructivism.” Now, several weeks more learned and well-read, my answer is the same.

Do I know more now than I did when I began this course? Have I, in fact, gained knowledge from the assigned readings, group discussions, and professor’s feedback? If “learners create their own meaning of knowledge,” (Jung and Orey, 2008), then indeed, I do, and I have.

Today the question before me is, “Now that you have a deeper understanding of the different learning theories and learning styles, how has your view on how you learn changed?” Although still Constructivist, my view is less arrogant, somewhat less self-centric, and it feels less solitary. I have tended to embrace some tenets of Constructivism more than others, grooving with the notion of individual interpretation and getting tripped up by the importance of the environment.

That changed when I was introduced to Connectivism in this course: “Knowledge is literally the set of connections between entities. Learning is the creation and removal of connections between the entities, or the adjustment of the strengths of those connections,” (Downes, 2012), and for some reason or reasons, that really jives for me. I am very comfortable apart, but I now more deeply appreciate the value of being part of. “Experiences with the environment are critical to learning,” (Ertmer & Newby, 1993). 

Technology is instrumental in my learning. Without it, I wouldn’t be a student of an online university. I wouldn’t have met and challenged and been challenged by my virtual classmates, each of whom has changed me distinctly by our presence in each other’s lives. Technology enables me to enter and exit environments largely at will, and to create and remove my connections between entities, which means that I can learn and grow with and from more diversity than a non-technology me could ever imagine.

Sally Bacchetta

Bednar, A.K., Cunningham, D., Duffy, T.M., and Perry, J.D. (1991). Theory into practice: How do we link? In G. Anglin (Ed.), Instructional Technology: Past, Present and Future. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, Inc.

Downes, S. (2012). Connectivism and Connective Knowledge: Essays on meaning and learning networks.

Ertmer, P. and Newby, T. (1993). Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing Critical Features from an Instructional Design Perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), pp. 50-72.

Jung, E. J. and Orey, M. (2008). EDIT 6100 Introduction to Instructional Technology. Comparison of Major Learning Paradigms.

Saturday, July 28, 2012


The above is a mind map of my cyber network. It is a graphic representation of some of the many pieces of my life and the connections between them and me. Working on this assignment clarified for me that connectivism truly is the underlying scaffold of my life. 

In the days BC (Before Cyber-network), I had access to far fewer professional resources, informed peers, and opportunities to stretch myself mentally and professionally. I had to work harder to find credible information to challenge my thinking. Now, sometimes with no effort, I receive more information every day than I can usefully process in a week. 

The upside of this is that my work is richer and “jucier” than it was a decade ago. I am better informed on a variety of theories and applications, and I have developed technological skills much more quickly than I could have in isolation. My business has grown well beyond the local scene, and I am now a member of a truly global community. My personal playground has also gone global, and my networked life is enriched by cyber friends, peers, and near-strangers with whom I share perspectives, exchange opinions, and sometimes disagree. 

The downside (even as I write “downside” I’m thinking there is great value in the “downside” I am about to discuss) is that I need to question everything and everyone online. The advice to “Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see” has been attributed to Edgar Allen Poe, John Gotti, and Benjamin Franklin (, among others. Whoever said it, it is an apt caution for those of us who network in cyber-space. The ubiquity of “information” available online necessitates extra caution and circumspection.

The upside of that downside (are you still with me?) is that by being extra cautious and circumspect, I am a better writer, instructional designer and thinker, and so are you a purer form of who and what you are. “Learning and knowledge rest in diversity of opinions,” (, and my cyber-community is far more diverse (and opinionated!) than the community I physically inhabit.

Connectivism holds that “Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources,” and “Learning (in the sense that something is known, but not necessarily actuated) can rest in a community, a network, or a database,” ( I haven’t found anything that beats an online search engine for connecting me with specialized information sources and communities I don’t know exist until they pop up in a search return. As with any source, cyber or otherwise, I bear responsibility for the research and cross-referencing necessary to vet my cyber-sources. 

One of my favorite tenets of connectivism is one that I subscribed to for many years before I ever heard of “learning theory.” It is this: “Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate impacting the decision,” ((

Yes! Amen! And for that reason, I say that my network has both changed and been changed by the way I learn. Every decision to click or not click a link, open or delete an email, post or not post to a forum, engage or dismiss an anonymous antagonist changes what is available to me, which in turn changes the next pool of decisions available to me, and so on. And so it is with you. You are changed for reading this blog post, and someone else is changed for skipping it, and your decision to post or not post a comment will change what I learn and what I may learn.

Sally Bacchetta

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Leadership is Solving Problems

Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership. Colin Powell

I have always been fascinated with the process of solving problems, and this week I set out to find resources on problem-solving during the learning process. There are two that I found particularly useful.

The first is Mind Tools, specifically the Problem Solving Techniques section. The site features a How Good Are Your Problem Solving Skills? quiz as a place to begin, and having taken the quiz, I have to agree that it is the place to start.

My score on the quiz places me in the class of “a confident problem solver,” which is nice, but of real value to me are the recommendations about how to improve my problem-solving skills. The Mind Tools site allows visitors to Browse by Category and features topics such as Problem-Solving Approaches, Finding the Cause of a Problem, Improving Business Processes, and Diagram-Based Tools.

While on the Mind Tools site I learned about Constructive Controversy, a problem-solving approach introduced by David Johnson and Roger Johnson in 1979. “Using Constructive Controversy tends to produce better solutions, compared with solving problems using consensus, debate, or individual effort. This happens because the Constructive Controversy process forces you to face your assumptions and avoid drawing conclusions too quickly. At the same time, it pushes you to use clear reasoning to defend or argue against a position, and it helps to protect you from logical fallacies and blind spots, because you're forced to explain and defend your rationale.” ( Accessed 0700712).

Mind Tools offers a lot of information for free and even more for people who want to pay to join the Mind Tools club. The website is rather simplistic, and the information provided is likely too superficial to be useful for anyone seeking empirical research and higher-level discussion. However, for me, the lighter tone is a refreshing change from the heavy thinking I do in my work as a graduate student, small business owner, and mother to two evolving little people. Mind Tools may be most useful as a jumping off point for new ways of thinking and problem-solving.

The other site I bookmarked is the Problem Solving Strategies page of the Advising and Counseling Department at Lorain County Community College. The site features a step-by-step problem-solving process that is not particularly novel, but is subtly and importantly different than most models. In Step 2 – Problem Analysis, analysis questions include: “How is this problem affecting me?”, “How is this problem affecting other people?”, “Who else is experiencing this problem?”, and “How do other people deal with this problem?”

This other-orientation appeals to me as a former counselor and as a training consultant. None of us live or work in a vacuum, yet many people feel as though they do. Some organizational cultures reward autonomy and individual achievement above all else, and problem-solving is necessarily non-collaborative. Such ongoing competition for recognition may be useful for promoting hyper-innovation, but it can also narrow perspective and limit fresh thinking. As Einstein noted, “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” Most of us need input from others and access to other perspectives in order to change our thinking.

By including consideration of other perspectives in the analysis of a problem, the LCCC method of problem-solving reminds me that other people have faced or will face similar problems – whether educational, artistic, organizational, political, etc. – and prompts me to consider and evaluate the steps they took to solve it, which I hope will increase my success at solving the problem at hand.

Thank you for reading my post. I hope you will share your thoughts on these resources and problem-solving in general.

Make a great day,

Sally Bacchetta