Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Week 8 (March 22 - 28, 2011)

Back from a relaxing Spring Break, I feel refreshed and ready to tackle the second half of the semester. We are gearing up for our upcoming digital story projects so, in order to prepare, our professor assigned us a couple readings covering this topic. I am definitely looking forward to the digital story project because I have seen so many, but have never actually gone through the process of making my own.

Of the two readings, the first was informative as it described a teacher’s first-hand account creating digital stories with some of her classes. However, most of the advice given was geared towards Mac users, providing a section called “iMovie Tips” (a program on the Mac operating system for creating home movies, as well as digital stories) (Banaszewski, 2002). As I am still a PC user, I couldn’t relate to some things mentioned, so I wasn’t completely interested.

On the other hand, I was actually quite fond of the second reading because it not only provided important background information, but a step-by-step process to follow as well called “The Seven Elements of Effective Digital Stories” (Bull & Kajder, 2004, p.47). However, the authors give credit to the originators of this process, Joe Lambert and Dana Atchley from the Center for Digital Storytelling at UC Berkeley, whose work back in 1993 built the foundation for digital storytelling as we know it today. The authors group and order these elements a bit differently from the originators, however the underlying ideas remain the same. The seven elements are described as follows:

A. Phases of writing: Stories are drafted, scripts revised and storyboards designed.
1. Point of view - the focus of the story should be on the writer; the first-person pronoun “I” should be used.
2. Dramatic question - the question that is posed in the story to hold audience attention; the answer (or resolution) should be given by the end.
3. Emotional content - the story should try and evoke an emotional response from the audience.
4. Economy - the story should not be too long (e.g. two-three minutes for one double-spaced page is a good measure) in order to make the construction process (see below) more manageable, and the story more focused.

B. Construction: Stories are constructed using a digital video editor
5. Pacing - the story should be told at varied paces (i.e. speeding up, slowing down) in order to help keep audience attention.
6. Gift of voice - the story should be told with the writer’s own voice, and should try and employ different voice strategies (e.g. pitch and tone).
7. Soundtrack - the story should try and incorporate a musical piece in order to add depth; copyright should also be accounted for.

Equipped with this knowledge, I feel a lot more confident going into the digital story project. Not to mention, if I ever have the opportunity to run such a project with a class of my own, I’ll be clued up as to what all is required and what pitfalls to be weary of.

Banaszewski, T. (2002). Digital storytelling finds its place in the classroom. Retrieved from

Bull, G., & Kajder, S. (2004). Digital storytelling in the language arts classroom. Learning & Leading with Technology, 32(4), 46-49.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Week 7 (March 15 - 21, 2011)

We were actually on Spring Break this past week, so our kind professor was nice enough to give us the week off from our usual weekly readings/activities.

I was recouping from the research paper. :-)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Research Paper

Well, after about a month of extensive research, our research papers were finally due.

The following is a detailed description of the assignment:

The purpose of this research paper is to give you the opportunity to develop an understanding of ideas and theories driving educational technology and instructional design. This assignment asks that you research several terms that have many similarities as well as many differences. Within this assignment you are to define, compare, and contrast the terms educational technology, instructional technology, instructional design, and instructional development. Also, conclude with a discussion about where you see yourself fitting in now and in the future. You are asked to use scholarly resources found in peer-reviewed journals or book chapters online and/or at the university library to support your definitions and conclusions.

This paper should include at least five references outside of the class readings and follow referencing guidelines as described in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th edition). APA style is picky and precise, and I will be looking closely at your use of in text citations, your reference list and your formatting, so please pay close attention! This paper should be no more than seven pages in length (excluding title page and references page) and exhibit proper spelling and grammar.

I must admit, writing the paper was a bit of a challenge for several reasons. First, the four terms we were asked to define are all closely related so trying to clearly distinguish between them was not easy. Second, we were restricted to seven pages (double spaced) so choosing what (not) to use was also another daunting task. Lastly, I can honestly remember only writing one paper during all of my four years in undergrad, and that was about eight years ago.

Anyway, in the end, everything worked out and I benefited greatly from the experience. We still have one more paper due at the end of the term, so looking forward to that (seriously).

You can read what I submitted here: Defining our field - A beginner’s attempt (

As always, any and all comments are welcome.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Week 6 (March 8 - 14, 2011)

The reflection I wrote this week was actually a bit longer than my usual (believe it or not), so I’m only posting a summary. If you would like to read my full reflection, you can do so here: Week 6 Reflection (Full) (

This week we got an in depth look at designing effective web pages. The first reading from the Web Style Guide focused on site design in general whereas the second, Web Accessibility in Mind, dealt more with accessibility issues. The readings were quite interesting because they brought to light several important aspects of web sites that we either often don’t pay attention to, or take for granted.

Lynch & Horton (2009) stress that when designing web pages, we should consider first and foremost our users’ needs, as opposed to satisfying our own desires. “No site succeeds because it has a cool home page” but rather, because it provides “great content and services” (Lynch et al., 2009).

The section on page structure covered three major areas including page headers, scan columns, and the content area. Page headers are “the most visible component of site identity,” found at the top of each page that provide for global navigation (Lynch et al., 2009). Scan columns provide similar features to page headers. The last piece discussed was the content area where the main content for any section of a site is found.

The reading then went on to explore page templates. In contrast to popular action, Lynch et al. (2009) emphasize the design of the internal page template (global page framework across the site) before that of the home page and secondary pages. The home and secondary pages actually play unique roles which will be described in a bit.

Internal page types vary depending upon “the range of content and user interface needs” (Lynch et al., 2009). Secondary pages act as somewhat of a liaison between internal pages and the home page, especially in a multi-tiered hierarchy (Lynch et al., 2009). As alluded to earlier, the home page should be designed last in order to play up “the larger navigational interface and graphic context of the site” achieved during creation of the internal secondary page templates (Lynch et al., 2009).

Moving onto the second reading, the focal point dealt with web accessibility in site design. At my previous job as a software engineer, I had some exposure to accessibility compliance issues, but my work in this respect was mainly to just come up with text-only versions for the some of the software we developed in order to allow for screen-reader compatibility. After completing the reading though, I know see that I was only exposed to a very small part of the puzzle.

First off, one of the startling facts the reading stated was “that about one fifth (20%) of the population has some kind of disability” (WebAIM, 2010). I never imagined the percentage was so large, so obviously not catering this group would not only be unwise for businesses, but potentially unlawful for education and government entities (WebAIM, 2010).

The reading also discussed “the major categories of disability types” which include visual (blindness), hearing (deafness), motor (limited fine motor skills) and cognitive (learning disabilities) (WebAIM, 2010).

The reading then went on to explain some concepts that were necessary to put forth before even trying to implement any type of accessibility. Besides having a general understanding of what accessibility is, the first of these concepts was a commitment “to ensuring accessibility” (WebAIM, 2010). Following a commitment to ensuring accessibility, the next concept mentioned was learning “how to implement accessibility” (WebAIM, 2010). The last concept discussed revolved around understanding legal obligations.

To close out the readings, several excellent tips were mentioned to keep in mind regarding principles of accessible design.

In conclusion, it’s pretty clear from the readings that there is no real mystery to designing effective sites. Although it is skill almost all developers aim for, probably only a small percentage attain it. However, if the necessary research and training is invested to properly understand and implement the best practices mentioned above (especially concerning accessibility in order to reach a wider audience), the goal can be more easily achieved.


Lynch, S., & Horton, P. (2009). Web style guide (3nd Ed). Retrieved from
• Chapter 6:

Web Accessibility in Mind (WebAIM). (2010). Introduction to web accessibility. Retrieved from

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Week 5 (March 1 – 7, 2011)

This week we were asked to formally investigate and try to achieve one of the three goals we chose to focus on this semester back in Week 2 (my three goals). The following is the formal task we were assigned and asked to post about on our blog space in Blackboard:

In a blog post, describe your technology goal, the steps you chose to accomplish it and a list of resources you used (including web sites, training or help from a colleague). Also, post an artifact of your choice to demonstrate your new skills.

This is what I came up with:

My goal: Distinguish between effective and ineffective design and presentation in electronic format (e.g., websites, multimedia, charts).

In order to achieve this goal, I chose to use a combination of readings and activities from class (see
References below).

First, I began to identify the characteristics of effective vs. ineffective design and presentation in electronic format. Based on Cognitivist theory, the area covering Perception and Attention is what I decided to base my criteria on (Alessi & Trollip, 2001). Although the first principle in the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework (providing multiple means of representation) should also be considered in determining effectiveness, it is somewhat beyond the scope of this evaluation (although some concepts do go hand-in-hand here).

Perception and attention is comprised of three subcategories including ease of perception, position of information and differences/changes.

Ease of perception deals primarily with the basics of presentation considerations including text (font and size, color), background (color), images (size, details), audio and video (volume, clarity, resolution, etc.). This subcategory is also further divided into three sections including choice of mode (e.g. audio or visual), repeatability (whether information can easily be repeated), and pace (speed in which information is presented).

Position of information is mainly either spatial (placement of visual information) or temporal (timing of aural information). An example of a spatial consideration would be placing important information at the center of the screen. A sample temporal consideration would be having instructions play at the beginning of activity (with option to replay).

Differences/changes can actually be thought of as a subset of ease of perception and position of information. It deals with how information presented changes over time. This change in information can either be static (doesn’t change at all; e.g. text, images), dynamic (changes or can be altered; e.g. video, text box inputs) or periodic (changes some times; e.g. background color, headings/fonts).

After identifying my criteria, I proceeded to search for examples of effective vs. ineffective design and presentation. I chose to use two lessons (Adjustable Spinner and The Cell & Cycle Mitosis) we reviewed during the UDL activity last week in class.
Adjustable Spinner is an interactive lesson used to help clarify experimental vs. theoretical probability; I used it for my effective example. The Cell & Cycle Mitosis is a step-by-step lesson explaining the process of cell cycle and mitosis; it acted as my ineffective example.

My complete analysis for these two lessons can be found here: Effective vs. Ineffective Design & Presentation Analysis (
Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I wasn’t able to produce supporting screen shots as initially planned. Hopefully these analyses will be easy enough to follow.

All in all, this exercise gave me a much greater appreciation for the skill involved in designing and presenting electronic formats effectively. So often to do we as instructional designers/developers jump in head first to creating electronic materials without considering the needs of our learners. In the end, we end up wasting both our time (creating something ineffective) and that of our learners (them not receiving the intended benefit). However, if we take the extra time to consider the factors involved in not only attracting learner perception and attention but, more importantly, maintaining it, we can in turn have profound effects on their understanding and thinking.


Alessi, S., & Trollip, S. (2001). Multimedia for learning: Methods and development (2nd Ed.). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

ISTC541 Class Wiki (Spring 2011) -

Adjustable Spinner -

The Cell Cycle & Mitosis -

Universal Design for Learning Guidelines Version 2.0 -

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Week 4 (February 22 - 28, 2011)

This week we got to explore the misunderstood world of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). I say misunderstood because of the common misconception that UDL is solely geared towards students with special needs. However, in reality, UDL principles can be used for all types of learners, whether they have detectable learning disabilities or not. The key is that UDL addresses learners in general, who often differ in learning styles and abilities.

So what exactly is UDL? According to Eagleton, Guinee & Langlais (2006), it is “a philosophy that seeks to create tools and materials in which the content, means of expression, and balance of support and challenge are customizable to support individual learners” (p. 150).

In order to achieve this flexibility, a good understanding is required of how the brain learns.
Rose & Meyer (2002) identify three neural networks of particular importance to learning; they are the recognition, strategic and affective networks (n.pag).

The recognition network serves “to receive and analyze information” including “patterns of sound, light, taste, smell and touch” (the “what” of learning) (Rose et al., 2002). The strategic network works “to plan and execute actions” ranging from playing sports, to writing an essay (the “how” of learning) (Rose et al., 2002). The affective network oversees evaluating and setting priorities when engaging “with the world around us” which in turn causes to “attach emotional significance” to our surroundings (the “why” of learning) (Rose et al., 2002). The interoperation of these networks varies from learner to learner, as some may be stronger in one area but weaker in another (and vice versa); this is what makes each and every learner unique (Rose et al., 2002).

Having established that learners’ brains operate in different ways, Rose et al. (2002) go on to mention that “learners’ capacities are not inherent; capacities are defined by the interplay between learners’ abilities and the tools they use.” This would lead one to conclude that educators take great care in the selection of materials they use with their learners. However, the reality is that the materials and media often used (e.g., books, lectures, etc.) are just recycled from year to year, usually due to convenience (Rose et al., 2002). Such forms of inflexible materials/media “operate on a one-size-fits-all mindset,” however “they do not fit everyone” which in turn hampers learning efforts (Rose et al., 2002).

In order to address this issue, what’s needed is greater consideration to be made on the part of educators in the selection of materials, including suitability for content/activity in question, as well as learners’ abilities (Rose et al., 2002). In addition, more emphasis should be given on the use of flexible media such as “digital text, sound, images” and the Internet which offer numerous instructional options for educators which in turn “can open the doors to learning” (Rose et al., 2002).

So how exactly does UDL play into the fold of all this? Based on the aforementioned brain research and prospects offered with flexible media, the goal behind UDL is to provide alternatives within instruction so that it is “accessible and appropriate” for all learners (Rose et al., 2002). However, the ‘universal’ in UDL does not mean “one optimal solution for everyone”; instead, it recognizes that all learners are unique, and that instruction needs to be differentiated in order to accommodate such differences (Rose et al., 2002).

There are three key principles within the UDL framework allowing for this desired flexibility, each geared towards a respective neural network (i.e., recognition, strategic and affective) (Rose et al., 2002).
The first principle states that instruction should provide multiple means of representation in support of recognition learning. The second calls for multiple means for action and expression in support of strategic learning. The last principle requires multiple means for engagement in support of affective learning. CAST offers an excellent set of guidelines to consult when assessing a lesson for UDL compatibility; it can be found here: UDL Guidelines - v.2 (

In conclusion, I too must admit that I used to turn a blind eye whenever I heard any mention of UDL simply because I wasn’t teaching special needs students. However, after completing the readings this week, it’s clear that that this was an ignorant mindset to have. As instructors, we often find ourselves labeling students simply as “unintelligent” if they don’t understand the material we’re covering, but this obviously isn’t fair. It could very well be the case that our students learn differently from the approach we use. The question now is whether we as instructors are willing to change. This is what UDL addresses where the focus is on instruction, rather than learners (Rose et al., 2002). Using the UDL framework, we have a better chance of acquiring the necessary flexibility in order “to teach every student, not just some” (Rose et al., 2002).


Rose, D., & Meyer, A. (2002). Teaching every student in the digital age: Universal design for learning. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. Retrieved from

• Chapters 2, 3, 4

Eagleton, M., Guinee, K., & Langlais, K. (2006). Teaching internet literacy strategies: The Hero Inquiry Project. In D. Rose & A. Meyer (Eds.), A practical reader in Universal Design for Learning (pp. 149-161). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.