cultural inquiry course: core performance and challenge

In talking with some colleagues about gamification and my idea for a gamified intercultural inquiry preparation course, Richard Swan from the BYU Center for Teaching and Learning recommended finding the primary generator for my design (see Jane Darke’s “The Primary Generator and the Design Process”) in one of three aspects of the learning experience I hope to create:

  • the core mechanic
  • the topic (content or theme)
  • the challenge

Continue reading “cultural inquiry course: core performance and challenge”

a gamified cultural inquiry course

There are a couple of projects I’m playing around with this semester, just for fun. For one of those I’m exploring how a university course I’ve been involved with over the past several years could be gamified.

Gamification has to do with incorporating game-like elements into the design everyday tasks and activities in order to make them more inherently engaging. You could, for example, create an application where you are awarded points and “level-up” for checking off items on your list of household chores, changing what had been a boring, mundane set of tasks into a high-energy competition with the people you live with (the web-based Chore Wars does exactly this). It is important to note that gamification does not necessarily mean “making a game” out of an activity or process that is not a game; instead, it should probably be seen as applying the principles of engagement observable in games within new contexts, making participation more satisfying or productive than it would otherwise be. Continue reading “a gamified cultural inquiry course”

what i’ve learned about project management

Last semester I helped revise an open source textbook on project management for an instructional design audience. At the conclusion of the project, I was a bit stumped when David Wiley, who’d been overseeing the project, asked our team what we had learned about management through the process. Although we’d spent four months running the book project together, no one had really acted as the manager; I doubt even David would claim to have filled that role except on particular occasions. And while we had worked with this large body of content about project management, we hadn’t spent a whole lot of time discussing how we ourselves were being educated by the material.

As I think back over the last several months, though, it occurs to me that I’ve been exposed to a number of different managers in both my academic and professional work. Each one has had his or her own management style, and I’ve been noticing lately how widely the quality of their approaches vary, from the efficient, personal, and capable to the chilly, non-communicative, and disorganized. Thinking over these good and bad examples, one clear take-away lesson does seem to come to the foreground. It’s not a particularly surprising insight; in fact, it’s something that David emphasized at several points as something that needed to remain prominent in the book on project management we were working on.

The lesson is this: people matter. They matter on a personal level, even when it’s a business matter that has brought a team together, because issues at the personal level affect the kind of work they will be able to do as individuals and as a group. Being a good manager requires being able to deal with people as people, with all their multitudinous personalities, preferences, and other complexities.

Good managers know their people. They know what their team is doing well with and where they’re struggling. They may not be the best of friends with every member of their team, but they have a personal interest in each one, at some level beyond just the work at hand.

Good managers realize that their decisions about the project affect these people, often on a personal level. Not every decision or problem is necessarily brought out for everyone to discuss openly, but good managers understand how their decisions affect people. Even though everyone may not agree with managers’ decisions, they make sure their people have at least some understanding of why these decisions are being made.

Good managers respect their people. They don’t waste time with meetings that have no purpose, or long discussions about low-priority matters–not when there are truly important conversations to have and meaningful work to be done.

Good managers don’t make promises they can’t keep, just for the sake of keeping the peace for a little while longer. Good managers realize that in the long run manipulating people in this way is poison to a team, an organization, or a relationship, and at some point down the road will make it impossible to continue to do good work together.

Good managers recognize the importance of the personal touch, of taking a moment for a good-natured joke at the conference table, for a friendly greeting in the hallway, for an expression of appreciation. A box of donuts or closing party won’t solve every problem with a project, but I believe that there are some projects that won’t proceed well without such gestures.

People matter. My ideas about and experiences may not be very refined at this point, but this, I think, is the most important thing I’ve learned about project management over the last few months.

looking forward to the semester

My last semester, despite a decently project-heavy design class, was focused on getting oriented to the major theories and methods in the world of instructional design. I’m not sure how complete my orientation is at this point, but this semester my time will be more devoted to getting practical experience with design projects. My efforts for these coming months will be generally divided between 1) an advanced design class, where my class will be working together as a design-team for a real-world client, 2) a largely self-directed programming class, where I will basically be choosing what I want to learn based on the project I choose to complete by the end of the semester, and 3) an internship with BYU International Study Programs (ISP), where I will be working as an assistant instructor and facilitator for the Field Study Programs preparation course. Aside from these projects, which make up the majority of my course credits, I will also be participating in the weekly IP&T seminar, as well as a one-credit class on learning through social media (assuming the class carries—look into IP&T 692R section 004 before the Add/Drop deadline if you’re interested in being my classmate!). In short, it’s looking to be an exciting, engaging semester.

I’m a big believer in writing as a tool for learning and growth, and in collaboration as a necessary component of innovative thinking. I hope and intend for this blog to be a place where I can sort through experiences and develop ideas on learning, teaching, and design in the coming weeks and months and beyond, and welcome the conversation of those who may share my interests.