Week 14 — Gestalt

April 20, 2011 at 3:00 am (ED TECH 506) (, , , )

Okay, I will admit it, I was really not looking forward to this week when I saw we were being introduced to Gestalt. It just sounds intimidating. In the end, it was funny to read the chapter and notice how gestalt basically is integration of much of the other chapters we read this semester, which, of course, explains the name of the lesson on the course site. The piece that jumped out to me the most, and which I tried to address in my deliverable for the assignment, was the idea of having clear sections on a Web page for certain types of information. There is something common sensical about user interface and Web design; however, at the same time, it is easy to over do things. Smart, consistent placement is a clear advantage to all learners/users of a Web page. As our final projects are to be built using Web pages, and since I was focusing on creating lessons for teachers, targeting that design this week made sense.

In terms of my Twitter posting for gestalt, I focused on much the same aspect, but with a printed page spread from a guitar and piano chord practice/instructional book. The design includes locator tabs to tell what key is being viewed, guitar figner placement on the left-hand page, and piano placement on the right-hand page. The consistent, repetitive format did the trick and also made it easy to know where to look each time.


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Week 13 — White Space

April 13, 2011 at 1:33 am (ED TECH 506) (, , , , )

As I mentioned in my assignment posting this week, the concept of white space is very challenging for me. I tend to prefer words and packing space pretty tightly. The built in spacing off ends of sentences, paragraphs, and indents are the only white space that I feel I need in writing. I am not intimidated by dense pages, but completely understand that this makes me an anomaly. Many others will be put off by dense text blocks, and dense images are no different. You wouldn’t want to lose your learner simply because the image was so confusing that they just couldnn’t understand what they were looking at.

My treatment of white space focused on my student journal pages cover sheet. This is a page that is used to identify the type of content the students are developing, but, also, hopefully, my approach added a little interest in the way the page is set up. Obviously, the cover will not, by itself, make students want to journal, but maybe it will make it a little less like work. It definitely was a challenge for me to approach the white space project, but I feel happy with my final composition.

As for my twitter post this week, I chose a card given to us by our dealership when we recently purchased a new vehicle. There are a couple different uses of white space within one document, and they clearly took asymmetry to heart in adding images and text to create balance and draw the eye to the right areas. I can even see some of the gestalt concepts in place that I have been reading about for Week 14’s assignment.

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Week 12 — Organization

April 7, 2011 at 3:44 am (ED TECH 506) (, , , )

Organization as a principle is interesting, as it is really a focus of any good image, but wasn’t introduced until later in the course. Organization does not mean plain, but this principle really has a great deal of “less is more” quality to it. At the same time, we have to continue to ensure that we are using colors, shapes, depths, and all our other learnings in each image. That, of course, is the major challenge!

As for my work this week, I completed a very simple blackline master/printable worksheet to support my unit. So, my choice was really a very simple, segmented worksheet that conveyed the questions in a reasonable, workable manner. I tried to keep group content, create headings, number questions, and so on to keep the page clean and child friendly. Since I focused on organization using a black and white page, I wanted to incorporate something a little more interesting, so I created a grayscale version of my word art for inclined planes and included that in the activity sheet header; not to distract, but to create that link to the other materials.

My Twitter posting intentionally included a simple image, but one with a little color to help organize. This rule sheet for my pre-reading son needed to have clear demarcation between rules, and numbers, so we could practice and learn. Above all, though, we needed him to stop hitting all the time, so that rule appeared with a large, red star and red text with underlines to draw the focus at the end of the list to an important addition.

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Week 10 — Color and Depth

March 28, 2011 at 2:52 am (ED TECH 506) (, , , , , )

The ideas of color and depth are very important, this is clear. How many times have I seen or been guilty of overcrowding a page for no apparent reason? Layers upon layers and color upon color definitely do not always serve a great purpose. At the same time, I am also as guilty as anyone of being drawn to the attractive and interesting over the bland and simple when reading, surfing the Web, learning, etc. So, wherein lies the balance? That, of course, is the trick, and one that I am not always cognizant of when building Web resources or other classroom resources.

The idea of really focusing attention on the right place and communicating information in the most efficient manner are keys to using color and depth correctly. There are simply facets of the larger ideas we have been studying this semester, but very important ones. Thankfully, I have access to Adobe’s Kuler tool, otherwise I would have no chance to approaching the color question very well. Hopefully, I will be able to take some of these lessons forward with me throughout this semester and future courses.

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Week 9 Selection Principle

March 22, 2011 at 12:31 am (ED TECH 506) (, , , )

The assignment for this week was challenging for me to complete. I wasn’t sure what graphic to use to really approach the selection principle, and, in the end, I am not convinced that my graphic truly shows the ideas of the principle. I did try to use size, shape, and color to create contrast and delineate a hierarchy within my materials. The idea was to show that I was paying attention to the importance of focusing attention on underlying concepts without distracting from the goals of graphic. I do think I achieved this to some level, although that is not really for me to judge, in the end.

As for going out and finding a graphic for the Twitter posting, that was simpler. I was looking at enough copies of brackets for the men’s NCAA basketball tournament that it only took me a few minutes to think of that as my example. In the end, I do feel like I understand the selection principle, but I also feel that I am beginning to truly press the limits of my creativity and artistic ability with the most recent assignments.

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Week 8 — CARP

March 15, 2011 at 4:36 am (ED TECH 506) (, , , , , , , )

Contrast, alignment, repetition, and proximity are clearly important actions for creating solid instructional graphics. While I feel I have tried to include elements of all these in most of what we have done in the course thus far, it was interesting to have to really focus on the actions. As far as the assignment went, I initially thought I had a great piece to create with my message pulley system instructions. However, as I started to create my document, I quickly began to struggle with the product. In the end, I had to reach back to MS Word for my tables, which is not ideal, but it is the tool I am most capable with, so that is where I went. I did play with the wood grain texture and other textures in creating my model of the pulley system, which has expanded my use of the Fireworks tool set, though, so this did offer some growth there, not just MS Word practice.

At the same time, I found a great example for my Twitter posting for how strong design can be great, but sometimes you lose part of the message. I posted an advertisement I received from Pizza Hut. Only, the only reason I knew it was Pizza Hut was because I know their product. Without that knowledge, I would never have known who was advertising their pizza and other Italian foods. The design was clean, and incorporated aspects of CARP, but the aesthetics were worthless without the title of the company appearing on the page!

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Week 7 — ACE it with PAT

March 8, 2011 at 2:54 am (ED TECH 506) (, , , , , , )

The ACE model (Analyze, Create, Evaluate) builds off of the ADDIE instructional design model, which I thankfully experienced in a previous course at BSU. Having the foundation in ADDIE certainly made this week’s reading and assignment less intimidating. In general, ACE has the feeling of being almost common sense in a way, but, having worked in publishing for so many years, I know first hand how much harder it is to create quality content and graphics than it first seems. I had the same feeling this week as I always do when working through assignments for this class or creating visual materials for my job-related development activities–I found it really hard to think through the design as expressed in the model and tools represented by ACE and PAT.

I can often see the end product, but I have a terrible time getting there. For instance, I wanted to create a Glog for the students using some graphics I had and some new multimedia elements, but I struggled to execute on this vision. I still think the idea was right, but my Glog was less interesting overall than I had hoped. On the positive side, I had already made great strides on this week’s assignment last week with my lesson map for teachers, without evening knowing that I was doing that! For that assignment I went through all three of the keys for ACE, coming up with a gear motif that definitely fit with my content and concept.

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Week 6 — Shapes

February 28, 2011 at 1:32 am (ED TECH 506) (, , , )

This week’s focus was on shapes and how they carry more meaning and instructional value than we often think of for them. I had no trouble finding an image to microblog, as there are shapes everywhere. In the end, I went with a sign that gave directions through drawings with no text. Both shape and univeral design were present in the graphic. As for the visual that would be added to the final project, here I had more trouble deciding where to go. My initial thought was to build a lesson map for teachers to follow, using gears and text to tie all the lessons together. Luckily, I found a free set of paint brushes that supported the development of the teeth for the gears. That would have been challenging otherwise. However, I did not feel that the lesson map was enough for the assignment, so I added two simple shape designs for my final project that will be encountered by students. For this, I build an image of how both wedges and screws involve the use of inclined planes, demonstrating how the simple machines really are linked together in many ways.

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Week 5 Reflection

February 20, 2011 at 3:04 am (ED TECH 506) (, , , , , )

This week’s assignments focused on reading Chapter 3 from our text, starting our Twitter (micro-blogging) activities, and beginning our design journal (blogging). Chapter 3 of our text focused on research supporting visual design work, with a great deal of discussion of brain/memory research and cognitive load theory. I often find brain research both interesting and intimidating at the same time, and this chapter was no exception. The gist, as best I can tell, is to keep the design of text and graphics clean and not overworked, in order to avoid overwhelming the target recipient.

As for the blogging and micro-blogging, I have previously completed blogging activiteis, but I have limited experience with Twitter. I have had an account and have followed a variety of posters for a few months, but have not pursued any followers. I look forward to trying out this technology tool.

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EDTECH 541 Course Reflections

May 3, 2010 at 4:18 am (ED TECH 541, Portfolio) (, , )

What I Learned

Coming into this course, I had minor experience incorporating technology into lesson activities. Additionally, while my job responsibilities at McGraw-Hill very much focus on evaluating and reviewing lesson and instructional design, I have much less experience actually creating lessons from scratch without lesson plans. In this course, I learned a great deal about some of the tools available for students and teachers to integrate the Internet as a resource in everyday class work. At the same, I was able to gain valuable first-hand practice in building lesson plans of my own, without subject-matter experts to guide every step.

As I worked through the course, I was able to reinforce my understanding of the importance of continued learning and reminded of the vast amount of information and the sheer volume of tools available on the Web. It is very overwhelming at times, and my favorites folders have swelled from all of the interesting and helpful links I encountered inside and outside of the course materials. This wealth of information supports the idea that both open source tools and materials and pre-developed lessons and packaged materials have important places in today’s classrooms. Teachers have an incredible responsibility, and the everyday tasks are very time consuming. While lessons and teaching can take place heavily influenced by Web materials, premade materials are still an important source of controlled learning to enhance learners’ growth.

AECT Standards Met (http://www.ncate.org/public/programStandards.asp?ch=4#AECT)

1.1.1.a Write appropriate objectives for specific content and outcome levels.

Each of the assignments for Weeks 4 through 13 of the course, as well as for the final thematic unit activity, included a list of objectives, and the final thematic unit activity includes evaluation/assessment components that delineate outcome levels and associated metrics.

1.1.2.a Create a plan for a topic of a content area (e.g., a thematic unit, a text chapter, an interdisciplinary unit) to demonstrate application of the principles of macro-level design.

For EDTECH 541, I created a thematic unit around the big idea in social studies – Production. Various technology and Internet resources were researched and incorporated in the final thematic unit lesson plans. 

1.1.2.b Create instructional plans (micro-level design) that address the needs of all learners, including appropriate accommodations for learners with special needs.

Week 14 included specific information about how to incorporate accommodations for diverse learners, as well as a blog post discussing the importance of including these accommodations for learners. Additionally, accommodations are included in the final thematic unit lesson plans.

1.1.2.d Incorporate contemporary instructional technology processes in the development of interactive lessons that promote student learning.

Throughout the course, technology materials have been included as part of each lesson activity developed for the thematic unit and incorporated in the final thematic unit activity.

1.1.3.a Produce instructional materials which require the use of multiple media (e.g., computers, video, projection).

The thematic unit activities require the use of computer technology, a microphone for recording an audio blog, posting a video to a free video-sharing Web site, creating a Glogster poster presentation, and working with a presentation software as part of a team.

1.1.3.b Demonstrate personal skill development with at least one: computer authoring application, video tool, or electronic communication application.

Throughout this course, I have further refined my ability to develop Web pages using Dreamweaver and I have maintained a blog for the first time for weekly assignments.

1.1.5.a Utilize a variety of assessment measures to determine the adequacy of learning and instruction.

Several types of products and assessments were incorporated in the thematic unit materials.

2.1.3 Use presentation application software to produce presentations and supplementary materials for instructional and professional purposes.

Students were encouraged to use online tools that act as presentation tools (eBook, Glogster, presentation software, and so on) for several assignments during the course.

2.2.3 Use appropriate video equipment (e.g., camcorders, video editing) to prepare effective instructional and professional products.

We completed a video blog for one assignment and a voice thread for another assignment. I incorporated these tools an another assignment during the course that was built into a learning activity for students.

2.3.2 Design, produce, and use digital information with computer-based technologies.

In EDTECH 541, I have used Dreamweaver to create online lesson plans, WordPress to maintain a weekly blog entry, Glgoster to create an online lesson, created a video library of resources, researched a potential budget for purchasing educational technology tools, research assistive technologies for students with diverse learning needs, and created a video and voice response activity. The list could go on and on, as the entire course involved the use of computer-based technologies in the creation of coursework.

2.3.4* Incorporate the use of the Internet, online catalogs and electronic databases to meet the reference and learning needs of students and teachers.

The main focus of this class was to incorporate Internet tools and resources in lesson activities for students.

2.4.1 Use authoring tools to create effective hypermedia/multimedia instructional materials or products.

We used a variety of online tools to create materials for the course. Glogs, video blogs, WordPress accounts, eBooks, and voice threads, just to name a few.

2.4.4 Use telecommunications tools such as electronic mail and browsing tools for the

World Wide Web to develop instructional and professional products.

Browsing tools are essential to the creation of materials for this course, as well as essential for the development of learning activities for potential students.

2.4.5 Develop effective Web pages with appropriate links using various technological tools (e.g., print technologies, imaging technologies, and video).

Throughout out the semester, I have created Web pages for EDTECH541 connected to my Ed Tech homepage for BSU.

2.4.8* Prepare instructional materials, bibliographies, resource lists for instructional units, and other materials as appropriate to support students and teachers.

We created example activities and other support materials in the creation of lessons for this course.

3.4.1 Identify and apply standards for the use of instructional technology.

Identifying and correlating to NETS is an important, and graded, aspect of the thematic unit lesson plan structure.

4.1.1 Apply project management techniques in various learning and training contexts.

As the holder of a Project Management Professional, this standard hits home with me. Every lesson and project completed requires solid project management in the development of learning materials. To complete lessons on time and with specified feedback, a strong plan must be in place for each week’s assignment.

Professional Growth

While I am not a teacher, and do not hold a teaching certificate, I do work in educational publishing, so my professional growth based on all my courses and Boise State is varied and important. EDTECH 541 ended up being very timely for me, as my current role at McGraw-Hill is creating a new reading intervention program for grades 3-8, with technology as the leading component of the program. In particular, one of the three rotations of the program, a 40-minute block of time, five days a week, is comprised of a project-based learning with a focus on both writing and 21st century skills and constructs. Many of the projects in the course have helped in the development of the instructional design for this project-based learning. Specifically, we have been exploring free online tools and a poster tool for presentation. The work in building a technology budget encouraged me to find some free online tools, and those immediately became part of the toolset for the program I am working on. Additionally, Glogster has served as a spectacular model for what we had already planned on doing to enhance an existing poster-creation tool for my company.

Outside of the project-based learning, I have incorporated my learning in other areas. The way Dr. Gerstein has encouraged us to work through the materials has greatly enhanced my understanding of how to build materials in preparation for my BSU portfolio. This has been a fantastic side benefit of this course. However, more importantly now, the course required that we build our materials to share online (I chose to continue with the BSU personal Web site) and to maintain a blog. Both my work on the Web pages and on the blog have turned out to be very useful to me both in my current job and in my efforts to land a new position with a greater direct relation to educational technology. For instance, with the short-form writing and with links in hand, I have been able to use my coursework as writing and technology samples for several jobs I have pursued. Additionally, I was able to quickly and effectively create a Web site for sharing work samples to focus group participants for our new program by leveraging the skills I have gained in this course.

Change in Teaching Methods/Thinking of Teaching Based on Course Assignments

While I of course knew there were innumerable Web resources for education, the tasks in this course helped to focus me on some of the more important and widely used tools available on the Web. The projects and assignments provided insight on tools, practice and application of skills, and experience looking for the right materials in the right places. I was required to use tools that I have reviewed in the past, but never really thought about including in my assignments or in my work experience. Often, we default to including some basic productivity tools or simple Web searching or Webquests in lessons, but the effort to really step through the process and incorporate the Internet into lesson plans can take teaching in an entirely different direction.

My instructional design experience has long been on the side of directed instruction. Often, this end of the educational spectrum is tied to teaching of core knowledge and facts, as opposed to the use of 21st century tools. I would posit, however, that this is either a simplification or a result of older programs and materials that have not been revised to really focus on how technology can be incorporated successfully. Throughout this course, I have been able to create assignments that are true to the teacher-directed instructional design I know well, but also include new tools and content creation tasks students need in today’s classroom. In the end, that is what I think I will take away from this course; a clear exemplification of how these two, often conflicting approaches to instruction can be combined into cohesive learning activities.

How Theory Guided Project Development and Assignments

I have to go back to the first assignment of the course to really start a discussion of how theory guided my assignments. One concept is based on a presentation I participated in by David Warlick in 2008. In his presentation, Mr. Warlick focused on how we are facing an uncertain future, but with unprecedented tools to approach that future. (2008) The second piece I re-reference here is a research paper about the economic impact of neglecting technology for today’s students. (McKinsey, 2009) These references lead me to choose the big idea of production for my thematic unit. I wanted to address how technology can be used to take student from being consumers to creators of content, but, at the same time, introduce them to the idea that the world truly is shrinking and that technology tools are essential for communication and growth across their school, and, eventually, career choices.

There are other theories and concepts that certainly played their role in my work—the importance of 21st century skills and learning goals, Blooms Digital Taxonomy, among others; however, they were more on the assignment-by-assignment basis. The first two concepts are the guiding reasons why I have chosen to work on an Educational Technology degree. As the father of two young children, I see the absolute importance of building education, communication skills, and digital know-how throughout their lives. We, as educators, must make a commitment to take technology from the land of theory into the world of reality.


McKinsey & Company, Social Sector Office. (2009). The economic impact of the achievement gap in America’s schools. McKinsey & Company. Retrieved April 24, 2009, from: http://www.mckinsey.com/clientservice/socialsector/achievement_gap_report.pdf.

Warlick, D. (2008, June 30). Our students, our worlds . Presentation at the National Educational Computing Conference, San Antonio, TX.

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