Things I hate about Illustrator

1. Ctrl-F… pastes. Wtf.

2. The default text function creates stupid point text, which is the stupidest type of text that there ever could be. And even if I go through the trouble of creating everything in area text, if I want to embed it with another set of ai files on multiple artboards, good bye editable text!

3. Sometimes if I have some lineart nearby, it makes it impossible for me to create a straight line, because it assumes that what I’m really trying to do is line up with some arbitrary place on the lineart. Which I know I can turn that function off, but usually it is useful…

4. If I paste some lineart, it will put it over some other lineart, and heaven forbid I don’t move it exactly where I want the first time because if I don’t, it’s over, gotta try again.

5. You can only “Unlock All” you can’t just unlock the objects on one artboard if you make a mistake.

I get I should be using InDesign for these things, but sometimes my office tortures me with manuals in AI form instead. It makes life miserable.

Instructional Design portfolio projects

Well I forgot to mention anything about the three tool proficiencies I’m planning on adding to my web portfolio for my professional development in instructional design:

  • Anki: Flashcards
  • Versal: Online course, great for 3D modelling or video-heavy type courses.
  • Stepic: Online course, great for programming heavy type courses.

For Anki, I plan to create a demonstration that helps people learn the types of clouds. Much source material to be drawn from the fantastic book The Cloudspotter’s Guide by Gavin Pretor-Pinney.

For Versal, eventually I’d like to create an intro to 3D printing course. However, that is very ambitious, so I am going to first create a course about pickling and a course about making yogurt.

For Stepic, I’m still looking at what is already out there. I will definitely be doing a JavaScript or Python demonstration of some sort, my favorite idea currently is coding fractals…. but another idea is intro to bash scripting.

ADDIE ISD model as heuristic

Sometimes people ask me what I do as an instructional designer.  Usually, I tell them I make PowerPoints all day, because I do.  However, there is more to my job than that.  Being an instructional designer means I’m trained to interact with teams in a specific way.  Most often, people in my profession use a heuristic called ADDIE.  ADDIE is an anagram that stands for Analysis, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate.  It is one of the most popular models used in Instructional Design. I’m going to show you how ADDIE is like a lot of other problem solving heuristics, tailored specifically to the needs of developing instruction.
Analysis consists of making all the decisions about the project. The instructional designer gathers details about:

  •  Subject matter
  • The audience of the instruction,
  • The “gap” (i.e. what the audience knows contrasted with what they need to know),
  • What tools will be used to develop the instruction,
  •  When and how the instruction will be delivered,
  • And how the faculty members’ learning will be evaluated.
The results of analysis are then used to inform the Design of the project via the creation of Objectives. Several aspects of writing objectives are prescribed:
  • Framed from the perspective of the end user, not the facilitator
  • They have four parts (The ABCD format):
    • Audience: Who is doing the learning activity?
    • Behavior: What is the learning activity?
    • Condition: What resources will they use to complete the learning activity?
    • Degree: At what level must they be able to perform the learning activity?
  • Audience statements should usually be more specific than “faculty member”.
  • Behavior statements must be observable or measurable. They do not use verbs like “learn” and “understand” because the technology of mind-reading has not yet been developed.
It is strikingly similar to the McMaster Five-Point Strategy which I read about in Strategies for Creative Problem Solving by Fogler and LeBlanc which prescribes:
  1. Define the Problem
  2. Generate Solutions
  3. Decide Course of Action
  4. Implement Solution
  5. Evaluate Solution
It is also similar to Polya’s method detailed in How to Solve It which advises:
  1. Understand the problem
  2. Make a plan
  3. Carry out the plan
  4. Look back on your work

In every model, the importance of defining the problem, or in ISD, the gap, is critical.  ISD prescribes finding this problem in a specific way, by formulating objectives. The clarity of objectives is determined by their four part structure and by using the assortment of verbs provided in Bloom’s taxonomy.  Basically, every objective has to define the learner, what the learner needs to do, what they will use to do it, and how it will be determined that they can do what they need to do.  The verbs in Bloom’s taxonomy are grouped by the domain of knowledge addressed and help instructional designers avoid picking objectives that are not measurable in any way.

Both non-ISD texts go on to mention that understanding the problem requires a combination of:

  1. Rewording the problem or breaking the problem into subproblems,
  2. Using key fundamental concepts as building blocks
  3. Using models to understand the problem
  4. Making sure all necessary information has been obtained.

(1) is addressed primarily by the formulation of objectives.  This is why formulating an objective is so critical! (2) is addressed by the four components every objective requires.  (3) is different in every case.  You could perform a SODA analysis to generate mind maps of the learners and goals of the training.  Or you can create Learner Personas, or mini biographies for a couple of characters based on your audience analysis, that you consider as you plan your instructional materials. Lastly, we draw concepts from the various disciplines of psychology, often cognitive-behaviorism (4) is addressed by consulting your subject matter experts and managers.

In these ways, it is apparent that the ISD model goes hand in hand with other problem solving strategies, only with a focus on pedagogy, or the study of learning.

Usability Immunity System

One of my friends who is a master of Linux development and scripting and such, recently posted on his G+ about a usability issue pertaining to Gnome help menus. Soon, someone commented that that’s how Windows users feel all the time using Linux. I almost use Windows and Ubuntu Linux in equal proportion, so I feel like I can reasonably say (taking into account that the hardware I have at home is inferior to the school’s) I have equal usability problems with Windows and Ubuntu Linux. And if you consider the constraints of a Linux operating system before you buy your hardware, well, you really shouldn’t have any issues at all.

 

Musing on this conflict, I postulated that users build a sort of usability immunity with the operating system and tools they use most frequently. The stresses that don’t seem “normal” affect them more strongly. That makes Live Linux CDs the inoculations of the operating system world.  😉  On a serious note, when writing documentation and interfaces for a product competing against something with substantial market share, I think it is important to research as thoroughly as you can the immune systems of your target audience. You don’t want to make them sick!

Style Guide

This week at work, I’ve independently assigned myself the task of creating a style guide for the instructional design unit.  I’m basing it loosely on the Science and Technical Writing style guide I’ve been reading, but I also plan to draw from many other sources including my textbook from IBM Press, Developing Quality Technical Information: A Handbook For Writers and Editors.

Editing the map of my career path

There’s a professor at my school who I first engaged after he assigned the book How to Solve it by Polya in my class.  I love that book, and it’s one I think everybody should read maybe three times, the earlier in your educational path the better.  He’s very supportive and makes sure to give me critical feedback about the things I post and say about various things I’m interested in, which I appreciate more than words could say.  As an older guy who has studied computer science and various other disciplines with rigor, I think he could save me a lot of trouble if I take his advice.

Today he gave me a quick caution on studies that involve clustering and told me a few stories including one about a pattern recognition class he taught awhile back.  I hope he doesn’t mind if I share it with you now.  The class was assigned two textbooks.  The first chapter of both textbooks had 28 pages.  He asked the class to read the chapter, and then come back with an argument for whether the fact that the two chapters had the same number of pages was a coincidence.  One group of students came back, having run a statistical analysis on the number of pages of the first chapters of a bunch of textbooks from the library (not sure whether it was only pattern recognition books, or all the books).  Another came back saying, you can’t look at other books, you can only use the data from the books he gave, and I believe they ran the data analysis on the other chapters in the book and compared the content/headings of the chapters and what not.  They apparently had an impassioned argument, until the professor called on some students in the back looking smug.  He called on them for their reasoning and they said “Of course it’s not a coincidence, you spent years looking for two books on pattern recognition that’s first chapter had the same number of pages so that you could do this exercise.” 

So we talked on that and a few other things, and the end result is that I want to take on a more vigorous study of research methods/hermaneutics for the purpose of having better and more truthful writing.  I realized that this is, in fact, precisely how I can take on more math without seeming like an ostentatious intellectual with no focus or defined career path.  The CS and 3D printing projects thus fit snugly into my life as my secondary hobby, with philosophy and reading being my main hobby and a pleasant time to spend my precious moments of freetime. 

In other news, I have a gig coming up to create a simple web site for a law firm specializing in immigration. I’ve been refreshing my Spanish skills, I took up to Spanish IV in highschool, so I find that I’m learning quite quickly, though it’s not quite riding a bike.  Lastly, I’m going to see if I can still be a part of the SPSU band.  My idea is, if I bring my lunch and don’t take lunch break on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I can leave work early for practice.  I forgot to bring my lunch today though, so no band today! 

Audience Analysis and Document Planning

I’m currently working through the first chapter of Ruben’s Science And Technical Writing: A Manual of Style.  It covers audience analysis and document planning, a good review for me.  I conducted a couple audience analyses during school, but I think there was definitely room for improvement in both. The document planning material should be useful as well. Style guides are interesting in that sometimes it can feel like you’re reading an outline instead of a book.  I’m a huge fan of style guides and enjoyed the project I worked on in school.  My workplace could benefit from one, and I have considered just making one for them.  The only thing that stops me from doing that is considering the idea that the branding could change at any time.  My university seems to be going through some sort of transition in its marketing and until I feel like it’s done I don’t want to touch it.

I should probably add this information to the blurb about me on the side of this blog, but FYI for any readers, I work in the instructional design unit of my university as a temporary employee.  Our unit is responsible for developing and distributing the instructional materials for the faculty.  For example, since Blackboard is stopping its support of the LMS WebCT Vista, we produced how-to guides for migrating content and using the new LMS Desire2Learn. This is only one of many support tasks we take on.  The instructional design philosophy dictates that the first stage is audience analysis (See ADDIE).  During my time here, I haven’t yet had an opportunity to conduct an audience analysis.  I’m looking forward to my first professional experience doing so. 

So far, almost all of the materials I’ve produced for work have been at the “novice” level.  We use PowerPoint, each slide has a few steps and associated screenshot(s) with call-out numbers matching the steps.  It’s fairly simple, and allows us to create quite a lot of materials quickly. Writing for novices can be tricky, because of how easily they can be lost and because they are more anxious as readers, but easy because it is more easy to grasp the objectives they need to be taught.  In contrast, when I performed an audience analysis of RepRap users, I found that most that replied to my post were at the expert level.  The main mistake I feel like I made was having done too little research to ask them the right questions.  It is challenging to research thoroughly enough to understand the expert users.