Getting to Know Skinner and Dale – My Experience Creating Avatars

It has been a goal of mine for quite some time to learn how to create embodied conversational agents (i.e., avatars).  The opportunity presented itself this semester and I could not pass up the opportunity to try and learn it for a project in my LT 8000 course, Foundations of Instructional Design and Technology, and in particular my IDT Timeline project.

But as it turns out, Prezi, the presentation format I am using to present the timeline does not allow me to embed the ECA urls into the presentation. BUMMER!  So, instead, I have to direct folks to my blog to view the Skinner and Dale ECA’s.   Poor technology planning on my part.  Lesson learned indeed!

By the way, I used SitePal to create the ECAs.  The software was amazingly very simple to use.  My mentor gave me a 30 minute crash course on a few terms and  how to upload a few files and within minutes I was off and running.  Many thanks to Dr. Kinnis Gosha, Director of the Moreouse College Culturally Relevant Computing Lab (CRCL).

Believe it or not, once I had located a decent photo of both Skinner and Dale and selected the script I wanted to use, the ECAs were fully created in less than 20 minutes each start to finish.

Below is my Timeline Presentation using Prezi. Enjoy!

Until next week, happy learning……………….


BF Skinner

Edgar Dale

Digital Literacy and is it important?

While researching emerging technologies and trends in ID I came across the term “digital literacy” and realized I had never heard the term before at least not in this context so I decided to do a little digging.  digital cartoon2

The NMC Horizon Report > 2012 K-12 Edition, a collaborative research effort between the New Media Consortium, the Consortium of School Networking (CoSN), and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), discusses the top emerging technologies, trends, and challenges that will have a major impact on teaching, learning, and creative inquiry in pre-college education over the next five years. The report talks about how digital media literacy continues its rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession especially in education and that despite its importance, training in the supporting skills and techniques is rare in teacher education. The report says that the lack of formal training is being offset through professional development and some informal learning, but that the system is far from seeing digital media literacy as a norm. The report sees the problem with the concept of digital literacy is that it is less about tools and more about thinking, and thus skills and standards based on tools and platforms have proven to be somewhat short-lived.

According to Warshauer and Matuchniak, list information, media, and technology; learning and innovation skills; and life and career skills as the three skill sets that individuals need to master in order to be digitally literate. In order to achieve information, media, and technology skills, one needs to achieve competency in information literacy, media literacy and ICT (information communicative technologies). Encompassed within learning and innovation skills, one must also be able to be exercise their creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, and communication and collaboration skills. In order to be competent in life and career skills, it is also necessary to be able to exercise flexibility and adaptability, initiative and self-direction, social and cross-cultural skills, productivity and accountability, leadership and responsibility (Warshauer & Matuchniak, 2010).

Eshet-Alkalai offers another definition – 0ne I think is better suited for instructional design purposes.  Eshet-Alkalai states that digital literacy involves more than the mere ability to use software or operate a digital device.  It includes a large variety of complex cognitive, motor, sociological, and emotional skills which users need in order to function effectively in digital environments. The tasks required in this context include, for example, “reading” instructions from graphical displays in user interfaces; utilizing digital reproduction to create new, meaningful materials from existing ones; constructing knowledge from a nonlinear, hypertextual navigation; evaluating the quality and validity of information; and have a mature and realistic understanding of the rules that prevail in the cyberspace. This newly emerging concept of “digital literacy” may be utilized as a measure of the quality of learners’ work in digital environments, and provide scholars and developers with a more effective means of communication in designing better user-oriented environments.

Eshet-Alkalai also contends that there are five types of literacies that are encompassed in the umbrella term that is digital literacy.

  1. Photo-visual literacy is the ability to read and deduce information from visuals.
  2. Reproduction literacy is the ability to use digital technology to create a new piece of work or combine existing pieces of work together to make it your own.
  3. Branching literacy is the ability to successfully navigate in the non-linear medium of digital space.
  4. Information literacy is the ability to search, locate, assess and critically evaluate information found on the web.
  5. Socio-emotional literacy refers to the social and emotional aspects of being present online, whether it may be through socializing, and collaborating, or simply consuming content.

Nichole Pinkard, founder of Chicago’s pioneering Digital Youth Network (DYN), describes in this YouTube video how her organization is empowering young people with critical digital literacy skills that will help make them academically and professionally competitive.  Be sure and check it out.      

Until next week….. Happy learning!


  1.  ESHET-ALKALAI, Y. (2004). Digital Literacy: A Conceptual Framework for Survival Skills in the Digital Era. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia13(1), 93-106.
  2.  Warschauer, M. and Matuchniak, T. (2010). “New Technology and Digital Worlds: Analyzing Evidence of Equity in Access, Use, and Outcomes”. Review of Research in Education 34: 179–225. doi:10.3102/0091732X09349791.

Technology Centered vs. Learner-Centered Approach to Instructional Design

In week two I talked about what rich media means.  This week I want to talk about the Technology Centered vs. Learner Centered Approach to incorporating new technology into instruction.  Clark and Mayer describes one of the challenges of a technology-centered approach as not taking the learner into account, including what is known about how and why people learn.  This is in sharp contrast to the learner-centered approach to instructional design which focuses on how to facilitate the learner’s natural learning process.  In a learner-centered approach instructional designers use rich media to adapts to serve the needs of learners.

Lockheed Martin in redesigning their Fire Control Focus quarterly newsletter was a prime example of using rich media wisely and using the learner-centered approach to instructional design (ID).

Fire Control Focus Newsletter image

Fire Control Focus Newsletter

Fire Control Focus is a  a quarterly publication catered to workers at Lockheed Martin who work on the company’s “Fire Control” program.  It was launched in 2004 as a PDF file emailed to employees. For the first few years the e-newsletter had a tough time connecting with its audience, which was made up of 2,000 employees working in Lockheed Martin plants in Southern California and Florida. Some of the problems were that the newsletter was too text heavy and needed a new look.  News stories were presented on a stark white background without any interactive content.  Some referred to their experience as “watching paint dry”.

The project redesign team came up with two primary instructional design objectives:

  • Expand the newsletter’s outreach and connect with at least 30% of the 2,000 Fire Control employees.
  • Boost the number of visitors for the newsletter through offering interactive content and online video programming, track readership metrics, and capture/compare the number of page visits per issue.

Lockheed Martin conducted an extensive pre-survey of fire control workers to see what kind of changes they would like to see in the newsletter prior to redesign and to see and how the product could foster a better sense of community. The results of the survey were put to use in reconfiguring the newsletter, with a strong emphasis on visual storytelling and interactive communications which helped with buy-in from employees.

The rollout of the new newsletter was a significant departure from the previous one.  The new newsletter was redesigned in an online format, which enabled Lockheed Martin to track metrics by page clicks but also include richer media and interactive design elements.  Each issue included the following features which came about from the employee pre-survey (i.e., learner-centered approach):

  • The Fire Control VP editorial section, which provide insight into leadership decisions, strategy and the defense environment (the Pentagon being the company’s sole customer).
  • Video and animation are used to show examples of technological breakthroughs at the company and make success stories more tangible for a broader audience. The newsletter also uses video and interactive design to promote teamwork.
  • In-depth, technically focused feature articles ranging from stories covering systems upgrades, updates on new military contracts and major program milestones; Also  runs “soft” features such as employee profiles, coverage of junior achievement and charitable efforts.

After several months, a formal survey was conducted to evaluate employee use and overall impression of the changes in Fire Control Focus.   Following are the results of the survey:

  • Expand Newsletter Outreach:  The publication reached 768 employees, exceeding the goal of 30% of the Fire Control population.
  • Boosting Visitors:  Focusing on the second quarter issue alone, the Team determined that there were 559 unique visitors, which is nearly 73% of the total unique page visitors and more than doubled the number of unique visitors from the first quarter.

When asked what employees liked best about the redesign, the survey indicated:

  • 25% Information/Communication
  • 26% Program Updates/Business Information
  • 18% Format Design
  • 16% Personal Connection to Employees

Fire Control pie chart

Looks like Lockheed Martin got it right.  At least that time, right?  The company used rich media to aid in learning and served the needs of their employees rather than the other way around.  Wonder how many tries at this (i.e., failures) before they actually achieved success?  Have you come across instances in your career as an ID where you or your firm did not get it right the first time?  Care to share?  I would love to hear and learn from your experiences.

Until next week, happy learning………


Rich Media – What is it?

In an effort to discuss my assigned topic Using Rich Media Wisely for my course LT8000: Foundations of Instructional Design and Technology, I find it necessary to first define what it is.

Rich media is defined as instructional programs that incorporate high-end media such as video, animation and audio (Clark and Mayer, p. 309).   It is used not just for marketing but for content in training materials, technical documentation and web content. From what I gather, using rich media to deliver information can improve customer engagement, flatten the learning curve, reduce support requests and can ultimately drive greater user satisfaction and loyalty.  So if this stuff is so great, why aren’t we splattering more of it all over the place?   Hmm.  I guess that what I am about to find out, right?

As a marketing consultant, proposal writer and web content developer it has always been my job to find the best way to communicate… to get the point across…. to sell my client’s brand.  What is great about what I am learning in IDT is that there are features in rich media that if handled properly should promote learning.  If not handled properly… well, then some chosen media features may actually become distractions to learning for some learners.    Chapter 32 in the text explores various topics related to Using Rich Media Wisely including How People Learn, Do Visuals Improve Learning, among other topics.

I want to note that while preparing this post I kept getting tons of hits on “rich media ads” in Google search.  I guess the biggest distinction between “rich media” and “rich media ads” is that one primarily has mostly to do with rich media for online ad sales and the other rich media for instructional design.

Below is an interesting image I found by Wikipedia that visually describes the difference between a text ad, a standard display ad and a rich media ad.

rich media image


Until my next post….happy learning!

Initial Definition of Instructional Technology

Initial Definition of IDT, Ideal Future Career in IDT

As I mentioned in my introduction page I am a novice in the field of instructional design and technology and so except for my most recent consulting experience my knowledge and understanding is a little limited.   From a theoretical standpoint I understand that IDT involves the use of technology to maximize the effectiveness, efficiency and appeal of instruction and other learning experiences.  From a practical standpoint, it involves analyzing an instructional problem, developing a strategy/plan to solve that problem, design/create instructional material (develop a solution); and then develop methods to evaluate results.

In my opinion, good instructional design is 1) visually appealing to the eye; 2) motivates the learner, 2) makes learning more efficient.


Description of what I envision my future career in IDT would be like

My recent experience working as a project management consultant in higher education has opened my eyes to the idea of working in higher education after graduation.  My initial thought was that once I graduate I would go back into a corporate role or perhaps remain self-employed as a consultant.  The position I would be interested in is e-Learning Coordinator/Developer, a position that typically reports to the Director of Educational Technology.

Some responsibilities of the position are as follows:

  • Design and deliver e-Learning courses;
  • Design, develop, and deliver faculty and student training programs in preparation for  online learning.
  • Consult and advise educators on best practices in instructional design and blended learning.
  • Research, gather data, and re-purpose existing IDT materials as appropriate.