Learning Design Summer Camp 2011

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For me, the Learning Design Summer camp at Penn State is the highlight of the year as far as the organized events thrown by TLT. The appeal is that it is an intimate, informal gathering of Learning (instructional) Designers throughout the Penn State community. It's a wonderful event not only for the topics covered and discussed but a great opportunity to meet face-to-face with so many of our Learning Design colleagues and connect on a personal and professional level.

This year's camp had three main themes to it:
  • Digital Research
  • Globalization
  • Classroom of the Future
Digital Research
This was a different angle that I was expecting. Basically, the presentations centered around issues for archiving our digital work and then a one hour comparison of Citation Tools (presented, by the way in an awesomely-produced 'Dating Game' format). As informative as this was, this session seemed to be geared specifically toward faculty conducting current research. The connection to the impact on what Learning Designers do was a bit lost on me. Perhaps it's because I am not doing this type of research but none of the other LD's I spoke with afterwards were able to see a direct relevancy to learning design per se.

Dating Game was fun!

While the dating game format was VERY cool, on reflection, I personally feel the LD community would have gotten more out of the dating game format around the current CMS' under consideration in Penn State's pilot. I just believe that the CMS' will have more impact on the general LD audience than will Citation tools.

Chris Long's presentation in which he explained and demonstrated the use of social media and tools to conduct research (along with his research assistant Lisa Lotito) was the most relevant portion of this theme for me. The reason for that is I was able to frame the workflow he instituted and I was thinking of ways that can impact workflow in different areas such as e-learning content development and student group projects.

Chris Long presents with Lisa Lotito
The globalization sessions centered around assignments presented by faculty in which they connected their (US) students from particular cultural backgrounds with other students (abroad) to engage in conversations in topics that were pretty meaty. The emphasis was on continuing dialogue and seeking to understand other viewpoints, not necessarily agree with those viewpoints. Personally, I feel this is a critical skill set that seems to be eroding in the current US political landscape and was glad to see faculty such as Michael Elavsky and Laura Mulvey detail how they helped students frame these discussions as well as feel genuine impact. Quite the emotional impact in some cases.

Again, however, I didn't feel we did enough as a community to discuss these presentations from the Learning Design perspective. Clearly there was a design model and pedagogy here but there was no opportunity for a discussion around what exactly it was and how it could be scaled, ported, extended or delivered in other settings. The topic was ripe for it and it would have been nice to discuss more of the design itself as well as the discovered outcomes.

Ghost Stories
The late afternoon session of "Ghost Stories" was my favorite part of this year's LDSC. Robin2Go did a fantastic job of facilitating this discussion. This session was truly an immersive discussion among learning designers and technologists. The topics were well selected and everyone was engaged in lively dialogue on these very-relevant topics. Honestly, I think the group in the room could have gone on for another hour with this session. Obviously I loved it and one more shout out to Robin2Go on this one.

Classroom of the Future
This session's feature event was the break off into 9 (I think) groups to discuss a select number of topics separately for about 45 minutes and then everyone came back to Foster Auditorium to give a 5 minute presentation on what their group had discussed. What stands out to me about this session is that these topics entail so many issues it's hard to separate classroom from pedagogy from technology. The group I was in focused on mobility. We could have talked for HOURS around this topic and been pretty focused at all times. We didn't really come up with 'the answer' but it was great to talk to others for experiences and thoughts around it. I kept thinking, as I looked around our group, how different the mobility conversation is than it was just 5 years ago. In our group discussion, we had 5 people on iPads, 1 on a laptop, 3 using paper to take notes and 2 people with nothing. In 3 years from now, I wonder what the mix will be? In any event, I really do enjoy thinking and talking about mobility impacts in education. I always have the feeling it is a key element in the future but it has a role. Just not sure of what it is yet.

My Recap
Learning Design Summer Camp 2011 was another success for the LD community. It has such a great buzz and feel to it. I know the organizers worked their asses off to make it happen and they did a great job. I know it's billed as a "crowd-sourced and coordinated" event but there is always a core team of folks to do the heavy lifting. I believe up to 140 people registered for this year's event and I believe Jeff Swain, the fearless coordinator, said at one point there were 134 people that actually made it. That's an incredible testament to how valuable the Learning Design community at Penn State sees this event.

I've mentioned a few times in this post that I wished we'd had some way of adding a context of Learning Design impacts on the main themes. At the same time, I do recognize the importance of going beyond my professional "comfort zone" in a way that extends my thinking on issues. I think a mechanism that may help reconcile these two realities would be to add a 15 minute block at the end of a theme that opens the floor to discussion around impacts of learning design. The discussion model could be what Robin2Go did for Ghost Stories. It believe that this would quickly broaden the relevance to this particular audience and by the time it is done, possibly lead to even more focused hallway discussions.

I already can't wait for LDSC 2012!

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Hey Matt,

Thanks for your candor. I appreciate the frankness in your feedback. And I have an eye towards picking your brain regarding next year's program :)

GREAT post, Matt, and one that expressed many of my thoughts as well. I think it is important for Summer Camp to maintain a focus on the Learning Design aspect of the topics discussed. Perhaps, along with the "fun" aspect, this could be what makes LDSC different from the TLT Symposium? Just a thought.... LDSC has always been a great way to learn from the successes (and failures, especially!) of others in our field. With our limited time and budgets, seeing how our colleagues approach design challenges helps us avoid spending precious resources discovering what others already know. Extending presentations by spending time "unpacking" the designs underlying them would be an extremely beneficial way for us to learn from what others have done and see the linkages for the projects we are working on back at our own campus or college.

Thanks, Jeff and Cathy for taking the time to check out this post. Cathy, I've really enjoyed the summer camps because I get such an overall feeling that it is "ours", meaning us Learning Designers. Interestingly, every year my main takeaways are the individual conversations with other designers that we truly don't have much of another way of conducting. Connecting with people in different ways whether it be due to similar projects, design issues, personal backgrounds, interests...these are things that only really happen in-person. As long as we continue to recognize how important those opportunities are and continue to foster them (look! a pun!) with the LDSC, it will continue to be a great event.

d agree that we didn't get a good discussion connecting globalization and higher ed. I was hoping that the game cards would be the genesis of this, but we didn't really get to debrief.

But the questions are posted at

I think they give an idea of what I think the implications of globalization for higher ed are.

Great post. Although, there were more than "learning (instructional) designers" at the event. There were also faculty, librarians, students, multimedia developers, web developers, education technologists, and gosh, they even somehow let us hated communicators in the door.

From what I understand, this event was created to expand on a previous event that was only for ID's and expanded it to the rest of us. One thing that strikes me each year is how collaborative this idea of learning design really is. We all work well as a team here at Penn State, from the talented people with "instructional designer" in their job title to the people using some of these amazing learning design creations to those just telling the stories so others can discover them.

What a really remarkable time to be working in educational technology.

Wait a minute! Who hates communicators? :)

Jamie, I totally agree that the event is expanded to those beyond the role of learning design for the very reasons you articulate: learning design is extremely collaborative and benefits from cross-discipline interaction (like anything else, hence the role of higher education). I think the point I'm trying to make here is that the focus of the camp is not on learning designers but learning design itself. Everyone that attends has multiple touch points in this field in what they do and I would just like to see us have discussions about learning design impact on whatever topic(s) are presented. And by that, I don't just mean the role designing instruction; I mean it at all levels and roles related to it.

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