Monday, September 27, 2010

Instructional Architect vs Builder

Over the past two weeks, I've searched for a description of my role as an Instructional Technologist (IT) that would better define the role for me, that would help me to "see" how the role fits within the Instructional Design (ID) team, specifically, and the DU Online team overall.

One of the first descriptions I came across that provided an overview of what I do was by blogger, Amy Thornton. In her blog post called, "What Does an Instructional Technologist Do?", Amy breaks her job down into six points of focus:
  • Evaluate new technologies to discover new and better ways to enhance instruction
  • Assist faculty in discovering methods of improving their instruction with and without technology
  • Conduct training sessions teaching faculty and staff how to use new technologies
  • Conduct research studies evaluating the use of technologies and their impact on student learning outcomes
  • Create training materials to accommodate the self-learners and provide resources for our “customers”
  • Manage the implementation of new technologies on-campus for the use of instruction.
This is an accurate picture of what I feel I should be doing and will be doing (once I have some additional training and direction) with one exception. The "implementation of new technologies" will be for online rather than inseat or "on-campus," although it's not completely impossible that I will participate in implementation for inseat eventually.

Even though I now had a description that gave me an overview of what I need to be doing, I still questions how I should be fitting in with the ID team. Obviously, some of this direction will come from my boss and from the ID that I work with, but when I came across an EDUCAUSE Quarterly article from 2005, called, Leadership in Instructional Technology and Design: An Interview, written by Peter DeBlois (2005), I found the exact description that made sense and reflected the views of the ID on our team.

DeBlois interviewed two faculty members and three participants, at the end of the first Instructional Technology Leadership Institute held in 2005. One of the faculty, Lawrence Ragan, described the two branches of instructional technology and instructional design in this way, "The designer's role is to craft a learning experience so that you achieve an outcome, and the technologist's job is to create the environment for that to happen in." He went on to say, "Think of an interior designer. He isn’t the one doing the building; he tells you where he thinks the lighting should go and how things should be arranged. He doesn’t build the furniture. The technologist says, “You want a chair, I’ll build you a chair.” The designer is the one who has to think about placing it." In other words, the ID is the "architect" and the IT is the "builder."

I like this description and believe that I have the skills and natural ability to be the "builder." But having said that, I recognize that there are several software programs used by the ID and others in the DU Online team that I need to learn and learn quickly to be better able to assist them effectively. Additionally, I need to learn the ID's "instructional blueprint" to be better able to "build" appropriately and become more aware of "institutional" and "campus" priorities to build the right things at the right time. At least now I have a focus!

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