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Instructional design goes by many names.

Although I wasn’t thinking about instructional design (ID) when I began my career in education, I was using some of its fundamental techniques. I just didn’t know it. Back then, I was facing eighth graders six or seven times a day in classes of 30 to 35 each.

There was no such thing as elearning, or for that matter, e-anything. Of course, I’m dating myself here. But that’s okay. I’ve earned every one of these gray hairs.

In those years, most of us were imparting knowledge by one of two methods, or more accurately a blending of the two. Although they didn’t have formal names, they were basically the pour-in method and the discovery technique.

The first held that information was conveyed by simply pouring it into a learner. (Top-loading would be more descriptive if you can imagine opening young heads and adding the goods.) The second was more about providing unstructured activities whereby students could learn at their own pace and in their own way.

This technique was the heart and soul of what came to be known as open education. This approach made use of a variety of hands-on learning stations, which allowed students considerable latitude in pacing and choosing their own learning path.

A decades-long detour

All during my initial tour of duty in education, teaching was waging a tough battle with my first love, writing. It finally lost that tussle when I resigned to start a freelance writing business. Two years later, I was hired by one of my clients, an advertising agency in whose employ I remained for the next 25 years.

Following an acquisition and an unexpected downsizing years later, I returned to freelancing— older and sometimes wiser. (It depends on the day.) Little did I know that history was preparing for a repeat performance. It came in May of 2010 when I was again hired by one of my freelance clients, Maestro eLearning.

Now things had really come full circle. Instructional design was the perfect vehicle for me to combine my knowledge and experience in education with my love of writing. I found that I had never really strayed very far from the world of behavioral objectives, assessment and the need to make learning engaging, effective and—dare I say it—entertaining.

I now recognize that much of what I was doing years ago can be grouped under the ADDIE (Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation and Evaluation) Model. And my old friend, Discovery, has survived the years fairly intact. Of course, there are many other ID models today—all proof of the viability of using technology and multimedia tools to improve and energize instruction.

So the saga continues. Can a weathered word mason find fulfillment in the fast-paced world of eLearning? Will a time-tested affinity for words discover true happiness with fresh-faced ID models? Stay tuned.

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