Monday, April 1, 2013

Inspiration: Be open to the possibilities

Looking for instructional design inspiration in all the wrong places?? Let me tell you about my experience.

I've been asked a few times about where I get my ideas for my instruction. I honestly wish I had a simple answer, but the truth is it's a messy, weird, and entirely unpredictable process. I think the best answer for me is: in the most unexpected and odd places. Sure I get some from my high school and college teachers, blogs, twitter, etc, but I've listed just a few of the less traditional places below.

  • reality television--I LOVE reality tv. Especially cooking shows. I've got an instruction session I designed off the show Chopped, and one based on the mise en place race from Top Chef named after The Amazing Race. Why reality tv? It's all about the competition. Finding a way to break the students up and give them a little friendly competition tends to get them engaged with the content. And besides, a lot of times it actually gets them up and moving around the room!
  • game shows--Before my reality tv obsession, I was pretty into game shows. We've all done the Jeopardy thing right? Mine was the Criminology research edition. Plus I have multiple activities I've designed based on my fave Price Is Right games. No...not Plinko...but can you imagine?? Instead of putting items in order by price, my students put events or part of a scholarly article in order by chronology. Complete with the flip open reveal. I've also done some simple matching games reminiscent of the price matching games. Some day I would love to do something based on Family Feud. Maybe my next lesson on keywords. Or what about a searching exercise based on Minute to Win It. And can you imagine one based on Supermarket Sweep?? Oh I really want to make that happen! 
  • red carpet shows/sporting events--I'm not talking award shows or the competitions. I'm talking about the live commentary. That's the best part, right? I channeled that live blogging aspect to teach students how (NOT) to give presentations. What if we used the idea of fashion police to teach source evaluation or sports commentary/play-by-play to look at explaining the research process or a way to explain a research log?
  • board games--I've played keyword Taboo in a few classes. And in another I've taken my love of that game a bit further. I need to lead with the fact that I've worked with this prof for 6 semesters now. For the past 3 semesters I've taken the Taboo buzzer into his class with me. The lesson is a 5-day unit on how to read and use scholarly articles. After seeing it twice, the instructor got very excited about the questions I would ask in class, get a bit impatient and answer for his students. I tried reminding him that I knew that he knew the answers, but needed to know if they did. Then he'd end up asking really leading questions. And that's when I brought in the buzzer. You know in Taboo when someone says a word they aren't supposed to use, you buzz them? Yeah, I do the same thing (playfully) to the instructor. The students love the interaction between us. And, they really love it when I screw up and end up answering my own question and I get to buzz myself! What if we didn't stop there? I've heard of Clue-based library orientations. What about Scattergories keywords, or cited reference Jenga or something with Cards Against Humanity??
  • children's librarians--Who says that what works with preschoolers won't work with college students? What do you do with little kids? You engage them physically and mentally with whatever you're doing with them. Isn't that what we want from our students? One of my favorite lessons I adapted directly from the children's librarian staple: story time.  I tell the story of my "fake" arrest and follow this case all the way to the Supreme Court to illustrate that process and explain what documents are introduced along the way. I use a prezi as my picture book, and the story sounds a little something like this. It has all the tenants of a good story time: a narrative, a little bit of theatrics, interaction between the audience and the storyteller, and a moral to the story. I've also borrowed the iSpy pictures to do a summarizing exercise with my students. Their assignment involves writing a 2-page executive summary using 15 different scholarly sources.  The students don't always (i.e. rarely) realize the difficulty of summarizing that much into that little of space, so I warm them up by having them summarize one of the classic (non-themed) ISPY pictures into 2 sentences. Then we share them and talk about the different ways we grouped, classified, and organized the items. And that's when they start to get how difficult this will be.
I think the biggest thing about teaching inspiration is to keep your eyes open and be willing to see the possibilities. You never know what will strike you or what can be morphed into an instruction session. My favorite teaching metaphor for history came from watching "Castle" one night. So keep your eyes peeled and your ears open. Your next great IL session might be hiding anywhere!

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