My previous post about Technology Skills for Instructional Designers has prompted some good discussion. Check out Do Instructional Designers Really Need Technology Skills? for my response and more comments, as well as Cammy Bean’s reply, Instructional Designers Tools.
I still think that learning technology skills is a good route to go if you’re hoping to get into instructional design. As Wendy Wickham said, “more skills = more opportunities.” But, based on the comments, this obviously isn’t a universal experience. Sometimes you can get a job without those technology skills, just with the instructional design knowledge. It depends on where you are and what jobs are available.
Two “big skills” seem to be important though: learning technology quickly and using it effectively. These are underlying skills which support the rest of what we do.
Learn Technology Quickly & Independently
Even if you aren’t doing any of the programming for an e-learning course, or aren’t even creating e-learning, being able to ramp up quickly is a crucial skill. To some extent, learning how to learn technology is a literacy skill for everyone, not just instructional designers. But especially in this field where we create learning materials for others to improve their technology skills, you can’t do without the ability to learn quickly and independently. You also need to be able to pick up software and fumble around with it to figure it out for yourself without documentation or formal training; after all, you might be the one creating the training!
I know the list of technology skills I created will be outdated quickly. The technology changes so fast that it’s impossible for it to not become outdated. The pace of change is one of the other reasons teaching yourself quickly is essential.
Use Technology Effectively
Even if you’re not doing the Flash programming yourself, you need to have some idea what Flash is capable of (and what isn’t possible). Even developing face-to-face training, knowing what PowerPoint can do and when it will support learning is important.
Three factors for using technology effectively:
- When to use technology
- What technology to use
- How to use it
Confession time: my decisions about what technology to use are based mostly on just my experience, reading, asking other people, and trial and error. I don’t have a real system for this. This has worked for me, but I won’t promise it will work for you.
Kim Cofino at always learning has written about some systematic ways to choose technology. (She’s writing about middle school classrooms, but I think the technology design models could be applied elsewhere.) If you’re looking for a more organized way to approach technology, check out some of her posts.
- The Perfect Match: Technology Integration and Understanding by Design
- Creating Independent Learners: The MYP Technology Design Cycle
If anyone else has a great system for choosing the right technology, I’d love to hear about it. Please add a comment or trackback letting me know if you agree or disagree with the two skills I’ve identified here.
Update: Read all my posts about Instructional Design Careers here.