Fearless Instructional Design: Learning from the Imagination of Jim Henson


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User Experience and Visual Design tips to get Instructional Designers and Educators unstuck. Inspired by "From Muppets to Mastery" at SxSWi 2013.

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  • South by SouthwestTaken by all the sessions on design thinking and user experience design and how they applied to Instructional Design, yet it seemed that SXSWi was filled with marketing folks and UX designers. I realized, we need to look outside of our discipline and see how others are creating things. I want to talk to you about UX design principles as applied to what we do every day as instructional designers. Because Jim Henson applied a lot of UX design principles in his own work (before the term had been invented), I’m using the framework of his career to help explain the UX concepts in fun way. (We want to have fun, right?) Throughout the session, I’m going to look to you to help tie it into real-life experiences you’ve had, where UX design could or has impacted your own job. Which brings me to ..
  • Explain Muppet Moments. Download this preso: Other questions – how many of you grew up watching Sesame Street? The Muppet Show? Fraggle Rock?
  • Just a quick muppet culture quiz that truly highlights out of the box thinking: Can anyone tell me what Jim Henson’s degree was in? Home Economics. Why? Use of textiles, sewing and materials. The man made puppets. He stepped out of the box, and looked to something outside to help him succeed.
  • You’re not alone. In the beginning, before Jane Henson or Frank Oz joined up, Jim Henson was a creative department, a writing department and a prop design department … of ONE. Even at Oracle – I’m a shop of one.
  • So if we have this in common … then perhaps we should look to some of the key principles in both UX as well as Design Thinking.
  • These are obviously not all the tenets of UX design. But these are some important items that make the jump from UX to ID.
  • How often do we spend time with the learners to figure out what they really need as opposed to what we’re told they need? - Use your learners as your SMEs. I see empathy in a couple of ways. - As trainers we need to empathize with our learners psychologically and really try to understand where they’re coming from. When we write M&A courses at Oracle, we try to keep the language very warm and welcoming, as our learners might be at the least cautious or possibly angry about the Acquisition.
  • We also need to understand that there are different segments of our audience, especially when learning something new. We need to peer around the corners and talk to different levels of learners about their particular frustrations. - Understand that you need to talk to average learners, high performers, and the low performers. Create a way to effectively communicate with all of your audience.Muppet Show. I watched with my parents --- we laughed at different things. Kermit is the everyman. He easily moves from talking to kids to hanging out with Adults.
  • Can someone give me an example of when empathy –really getting to know and spend time with the learners and their specific issues - would have made a difference, or will make a difference in course creation?
  • I’m guilty of often complaining that I don’t have the right tools to create the training I’d really like to create. Instead, we often have to make do with what we have. Think about how creative you can be if you just look at the things around you differently.
  • After the Muppet Show ended in 1981, Henson and his team decided they wanted to improve children’s television and make it appeal to the international community. They brainstormed. Tried different things. Bounced ideas off of other people. What could be international and improve upon the programming that already existed?
  • Bouncing ideas off of people who aren’t in your group or in your industry – find someone who isn’t familiar with the problem and get their ideas. Hearing a new perspective can get you unstuck on even the smallest things. If you’re a training department of one, it’s okay. Call your teenager, your significant other, your mom. Give them a synopsis of the problem. You’ll be surprised at how stimulating their ideas may be. In fact, the very act of describing the problem in a difference context may help you move forward.
  • 1955: The original Kermit, used on Jim’s first show “Sam and Friends”, was an abstract character, not yet a frog. It’s worth noting that Jim loved abstract characters, leaving the audience to believe the character was whatever they wanted it to be.
  • 1965: This is Kermit on the Ed Sullivan show in 1968. He’s more green and has a more pronounced nose. Of course, he’s also started wearing a red sweater.
  • 1969: Sesame Street debuts and Kermit officially becomes a frog. His color is bright and his single collar has 13 points. Over the next few years, the number of collar layers will evolve as well as the number of points and the shape of his feet. His eyes change position over the years as well.
  • 1978: Kermit debuts on the Muppet Show with eleven points on his collar and newly spaced eyes.
  • 1978: Kermit debuts on the Muppet Show with eleven points on his collar and newly spaced eyes.
  • 2005 to today: Kermit has a narrower head and a more rounded body. From the Muppet Show on, several more Kermits were iterated, changing small things as well as the material from which he is made. All in all, there have been 13 iterations of Kermit. Muppets are often in what Google engineers would call Perpetual Beta. Muppeteers are always iterating, improving on their product from the inside (how they use the puppet) and from the outside.
  • - Compare and contrast more than one design with users. Feedback will have more meaning when users compare different examples against each other. - Ask your users “why”. Prototype to uncover what works and what doesn’t. Constantly ask your users what parts of the experience resonate more than others. - Use small groups with initial releases and observe and discuss. You may create several prototypes, but the goal from each is to discover key learnings, and then iterate to avoid missing the mark on creating a great experience. - It’s important to prototype quickly, and not worry about each iteration being perfect. Rapid prototyping will enable you to explore new ideas, build faster, and will have a huge impact on your end result.
  • Can anyone given examples of iterating to a specific population, before it’s fully realized? Have you dealt with Perpetual Beta? How did it affect your design process?
  • Often holding a pen in your hand can make you more creative than staring at a blank computer screen. For your first run at your design, try sketching out your thoughts instead of committing them electronically. You may find your paper scraps inspire you more than the computer ever could.
  • First iteration of your storyboards – and these are not the ones you share with a client – might be hand drawn on paper. Remember – no one will see these. You can use stick figures (we are not all artists). But it can get you started. My college students …
  • Using the same things in different ways across different delivery types (mobile, etc)
  • Can you think of a way visual thinking or reusable objects like templates can improve your training? Tell about how you might be using a single template across different types of delivery devices.
  • We are all in our own filter bubble, whether its regional or industry specific or something else. What I have learned in the last year is that, when I’m stuck, I can look to other creative disciplines such as design thinking or UX design to help inspire me.
  • How can the things we talked about today help you move forward with things on which you’re stuck? How will learning about UX and other disciplines give you an added boost of creativity?
  • What is design thinking? Dr. Charles Burnette initiated the “Design Thinking Process in 1989. He defined it as A process of creative AND critical thinking that allows information and ideas to be organized, decisions to be made, situations to be improved, and knowledge to be gained.
  • Design as a process is SIMPLE in its steps.
  • You’ll see different words used, but the basic ideas are here: Immersion – immerse yourself in the problem. Go out of your way to understand your audience. Ideation – Brainstorm. Create. Prototyping – Test and try again. Development – Once it works, keep doing it.
  • These things – the experience, the emotion, the interactions … these are all relevant to ID.
  • Fearless Instructional Design: Learning from the Imagination of Jim Henson

    1. 1. + Fearless Instructional Design: Learning from the Imagination of Jim Henson Michelle Lentz @michellelentz linkedin.com/in/michelleslentz
    2. 2. + Thinking different
    3. 3. + Muppet Moments Download: http://bit.ly/fearlessID
    4. 4. + Pop [Culture] Quiz a. Studio Arts b. Home Economics c. Theatre d. English Jim Henson & Kermit Statue @ University of Maryland Photo by Mark Oehlert
    5. 5. + A Training Department of One
    6. 6. + User Experience (UX) Design Definition: A user experience designer takes the user’s needs into account at every stage of the product lifecycle. An instructional designer should take the learner’s needs into account at every stage of the course development cycle.
    7. 7. + User Experience (UX) Design  Empathy  Create and Iterate  Brainstorming  Iteration  Visual Thinking  Reusable Patterns  Seamless Experience
    8. 8. + Empathy: Knowing Your Audience
    9. 9. + Empathy: Looking Around the Corner at All Levels
    10. 10. + Muppet Moment
    11. 11. + Create and Iterate: What Can You Do with What You Have? and
    12. 12. + Create & Iterate: Brainstorm When the Muppet Show ended, we all sat around and said, “What kind of television show would we like to do? We felt the need these days are for some quality children’s programming. - Jim Henson
    13. 13. + Create & Iterate: Brainstorm with Non-Trainers Fraggle Rock, 1983
    14. 14. + Iterate 1955
    15. 15. + Iterate 1955 1965
    16. 16. + Iterate 1955 1965 1969
    17. 17. + Iterate 1955 1965 1978 1969
    18. 18. + Iterate 1955 1965 1981 1969 1978
    19. 19. + Iterate 2005 - today
    20. 20. + Iterate: Share before it’s perfect and keep improving upon your creations
    21. 21. + Muppet Moment
    22. 22. + Visual Thinking Visual thinking is a way to organize your thoughts and improve your ability to think and communicate. It’s a way to expand your range and capacity by going beyond the linear world of the written word… It’s also about using tools — like pen and paper, index cards and software tools — to externalize your internal thinking … - Dave Gray Author, The Connected Company
    23. 23. + Visual Thinking http://youtu.be/hFbyujLT8HQ
    24. 24. + Visual Thinking: Starting with Doodles
    25. 25. + Visual Thinking: Sketching Your Storyboards
    26. 26. + Visual Thinking: Mind Mapping Mind map from Clark Quinn, Learnlets Blog: http://blog.learnlets.com/?p=3547 Map of DevLearn Day 2 Keynote: Eli Pariser
    27. 27. + Reusable Patterns and Whatnots
    28. 28. + Reusable Patterns and Whatnots: Templates and Content Elasticity A blank whatnot can lead to …
    29. 29. + Reusable Patterns and Whatnots: Templates and Content Elasticity … many different options. Jimmy Buffet Muppet, Phil, and Sid
    30. 30. + Muppet Moment
    31. 31. + Seamless Experiences http://youtu.be/jSFLZ-MzIhM Full story on filming Rainbow Connection in “Jim Henson: The Biography” by Brian Jay Jones, 2013, pp 285-286
    32. 32. + Perception vs Reality Full story on filming Rainbow Connection in “Jim Henson: The Biography” by Brian Jay Jones, 2013, pp 285-286
    33. 33. + Step Outside Your Bubble
    34. 34. + Muppet Moment
    35. 35. + http://bit.ly/fearlessID