Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Ideas, anyone?

Last week I attended the IDEAS 508 conference in Washington, DC.

Like the mine visit last month, I was able to see firsthand users with a wide range of disabilities, from the vision-impaired using screen readers and magnifiers to even a blind man using a laptop-like device (minus monitor) and something in Braille printed at the top of the device.

At a session on "Accessible Universities and Colleges" I learned the difficulty in creating accessible "webtronic content." Mike Behrmann from GMU presented four challenges to accessibility:
1. awareness
2. ensuring collaboration
3. changing procurement practices
4. being ahead of the curve on new technologies

These just struck out at me, and I know that in my future career I'm going to be working with and relating to these every day.

On another note, one of the most difficult things I'm finding regarding instructional design is knowing how to work with the content. I'm not an SME on mining; I only just begun learning about this unique science a few months ago. I'm learning to balance the task of writing learning outcomes to match the desired content we hope to get across to the miners, while ensuring the content is interesting, challenging, and engaging. Whew! One of my team's main tasks is incorporating the right material into the training -- relevant material that's not too simple and fits the bill of what MSHA knows is important for miners to know. How do we sift through vast quantities of content to pick out the most relevant pieces of information in a field which, 3 months ago, we knew nothing about?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


It appears as though at least once a week, I've been giving a presentation in one of my classes, either with or without my team. I'm finding this particularly helpful because, as an undergraduate, I rarely gave presentations. Being a computer science major, my work was code- and project-based. During my first year in the working world, I gave a few "presentations" teaching IT (Information Technology) 101 to new hires. But never have the presentations been so frequent. Though tested as an Extrovert through Myers-Briggs, I still feel much better when I am well-prepared for something (like a presentation) and when I know EXACTLY what I'm going to say. When working in a group, you NEVER know exactly what you're going to I'm learning in Immersion how to integrate others' insights and statements into what I need to say in a presentation. I'm also feeling a lot more comfortable delivering the content without wholly "reading off the powerpoint." I definitely have no problem getting up in front of a group, but before Immersion wasn't truly comfortable talking without having all the words in front of me.

This week, our application was coined as an "EPSS for on-the-job training." (EPSS stands for Electronic Performance Support System.) I love that term! Our application serves just that purpose - it's going to streamline pertinent information, tips, techniques, and mining methods in different areas of the mining industry, aiding miners in the process on their journey to becoming mine section foremen. And of course, it's Electronic. I look back and it amazes me that, eight months ago, I was "going back to school" to learn the process of instructional design. And now I am actually doing it! I don't have to wait until next summer to begin an internship to learn the process. Though sometimes I feel I was thrown into the ocean without a life vest, I know that my team is already reaping the rewards of navigating through this process.

And finally, I set up Gallery, an image repository, on our web server. It was not as easy as the support website claimed, and there are still a few kinks to work out, but it will be really nice to finally have a place to store all our media files instead of on our own computers.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Cognitive load

“Cognitive load” is the burden imposed on memory in the form of information that must be held plus information that must be processed.

Yes, that's right. It's about that time in the semester when I'm feeling the cognitive "over"load. My strategy for combating this? Lots of quiet time to independently work on items, task by task. Focusing on one task at a time. Extensive task lists with deadlines. Not removing items from these list until they are completely taken care of. Is it working? I will let you know come Decemeber 15th.