Once upon a time, I was a teacher. Probably quite a few (most?) of you reading either were or are as well. And while teaching is a varied and movable feast of a profession, one thing can be taken more or less for granted, and that is that pretty much every day for at least part of it, you will be teaching. You’re a teacher, you do teaching, simple, no?

Nowadays I do something rather intangibly named ‘academic development’, and I’ve just been seconded into a gig on a SAF-funded project titled ‘educational design’ (all part of the same semantic quagmire). However, if we follow the same nomenclature logic as teaching, the profession should actually be called ‘A bunch of meetings, planning and administration, some testing, making Moodle quizzes for people and sometimes you might get to go to a conference’.

The problem with educational design is that we spend so little time actually designing education.

I am well aware that higher education throws up quite a lot more red tape than K12 education, but most of the time universities are in danger of project managing themselves into the ground. There’s an awful lot of talking about deliverables that sound like doing something, cf actually doing something, and very little abounds that really looks like innovation. So – as an antidote to this, I’ve just tossed up a Weekly Design Challenge project, in which for an hour or so each week we tackle a pedagogical design problem, in a sort of conceptual hackerspace.

Functionally it’s not dissimilar to the daily quest idea – a short repeated task that keeps your hand in and ups your skills and reputation. It also neatly solves the problem of being able to show something tangible when people ask ‘can we see an example of an innovative unit?’ (because when you tell people they have to innovate that’s invariably the first question they ask). It’s also not far removed from Google’s 20% time I suppose, although it’s depressing to think that we need to specifically allocate time to do the thing that’s in our job title.

Will it work? Who knows. But at least it’s doing something.


Sarah Thorneycroft (@sthcrft) · April 4, 2013 at 1:35 am

What are you doing today? The problem with educational design (+ the WDC) http://t.co/voEjNZMcEF

@timklapdor · April 4, 2013 at 2:30 am

Great idea from @sthcrft introducing a Weekly Design Challenge to educational design! A fantastic activity! http://t.co/qDR0XZzrRc #yam

Peps Mccrea · April 4, 2013 at 6:13 am

Totally agree. There’s a real loss of purpose in education today (in terms of time well spent on enhancing learning), and it is predominantly about design. Keen to hear more about your pedagogical challenge idea – think this could have long legs.

In the meantime, this is what I’m trying to do about the problem: http://openplan.cc/

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