Designing in My Sleep
I've been designing learning events using a Dialogue Education since 2001 when I had the great fortune of taking the Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach course with Dr. Jane Vella and GLP Partner, Peter Noteboom.
Since then, I've taught that same course many times and have applied this approach to learning design with topics as diverse as strategic planning, Results-Based Management, an introduction to a co-housing community that I was part of, and most recently, sustainability planning. (I even mapped out my daughter's birth plan using the 7 Steps of Design....It didn't work.....).
But no matter how long I've been doing this, I'm still struck by how much hard work it takes to create a solid learning design. I start by conducting the Learning Needs and Resources Assessment to ensure the experience is meaningful for the learners. I then lay out the design parameters (Who, Why, When and Where), choose the right Content, calibrate the Achievement-Based Objectives to the appropriate level of learning, and craft content-rich, participatory Learning Tasks that will help the learners meet those objectives....going back again and again to refine the Steps until they all synchronize harmonically.....it's painstaking, picky and care-full work.
My most recent design process was no different in that I found myself struggling to choose the right amount of content from the reams of ideas that I had dumped into the design. I really wanted to pare it back to what would be "just enough" -- to "leave space for the design (and the learners!) to breathe". But invariably, by 11pm each night I ended up again with too much What for the Who, When and Why, and I went to bed feeling really frustrated.
But then I'd wake up early the next morning -- 5 am sometimes -- with my mind bubbling with new ideas on how to make it all work: add this, cut this, reinforce that concept in a new way, transmogrify that long text box into a Wordle, drop that "perfect" activity that I've been saving for months since it's irrelevant to the learners' needs, excise that "writing of discovery" in favour of the "writing of explanation", "murder my darlings", bend the design, fold this task in half, knead that example and streeeeetch that conversation! Make this task more Uccellanian to serve 2, no 3 purposes....
Two hours and two cups of coffee later, the kids would wake up and it was time to move on to LEGO. But over the course of the week, I made good progress through my morning design sessions.
In the end, the workshop went quite well, and I am glad to have invested the time that I did. The experience also suggests to me that although we may be sleeping, our brains continue to work at problems even as we doze. Or perhaps the chance to rest lets our minds reboot so that we awake with more RAM available for creativity. Either way, I'm going to keep designing in my sleep!
The experience also reminded me about the importance of providing rest or at least some down time for my learners. In my rush to "cover the content" and cram in as much as I can by the end of the day, I can exhaust them. I need to remember to give them time to rest: frequent, short breaks; a long (and hopefully tasty!) lunch; finishing on time; minimizing homework, discouraging any evening sessions and additional meetings in favour of dancing, a bike ride and most of all sleep.....
"...To sleep, perchance to dream! For in that sleep...[who knows] "what dreams may come?"
Goodnight! Lala salama!