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Over the course of the past semester, my understanding of IDT has grown and evolved. This is my first semester in the GSU MSIT program, and I hope that all future students take this Foundations class in their first semester. The class gave me valuable context for the terms and concepts that I’ve come across in other classes and research.My mental picture of IDT has changed primary in the evolution of the field, future possibilities in the field, variety of required skills, and context for vague ideas.

I’ve realized that today’s version of IDT has integrated and overtaken many different academic/practical fields throughout its history. Learning the history of IDT, from school museums to early educational technology to training films, helped me understand the early purpose of IDT and how it led to today’s version. Also, the constant evolution and synthesis of psychological perspectives has informed my concept of both psychology and of IDT. I now see that one theory emerges, another theory arises to challenge the first, and a third theory combines elements of the first two. This helps me understand that theoretical underpinnings of IDT don’t just spontaneously appear in academia to confuse students. Furthermore, knowing how theories are synthesized over time helps me understand that IDT will always have a “new and better” perspective just around the corner. This encourages me to follow IDT literature throughout my career instead of picking my favorite theory and clinging to it. I’m interested to see how new generation of instructional designers and theorists will revise the current widespread perspective.

Instead of just following instinct, I understand how a particular instructional approach fits into the overall learning experience for the student. I can use that understanding to create a deliberate, considered curriculum instead of just tossing out some activities and hoping the learners understand what I’m trying to create. Also, this course made me realize the diversity of skills required in a good instructional designer, from technology skills to project management to understanding pedagogical theories.


Amanda Hovious at DesignerLibrarian has a fascinating post today about “new librarianship.” Part of the post explores the idea of the library as a Third Space, or “a community gathering space (virtual or physical) outside of the home, classroom or workplace environment where informal learning takes place. New librarianship facilitates the ‘library as a Third Space’ concept by serving as a bridge between informal and formal learning and literacy practices.”

As we’ve discussed in previous posts, libraries foster both formal and informal learning. DesignerLibrarian points out that new librarianship adds virtual learning to the traditional physical sphere of learning in libraries. As librarians become more conscious of their IDT role, they should remember that their online spaces are a valuable opportunity to foster informal learning.

Researchers in fields like new media studies have been investigating how users participate in self-selected communities and pursue learning in informal spaces. Since this is a library IDT blog, I’m especially interested in finding ways for libraries to support that kind of user-driven, self-motivated exploration. Can we use research from other fields to figure out what our users need and sneakily foster informal learning?

For example, cultural anthropologist Mimi Ito recently published a book on youths’ everyday learning and new media engagement. She and her co-authors say that user engagement falls into two major categories: friendship-driven and interest-driven. When someone is “hanging out,” their behaviors are driven by their friend group. When they’re “geeking out,” their behaviors are motivated by an interest in a particular topic. Peer-based learning can happen in both of those settings. A third genre of participation, “messing around,” can bridge the gap between “hanging out” and “geeking out.”

What does this mean for libraries? For one, it validates the importance of providing “hanging out” space (either physical or virtual) in community centers like libraries so users can explore friendship-driven learning. For another, it underlines the need to provide resources and materials for “geeking out,” like sponsoring meetings of a local anime club or (in dream-budget land) purchasing a 3D printer.


Libraries fill any number of different roles, from information repositories to formal training centers to community gathering places. Instructional design principles are vital in all of these roles. Libraries tend to focus on the instructional design of formal learning opportunities, like drop-in workshops and expert lectures. However, the library space is also a prime location for informal learning to occur. As librarians and instructional designers, we need to make sure that we’re fostering informal learning just as much as formal learning.

What is informal learning, and how is it different from formal learning? According to Jay Cross, “Formal learning is like riding a bus: the driver decides where the bus is going; the passengers are along for the ride. Informal learning is like riding a bike: the rider chooses the destination, the speed, and the route. The rider can take a detour at a moment’s notice to admire the scenery or go to the bathroom.” Informal learning is spontaneous and natural, as opposed to the curriculum-based structure of formal learning. (Source: Informal Learning: Rediscovering the Natural Pathways That Inspire Innovation and Performance)

Over the next several weeks, LibraryIDT will focus on the role of informal learning in libraries. We’ll look at each of the six factors of informal learning (nature of outcomes, nature of experience, origin, role of learner, role of instructor, and role of instructional designer) in the context of libraries fostering informal learning. Stay tuned!

Computer user in library

Photo via Flickr: Illustration by Eric Molinsky from the CALI Lesson “North Carolina Secondary Research”

Welcome to Library IDT! This blog is a platform to gather and reflect on theories and trends in instructional design and technology (IDT). It will focus specifically on IDT in the context of libraries, especially academic libraries.

“Instructional design and technology” is a wide-ranging term, and many people have defined it slightly differently. For the purposes of this Library IDT blog, let’s say that instructional design and technology is the deliberate, considered process of developing instruction specifications by applying learning theory.  It covers the entire learning process, from analyzing learning needs to developing a delivery system to creating instructional materials/activities, and concludes with evaluating and refining the instruction process. (Source: Carl Berger, University of Michigan)

In libraries, we are called upon to do instructional design in both formal and informal ways. We teach classes and workshops, but we also do sneaky instruction in the form of website design, reference interactions, and signage. As a public services librarian at an academic library, I have many opportunities to practice IDT principles. Rather than seeking out a “future IDT job,” I plan to adjust my attitude toward my current job, finding ways to integrate instructional design into my daily work life. When I propose a new library website design or create new tutorials, I’ll consciously take an IDT-focused approach rather than making choices based on “what looks pretty.”

I follow several instructional design blogs. The Faculty Instructional Technology Services (FITS) department at DePaul University runs, which discusses instructional design and technology in higher education. The principles of IDT are widely applicable to most fields, so I can easily tweak these ideas and think about how they might work in libraries. However, I also find it valuable to follow blogs that discuss IDT specifically as it applies to the library field. Lauren Pressley ran a 14-part series on IDT in libraries in her blog,, where she continues to discuss IDT among other topics.