Ok, but what do you actually do?

In the last post on what instructional design is and the 30,000 foot view of what instructional designers do, this post will bring it all down to the ground level and look specifically at the design of one activity.

For our Narnia curriculum we wanted a fun activity that had the students using the vocabulary from that day’s theme, which was clothing. We wanted the activity to be engaging to the point where the students almost forgot that they were “reviewing” their vocabulary.

Our plan was to play a game, but we were struggling to come up with a game that was fun. One of the major tools in an instructional designer’s tool belt is taking something that already exists and changing it to fit their needs. Honestly, this is one of my favorite things to do as a designer.

My colleague suggested taking a game called 6 Nimmt Junior and adapting it to clothing. The basics of 6 Nimmt Junior is that there are four rows of “stables” and the players are trying to get all six animals into a row, allowing them to take the cards. Each card can have between one and three different animals. If an animal on the card does not appear in a row already the player has to put it in that row, but if all of the animals are already in every row then they get to choose in which row to put the card.

The game is pretty simple and lent itself very well to adaptation. If you are familiar with the first Chronicles of Narnia movie (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) then you know the children go through a wardrobe to get to Narnia. Well, what goes in a wardrobe? Clothes, that’s what. Essentially all that needed to happen was a change of theme of the game. Instead of putting animals into a stable, the students will now be putting clothing into a wardrobe. Simple.

But that is not all that it takes to make an activity for a TEFL curriculum so the next step was changing the rules to provide reasons for the students to use their new vocabulary (the items of clothing). Instead of just playing a card like in the original game, in our game the students have to say what they are putting into the wardrobe. So if the card has a shirt, pants and a hat on it, then the students would say “I am putting a shirt, pants and a hat into wardrobe #3.” By the end of the game they should be pretty used to all of the types of clothing in the game and using them in a simple sentence.

This adaptation was pretty simple and not all adaptations can be created as easily, but sometimes they are.

Wait…what do you do?

I’m an instructional designer, which means I essentially, wait for it…design instruction. Even though that statement seems pretty ridiculous, I have said that more often than I can count (not literally, I can count pretty high). Instead of trying to say the same thing over and over again, I thought I would share with you all what it means to design instruction, the process behind designing instruction and maybe a few other tidbits of information here and there in relation to my work, here in Germany.

I won’t do this all in one post though, so don’t worry. This post will mostly serve as a basic introduction to what it is that instructional designers do.

If you noticed the picture for this blog, it will serve as an analogy for how the process of instructional design begins. No matter who the client is, they typically come to you and present their need, or their felt-need in order to get the project started. Typically though, their idea is either too fleshed out by someone not trained in instructional design or it is a view from 3,000 feet. The first meeting is important for both sides of the project, because the client needs to understand what will work, and the designer needs to understand what the goals of the instruction are to be.

Herein lies the analogy, when the project first starts it is hidden in the clouds of possibility. In order to understand the whole project, the designer must know that they are looking at a forest while the client must recognize that the designer can best guide people to that base of the trees. If either part of this is not understood then the designer might lead to the wrong destination and the whole project could be a waste of time.

Hopefully that sheds a bit of light into what it is that I do. Next post I will be using a specific example of how instruction can be crafted from non-curriculum based sources before going into detail on how the design of a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) curriculum based on the Chronicles of Narnia movies has and is continuing to work.

FUEL – What Does it Mean?

Recently I was invited and, after much prayer by myself, ministry partners and co-workers, accepted the invitation to a training called FUEL. I have been invited to join the third group of FUEL (though other leadership trainings happened prior) and it is a combination of GEM and CA (Christian Associates). What I want to do in this blog is discuss a little bit about what this means for me, my commitment with GEM and what the training will be about. I don’t know everything that will happen throughout the course of the training, so I’ll keep you updated as I know more.

First, the training:

  • FUEL is a leader development process that deepens Faith and broadens Understanding so participants are Equipped to Lead where they live and minister.
  • 5 week-ish long trainings in different locations within Europe every six months beginning in March 2016 through March 2018.

Now, my part in FUEL:

  • Commit to being a part of a learning community where you not only receive input from others but also take an active role in advancing one another’s growth.
  • Agree to complete reading and assignments between the forums and participate in an online learning community.
  • Live what you are learning and work on a project in your own ministry context.
  • Gain insight from a personal coach throughout FUEL and acquire insights from fellow workers ministering in other contexts.

How does this change my commitment with GEM?

My original commitment with GEM was through April of 2017, but after starting to co-lead a small group of high school Freshman (in 2013) I decided to extend that until they graduated in 2017. Since the training does not end until March of 2018 it adds another 10 months to my commitment. Beyond that, I am not required to stay with GEM. Obviously they would like me to stay as long as possible, but if God leads me somewhere else then they have said, they will be completely supportive of that change. That is not to say that I am for sure leaving or staying, all this means right now is that decision is still a matter of prayer.

Now obviously since I will be extending my initial 4 year commitment for at least another year I will be asking my current ministry partners to continue with me for that time as well, but at the same time I will completely understand if you feel led to not continue as well.


Please if you have questions, feel free to ask. If I don’t know the answer I will find them for you. You can post them below or on the link you followed to get here.

The easiest blog I’ve ever written

My last blog post was a plea for help and it was tough for me to write. I feel that God has led me to Germany to work with Greater Europe Mission and eDOT. That was not a plea for help thinking that God is not walking along side me and providing for me. What it was, was a plea for help, knowing that He will provide, but also knowing that I should to do something to make others aware of the financial need. Without that knowledge how would people know what to do?

Today’s blog is way easier to write because it’s all about what I believe God has planned for me and my skills over, at minimum, the next two years (the remainder of my agreed upon term which God may or may not be planning on extending). There are some exciting things within eDOT and GEM and even though sometimes I struggle to understand how my skills can be used to further His kingdom, nonetheless, they are. I’m going to be highlighting 5 different areas where God is using me and I want to spend a little time discussing the potential impact of each.

• Chronicles of Narnia curriculum – Over a year ago I started working on a curriculum for ESL (English as a second language) camps based on the movie Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. It was successfully used at a German camp last year and since then we have expanded the scope of the project. At first we went back over the curriculum and fixed things we saw that needed to be changed, added more resources and made it a bit more presentable. We spent a lot of time on this because the next step is to publish the curriculum as an eBook for anyone to use all around the world. While that curriculum goes through the editing and conversion process we are working on the 1st movie in the series (a reworking of an existing curriculum designed years ago by people in Kandern) and soon will create a brand new curriculum on the 2nd movie. Our hope is that camps will start with the first curriculum and then for 3 years be able to use our curriculum. This would, in theory, allow them to use those curricula on a 3 year rotation which lessens the work that the camps have to do. While the curriculum itself is not blatantly Christian it does take themes that lead to many conversations between teacher and students. We have also designed a series of Bible study lessons to go with the curriculum in order to provide flexibility to the camps. We are hoping to have all three curricula finished by summer of next year.

• Discipleship Multiplication conferences – Recently I took a trip to Cologne to watch a conference on discipleship multiplication. The idea behind my attendance was to see if we could write down a reproducible curriculum that could be used throughout Europe to create similar conferences. While we are still in the early stages of this project it looks like our goal will be to have a basic curriculum finished by the fall in order for it to be used in England. We are then hoping to attend the conference in order to capture even more of what needs to be taught and create resources for future conferences.

• Small group – Every week, during the school year, I lead, with my friend Jeremy, eight Sophomore boys in a small group. Being that the make-up of Black Forest Academy (the international school in town) changes year to year our group slightly changes with it. Last year we had five boys, but one returned to Switzerland to attend a school there. This year we had eight, but two will not be back next year. We may gain more students next year, but the task remains the same. Jeremy and I are trying to lead these young men, the best we can, to see them through their high school years and hopefully maintain a relationship with them for many years to come.

• Singles session – This is a new thing that literally just came about within the last few weeks and so the details are a bit foggy. This upcoming GEM annual conference (in August) will have a session on “How to lead singles on the mission field,” or possibly a roundtable of singles to help other singles who might be dealing with issues dealing with their current stage in life. These sessions would not be to single out those who are single, but rather, to help support them and keep them on the field. As of right now it is a possibility that I will be leading the session and it is my hope to also bring to the attention of GEM, as a whole, that singles are valuable members of the mission who might need slightly different help than a couple (for obvious reasons).

• Orientation – My friend, Crystal and I are also creating a document for the Kandern area in order to help in the orientation period when people are new to the field. It is an overwhelming time for the new people, but also for those who are helping them adjust. It can be very easy to forget one, two or a multitude of things so the goal of the document is to help alleviate the overwhelmed feelings for both parties.

I hope this blog did a good job of showing you what I really believe God has planned for me for the near future. This is why the last blog was written and I hope you will now understand why I needed to write that blog in order to secure that I can stay here and see these projects to completion.

Like a Puzzle

I’ve mentioned before that I have been working on an ESL curriculum based on the Voyage of the Dawn Treader movie. Currently we are finishing up the curriculum and about ready to submit it to the editors. Next up after that is to get it into an ebook format to be able to sell it on Amazon and iBooks which would potentially allow it to be used throughout the world and not just through our partners. After that is done we will move onto the first and then second movie completing the trilogy of movies.

In the process of finishing the Voyage of the Dawn Treader curriculum we were asked by a potential partner if we had any Bible studies as a part of the curriculum. Since our previous partner had to have the the Christian aspect of the curriculum a little more hidden we had to say no to this potential partner. We did, however, say that we would look into it a bit more to see if it would be possible to do without completely changing the curriculum.

Esther and I sat down, looked at the themes for each day of the curriculum and brainstormed what Bible stories/verses could fit into the theme. To be quite honest, we weren’t positive it would be very easy, we thought it would be tedious work and would require us to stretch the themes to fit the stories. What happened, in reality, shocked us both. It took us about 10 minutes to go through all 4 levels of the curriculum and find stories that fit almost perfectly.

We haven’t written the Bible studies yet, but we were able to fit the whole Gospel story neatly into the currently existing curriculum, which helped me see God’s hand at work in our curriculum.

The Beginning of a Partnership

Last week, I traveled to Vienna, Austria to sit down with a group known as BAO (biblische ausbildung am ort). BAO is a group that provides Biblical training on location throughout the German speaking countries. Back at GEM’s annual conference in August, I was approached by my friend on the possibility that eDOT and BAO could partner together to help them expand their reach and better provide for their current students as well.

Before going on the trip we worked together on a preliminary partnership which involved the creation, distribution and analysis of a survey. The purpose of the survey is to see how technology could be used to enhance their current offerings and what they may want to consider changing in the future. We will, then, decide where this partnership will go.

The trip consisted of two very different, but equally important parts.

The first part of the trip was filled with meetings. I sat down with the director, several of the teachers, the website creator and several others to discuss the possible future uses of technology at BAO. This was a brainstorming session, where we came up with very few actual plans, but that was the point. We were discussing possibilities, while keeping in mind that without knowing what their students want (via the survey) making changes doesn’t make sense. This was very important for me, since it is my opinion that too often companies/people/organizations make changes long before they need to.

The second part of the trip, I was able to witness two of the courses  that BAO offers, taught by two different people and in two different locations. While the classes were all in German, I managed to understand most of what was going on. This wasn’t a major need in order for us to complete the current partnership, but it did allow me to better understand what it is that BAO does which will, in turn, allow me to make better recommendations in the future.

After this trip, it is good to see that both sides of the party are on the same page. The partnership has started strong, and I am looking forward to see where it goes from here.

I learned it by watching you

Most teachers, or former teacher in my case, can tell you a story about a particular teacher they had in school that inspired them to grow up and become a teacher just like them. My story is not too dissimilar, but there was one major difference. The teacher who inspired me to become a teacher never had me in class. This teacher taught me many things, but never in a formal school setting. I watched him throughout the years teaching others and what I saw, I admired. I wanted to emulate his style, his passion and his skills.

This man, was my father and he was an amazing teacher. He informally taught children through Boy Scouts and formally taught them through baseball. What was most impressive to me though was how he taught adults. My dad taught classes throughout the state of Ohio on the weekends to help people maintain or receive their certification to work in the field of Developmental Disabilities (DD now, but MRDD then). Instead of the normal lecture-based way to teach adults my dad taught using the theory of multiple intelligences before that was even a major topic in education. He taught using lecture, videos, discussions, and my favorite, hands-on activities.

Too often adult education lacks this kind of teaching and I can still remember to this day an activity my dad used to teach teamwork and communication. The activity involved Lego, yes Lego. That activity inspired me recently to develop an activity for a conference that I am helping to design. Most of the conference is filled with very deep and spiritual, brain-burning type learning. We wanted to lighten it up a bit and yet still reinforce the ideas being learned so we designed an activity, once again using Lego.

I go into more detail on a blog I wrote for GEM eDOT which I would love for you to go over and read, but I wanted to share with you the genesis of this idea and give credit to the man who inspired me to help others learn to the best of their ability.