ADDIE Plans a Party

ADDIE and Party Planning

My daughter is turning 7 next week. Since the day after her birthday party last year, she’s been talking about what her party would be like THIS year. Over the past 350 days or so, we’ve considered all sorts of ideas, from bounce houses to pizza places to laser tag or bowling.

As the date has neared, the conversation has really stepped up a few notches. And finally, it was time to decide. We thought about our goals for the party. We analyzed, if you will. (Yes, I’m drawing a metaphor here.) We discussed the pros and cons of different types of parties. If we decided on one of those invite-all-your-friends-from-class-birthday-party-venue parties, the down side would be that lots of our friends and family who aren’t in second grade wouldn’t be all that into it. If we decided on a birthday dinner followed by cake at grandma’s house, the down side would be that her school friends wouldn’t come. Clearly, the goal was to come up with something that would be interesting and fun and attended by old friends, school friends, mom’s friends, and our big, wonderful family.

We considered finances, too. How much should the party cost? We thought about the work involved. What party theme wouldn’t be too difficult to create at home, and what would work with some of the party stuff we already have on hand? What kinds of food would people like? What games and activities might be fun for a variety of guests? What kind of cleanup would be involved? We also thought about who we could contact and how, and who would probably come and who might not make it, especially our out-of-town friends and family.

If my daughter’s birthday party were an instructional design project, the questions we asked as we mulled over our options would fall into the analysis phase of the instructional design process fondly known as ADDIE.


Allow me to flesh out the metaphor:

What is the need? (Well, it’s my daughter’s birthday. The need for a party is clear. Tradition calls for a birthday celebration. This is also an important birthday for my daughter, in that it’s our first as a mother-daughter duo. We both want it to be especially awesome, and my personal, “mommy goal” is for her to feel as loved and supported as possible.)

What are the goals of the party? (We want all the people she likes and loves most in the world to come and have a great time. We want to stay in budget and keep the preparation to a reasonable level. We want everyone to enjoy themselves, and we want to stick to a theme a variety of people can relate to, with activities a variety of people can enjoy.)

What information is needed, and how is it gathered? (We’ll need to have a clear plan so we can be sure to get everything we need and set up appropriately. We’ll need to know how much everything will cost, and we’ll need to select decorations, menu items, and activities accordingly. We’ll need to know how to get in touch with all the people we want to invite. They’ll need to know where we live and how to get here. We’ll need to know whether they’re coming and if they’re bringing smaller children or grandparents and whether they’re eating dinner here and how long they plan to stay. They’ll want to know what presents my daughter might want for her birthday. We’ll research as much as we can, and we’ll use our address book, Facebook, word of mouth, and the telephone, along with traditional paper invitations, to provide and then in turn, gather, this information.)

How will the [party] be structured and organized? How will it play out? (After much analysis and deliberation, we decided on a camping-themed party at our house, including a camp cookout and camp-style games, a singalong, a sleepover with several girls, and a family-friendly brunch in the morning.)

When should the [party] be revised or adjusted? (Well, once it’s over, we can’t redo a birthday party, but we can use what we learn to help us plan another bash next year. In the meantime, we’ll know we need to bend a little mid-fiesta if we pay attention to our guests and adjust the party plans as we go to make sure they all have a good time.)

According to Don Clark, one of the best ways to think of ADDIE is as a “guide for gaining direct intuitive insight into a problem“. ADDIE as a generic process comes in pretty handy for solving a variety of problems. In this case, the problem is what to do for the birthday party. Of course, ADDIE’s more technical implications relate to the actual process of instructional design. We’ll get there.

“D” is for DESIGN.

With that in mind, and continuing the metaphor, it’s clear that with our party date just two weeks away, we’ve entered the all-important design phase.

Now it’s time to get serious. No more brainstorming. Analysis is complete. It’s time to think through every detail. Now we know what our goals are, and we’ve come up with some broad ideas that will help us meet those goals. But now we have to get down to the design of the thing. What do the answers to the questions we asked ourselves in the analysis phase actually look like? How will the guests experience what we want them to experience?

The metaphor of ADDIE as party planner really starts to align here. Planning a party isn’t technical in the same way that instructional design is technical, but design is design is design, and at the end of the day, what we’re talking about here when we talk about design is an incredibly well-thought-out plan for impacting the experience of others in a particular context.

Connie Malamed, “The eLearning Coach,” says that a good instructional designer must be able to imagine him or herself as the the learner or the audience. Just as an instructional designer thinks of the way in which each choice made in the design phase is going to impact the end user or learner, and whether those choices are going to help achieve the real goals of the project, a party planner has to think about the guests’ experience at the party, and whether the choices made in planning are going to pan out and say, “Welcome! Have a great time here!”

So, I start gathering information. First, I take inventory. What camping-related gear do we have in the shed? Okay. Good. What can we use for the party? As I find it, I put it on the list. We’ll use the big yellow tent. We’ll use the sleeping bags. The lantern. The small barbecue pit will serve as a mini fire pit. We can use the long skewers to roast marshmallows. We’ve got a karaoke machine. We can use that for our singalong. We have friends with instruments. They can bring those, too.

Then, I research. I look up recipes. I choose the ones we’ll use. What kinds of camp-themed party decorations and games are out there? How much do they cost? Where can I get them? How long will they take to ship? I start making lists. I bookmark websites. I decide on a color theme. I decide on a cake design. I choose crafts and activities. I order stuff. (Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. That’s the “D” for “Development.” We’ll save that “D” for next time.)

Finally, I walk around, looking at the space available. Just as an instructional designer should walk through the user’s experience with a course, as a party planner, I’ve got to walk through the logistics. How will people enter? How will they be greeted? Where will they put their things? Where will the children sleep? Where will we set up the games? As I map out everything from entry to food and refreshment placement to traffic flow, I’m creating a design intended to meet the goals we determined way up front in the analysis phase.

However, and this is an important distinction to make, the beauty of the design phase is that it allows for modification. Design itself answers questions. If a high-level idea or intention considered in the analysis phase doesn’t pan out once the designer starts designing, the agreed-upon parameters of the design itself can help to shape the decisions made. We’ve still got to answer the questions and meet the goals, but design allows us to figure out exactly how to fit what we need to fit into the space/time/budget we’ve got to work with.

In instructional design, that might mean that the designer is working with a certain audience, or technological restrictions, or budget restrictions, or a timeline. For our party, it might mean that we can only fit six little girls and their sleeping bags comfortably inside our tent, or that the punch bowl will fit on the big table but not the small one.

The considerations made and attended to in the all-important design phase will inevitably drive the end-user experience. And that’s what DESIGN is all about.

Once the design plan is in place, and every consideration has been made, the designer can develop and implement the plan. But we’ll save that for another day. Right now, I’ve got a sleepy, very excited almost-seven-year-old to put to bed.



Austin, I. (2011). Instructional Design Basics – ADDIE Analysis. Retrieved from

Clark, D. (2011, September 26). ADDIE. Retrieved from Big Dog and Little Dog’s Performance Juxtaposition:

Hodell, C. (2011). ISD From the Ground Up: A No-Nonsense Approach to Instructional Design. Chelsea, MI: Sheridan Books, Inc.

Malamed, C. (2012). 10 Qualities of the Ideal Instructional Designer. Retrieved from The eLearning Coach:




Introducing ADDIE, the Mother of Instructional Design Models

Ruh Row

We Have a Problem

It’s been a while since I blogged on this site. I’ve been busy designing instruction. So busy, in fact, that I completely forgot how to log in, how to get to my control panel and my dashboard, how to embed videos and other media…

After I initially set up this blog as part of my graduate coursework on instructional design and technology, I felt like an expert. The process itself was challenging, but once I’d been successful a few times, I really felt like I “knew my stuff.”

And then a few months passed. And then a few more months passed. And then I started to initiate this post, and suddenly, I drew a complete blank. See, we’ve got our blogs attached to websites hosted by an outside source. We’ve got WordPress installed for blogging ease, and we’ve got the whole thing linked to Moodle so we can show off our instructional design prowess with real online courses!

If you’re a fellow blogger or an instructional designer, it’s likely that none of that sounds very complicated to you. If, however, you’re a novice or a casual reader, you might get the sense that using multiple tools requires a bit of know-how.

Well, it does. It’s not complicated, but it’s a lot of information to remember. And after several months on hiatus, it’s a lot to retrieve.

When Good Instructional Design Works

This brings me to the topic at hand: instructional design.

Thankfully, my previous instructor was an expert at instructional design, and my university makes previous courses readily available. So all I had to do was go back to good ol’ EDU520, pull up the instructions for initiating our websites and our first blog posts, review some of the materials, and voila! Presto! I’m in, and I’m blogging!

The video here is six minutes long. If you’ve got six minutes to spare and an interest in instructional design, it’s worth the watch:


A is for Analyze

But just in case six minutes is too much to ask, here’s the gist:

Good instructional design doesn’t just center around transmitting tons of information to unwitting “learners.” Rather, it should follow a process that starts with analyzing what information learners actually need to achieve their goals. If you’re not familiar with the ADDIE model, that’s the “A for Analyze.”

The ADDIE Model

While the exact origins of the ADDIE model aren’t clear, it’s usefulness is. It’s not enough to just throw a lump of information at a learner. It’s not even enough to break the information down into digestible pieces, or to create fun or engaging activities to help the learner digest the giant beefsteak of information.

Rather, an instructional designer ought to think first:

  • Who’s receiving the information?
  • What are the desired outcomes?
  • What information is needed to achieve those outcomes?

By first ANALYZING what to teach and to whom you’ll be teaching it, an instructional designer can filter down to the essentials, the information needed to accomplish the goal. It sounds pretty simple, but it’s not automatic. It takes conscious analysis, a process, deliberate and critical thinking.

Since my previous instructor likely followed this process and actually thought about what bits of information would get me to this page in the most efficient way, here I am. It took me ten minutes of review, and I’m up and running. What if she hadn’t thought about it? What if she’d just thrown the whole book, WordPress for Dummies at me, and said, “Here’s all the information you need. Go!” Well, I wouldn’t be posting right now. I’d be reading. I’d be frustrated. I’d be searching.

Analysis is critical. It’s a logical and needed first step. And it starts with “A,” so it’s place at the beginning of the instructional design process seems natural, doesn’t it?


ADDIE in Practice

I mentioned that I’d been busy designing instruction. I have. I’ve spent almost two years on the first two steps of ADDIE – Analysis and Design. I’m designing an interactive reading intervention for struggling middle school readers. The theme is the hero’s journey through world history, and the objectives include basically all of the standards from all of the states, plus the Common Core.

If I hadn’t spent a year on the analysis phase of ADDIE, carefully combing the standards for the most critical skills and objectives and the most important pieces of information contained within those standards, as well as deciphered the best examples from world history and the history of human storytelling to use to help learners actually acquire those skills, as well as carefully analyzing the learners themselves, including their strengths, weaknesses, and learning tendencies, well, I’d be writing an encylopedia of the world as well as a dissertation on learning standards and objectives that would make this exceptionally long sentence look like a dot on a star in the galaxy somewhere in the universe.

A! A! What Is It Good For, Anyway?

In short, analysis prevented me from overloading my audience with unnecessary information. It prevented me from making assumptions about what they know or don’t know or how they learn. It prevented me from trying to cram the history of the world into an interactive format. I had to think about how learners would experience the program, and what they ought to take from it. This type of thinking really narrows down the field and makes designing quality instruction possible.

Over the next several weeks, I’ll be blogging more about the ADDIE model, how it has impacted me as a learner, and how I hope it will impact the learners who will be experiencing the curriculum I’m designing.

Until next time…



Culatta, R. (2011). Instructional Design. Retrieved August 30, 2012, from ADDIE Model:

Gustafson, K. L., & Branch, R. M. (2002). Survey of Instructional Development Models. ERIC Clearinghouse on Information and Technology.

Hodell, C. (2011). ISD From the Ground Up: A No-Nonsense Approach to Instructional Design. Chelsea, MI: Sheridan Books, Inc.

Molenda, M. (2003, May/June). In Search of the Elusive ADDIE Model. Retrieved August 30, 2012, from Indiana University:


On the Horizon for

The term “educational technology” implies something special, complex, even mysterious. The term somehow distinguishes technology from the organic process of teaching and learning.  To the novice, “ed tech” can feel a little like a secret society or an exclusive club.

But educational technology doesn’t have to be a mystery, and it doesn’t need a secret society. The reality is that we’ve been using educational technology since the dawn of society. The ancient Greeks first defined “techne” as “applying knowledge systematically to the practical art of instruction” (Texas Center for Educational Technology, University of North Texas, 2010). Wait. Doesn’t that mean basically the same thing as teaching?

Somehow, along the way, we’ve separated technology from education. And now that we’ve arrived in the 21st century, there seems to be a whole movement directed at marrying the two again.

But in the 21st century, we’re not just talking about computers anymore, at least not as stand-alone machines capable of conducting complex calculations, processing words, or organizing files.

What educational technology means today is the ability to network and share information through the Internet. It’s the collaborative creation of connected content and the interactive exploration of information. It’s the process of teaching and learning. It’s “techne.

Whether it’s a piece of chalk, a computer, or one of the millions of educational apps out there, educational technology is simply the creation, use, and management of the tools that help us learn.

Take a look at this presentation on the history of educational technology, compiled by the University of North Texas:

History Of Educational Technology

In the 21st century, Don Tapscott’s assessment that being a passive consumer of information is passé, and that the wave of the future is all about linking, molding, and shaping our collective knowledge is what educational technology is really all about (Tapscott, 2009). Its implications are broad, almost too broad to comprehend.


Finding a Focus for

So what does all this mean for the future of Why does this site exist, and what is it supposed to do? The answers aren’t complicated, really. To sum it up in a word, the horizon of is all about participation.

When you visit Facebook or Twitter or some other social networking site, you read content, share content, and create content. When you take an online course, you read information, share information, and create new information as part of your class discussions or assignments. The ultimate manifestation of the goals of would be that visitors to this site do the same.


Read, share, create.  Connect, collaborate, envision.

To be fair, the vision isn’t really all that unique. The web is starting to get pretty chock-full of sites with similar ideas about using educational technology as a tool for networked learning. A simple Google search will return literally millions of websites related to the matter of how to best incorporate technology into teaching practices, into the classrooms, into educational methods and philosophies. Get a SMART Board! Write a blog! Build a classroom wiki!



So what makes different, and where are we going from here? What’s on the horizon for

1. By January 2012, will play a role in linking the online world of ed tech by providing comprehensive yet categorized resources for students, teachers, parents, and other educational professionals interested in participating in the future of education, both on the site’s main pages and also within its blog posts.

2. By May 2012, will incorporate a particular focus on the following:

  • School Reform – Educational Policies and Ideas that Make Sense and Change
  • Learning Unlocked – Neuroplasticity and the Changing Brain of the Smartest Generation
  • 21st Century Projects – Success Stories and Inspiration for Progressive Practices in Collaborative Learning

3. By December 2012, will expand its Moodle offerings to include courses and discussion forums relevant to the smartest generation. What’s new and why does it matter?

Most importantly, will continue to advocate for learners. Just like so many other established institutions, education is primed and ready for dramatic and positive change. It’s time to stop just talking about it and really let students drive that change.

We aren’t sitting around developing tools that fit neatly into our existing infrastructures anymore. Because 2.0 tools connect us in new, even revolutionary ways, we have unprecedented power to change both the game and its outcome.

Technology, economy, environment, ethics… Our modern opportunity to harness and explore our collective knowledge about the world means that creative solutions are more possible than ever before. If the net generation isn’t made of passive consumers of information anymore, then why should they be passive consumers of global education, economic, environmental, and ethical systems that need so much repair?

At, we intend to embrace and guide that change by empowering Generation 2.0 with networked knowledge and a bold new voice. Join the conversation. Share your story. Be the change.



Apple. (2011). Apple in Education. Retrieved October 18, 2011, from Apple, Inc.:

Tapscott, D. (2009). Grown Up Digital. New York: McGraw Hill.

Texas Center for Educational Technology, University of North Texas. (2010). History of Educational Technology. Retrieved October 18, 2011, from Texas Center for Educational Technology:


Moodle Noodle

Well, this week I explored Moodle for the first time. I felt like a pro through the first part of the process, installation.

And then things got hairy…


I started getting error messages like these every time I tried to log into my site:

Oh, the frustration!!!



It seemed that no matter how many open programs I closed, how many different avenues I took to get into my Moodle system admin role, or how many times I restarted my computer, these blasted errors were here to stay. In my frustration, trying to balance life, work, home, parenting, grocery shopping, and play dates, I skimmed and scanned the forums and missed my instructor’s advice to contact my domain host tech support.

I tried and tried again, and yet I continued to fail… Meanwhile, my colleagues were posting all these really neat screenshots of their explorations of Moodle, learning about all these features, and really starting to make things happen.

Still, my life online looked like this:

The horror was, well, horrible.

Finally, after spending most of the day watching my 23-year-old sister who has autism and trying unsuccessfully for hours and hours to get into my site, I decided to give it one last go this evening. What do you know? I was in!

I had been lucky enough to get a couple of hours on Moodle before the server errors kicked me out earlier in the week, so I quickly set to building and exploring. I scrolled through some of my colleagues’ posts, checked out their screenshots, and tried to absorb as much as I possibly could in record time.

It may not look like much to you, but my ability to insert these four features into my Moodle Sandbox demo course this evening gave me the most spectacular array of nerdy emotions. I ran the gamut.

Mostly, I was humbled. Over these past few weeks, I had been feeling PRETTY SMUG about my ability to quickly build, customize, and polish my new online presence. I felt like a genius when I figured out how to edit code to change the colors on my website. I felt like a pro when I learned how to embed images and videos into my posts, and even to edit their dimensions to suit my ideal layout.


This server error business is still a mystery to me. One thing is certain: I will never, ever, ever assume that a totally unfamiliar technology is going to work perfectly for me just because I want it to. Never again.

But here’s the thing. I can’t forget the overreaching theme and mission of this site, even in a tech rant like this. We are here to LEARN. The awesome thing about technology is that I already know that within just a few days or weeks, or maybe months at most, I’ll have this Moodle thing down pat. I’ll be building an online classroom where we can connect and share our knowledge, and it will not only function, it will function elegantly.

That’s the beauty of open source, user manuals, and a philosophy on life that goes something like this:

Try. Try again.

And just in case you, too, have suffered through your first encounter with a powerful new technology anytime recently, here are a few resources to whet your whistle and rebuild your faith that technology can indeed be harnessed for the common good.


The World of Moodle

The Mohnkern Learning Center — Powered by Moodle

Transitioning to PolyLearn (Moodle)


Maximizing the Home-School Connection

Research clearly shows that students whose parents are actively involved with their children’s schools are more likely to stay in school, to exhibit better performance on standardized assessments of basic skills and knowledge, and to attend and graduate from college.

But striking a balance between the needs of students, teachers, and parents has been historically challenging, especially in public education.

The pendulum swings in all directions. For some teachers, it’s a struggle to get parents on board, to earn their trust, or to gain their interest in the education of their children. For others, the demands of uber-involved “helicopter parents” can be overwhelming at best, and overbearing at worst. Some students want their parents to be as active a part of their school lives as possible. Others cringe at the thought of mom or pop showing up to staple bulletin boards, stuff envelopes, deliver baked goods, or worse, attend the dreaded parent-teacher conference.

Still, we know that students learn best in a community that involves their families on a healthy level. Parents who understand the expectations in the school setting are more likely to reinforce those expectations at home. Overworked teachers, especially in today’s underfunded schools, legitimately need the support, and sometimes the elbow grease, of parents who are willing to volunteer their time, efforts, and money to help make projects, access to first rate materials, and a sense of school pride a reality.

Check out this video:

The bottom line is that “good communication between parents and teachers has many benefits. When parents and teachers share information, children learn more and parents and teachers feel more supported. Good communication can help create positive feelings between teachers and parents” (Kreider, Mayer, & Vaughan, 1999).

The good news is that today’s tools, specifically technology tools, can help make the home-school connection a reality, with less cost and effort for all involved, than ever before.

“Innovative technologies such as cell phones, e-mail, and websites provide schools with new tools for reaching middle school parents and keeping them informed about their children. Traditional methods of communication such as face-to-face meetings have been found to be effective (Decker & Decker, 2003); however, these methods require time that both working parents and teachers may lack” (Rogers & Wright).

The days of the class newsletter being sufficient are over. “Educators are often very good at mass communications via newsletters, calendars, letters, and handbooks, but mass communications are not effective in shaping or changing attitudes” (Rogers & Wright). What we need to see more of isn’t a folder stuffed with impersonal, though informative, letters home. What we need to see is communication from school to home and home to school moving at the speed of communication in most other areas of our lives.

When my friend in Rhode Island applied for a new job, I knew about it within minutes, thanks to social networking. When my boss needs something and I’m not in the office, well, an email gets the message to me and enables me to deliver the results the boss needs, on the fly. In fact, I can access documents on the major projects of most of my colleagues from anywhere in the world, thanks to Google Docs. So why, as a parent, shouldn’t I be able to access my child’s curriculum? Of course I should. And technology makes that possible.

The school website can be a key component of creating a legitimate, instantaneous home-school connection. “Electronic communication formats such as websites give families access to homework information and requires little time or effort to access” (Decker & Decker, 2003). Use of school websites to provide this type of information is on the rise. And in true Web 2.0 spirit, teachers and administrators aren’t the only ones generating content for school websites.

“Increasingly, school Web sites are used to convey a broad range of school information. Students often become involved with both the technology and the content of the Web site and may work together with teachers to create and maintain the site” (Graham-Clay).

At the end of the day, most educators and parents both have at least reasonable access to a wealth of tools which can help to support the development of a speedy, open dialogue and the rapid and broad sharing of important information.

With the amazing tools available today, the old-school notes home just aren’t cutting it anymore.

For some great ideas, check out these links on bringing the home-school connection into the 21st century:

21st Century Home-School Connection

Tips for Teachers: Using Technology to Connect with Parents



Connecting Home and (2010, August 29). Retrieved from YouTube:

Dwyer, L. (2010, March 19). Connecting the Schoolhouse to Your House. Retrieved September 20, 2011, from Good Education:

Graham-Clay, S. (n.d.). Communicating with Parents: Strategies for Teachers. Retrieved September 20, 2011, from The School Community Journal:

Kreider, H., Mayer, E., & Vaughan, P. (1999, May). Helping Parents Communicate Better with Schools. Retrieved September 20, 2011, from Harvard Family Research Project:

MED 7305. (2011, January). Using Technology to Communicate with Parents. Retrieved September 20, 2011, from Parent Communication Project:

Rogers, R., & Wright, V. (n.d.). Assessing Technology’s Role in Communication between Parents and Middle Schools. Retrieved September 20, 2011, from Electronic Journal for the Integration of Technology in Education, Vol. 7: