In 1964 Marshall McLuhan identified a new phenomenon in Modern society. That year, McLuhan published Understanding Media, a book of essays that focus on the pervasive effects of new media on our lives. McLuhan predicted that the microchip would change how we conduct business, communicate, entertain ourselves, and how we learn.
He condensed the world-shaking prophecies into the dictum ‘The Medium is the Message.’ We are just now beginning to understand the implications of his words.
This phrase referred to the fact that media (as extensions of the human mind and body) are inextricable but independent from their content (human thought). While the words are esoteric, it has shaped my studies and practice of educational technology at San Diego State University.
As my studies progress and my skills grow, I have realized that the idea that “the medium is the message” is essential to instructional design. The constantly emerging media that educational technologists must adopt requires that we understand the full range of potential cognitive benefits and pitfalls associated with each medium.
We must now closely examine the ‘affordances’ (or unique, beneficial properties of a medium) and constraints (or limitations) inherent in each new technology that we use.
This secondary reading of McLuhan’s phrase leads me to a design process that I call ‘Conversion.’
Conversion, as a metaphor for design, describes the movement of content across media in a way that takes advantage of a new medium’s affordances and overcomes its constraints. It is a philosophy that requires an intense study of how individual mediums work, and how we can utilize media to achieve our goals.
Conversion is also grounded in contemporary research on cognitive science, as it allows us room to investigate how different media affect the process of information consumption and processing. Even more, this movement across media fits into this post-Post Modern world, where actions speak louder than data.
This essay will explore how the process of Conversion as design practice has shaped my coursework, and how it has structured my thoughts on instructional design.
People use the word ‘design’ in a number of absurd contexts. Thus, calling one’s self a ‘designer’ carries a bit of risk. Yet the basic tenets and qualities of good design became important to me during my time in the EdTec program.
Early on, I had the good fortune to hear Dr. Marcie Bober give a short speech in one of my classes. She told us that people too often focus on the technology in Educational Technology. In doing so, they overlook the importance of the root word, technologia. That Greek phrase refers to the ‘art’ or ‘skill’ of performing a task.
Thus, Educational Technology refers to the artful deployment of the techniques and methods of education. We are tasked with using our knowledge of information design, media design, cognitive science, and educational theory to create instruction that...