Over at Full Potential a week back, we were talking about the importance of self-teaching and team-teaching at the start of a new project to make sure we have a working understanding of the job at hand. Makes sense, right? Surely you need to know what you’re talking about in order for your work to be functional in the context it will be used in. You would think so.
When you think how many industries there are out there, and how many roles and tasks are at play in each industry… well, that’s a lot of information to take in. But if, as an Instructional Designer, you don’t take the time to understand the actual content that you’re working with, you’re doing both yourself and your client a real disservice.
Which brings us to my Sesame Street approach to new projects. My favourite clips growing up were ones that explained processes, or how things are made – for example, how a jar of PB is made (“it takes a lot of little nuts to make a jar of peanut butter!”). More recently, I saw an episode where Elmo was learning how the postal service works. When I think I have a decent grasp on new content, I consider how I would explain it to a kid, or someone with little working knowledge of the content. I don’t actually go find a kid, but I think about how I’d explain it, and fill in any knowledge blanks that fall out of my imaginary conversation.
I’m perfectly comfortable with the idea that I don’t know EVERYTHING. In fact, I find it challenging – and I’m often surprised at how seemingly ‘unsexy’ industries or ‘boring’ content turns out to be anything but.
I’ll leave you with the Sesame Street Clip where they go to the crayon factory to learn how to make crayons. It’s my absolute favourite.