The Nifty Factor Never Trumps Instructional and Information Design Principles: The Blizzard of New Technology Tools, Toys, and Wonders Must Attend to Timeworn Basics

By Keith Hopper and Laura Palmer.

Published by Ubiquitous Learning: An International Journal

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Exciting new technologies present themselves at a rate that seems exponential, and many seem to promise exciting, if not revolutionary, applications in teaching and learning. But Dr. Thomas Reeves (University of Georgia) cautioned us years ago about “Technology’s Big Lie,” that “technology makes learning fast, easy, and automatic.” There is no question that emerging communications and information technologies, particularly the mobile class of technologies, will create an ever-widening sphere of applications and affordances in education. But there is also no question that the mountains of research over the past 100 years on teaching, learning, human cognition, pedagogy, and instructional media will not evaporate by any degree of “nifty and new” in technology. Learning is work, and there is no sidestepping this fundamental reality. This does not mean that learning cannot be exciting, joyful, challenging, collaborative, and facilitated by fabulous new technologies—but authentic learning must always attend to Dewey’s sage insight that “To know is to do.” Technology can certainly assist, but never replace it. Moreover, we seem to be witnessing a widespread trend that openly denigrates time-proved, hard won knowledge about designing and delivering instruction with media. Similarly, the bedrock principles of technical communication and message design will remain essential in our new world of digital marvels.
Let us innovate, experiment, and create with joy and enthusiasm—but let us do this as scholars, critically seeking evidence and best practices, not as technicians or toy makers. We must rely on science and evidence,as professional designers, and not on marketing hyperbole, intuition, or anecdotes.

Keywords: Instructional Design, Principles of Cognition, Foundations of Message Design, Document Design, Outsmarting the wily “Nifty” Factor

Ubiquitous Learning: An International Journal, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp.25-36. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 767.468KB).

Dr. Keith Hopper

Associate Professor, Graduate Program in Information and Instructional Design, Southern Polytechnic State University, Marietta, GA, USA

Keith Hopper earned his doctorate in instructional technology from Georgia State University after a career as a health professions educator. He is the instructional design-technology specialist for the Southern Polytechnic Information Design and Communication graduate program. His research focus is technology integration in higher education and the medical industry.

Dr. Laura Palmer

Assistant Professor, Graduate Program in Information Design and Communication, Southern Polytechnic State University, Marietta, GA, USA

Laura Palmer is an assistant professor in the Information Design & Communication program at Southern Polytechnic State University and the Senior Associate at The Usability Center at Southern Polytechnic. Her interests include media theory and technologies, information literacy and its implications for pedagogy, and the use of quantitative methodologies in the humanities.