Online Course Criticism Blog

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Pink's "Design" Aptitude

The first of Pink's six "senses" that he believes necessary for success in the Conceptual Age is "design." Design, as depicted by Pink, centers around the facilitation of experience by the artful creation of artifacts.

In Chapters 1 and 6 of Constructing Educational Criticism of Online Courses I make a similar connection between instructional experiences and instructional environments:

In online courses the virtual environment is distributed across multiple venues and includes the instructional experience arising from the interactions each learner has with other learners,instructor(s), and materials. There is an instructional experience that is unique to each individual, but there is also an aggregate instructional experience arising from all the interactions of all the individuals in the course. Although online courses exist at moments in time, the instructional experience and the broader learning environment produce artifacts that can be studied (Thompson, 2005, p. 101).

Pink's view of design privileges the visual arts (although consider his exploration of a design problem from the 2000 presidential election that a good technical writer or instructional designer could've avoided). Design is presented as a marriage between utility and significance.

In Chapter 3 I consider design as the dichotomy between arrangement and intent (or "description vs. design") that Belland,Duncan, and Deckman (1991) suggest:
"Criticism may provide insight into the unifying theme(s) and design(s) which help to hold [online courses] together in all [their] richness and complexity" (Belland, Duncan, and Deckman, 1991, p.157).

While a connoisseur/critic may be successful, based only on her experience and observations, in applying Eisner’s (1985, 1991) basic approach by describing the arrangement of elements within (and including) the “whole” of an online course, providing counterpoised interpretational perspectives on the arrangement, evaluating the educational value of the arrangement, and articulating themes arising from the arrangement, she can only infer the designer’s intent unless she is able to obtain information directly from the designer (Thompson, 2005, pp. 36-37).

Pink's "portfolio" exercises for cultivating an aptitude for design can be applied in the context of instructional experiences and environments as well.

A few examples:

1) The admonition to carry a notebook in which particularly well-designed instructional environments and experiences are reflected upon.

2) The "Put It On the Table" exercise, in particular, would be a rich source of such reflections.

3) Finally, Karim Rashid's quote on p. 92 could easily refer to the artifacts and experiences of instruction as a focusing mantra:

"Experience is the most important part of living, and the exchange of ideas and human contact is all life really is. Space and objects can encourage increased experiences or distract from our experiences."


Belland, J., Duncan, J., and Deckman, M. (1991). Criticism as Methodology for Research in Educational Technology. In D. Hlynka and J. Belland (Eds.), Paradigms Regained: The Uses of Illuminative, Semiotic and Post-Modern Criticism as Modes of Inquiry in Educational Technology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

Eisner, E. (1985). The Educational Imagination: On the Design and Evaluation of School Programs. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company.

Eisner, E. (1991). The Enlightened Eye: Qualitative Inquiry and the Enhancement of Educational Practice. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company.

Thompson, K. (2005). Constructing Educational Criticism of Online Courses: A Model for Implementation by Practitioners. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. University of Central Florida: Orlando, FL.


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