SPOTLIGHT: Berlin Fang

Berlin Fang

Berlin Fang (M.S., 2005), Director of Instructional Design at Abilene Christian University, received more than his Masters degree from IDD&E.  He took with him the sage advice and voices of several faculty members.  Berlin shares these words of wisdom in his columns found at  .

Recognize These:

  • “If technology is the solution, what is the problem?” (Dr. Don Ely).
  • “When you are using the word ‘need’, are you describing a problem, or a solution?” (Dr. Phil Doughty).
  • “It’s not a technology problem. It’s due to quirks of human nature.”(Dr. Alexander Romiszowski).

Berlin looks back on his IDD&E experience as influential in not only his career but life:  

IDD&E has successfully “brainwashed” me into a systemic and systematic thinker and problem solver. IDD&E taught me to look at the world around to see “what is”, think imaginatively “what should be”, and then apply my learning to bridge the gap between the two. That’s not just some ADDIE model for instructional design. It’s the way I look at the world and our place in it.   

When asked what he hears most when interacting with faculty as an instructional designer: 

When faculty interact with me as an instructional designer, their sentences often start with three words: “How do I…” It is often related to the use of our learning management system, or some other kind of instructional technology, but during our discussion, I almost inevitably find myself talking using the three “M”s I learned from Dr. Tiffnay Koszalka:  medium, method, message. In my mind, a problem in learning is rarely related to just the technology, or just the instructional method, or any other single factor closed upon itself. Rather, a change in any of the factors has a ripple effect, causing other changes in the system to happen. I also speak the language of root cause of problems and presenting problems, thanks to the courses I took at IDD&E.

What he finds to be the biggest misconception of faculty regarding the use of instructional technology:

I find it interesting that sometimes faculty avoid technology altogether, or when they switch to a particular technology, they could rely too much on it (at least initially) to do everything exactly the way they want it, when some written or verbal instructions will do the trick they expect from the new tools they have learned. Technology does certain things well, but people do other things well. We have to work with our faculty to negotiate the “job allocation” between people and tools. I think we as instructional designers should show empathy and sensitivity when working with teachers. We have to show we care about them and what they do before we can get them excited over the technologies that we think will make their teaching effective, efficient and appealing.  We as instructional designers sometimes work in the interesting territories between education and technology, and we make an impact by helping faculty identify and articulate their needs (Sorry, Dr. Doughty!), and by finding the solutions that work best for them and their students. Also we could actually get communities started, to allow faculty help each other while we play the roles of organizers or marketers of what they do well!

Berlin shared this advise to the 2017 IDD&E graduates:

Working with subject matter experts is one of the most fulfilling things one can ask for. You will find yourself in the presence of very bright people and their brilliance rubs on to you! Some of them may have their eccentricities, but I would embrace that any time compared to the prospect of having to work in more boring or mundane circumstances. Most professors also treat others with dignity and respect, which is also a reason I enjoy what I do. Learn the fundamental principles of instructional design, development, and evaluation. Make them part of your DNA. Though it is also important to learn particular technological tools, you will find others in your future workplaces who can use them better, or you have sites like to teach you. However, once you graduate, few people would teach you about learning theories, systems thinking, needs analysis, cost-benefit analysis, instructional project management, the diffusion of innovations, instructional evaluation, and quality control. Spend your time there and you will find that they will help you throughout your career.

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