What is Good?

Not a Good Sign

I look at many things in edtech land and education in general and I am constantly puzzled by what people perceive as being good. That may sound pretentious and it may very well be. In my defense, I’m far more critical of my own work. I realize more and more that it’s because I compare what I create, and what others create, to the products of professionals. That goes for my photos, print design, video work, presentations etc. I also try to make sure my idea of fun doesn’t get warped either. It’s way to easy to say “This is fun . . . for school” or simply to think this activity is much better than a worksheet. Seth Godin does a good job explaining this concept in his post We don’t compare ourselves to other airport restaurants.

So how do you get this mindset going? It’s fairly obvious but it’s more than just exposing yourself to great media/presentations/whatever produced by professionals, YOU have to consciously analyze it. What makes it good? What makes it different from what you’re making/doing? How do they do X? Why do they do Y? Just being exposed does nothing. If you’re not thinking and referencing your own sphere of context it’s useless.

The Internet is full of amazing things and people. Find the best and compare.

So here’s how I tried to get that kind of comparison going in the class I’m teaching. Last night we discussed the venerable first week newsletter/syllabus1. We did this by looking at the following k12 examples.

In pairs they broke down all the documents in terms of content they liked/disliked and design elements they liked/disliked. There was a crappy Word table to help with this, although interestingly many opted just to write on paper. We then talked about the results as a class and compared what we liked/disliked.

Finally, I showed them some professionally designed newsletters. We talked about the elements in these documents and how they compared to the educational versions.

I should have let this comparison come more naturally and segued better between the two. I’d planned it out better but rushed the transition. This was due, in part, to a strange insistence on my part to have them tell me why our society would bother with copyright at all. It took a while to get there. Reminder to self- this is not a copyright course. Stay on topic.

Overall, a pretty good class with a fair amount of paired work. I still spoke too much and probably gave too much information but I asked some decent questions and I was happy with the student responses. I still need to work on getting more participation from all students.


1 I realize the whole idea of sending home paper copies of anything is somewhat dated but many people still like this and it’s a good way for this class to address ideas around desktop publishing and design elements that’ll matter for lots of other things.

Comments on this post

  1. Jenny said on September 3, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    One of my admin grad classes did this same thing with resumes and it was the most helpful thing I’ve ever done with my resume. Your point about the bar we set for ourselves is a good one. One that I need to remember.

    • Tom said on September 3, 2009 at 8:48 pm

      There’s probably a happy line there that lets you grow and still be happy with what you’re able to do but I never end up in that place. Eternally unhappy until I’m forced to abandon whatever I’m doing because time has simply run out.

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