Planning with the “Learning Designer” Tool

Lesson plan for “Your digital footprint” Planning my Micro-teaching activity

The last few weeks have been extremely busy! One of my tasks to complete was the microteaching activity for the “first steps” MOOC. The actual Microteaching presentation took place last Friday, the 22nd of June, and since I am still reflecting on the experience, I thought it’s not too late to post my thoughts on it.

For this activity I chose to design a lesson plan for a session I would like to deliver to my students in the coming academic year, entitled: “Your digital footprint”. I may modify the title a bit to capture the students’ attention but the aims of the session will still be to

  • Provide a space to the learners for reflection around their digital identity and the trails they leave in cyberspace;
  •  Introduce the idea of the level of control learners can have on what exists on the web about them and how to deal with the uncertainty.

Up until now, I would jump straight to the PowerPoint to use it as a blank canvas for inspiration while designing an Information Literacy session. Ideas, activities and structure were gradually shaped as I was filling in the slides with images, activities and colours.

In this case I decided to do things differently and experiment with a tool called the “Learning Designer”. I had the opportunity to attend a workshop delivered by Patricia The learning Designer applicationCharlton and Liz Masterman, in which all participants brought our thinking about learning designs and lesson planning, and of course used the “Learning Designer” tool (LD in short).

Why I opted for the “Learning Designer” tool

Pedagogic Approach

Despite my long experience in helping Higher Education students to become information literate citizens, I consider myself as a new professional in teaching, mainly because I haven’t been trained to be a teacher. The tool helped me to ensure that the learning activities were designed with pedagogies in mind. It kept me focused on designing with pedagogy theories in mind.


The tool proved to be very useful for designing a lesson plan in a more structured fashion. I need to admit I like structures because they make expectations and processes clearer. Librarians have been debating on modelling and whether the provision of Information Literacy structures and models is useful or not.  The tool’s aim is designing for learning.

Designing for Learning

This tool helped me retain focus on the learner throughout the design of the session. Instead of only thinking how I am going to teach something, my starting point was how the learners will learn and what kind of activities will ensure that they are learning.

Aligning goals, activities and reflection

While keeping the learner at the centre of my session design, one of my main considerations is how to ensure that my anticipated learning outcomes will be met. The tool helped me align these outcomes to activities that would offer a fertile space for reflection. For each of the activities the tool provided alternative ideas, enhancing the balance between acquisition, inquiry, practice, production and discussion.

Group activity

For example if my initial thought was to provide space for a group discussion, the LD would explain where the emphasis is and how students would use digital tools to get the most out of the activity and interact with digital literacies.

I also realised that a good way for the learners to feel that the designed session was made for them and therefore it’s up to them to get the most out of it, was to provide opportunities for reflection even if that meant we needed to reduce the amount of content.

Get a visual representation of the final product

It is obvious I am in favour of visual aids. I found it very useful that the LD provides a separate screen called “Analysis” where you can see a visual representation of the learning experience.

The “Analysis” provides a graphic representation of the amount of opportunities for acquisition, inquiry, practice, production and discussion the whole session offers the learner.

Visual Analysis of the Learning experience for the "Digital Footprint" lesson plan

Visual Analysis of the Learning experience for the “Digital Footprint” lesson plan

While designing various activities I kept checking whether the opportunities for inquiry and practice were not enough so that I could go back and modify the session by adding more interactivity and space for production (in this case production is the reflection worksheet).

I realised that in order to push the “one-size-fits-all” part to its minimum, I needed to increase the opportunities to bring learners together in groups (social) and for them to "one size fits all"practice individual activities. In theory, it does make sense but how can I minimize the grey “one-size-fits-all” area to meet the needs of mature students who are less confident in group discussions and expect to learn through more didactic approaches of teaching?

Another interesting area was estimating the teacher’s preparation time. The LD can estimate how much time the instructor needs to create the session from scratch and how much they may need if they reuse learning materials. In my “Digital footprint” example, according to the tool I would need 38 hours 12 minutes to prepare everything from scratch or 5 hours and 48 minutes if I was reusing learning materials.

I have to admit that this is another grey area. What do we mean by “reusing learning materials”? Are these our own materials we recycle to serve our purpose or are they OER (Open Educational Resources) which we need to find, evaluate, repurpose and reuse?

If the latter is the case, I actually needed more that the estimated 5 h 12 min to find, repurpose and reuse OER for the specific lesson plan. I also needed more than the estimated time to create the lesson plan from scratch and I am still in the process of refining it. To be honest though, I spent some of my time to get familiar with the software and make sense of the terminology.

Engaging with Open Academic Practice

The LD is an Open Educational Resource (OER) and one of the aims of the creators was to enable educators to share Technology-enhanced learning (TEL) designs and to “complement the value of Open Education Resources”. I am not quite certain how I can share the design of my lesson plan via the LD community but I would like to release it as OER, as a contribution towards my short-term SCORE fellowship.

Designing technology-enhanced learning (TEL)

Talking about digital footprint and digital identity I wouldn’t of course plan a session without engaging learners with digital literacies and technology!

Some of the TEL activities I included are:

  • A web-based reflection worksheet on Google docs
  • A wed-based bookmarking platform for websites only2clicks . Learners will be given a link to visit an online platform where I have saved a collection of website for them to start searching their online identity and footprint.
only 2clicks Bookmarking platform

only 2clicks Bookmarking platform

Detail of plp website for Learners to search their Digital Footprint. The note pops-up when they hover their mouse over the sitcky note icon, to explain why this site was chosen for.

Detail of plp website for Learners to search their Digital Footprint. The note pops-up when they hover their mouse over the sitcky note icon, to explain why this site was chosen for.

The content will include:

  • YouTube and TED videos,
  • Flickr images, and
  • other case studies from online newspapers,
  •  infographics shown statistics and
  • tutorials explaining privacy settings.

What to pay attention to:

  • The current version was designed to serve the needs of the Further Education (FE) curriculum.  Although I practice in Higher Education (HE) I found the tool very useful. You can specify the level of the session you create on the properties screen and choose your desired one from a scale of 1-8. For my Lesson plan on “digital footprint” in the HE context, I chose a level 4, bearing in mind that some of my students will be undergraduates in their first module of studies, without necessarily any prior experience in HE studies.
  • To open the .exe file and use the tool you need to navigate where you have saved the file and find the actual .exe within a folder called bin.

For example:

C:\Documents\Learning Designer\\ldfev1\bin

  • You will need to download two more files in order to export your lesson plan as a word document. Make sure you save both files inside the “bin” folder.
  • To use the LD tool make sure you regularly save your work and at the end you export your file before closing the application. (This will have an extension .ldse)
  • In the “Downloads” page of the Learning Designer Support Environment there is an important disclaimer in bold fonts; the tool is still in prototype form and some of the elements may not work properly. In my case, I lost the actual Lesson plan of my session or for some reason the application cannot open it. I was lucky because I had exported the plan in a word document and had taken many screenshots for my microteaching presentation.  It would be fairly easy to re-model my plan by transferring data from my document. So I would personally say that it’s definitely worth playing with the tool but as the Project team advises don’t use it for any work that you can’t afford to lose.”

In my next post I will be talking about the actual microteaching experience and the feedback received from participants.

Resources and further reading:

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9 Responses to Planning with the “Learning Designer” Tool

  1. jennymackness says:

    Hi Eleni – given that I was a participant in the session in which you presented your microteach – this is very interesting. Your post has prompted me to think of two things

    1. Anything that helps a new teacher keep the focus on the the learner must be a plus, because inevitably and naturally those learning to teach tend to focus on how they are teaching rather than what the learners are learning. It took me quite a while to realise that my teaching wasn’t about me and my teaching, but about what learners were learning.

    2. But I have a slight (maybe a bit more than slight) reservation about over planning. I have always been a ‘planner’ – like to have everything thought through in advance – but in reality this is not possible and I now think that a good teacher is one who can, if needs must, dump the plan and ‘go with the flow. Sometimes the learners know better than the teachers where they need to go and my recent research with my colleagues Roy Williams, Simone Gumtau and Regina Karousou, convinces me that emergent learning is to be encouraged 🙂

    You can see that your post has got me thinking 🙂 Thanks!

    • elenizazani says:

      🙂 Hi Jenny – I am glad the post generated some thoughts. 🙂
      I find emergent learning and emergent delivery of a session much more interesting and challenging that a sterilised planned session that nothing goes out of schedule. So yes, I can really understand your reservations. For me the planning process is about giving me ideas of the content, and ways of making the content engaging. It also helps me finding ways of encouraging emergent learning in a way that the activities may guide the whole session in a diffrent path than the initial plan was about. The learners I am dealing with, are not always confident to express themselves, so I need to be proactive to encourage them to talk. I think planning helps me to also be proactive.

      To be honest, I am looking forward to running the session and understanding more what learners take out of it. I will keep blogging about this experience here.

  2. dianalaurillard says:

    This exchange prompts several reflections – and my first reaction is that it’s so valuable to be able to follow another teacher’s thinking on their learning design process. We don’t often get much insight into this, which is part of the reason we wanted to build the Learning Designer, to foster this kind of exchange of ideas. Thank you Eleni.
    Second reflection is on Jenny’s anxiety about planning, which is a common response to the tool. In fact we do plan our teaching – timetabling is probably the biggest imposition, alongside curriculum, which for most of us is defined well in advance. Pedagogy is about the only part we have some freedom to negotiate, and we need to protect that!. But even this is usually planned as some kind of lesson plan.
    And a great advantage of a plan is that it helps you keep in mind what you’re really trying to achieve, and gives you better preparation for the emergent properties of the session once you start engaging with the students. You may create a ppt, which is a plan in itself, but it’s wise to index it with hyperlinks to different sections, so you can jump around at will as the session progresses – though I rarely see teachers doing this.
    I certainly agree with Jenny that it’s important to have everything thought through in advance, but I’d argue that although you cannot expect it to work out exactly as planned, the plan is still extremely important. Project plans rarely work out as planned, but they’re still important, in all walks of life. Most professionals have a design and planning tool to help them. I think teachers deserve one too!

    • elenizazani says:

      Hi Diana, thanks for dropping by and for leaving a comment on the post. Actually the moment you left your comment I received your “Teaching as a Design Science” through the post … so plenty food for thought for the rest of the summer!

      As I mentioned in the post, I am in favour of models because they enable discussions among practitioners and reflection. I am also in favour of non-linear presentations, which are what I actually send to students in a handout format, at the end of a session, so that they can skip content as they wish.

      I enjoyed modelling my thoughts and the activities with the Learning Designer tool and I am really looking forward to seeing the tool evolving from the prototype phase to the next stage!

      • dianalaurillard says:

        Thank you Eleni – and I can imagine you giving me plenty of food for thought via any comments you have!

  3. Hi Eleni, you can literally show your digital footprint by using the Tagxedo website
    Here’s an example. I fed my Twitter feed through Tagxedo, but you could do it with any piece of tex t

    • elenizazani says:

      I loved your “digital footprint” word cloud! I like tagxedo and used it quite a lot in the past, so I will definitely try it so that I can give a visual example to students taken from my own digital footprint. The lesson is planned for next week and I am really looking forward to seeing how the plan created will work.

      On a different note, I am really excited with the new #edcMOOC we will be starting soon! I will be using this blog to reflect!

  4. Pingback: Assess and be assessed as a Scholar | Eleni's First Steps

  5. says:

    There is certainly a great deal to learn about this issue.
    I like all of the points you have made.

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