Goodbye TMI, Hello LIM (Less is More)
Too much information (TMI), or information overload, is a spot many curriculum designers find themselves in when preparing for a new workshop or course; even the most experienced person can hit TMI when he or she is taking on a new teaching topic. Sometimes before we are ready and able to narrow down the content we're using in a learning event, we need to gestate. And, there comes a time where we must make a decision, as painful as this can be; we must choose which content will stay and which will go.
If you have taken enough time to gestate, and are feeling stuck or overwhelmed by the amount of content you're facing, here is a strategy* to move on to the next step of streamlining your content.
- Number a page from 1 to 100, leaving room for a word or phrase next to each number.
- Title your page: What content is needed for ____________________? (Fill in the blank with the title of your workshop or course).
- Now, as quickly as possible, without thinking, list every piece of content (word, phrase or sentence) that is needed for this learning event. Do not stop until you have reached 100 (this is very important). Do repeat any item as often as needed to keep writing. This usually takes from 20 to 30 minutes, depending upon how fast you write.
- When you have finished your list of 100, read through and group your entries into categories or themes (you will usually find 4 to 7). A tip for categorizing: use abbreviations for the categories so that you can mark each entry easily.
- Now count the number of entries to determine how many pieces of content are within each theme. Calculate the percentage of each theme to the total, which gives you an idea of the percentage of time you'll need to spend on each theme. The entries themselves provide the sub-topics within each theme.
- A great way to wrap up your work is to take just five minutes and quickly write a summary paragraph that names what you noticed in completing this process.
Say goodbye to TMI and hello to LIM (Less is more!) Enjoy!
I would LOVE to hear what strategies you use when you are feeling stuck selecting the "right" content. How do you narrow down your content to avoid TMI?
Darlene Goetzman is the author of the new book, Dialogue Education Step by Step: A Guide to Designing Exceptional Learning Events. You can download a sample chapter here. She's also teaching a 6 week course that starts on October 8, 2012: Dialogue Education Step by Step: An Introduction (or Refresher) in Learning Design.
*This strategy is a variation of "Lists of 100", one of eighteen different techniques taught in Journal to the Self workshops: a journal writing workshop based on the work of Kathleen Adams. www.journaltherapy.com. Darlene is a Certified Instructor.