It's official. Just as my first semesters of graphic design instruction flayed the visual world from invoices to billboards to cafe menus open to mental [and sometimes verbal] critique on type choice, color, hierarchy and balance and started the incessant running design commentary that whirs and clicks in the back of my mind every waking [and some sleeping] hours, effectively ending all hope of passively experiencing anything from movie-going to sending myself flowers, these first semesters of instructional design coursework have ruined me...again. I spent last Friday night in traffic school. By all accounts, a thoroughly mind-numbing experience. And I was prepared. Though I couldn't quite bring myself to continue reading the dissertation I was studying, I fully intended to flip through my Spanish vocab flashcards and just pretend to listen. I exchanged some light sarcastic banter with the young woman to my right and, as the instructor stood up to begin the class, settled into my best attempt at bored aloofness.
I might have lasted 90 seconds. While the comparison says nothing about the absolute levels of either, I still must have more curiosity than pride, because I instantly began to make mental note of instructional strategies, complementary theoretical frameworks, effective and ineffective interactions and uses of technology and classroom management. Soon it wasn't just mental notes I was taking. As if the fact was not firmly established by the last post, I am a NERD! But I was fascinated.
I wondered what kind of training the officer had received, whether the curriculum had been "designed" or simply pieced together, ad hoc, to fill a pressing need. I wondered whether the instructor was consciously following a dialectic track [presenting, validating and then debunking assumptions], whether he had been trained to provide advance organizers in the form of objectives and systematically build the new knowledge around them. I wondered if it would increase acceptance by certain target populations if the citations [different kind of citation, I was reminded later] for the various "statistics" referenced were included in the presentation. I wondered whether someone had designed the course for a mixed population of "offenders" so that as the instructor worked through the possible citations; speeding, failure to yield, unsafe following distance, etc. other class members [who hadn't been cited for a particular violation] would chime in, expressing their frustration at violators of that particular ordinance and their support for the ticketing of said individuals, thus reinforcing the corrective objectives of the instructor.
I listened, and scribbled, and puzzled for the whole 90 minutes.
Then I waited around till everyone had left and chatted with the instructor for another 20 minutes.
I may be ruined again, unable to simply attend a class for the rest of my life, but I left traffic school energized, optimistic, and busily criss-crossing connections to coursework, experiences, and plans for the future. Oh, and I am probably less likely to speed on 9th South.