So what is a ‘creepy treehouse’ in learning design, and how do you know if you’ve built one?

When Jeremy Hunsinger talked with Ding on our podcast, he used the phrase ‘creepy treehouse’ to describe the act of ‘building a learning experience based on what we like, now on what our students may like’. This is a common problem – it’s very easy to base learning design on our own prior experiences of teaching and learning because we’re familiar with them.

The problem is often amplified when we’re designing online and blended learning, and even when we’re just using digital tools in our teaching. We tend to use the tools we’re comfortable with.


Positives and negatives of creepy treehouses

The important thing to remember is that we should be aiming to design learning experiences that provide the most appropriate way for learners to achieve the intended outcomes. Sometimes this will involve methods, pedagogies and technologies that are very familiar to us. But often there are a range of alternatives we could use that might be more appropriate.

On the positive side, it’s important we are confident in our learning design, just as it’s important we’re confident when we’re teaching. There’s nothing worse than going into a session feeling uncertain about whether the activities or technologies will work, so having confidence is critical.

But on the negative side, there is a danger we become stuck in our ways and lose the ability to innovate in our learning designs. If we just repeat how we were taught, we risk building experiences that are outdated and out of touch with our learners.


How to avoid building creepy treehouses

Two big challenges are confidence, and time. If we lack either of these, we often default to building a creepy treehouse because it’s the easiest and quickest solution. Confidence and time are also related – developing confidence in learning design requires time to reflect, and time to experiment with new tools and pedagogies. Confidence is also greatly enhanced by discussing problems and solutions with like-minded people who are able to provide feedback and suggestions. And we need time to put our learning designs into practice so we can test and evaluate them.

So if you want to avoid building a creepy treehouse, give yourself some time to explore new ideas. Have a coffee with a colleague and talk about ideas for learning and teaching. Watch a video about a new technology and how it can be used in learning. Or give yourself permission to take a short course in learning design so you can meet and talk with other people interested in the topic.

And if you’d like to find out more, check out the episode of the Ding-O-Meter with Jeremy Hunsinger.


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Photo by KIMO on Unsplash


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