Hi, my name is Sommer and I am an instructional designer.
I'm also an insatiable reader, technophile, artist, coffee addict, and Netflix binge-watcher; all of which make me a better instructional designer. Even Netflix! I have earned a Masters of Science in Education in Learning Design and Technology and a Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in Rhetoric and Linguistics and a minor in Communication.
Which, to be honest, is a mouthful of buzzy academic words. What I really want you to know is that I am a lifelong learner. I have a powerful love for discovery and adventure ... even when adventure looks an awful lot like research.
It also means I can wear a lot of hats. I'm an innovator, project manager, system administrator, and forward-thinking theorist. I'm a writer, artist, teacher, voice narrator, video and audio editor, public speaker, design hero, technology wizard, and out-of-the-box thinker. But most of all, I am always a learner.
Modern Instructional Design
I believe in the power of visual design to connect learners to content and theory.
I believe that modern instructional design isn't just a list of learning theories applied liberally to a problem. It's UX and UI development concepts, graphic design, marketing, new technology, persuasion, games and play, AI, competition, and self-directed discovery.
That's why I don't just study learning theories and trends.
I also study things like game design, advertising, web design, social media, comic books, viral marketing campaigns, project management, and software development. Modern instructional design is ever-changing; spiderwebbing out in every direction as fast as accessibility and technology can grow. We have to adapt to that level of flexibility and personal growth. We have to learn to keep up with our learners.
I've been in training for twelve years. Every year is full of new challenges and new opportunities and so many untested, but exciting, trendy ideas. If anyone had told me in 2011 that I'd be seriously researching the applications of augmented and virtual reality in training, I'd have immediately made fun of myself. "This isn't TRON, Sommer. You might as well hand out a Nintendo Virtual Boy and Encarta CD at every class instead since AR and VR are bound to end up just as forgotten." And yet, last year I spent several hours with a developer who worked on applications for the Microsoft Hololens for healthcare and when I slid the device over my eyes and explored the inside of a human being with nothing but a flick of my wrist, the experience left me breathless and wonderstruck. It's not TRON, but it might be better.
I am passionate about the everyday-ness of learning in all it's extraordinary forms.
What I mean is, we learn every day, in small and big ways, on purpose and by accident, online and offline. Whether it's an article in Fast Company about Amazon, a clickbait infographic on 100 uses for coconut oil shared on Facebook by our great aunt Margaret, a contentious class discussion about B.F. Skinner, or four hours lost in the labyrinth of Wikipedia after Googling the name of an actor from the 80s.
It's in that ubiquitous curiosity that I am inspired to create and empower. Learning is everywhere. And it's awesome.
A Very Condensed History Lesson of Me
For me, instructional design was love at first sight.
But I didn't come to it in a straight line. I first zig-zagged down different paths, wandered towards new passions, and filled my toolbox along the way full of odds and ends that always felt too fun to be called "work." In college I worked in art stores, book stores, and law offices. I freelanced making graphics for websites, book covers, advertisements, and wrote articles for a variety of publications from restaurant reviews to editorials on the cultural impact of women in comics.
Later, I began teaching training classes because I was good at breaking down technical processes for the non-tech savvy (thanks dad for all those "what's a URL??" phone calls!) and I had a knack for answering the urgent question "why should this matter to me?"
I had no idea that there was one perfect career out there that combined all of my talents and passions until, five years ago, I quite suddenly found myself with a new manager. She recognized what I could do and what I wanted and began mentoring me. Not only did she teach me how to become a leader myself, but she also taught me that mentoring is the greatest form of personal and professional development anyone could be blessed with. I may have developed my own talents and my curiosity may have pushed my ambitions, but she created a space for me that was more than the sum of these individual disparate parts. She gave me the room and encouragement to experiment. She taught me the value in sharing knowledge and empowering others to push their strengths, embrace their weaknesses, and never settle for the status quo because "it's how we've always done it."
Great managers, and great mentors, have the power to change lives and she's proof. She changed mine.
Ten Random Things about me
1. I keep Darth Maul's lightsaber on my desk.
2. Street art is my favorite kind of art.
3. I started taking violin lessons when I turned 37.
4. Proudest personal accomplishment: Losing 120lbs around 2015-2016, keeping it off, and still losing!
5. My favorite celebrity meeting: Margaret Atwood & Barack Obama. I cried when I met Margaret and meeting Obama happened too fast to have a proper emotional meltdown until much later.
6. I have two terribly spoiled cats: Silas & Kaia.
7. I can neither confirm, nor deny, the existence of pictures of me at a literary event dressed as Rita Skeeter from the Harry Potter books.
8. I'm adopted!
9. I'm currently obsessed with true crime podcasts.
10. I love to travel. There's too much world and not enough time. If only professional explorer was a viable career choice.