Building Bridges

Forging a Path in the Snow

While many New Englanders bemoan this harsh winter, I find I embrace most of it; well, maybe not the snow removal part. Since one of my favorite pastimes is snowshoeing, winter – especially snowy winters like this one—enables me to indulge in it.

What keeps me attaching these cumbersome apparatuses to my feet, and trudging through the cold air and snow, time and again? When I enter the wilds of my local conservation land, I leave the modern world and daily annoyances behind. In forging a path, I experience the sense of wonder that comes to me from immersion in nature.

I enjoy marking my footprint in the clean, fresh snow. When several of these footprints are strung together, they make a path. I don’t always recognize the direction of my path. Sometimes, the journey is familiar; other times, I get lost. Yet, I always feel fairly relaxed, knowing I can simply retrace my snowy steps, use landmarks as a guide, and return where I began, ready to forge a brand new path. I may even make new discoveries along the way.

The instructional design process correlates to snowshoeing. My journey starts from the moment I put on my snowshoes, much like the client kick-off meeting launches the instructional design journey. Out in nature, I scan the horizon for a place to go, just like the design document and its learning objectives lead to a destination for the learners.

When I forge my path, some parts are easy going and others difficult, and I may get lost in designing a course, too. Yet, if I turn around, and retrace my steps, I can get back to where I veered off course. I can then think about where I am, look around, and choose a different trail that leads to the same destination, the learning objective. Perhaps the new path will be more clear-cut. There is a lot of freedom in knowing I can always change my path.

When we get lost or stalled as learning professionals, it’s important not to give up on the learning objectives. We can, however, revisit our journey to see where we drifted off course. We hope our new path leads to discoveries for our learners, too.