As I began creating my list of tools and superpowers (of which I have many), I realized there were many that I don’t use—or even think about—on a regular basis. Brainstorming the tools was difficult at first, but I found it got easier once I set categories that I borrowed from Lachheb & Boling (2018): Computer-based, Methodological, and Analog. To these I also added the categories of Superpowers and Roles to help define some other aspects of my practice. Sorry if it’s a bit long… or completely misguided.

The complete diagram can be found at Kumu.


  • Google Slides. I can’t stand powerpoint, so if I need slide decks this is my go-to.
  • Instant Messaging (mostly Teams). The only way I can stay connected with my co-workers. Without this there are no more meetings, quick questions for advice, bouncing ideas off each other, etc.
  • Office 365. Emails, Word docs, OneNote, etc. While I could do without emails, I do a LOT of course planning/development with OneNote since COVID-19 popped up. It allows me to build basic course structures quickly and I can see my design work at a glance without having to scroll through endless document pages.
  • YouTube. Other people have created far better explainer videos than I ever will.
  • Adobe CC. Every. Single. Day. I teach these tools, but I also use them to build learning resources for my students.
  • D2L | Brightspace. The required LMS. I have no choice, but building a course in it isn’t so bad once you get it figured out.
  • Kahoot. Building interactive opportunities to see where there are class-wide learning gaps and to help students quickly assess where they are at is incredibly helpful.
  • Adobe Education Exchange. As with YouTube, why create what others already have. Eventually I’d like to be a contributor… but I’m scared.
  • LinkedIn Learning. Not always useful, there are times when it can be a support and it’s important to have it in my repertoire.


  • Books. I use a mix of reference books to help offset my own learning gaps as well as a range of other books (recipe books, art books, flyers, pamphlets, brochures, etc.) to help build activities and assignments.
  • Sketching. Best way to start figure out an idea before you move forward.
  • Whiteboard. Back when I had one of these by my desk I’d use it to brainstorm ideas with co-workers or to quickly plot out a few design ideas.
  • Notebook. Take notes, jot down ideas, or whatever else you need to do so thoughts don’t escape.
  • Markers & Pencils. None of this stuff happens without them, right?
  • Post-it Notes. I use these to quickly chart out units, activities and assignments. Post-it Notes allow me to move them around, reorder, etc. without the distraction of a computer. They also provide a quick visual rather than jumping between computer software.


I may be a bit off on these, but this is how I interpret this category.

  • Spouse. I know my spouse isn’t a tool, but she is provides great feedback when I’m fighting with whether a design idea will work or not.
  • Hallway/Formal Meetings. Not as useful as they should be, these are often used for defining programs or course objectives. Actual course design rarely happens in a meeting.
  • Unknown Biases. These are always feeding into my design work, whether I know it or not.
  • Student Feedback. Students are a huge asset in course design and revision. I often take notes based on their feedback in order to improve my courses.
  • Past Experiences and Failures. These teach and guide the way I design every course.
  • Quick Chats. Whether with other teachers, designers, or friends, I often use conversations to gather new ideas, bounce thoughts of others, or just to see if I’m crazy.
  • Underlying Beliefs about Education. Possibly not methodological, but these feed into how I design courses and where I place my priorities. Whether they are correct or not is yet to be determined.
  • Backwards Design. This guides the majority of my design. Start with the objectives, build assessments to meet them, create activities that will teach what is required to do the assessments, etc.


  • Being a Parent. Having small children shows me daily how the way you approach teaching can be so important. With one method they can’t be bothered, whereas another may keep them focused and interested. My children have made me a much better instructor and designer.
  • Pragmatism. We can’t win every fight, students won’t graduate with the abilities of someone who has been in industry for 5 years, and sometimes we fail. Let’s accept it and move on.
  • Design Agency Experience. We’re all serving clients, whether they are a local store or they are a student. Understand what the clients need, and then trick them into thinking that what you’ve done meets those needs. Or something like that.
  • Web/Graphic Design. Without it I wouldn’t have a job, but it also means I’m not reliant on anyone for most of my design needs.
  • Nit-picky. Those of you who have been in a group with me know what I’m talking about. I love tiny details and that helps me see where there may be gaps in my design, but also makes my designs very detailed.
  • Puzzle Brain. As Moore (2016) said, “Instructional design projects are similar to puzzles” (p. 425) and man do I love puzzles. Sure, I haven’t made it past a 6-day streak on the NYTimes Crossword, but I’m working on it. A puzzle brain helps me to see how the different pieces in a design fit together, and where there may be gaps.
  • Coffee. Ok, not a superpower… but it helps.
  • Organization. Keeps all those ducks in a row and helps you find those ducks three years later.


  • Mentor. There are always new instructors, designers, etc. that need help, and I need to remember that I may be perceived as a mentor whether I know it or not.
  • Graphic/Web Designer. Sometimes it’s needed for the school, sometimes for ID work. Either way, it’s a role I can’t get rid of.
  • Keeper of All Knowledge. I may not be an expert, but sometimes I’m seen as one. I need to remember this so I can make it clear that I’m both not an expert but also am one. I don’t know everything, but I can be a great asset to students who need help.
  • Instructor. It’s my job description. I better do it.
  • Therapist. People need to talk sometimes. I can’t help with everything, but I can at least care.
  • Friend. While I often like to keep my head down and focus on my work, I need to be a friend as well.
  • Informal D2L Support. Sometimes I wish I didn’t know D2L as well as I do.


Lachheb, A., & Boling, E. (2018). Design tools in practice: Instructional designers report which tools they use and why. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 30(1), 34–54.

Moore, R. L. (2016). Developing Distance Education Content Using the TAPPA Process. TechTrends, 60(5), 425–432.