Mothers (and Fathers), and Daughters

During #dLRN15 mothers, fathers and daughters was a theme for me-although my amazing daughters were not with me. Catherine Cronin, Kate Bowles,  Bonnie Stewart & Dave Cormier, Whitney Kilgore (brought her daughter virtually via Facetime) and Andy Saltarelli all gave their daughters an amazing gift by bringing them to the conference. These daughters were surrounded by role models, and had experiences that I expect will change the narrative of their lives. In my previous job my youngest daughter Rosie traveled to Panama with me five times before she left elementary school. While there she attended college classes taught by the other faculty and (mine were too “boring”) participated in class discussions and activities with the students. Each of the students in my classes, and the faculty with whom I taught, became a part of my daughter’s story-they shaped her narrative.To this day, things she learned in those classes have had a lasting impact on the woman she has become. My older daughter Anjelica traveled with me to Panama as well. Her experiences there witnessing the extreme gap between wealth and poverty had a lasting impact on her story. She is currently a Biomedical engineering major hoping to someday bring medical care to developing countries.

Throughout their childhood, girls develop beliefs about their abilities,  what it takes to complete particular tasks, and what the possible “outcomes” for them are. Their perceptions of what they can achieve are significantly impacted by social interactions with peers and adults. It is through these interactions girls learn about gender roles, stereo-types, and what others expect of them. As girls grow up it is these vicarious experiences  that influence the choices they make and ultimately the story they tell.

Privilege has given our daughters opportunities many don’t have. From the time before our daughters are born we begin to shape the narrative of our daughter’s lives. What happens to those girls who don’t have mothers and fathers to provide them with the role models, experiences and words of encouragement needed to build their efficacy and shape their goals and dreams? How can the digitization of education provide access to role models and experiences for girls across the globe and socio-economic levels? What can we do to change the ending of the story?

Today I am presenting at an AAUW conference on engaging girls in STEM. This presentation will build on one Whitney and I did at #OLC15 with a goal of gaining a better understanding of how we can use digital content such as MOOCs to create on ramps for girls into STEM.

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#OLC15, Design Thinking and STEM Professional Development

At #et4online Whitney Kilgore and I connected with a common interest in MOOCs and engaging women in STEM. This led to Google Docs, every other Saturday morning Hangouts, and eventually a Human Centered Design Thinking (HCDT) MOOC. We began our journey thinking we knew what the problem was.  Lots of people were creating STEM MOOCs with the idea of engaging girls in STEM. We wanted to go one step beyond and create a MOOC that would enable girls to make connections with women in the field and gain an understanding of all the opportunities a STEM degree can provide. We wanted to develop a learning community that would live beyond the MOOC.  Through conversations with others this idea grew into a need for k-12 professional development that aligns with NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) and a specific focus on CS (computer science) and engineering. In realizing that a high percentage of MOOC enrollees are teachers we thought, why not design a MOOC specifically for teachers. Again, we thought we knew what the problem was.  As we began to speak with teachers and people doing research in this area we quickly realized we were designing a solution for the wrong problem. We didn’t really understand our users. How do they experience professional development? What are the barriers and challenges they face? How do we gain an understanding of what teachers want, need and desire? What is their story?

Our work in the HCDT MOOC helped us find our way to answering these questions. We recruited a few other participants on our team and began digging in. We brought this work to #OLC15 and a group of 16 eager participants. We arrived with interview questions we developed in the MOOC and our “speed design thinking” templates. Little time was spent with us talking and power points. This was about facilitating a discussion and gaining a deeper understanding of what the problem is and ideating possible solutions. It was about gaining empathy and hearing their story. There were deep discussions, sticky notes and in the end exchanging of business cards and plans to bring this back to their offices, classrooms and universities.

How many times have we heard a teacher say, “professional development is a waste of our time”, “they don’t really understand what we need or the problems we are facing”. We would like to do more than just hear what you are saying, we would like to listen to your story and think thoughtfully and intentionally about a solution.

Over the last 6 months we’ve taken apart and deconstructed our understanding as we had known it to build a new understanding together. We are still in the “understanding” phase.

What is your:

Professional development story?

Teaching story?

How might we create professional development that is replicable and scalable around helping girls develop a STEM identity?

Underappreciated IT Leadership Skills

This week’s MOR ELP Tuesday reading is based on an article by Whiteny Hischier and Rajiv Ball about 3  underappreciated IT leadership skills.It discusses a transition that is similar to the transition many service based businesses have gone through in the last several years: moving from mass production to personalization; reducing costs; increasing value. In this new world Hischier and Ball suggest there are three needed competencies:

  • Problem Finding, Problem Solving: I was excited to see that the suggestion here was to use the design thinking methodology. I’ve recently used it as a way to understand whether my team was addressing the right problem and found it to be a very effective process. Last week I participated in a symposium organized by George Siemens focused on a MOOCs and creating a vision of Higher Ed in 2030. Upon reflection on our two days of discussion I think a design thinking session would be the perfect next step. We came up with several challenges we felt our universities faced. I think it would be beneficial to use design thinking to narrow in on finding the problem that is at the root of these challenges and then, as a team, developing a solution.
  • Be a True Peer and Sparring Partner to Business: Hischier and Ball suggest IT leaders must, “articulate their own ideas and perspective and do so in a way that resonates across the organizational boundaries”. It always comes down to communication! For me the key phrase here is in a way that “resonates across organizational boundaries”. ELP stresses the importance of developing relationships. No matter how good your communication skills are I don’t think you can effectively communicate with a person or organization unless you truly understand their culture. We recently went through a team building exercise and one of the things that quickly rose to the top was how different our organizational cultures were which impacted how we approached things. Once we had a mutual understanding of each other’s culture we were able to communicate more effectively.
  • Move Others to Action: This aligns with my goal of building a coalition of people aligned with my goal of providing leadership and direction in support of digital learning initiatives and increasing access to education. Hischier and Ball suggest, “nurturing and sustaining trusted, mutually supportive relationships.”  Trust is critical. I recently ran a workshop about how to build collaboration in our IT community. What rose up to the top, across sessions, was that we can’t have collaboration without trust. Something to consider is how you define trust. It is important all stakeholders have a mutually agreed upon definition of trust. I will be attending a Franklin Covey session on The Speed of Trust to learn more about this.

Making the time to read these articles and finding a quiet space to reflect and think has been a challenge. Not different from exercising, it is alway difficult to find the time but when you are done you never you never wish you hadn’t. When I mentioned my difficulty in carving out time, my MOR coach, Susan Washburn said, “We all have the same amount of hours in the day, but some of the ways we choose to spend those hours TAKE energy and some GIVE energy.  Time to reflect, for example, can be a deposit into your energy resources where as time wasted in an unnecessary meeting is energy taken”.