#et4online Anticipation

As I head to #ET4Online I am traveling with a different feeling than ever before. I’ve been to numerous OLC conferences where I’ve built relationships on the ground that have been nurtured and maintained via Twitter and Google Hangouts. Each time I go to a conference I look forward to seeing colleagues, sharing what is happening at our universities and learning from one another. Prior to this conference, a group of women was brought together by a blog post written by Rebecca Hogue after last year’s conference,”Does Ed Tech have a ‘man problem’ too?“. This led to Michelle Bronsky submitting a Women in Ed Tech panel proposal. How did she gather the women? Via an invitation on Twitter of course. Some of these women (Amy Collier-Stanford University, Tracy Clark-EdTech Women ATX, Maha Bali-AUC, Cario, Egypt and Keesa Muhammad-MSU) I knew from interactions on Twitter, some I had relationships with from prior conferences and others I never met. We chatted via e-mail, Twitter and Google Docs to plan our presentation. What grew out of this is what is meaningful to me. Through our planning we found several common interests and things we were passionate about. This led to further discussions, deeper thinking and new projects. I am now working on a chapter in a book that is being collaborated on via Google Docs with several women across the globe. They say relationships are currency and I couldn’t agree more. As I travel to Dallas I am meeting Keesa at the airport so we can share a taxi to the hotel. We have chatted a bit and gotten to know each and I can’t wait to meet her. It reminds me of my online students and how I’ve used “icebreaker” discussions to build relationships in asynchronous interactions. I’ve talked about how this give students the opportunity to get to know one another and builds excitement for when they “meet” during a synchronous sessions. This is the first time I am getting to experience that.

I first met Maha Bali at an OLC conference last year. She was participating virtually and we “met” on Twitter. I felt an immediate connection with her and, as I followed her on Twitter after the conference, I was amazed, not just at how active she was in the “online” world, but at her thoughts and ideas. She was someone I wanted to get to know better and collaborate with. Although Maha and I developed our relationship asynchronously, we were still able to create a sense of trust.  Getting out of my comfort zone I reached out to Maha and asked her if she wanted to collaborate on an article. I’ve been wanting to submit something for awhile now and this was the push I needed. Collaborating made it feel safer-someone else to think through the ideas with and how we want to present them. A partner in crime. Although I’ve never met Maha in person (and hope to someday) I feel like I know her better than most of my colleagues. The online space has given us a place to find meaning together. (This post was written on the plane as I was traveling to et4online but I am only posting it now.)


TechSavvy Girls

I had the privilege of meeting several #TechSavvy girls at the #AAUW event in Cortland, NY on Saturday. I left with only one thought, “watch out world.”

I asked these young ladies what impact they wanted to have on the world and heard “A big one,” “I want to make a difference,” and “I want to help people.” When asked who inspired them, I heard stories of teachers, families and books. Neither of these is surprising or new. Evidence supports that we are doing a good job encouraging young girls, and promoting STEM fields. Yet, hearing some of the comments these young ladies made you might not think it was 2015. For all the support and encouragement they are receiving from the media, family, teachers and elsewhere they are still being pushed down within the walls of their schools.  They told story after story of how boys told them they weren’t as good as them or couldn’t do a job as well as a male.

Comments such as these are not stopping women from enrolling in STEM majors in record numbers, however they are not persisting. What is not happening at our colleges and universities and beyond? Part of the problem may be that while we are telling girls they can be a coder, or an astronaut or anything they want to be, we aren’t telling them what they can do. It was clear to me these girls want to lead the way to a better world. We often ask, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” We frequently fail to help girls understand how a STEM degree will enable them to do things they are passionate about, that are meaningful to them. They arrive at the university ready to change the world only to find themselves disillusioned and without a support system or someone to guide the way.

We need to starting thinking about what we can do to maintain the passion, strength and determination these girls exhibited. A simple way to start may be by not stopping at telling girls they can do anything, but helping them understand what that “anything” is and how it will enable them to attain their goals.

What will you do today to have an impact?

A special thank you to @Bali_Maha, @keesav, and @TracyClark08!

The Pursuit of Less

The Tuesday Reading from Dec. 2 discusses our never-ending thirst for always doing more. It is based upon the HBR.org article by Greg McKeown “Why we Humblebrag about being busy” and Jim Collins’ “undisciplined pursuit of more”.  We are called to be essentialists, or in the words of Jim Collins, the one key to being successful today is developing “a ferocious understanding of what you’renot going to do.” How does one design their life around only the essentials things? In a world full of constant information, meetings and never ending e-mails how do we find the “stuff” that is meaningful to us? One tip is taking the time to walk, allowing yourself quite time to think and reflect. Another reason to get our there and walk! Greq McKeown suggests:

1. Schedule a personal quarterly offsite: Every three months take three hours to come up with three things you want to accomplish in the next three months. Of course the key here is to keep them essential and achievable. I can also see the need to schedule in time to accomplish these and to create milestones. First I need to schedule in my three hours to reflect on what three things do I want to accomplish. A new year seems the perfect time for this! They are on my calendar, that’s the first step.

2. Rest Well to Excel: Am I getting enough quality sleep? The easy answer to that is no. The question is how can I take the concept of being an essentialist and use it to enable me to get more sleep? How can I make better use of my time?

3. Add expiration dates on new activities: Even though an activity is successful does it need to become a “tradition”? What “traditions” are nice but not essential. McKeown says, “The next time you have a successful event, enjoy it, make the memory, and move on.” I’m not sure this always applies. Surely some repeating events are worth repeating. I think assessing at the completion of every event and discussing what the goals and objectives would be for repeating the event would be important.

4. Say no to a good opportunity every week: “consider what you would bring to the table, what you might drop to take this on, etc.  If you don’t have time to do this evaluation, you don’t have the space to do it if you accept.”  I love this statement and have shared this advice with many people already. The new behavior I need to work on is not immediately saying yes, but “that sounds really interesting, let me look at my load and see if I have the time to fit it in”.

Building Those Relationships

Some tips for increasing our network given to us by MOR include:

  • Make a point to connect with people
  • Show up a few minutes early at meetings, walk out with someone different, engage with others more readily
  • Ask people how they are doing and listen
  • Have a cup of coffee with someone or go to lunch
  • Take your employee to breakfast on his or her anniversary

After a meeting, conference or other social gathering MOR suggest you reflect on the following:

  • What kind of energy do you feel you brought to the room?
  • What image are you conveying? What is the image you want to convey?
  • How are you interacting with others? What impression are you making?
  • Think about your voice, tone and projection. Do they convey the image you want?

Since I just came back from #aln14 this is a perfect time for me to reflect on my presence and networking. I had the perfect opportunity to “put it into action” since I was working in the Technology Test Kitchen. This event consisted of talking with faculty, instructional designers and administrators about how they would like to use technology, what problems they were having and what their goals were. I had three full days of opportunity and sometimes I was more successful than others. We were set up in a corner of the room where the vendor showcase was so there were people who were intentionally stopping by and those who were just strolling along. While some people did the initiating most people walked by looking and wondering what was going on. I “read” these people as someone who is looking to be asked to join in. This was great practice for reaching out and initiating. I had the opportunity to connect with all kinds of people and practice inquiring, investing and in many cases influencing. Now that I am back it is time to reflect on my presence.

I observed my actions and those of the other “chefs” when thinking about what energy we each brought to the room. One of the great joys of working on a team is the different skills and energies we each brought to the room. Some were silly, some were serious and others were in between. I think of myself as in between. I’m not the one who will jump up and down and do something crazy silly, but I  am also not the one who is all business. I think my energy was to make people feel welcome, and that this was a “safe place” to ask questions, play and experiment. I’ve been told that I have a very positive energy, and that I make people feel comfortable. My skill was getting people to tell their story and engage. I was the “gatherer” who invited people in and communicated why they would want to spend time in this space. After hearing their story I would either help them or send them to one of the other “chefs” who better fit their area of interest.

When I think about the image I want to convey, it is of someone who is easily approachable. I want to come across as someone who is confident and knowledgeable but not a “know it all”. Based on my interactions and feedback I’ve gotten from others I think this is the image I convey.

I will continue to keep these questions in mind as I find myself in a range of situations and reflect on my presence in different contexts.

Will a MOOC still be called a MOOC in 2030?

I was recently invited to a symposium organized by George Siemens. The topic of our meeting was what the higher education landscape will look like in 2030. Now that we’ve passed the MOOC media frenzy we can reflect on how the idea of MOOCs can improve learning experiences, increase access to education and better match the educational process with ever changing employment needs. As George Siemens pointed out, a MOOC is not a thing…the idea of a MOOC will continue to be around under a different name.

For two full days we discussed a wide range of topics: competency based learning, creating cohorts using a similar algorithm as dating services; following learner trajectories like Google or Amazon; next generation textbook; how knowledge is created and shared; the need to understand the architecture of knowledge; the importance of research driving informed change; and how MOOCs have made teaching transparent.

I was struck by the similar challenges universities big and small faced: lack of resources and clear goals and strategy for entering the MOOC market and a lack of trickle down to residential students. Universities are finding themselves unprepared for the new legal questions and processes needed. A great outcome of this event was the opportunity to share, reflect, and build our understanding of the future of higher education together. Rather than working in silos a move toward sharing across universities is needed. How do we innovate and scale up together.

What innovations and impact do you see the idea of MOOCs having at your university?

Leadership is a Contact Sport

As part of the MOR Associates Cornell Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) I am supposed to reflect upon the Tuesday readings. Last week’s reading was based upon a Marshall Goldsmith video “Leadership is a Contact Sport”.  A leader should reach out, listen and learn..sounds easy, right? The eight steps to being an effective leader and team member include:

  • Ask: In ELP we are learning to always ask for feedback. Ask what kind of a job we’re doing and how can we do things better. I’ve always been an “asker” and sought feedback. I now find myself being more “planful and thoughtful” when it comes to asking for feedback. I first consider what my goal is, what is it I want to know or improve? Asking is the easy part…
  • Listen: This is the hard part. In our last ELP session we were given an example of how 40 people can hear the exact same thing and interpret it 40 different ways. I think we’ve all experienced this. In my job I’m seeing on a daily basis how easy it is for this to happen and how important it is to not just listen but repeat back what you think you heard. A follow up e-mail summarizing your conversation is even better. I’m thinking about how I can be a better listener not just at work but at home. I am working on clearing my mind and focusing on only the person speaking. This is not easy to do. Our minds are used to multi-tasking and processing input from any number of places. It is hard to turn it all off and just…
  • Think: We’ve beed told that the feedback we receive is a gift worthy of reflective time. After receiving feedback allow some “dead air” to just think about what you’ve heard. What additional information do you need? What do you not understand? It is not easy to allow time to just think…
  • Thank: There is nothing as important as a thank you when receiving a gift. We’re learning to say “thank you for the feedback”.  That will take some practice. Why does it feel so awkward to say?
  • Respond: This is the critical step. We’ve all been to a performance review or conference and left reinvigorated to make changes and do things differently. How frequently do we end up doing the same thing, forgetting those changes? What will I do to make sure I respond to the feedback I receive? I’m hoping this blog will help. A place to reflect upon my journey, share with others and watch my growth. I’ve found for me the most important thing is blocking time off on my calendar each week. Time for me to think, respond and reflect on how I will involve, change and follow-up.
  • Involve: I’ve been lucky to continuously find myself surrounded by people who support me in reaching my goals. Moving forward I would like to expand my network and develop relationships with people I might not normally interact or work with. What can I learn as I move out of my comfort zone?
  • Change: Aren’t we always told “people don’t change”.  Change is hard. It requires deep understanding of not just why the change is important but how to effectively change. Change needs to be meaningful. For me, meaningful change will help me attain my goal of providing leadership and direction in support of digital learning initiatives and increasing access to education.  As I continue to develop my goals and action steps I’m thinking about what changes I need to make. Once you change, how do you know if you really changed or if the change you made was a positive one?
  • Follow-up: Follow-up of course! This is an iterative process. After I’ve changed I need to go back to step 1 and start over again. I’m looking forward to our next ELP session and discussing with others what they are doing to implement these 8 steps.

I have posted the following words above my desk…”Remember to reach out, listen and learn”.