#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?

Making Sense of #dLRN15

What is dLRN15 anyway? What is the goal of this conference? These were questions posed throughout our two days at Stanford. For me it is not an easy question to answer or one that can be answered in a single sentence.

vconnecting

To me dLRN15 was:

Engagement, vulnerability, a safe space, cool kids at the table, identity, how do we get to do the things we really care about, since when is it radical to have boundaries on our time, adjuncts, systemic change, credit hour, different lenses, caring, compassion, empathy, collaboration, humanity, solutions, problems, equity, access, parity, diversity in ed-tech, diversity in the room, how do we define diversity anyway? Hash tags, virtual connecting, faculty development, needs of elite institution, non-traditional, and community college students, and how do we make sense of it all. For me this wasn’t a conference, it was an experience. One shared with those on the ground at Standford and those attending virtually via @vconnecting.

The two things needed to have an experience are: interaction and continuity (Dewey 1938). Based upon this definition I would say the attendees of dLRN15 had an experience. The safe space Kristen Eshleman George Siemens, Matt Croslin, Bonnie Stewart, Dave Cormier and J.T. Dellinger gave us enabled us to question our assumptions, see the world from a different or unknown viewpoint, disagree with one another, be surprised and see that what we thought the problem was might not be the problem at all. I frequently attend conferences where the presenter is “talking at” me about the importance of active learning. This conference practiced what it preached. The presenter wasn’t “the smartest person in the room”, rather, as a whole, we were all the smartest person in the room. Inclusivity was a theme of the conference and something echoed by attendees. There was no feeling of a “cool kids table”. Everyone felt welcome, a part of the discussion and that their voice mattered.

As I listened to the final wrap up, I sat back in my chair trying to make sense of all the emotions I felt, in awe of the capacity and willingness of the people in the room to be vulnerable, to demonstrate compassion and empathy, and their shear resolve to make sense of the changing higher education landscape and ensure all voices are heard. I was, and will continue to be, deeply moved by it.

To invoke change requires a safe space to think, intentionality, pose inquiring questions, share and reflect with others from across a wide range of viewpoints and demographics, experiment, be snarky, thoughtfully disagree, have what we thought we knew torn apart, and resolve to find our Northstar. For me this is all contained in a single phrase – #dLRN15.

Questions we are left to ponder are:

  • How can we create a space for a culture of reflective, engaged teaching and learning?
  • How might we develop personalized learning processes that move beyond content?
  • How might we build a community development process that distributes course creation and centralizes data & research?
  • How can we stop speaking for students and give them a voice?

As part of the sense making process of #dLRN15 conference we are collecting the stories from participants and non-participants. Are you wondering about the following?

What are the most pressing uncertainties, and the most promising applications of digital networks for learning and the academy?

How do we begin to make sense of this change in such a way that we can act in it?

Share your story and let your voice be heard http://us.sensemaker-suite.com/Collector/collector.gsp?projectID=DLRN2015&language=en#Collector

Heading to #OLC15 and #Dlrn15

I was reflecting back on the anticipation I felt as I headed to #ET4online. Relationships were developed before the conference via Twitter, Google Hangouts and Google Docs as we planned a panel from across the country and across the globe. The conference itself had deep conversations, crayons, and a vulnerability you don’t often see at a conference. Today as I head to #OLC15 and #Dlrn15 the bar is high and I am confident it will be met. Already I’ve had some incredible, deep conversations with #Dlrn15 attendees in Slack. We are building relationships and gaining empathy for one another in a way that you don’t often see face to face at a conference, let alone via social media. Slack was a new tool for me, and like many I joked, “should I post this in Slack, Twitter or Yammer”? “How does this thing work anyway?” Initially it was unclear what it’s purpose was or why we were using it for the conference. It quickly became clear and soon I became a Slackaddict. I’m not yet sure if it is the tool, the people, or the content. I imagine it is a “perfect storm”. It’s made me think of how we teach our courses and the discussions we have about community, engagement and interaction. The discussion in Slack is engaging because it is meaningful to us and we are driving the content. While there is a general topic, there is no specific discussion question or learning objectives that constrict our journey. We’ve been given a space to explore something where there is no known answer. The answer can’t be found in the back of a text book or in a Google. search The tools we have are our current knowledge, our experiences, and a safe space to share, reflect, build and rebuild our knowledge together. Isn’t that the learning experience we want for our students?

#et4women Work Life Balance is Not Being Afraid

I had the honor and privilege of being on the #et4women in ed tech panel with Keesa Muhammad-MSU, Tracy Clark-EdTech Women ATX, Maha Bali-AUC, Cario, Egypt (virtually), and Amy Collier-Stanford University, as moderator. We shared stories of vulnerability, authenticity, shame, guilt and the need for women to support women. I was touched by the number of women and men who thanked me for sharing my PhD journey and said that it brought them to tears. We shared memories of pumping breast milk in a bathroom stall and being afraid to say the reason we are not in the office is because of our family. One woman later stated she would never say the reason she needs to leave early was because of a child related issue. She didn’t want to be judged for making her family a priority. I was shocked to hear a woman say she was told, “you’re good looking, you should use that to your advantage”.  It is 2015 on our calendars but it might as well be 1940 within the walls of many offices. The conversation was raw, emotional, and transparent. We need as many conversations like this as it takes.

What advice did we share? Listen with intention, ask questions, and help someone have that break through moment. The final question asked was, “What will you do differently?” Go to #et4women and post your reply.

Notyetness at #et4online

As I fly home from #et4online I am full of #notyetness. There was something special that took place at the conference that I haven’t felt before. The presentations, and the whole experience, was full of #awesomeness. I think we need to replace the term “presentation”, as these were really intimate discussions rather than presentations. There was so much intentional and thoughtful conversation this year. #et4online gave us that safe space to get out of our comfort zones, struggle together with concepts and ideas and realize it is ok to fail even in front of a room full of people. Someone described the feeling of attending ed tech conferences as being in an echo chamber. A place where we hear people talking to us about similar struggles to our own, yet leave without learning anything new. #et4online was a space where people listened with intention, took risks, and brought interaction to the sessions. There were less power points and more crayons; less talking at us and more listening; less structure and more messiness; less learning objectives and more learning subjectives.

Maha Bali and Rebecca Hogue demonstrated the power of inexpensive, simple technology to increase accessibility and create meaningful conversations and relationships across the globe. Maha participated in several sessions and numerous #et4buddy chats from Cario, Egypt through Rebecca’s iphone, Twitter and YouTube. Maha ran the virtual #unet4conference where collaboration between virtual participants and those at the conference took place in Canvas and Google Docs. I participated 20,000 feet in the air as I flew back to Ithaca! #et4buddy is a great model for a global classroom and cross university collaborations.

I felt for the first time we were finally brining into our conferences what we’ve been discussing bringing into our classrooms. I believe most of us left with a deep desire to not just continue the relationships that were formed, but the work we began. Rather than leaving with “a few good ideas”, we left with the beginnings of working groups, started projects, and launched plans. Thank you to the conference planners and presenters who created a space where we could have meaningful conversations, reflect and work together.

#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!

Resolution-Be More Intentional

I am tasked with spending some time thinking about what being more intentional in two or three areas looks like to me and the impact it will have on me being a leader. I decided to do some Googling to get my brain thinking about what being intentional is. The first thing I noticed was that being intentional was a popular concept related to the New Year. There were numerous articles on it! The first article I read was written by a mom with three children. In it she talks about being intentional from a “family life” view point but the concepts are the same: limit your scope; develop a detailed plan; get support from those around you; and most importantly don’t let one slip up derail you. In this article she creates a detailed chore list. She limits her scope to “small chores” but they have a big impact. It is all those little things that drag her down and make her feel overwhelmed. She comments, “if life makes sense, I am more likely to engage with real people and feel like living!” How can I apply this to my work life? Well for starters I think I will adapt her chore chart at my home. As she says if I feel more efficient at home and don’t have all these “small chores” weighing me down I imagine it will also make me more efficient at my job . It also reminds me of something I read in a Harvard Business Review Book about getting the right things done. I’ve since lost track of the book but I remember the idea of taking 15 minutes every morning, creating a list and picking things to get done. I think that is one practice I will start in the New Year.

I really like the definition I found in the second article I read, “Intentional living is about knowing why you do what you do and why you don’t do what you don’t do”. This fits nicely with the concept of learning to say no and to say yes to the right things. I’ve been in my new job for over a year now. I think it is time for me to reflect on the work that I am doing, what I am passionate about and why I do what I do.The author goes on to say, “Intentional living is about being willing to take a step back and evaluate the things you are doing”.  Today is my quarterly think about three things I want to accomplish time.

Something I’ve been wanting to learn for awhile is how to use OneNote. I am going to think about how I can use One Note to be more intentional and accomplish my three goals. I think three things I want to accomplish over the next quarter are:

1) Learning to use One Note and using it effectively

2) Writing a paper for publication

3) Creating a strategy to connect with high schools in relation to our MOOC

7 Bad Habits that Made Me a Bad Boss

The MOR Associates Tuesday reading from Nov. 4 is based on an article written by John Brandon which first appeared in inc.com

1. Expecting good communication from others but not practicing it: Do you expect others on our team to provide updates on challenges and milestones but not do they same for them? Just as it is important to know the status of projects your team is working on, it is important for them to know the same. What challenges are you having? Where are your milestones slipping? Transparency does not show weakness. By sharing with your team you will not only create a sense of trust but they may even be able to help you!

2. Promoting people before they are ready: Promoting someone before they are ready simply to keep them from leaving is not the answer. If you sense someone on your team is unhappy or feeling unchallenged have a conversation. Remember: Initiate, inquire, show interest and influence. If they are not ready think about what training or opportunities you can provide that will give them the skills they need.

3. Charging in with guns blazing: Think scaffolding. Coming into a meeting and threatening people is typically not the answer. This is not the way to build relationships and trust. Instead Initiate, inquire, show interest and influence (I see these keeping coming up over and over again). Take the time to gather information, learn what the issues are and together come up with a solution.

4. Not doing a needs analysis before purchasing: Always, always do a needs analysis before purchasing equipment and take the time to talk to our customer. Share your knowledge but think about how you question. Don’t try to bring them on to your side. Take the time to help them understand what their needs are.

5. Too much pride in role: As a verb pride is defined as feeling proud of a quality or skill. As a noun it is feeling pleasure from one’s own achievement. It is good to feel proud and a sense of accomplishment but don’t forget everyone else’s role in your accomplishment. Who made this achievement possible. Be sure to show gratitude.

6. Thinking you know it all: Be cognizant of the abilities of everyone around you. It could be someone below you or above you that has the knowledge needed to accomplish your goal. This is where networking and relationship building helps. Ask around and see who the experts are. Don’t discount anyone.

7. Not sharing vision: Don’t ever assume and communication is key, we all remember hearing these two statements along the way. People are not mind readers. Make sure you are communicating your vision clearly, frequently and with transparency. Your team shouldn’t be left guessing, or worst second guessing your intentions. If you want to build a coalition people need to know where you are going and why. It’s not enough to communicate your vision, make sure you team knows why that is your vision.

Listening

The November 18 MOR Associates Tuesday reading focuses on listening. It is based on a Leadership Reflection written by Zachary Jacques. Jacques says, “…if I want to improve my presence, I must focus on listening skills as well as speaking.” Sometimes the most obvious, is the most elusive. He goes on to discuss an exercise they did where the “listener” is intentionally acting distracted and then asked the speaker how they felt. Not surprisingly they felt emotions such as anger, frustration and irritation. Can any of you relate? We’ve all done it, and likely been on the giving and receiving end. Maybe not as frequently in a one to one discussion but certainly during a staff meeting or presentation. We may justify it in any number of ways, but here is a chance to practice  seeing things from the perspective of the other. Practice turning off your devices and listening. If you must check your e-mail do so before the presentation and after, if needed exit the room. You may find that what you thought was “boring” or “irrelevant” only seemed that way because you weren’t really listening. You may learn something new! There is a time, place and method for feedback. If after intently listening you found the speaker could do some things to make their talk more engaging then simply go up and ask, “may i give you some feedback”?