My Leadership Story

Recently I was asked to share my leadership story since graduating from Cornell MOR Associates ITELP. I was honored to be invited last week to share this story at the 2016 Cornell MOR Associates ITELP graduation. Below is my story.

Last year I stood on this stage as a current graduate and shared a personal story of how I helped my daughter navigate a difficult conversation. I shared this story as an example of the impact this program has not just on our professional lives, but our personal lives as well. Recently I attended my daughter’s end of year crew banquette. As a graduating senior each of the girls in her boat shared a story about her. As I listened to each of these young women share their story, I recalled the conversations my daughter and I had had about these situations. They shared stories of how she had motivated them; really listened to what they had to say; been inclusive; and helped them to build relationships of trust. They spoke of how she had led a somewhat fractured team to a gold medal in the state championship and the influence she had had on their belief in their ability to be successful. It was at that moment I realized just how wide our circle of influence really is.

The program impacted every aspect of how I view myself as a leader and my ability to develop relationships and get things done. The opportunity to have the time, space and coaching to work on myself has impacted every aspect of how I interact with others. The results of this can be supported by the feedback I received for my performance review. The MOR program is the best leadership development program I’ve ever participated in and I continue to meet with my peer triad and open my MOR book up at least once a week. If everyone could go through this program we would have an organization built on trust with an entirely re-imagined way of doing business. By working on myself I am better able to lead, coach those around me and understand how to develop relationships built on trust. I truly believe I can have an impact and lead from where I am.

Thanks to the competencies I gained in this program I was able to successfully lead a project that required me to reach across multiple units at Cornell and develop new relationships. It was the things I learned about myself; how to build relationships; and understanding how to delegate and run meetings that enabled me to successfully build a high functioning team where everyone had a voice, felt empowered, and worked collaboratively. This project had a number of setbacks and unexpected issues but thanks to the competencies and confidence I gained from ELP I was able to successfully lead this project and team.

While the above professional examples are important measurements of the outcomes and outputs of this program, I shared a personal story as an example of the human impact this program has on the lives of everyone here, our families, and the community. There are lots of different ways to be a leader and leadership transcends our professional lives. I believe there is no one, quantitative way of measuring it, that would provide evidence of success. Rather, each of our voices and our stories is evidence of greater trust, enhanced relationships and the ability to re-imagine the way we do business.

Thank you to MOR associates for shaping the narrative of our lives.

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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?

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.)