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