Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

What skills should we be teaching to future-proof an education?

Some time last year I spent quite a bit of time reflecting on what skills we could be focusing on in higher education to “future-proof” a degree.  What skills will stay relevant no matter what future careers look like?  There are two frameworks used and endorsed in K-12 education: Partnership for 21st Century Skills and Equipped for the Future.

I felt that the lists not quite right for adults that are returning or seeking an education.  Here is the list that I developed, and a link to the Prezi that includes many video resources that correspond with the skills.


  • Manage your information stream
  • Pay attention to details
  • Remember (when you need to)
  • Observe critically
  • Read with understanding
  • Set and meet goals


  • Media literacy (determine and create the right media for the job)
  • Present ideas digitally
  • Design for the audience
  • Depict data visually
  • Convey ideas in text
  • Speak so that others understand


  • Advocate and influence
  • Resolve conflict and negotiate
  • Collaborate (F2F or virtually)
  • Guide others
  • Lead


  • Interpret data
  • Make decisions
  • Think critically
  • Solve problems
  • Forecast
  • Filter information


  • Think across disciplines
  • Think across cultures
  • Innovate
  • Adapt to new situations
  • See others’ perspectives
  • Be creative


  • Formulate a learning plan
  • Synthesize the Details
  • Information Literacy
  • Formulate good questions
  • Reflect and evaluate
  • Know what you know


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On July 5, 2011, I walked in to a Sprint store to make absolutely sure I was locked in to an ironclad contract for unlimited data service off my mobile hotspot.  The service representative (henceforth known as just another idiot sales person) swore that I could continue to receive the exact same level of service as long as I continued to make timely payments on my monthly contract.  I asked for double clarification.  I stated that I was willing to lock myself into a 5-year contract if necessary, just to keep my data plan.  ”Oh no,” said the idiot sales person, “there’s no need to do that. Sprint will take care of you.”  Based on this information, I cancelled my satellite Internet service (the backup plan for Internet at my house).

Yesterday, I learned that Sprint will be placing a cap on mobile hotspot data – how I get broadband Internet at my house.  When questioned, the customer service rep told me that Sprint can change their contract at any time.  Nice.  Exactly the opposite of what the other rep told me.

Our home Internet usage will be cut back to 5GB of data per month, but we get to pay exactly the same as what I’ve been paying per month for the last two years.   Try to imagine (though this will be difficult for most of you) that you have to carefully think about whether to click on each link.  Is the data it takes to watch that TED Talk worth it?  Is that journal article really all that important to read?  Should you Skype from home or drive back to work so that you don’t have heavy data usage?

Roughly 30% of the U.S. population does not have access to high-speed Internet and my household is one of those.  While most of you have a variety of inexpensive choices for broadband Internet, we have very few.  We have no cable service.  We have no DSL service. And our phone service?  It’s got so much static on the line that it’s not even good enough to use for dial-up Internet.

Now I live in the woods, but not out of town.   I have neighbors within a square mile of my house that DO have cable Internet service and DSL.

Option 1: Keep mobile Internet and pay for the extra data usage.  5 GB per month of data usage a month costs $40 per month.  Between my husband and I, we use about 40GB per month.  I can keep my existing service if I just pay for the extra data usage. For every extra GB, the cost is $50.  At our current usage level, this will cost us $40 + $40 + 30*50 = $1680/month.  Um… not a good option.  Thanks Sprint.

Option 2: Keep mobile Internet and don’t use more than 5 GB per month on each account.  This will keep our costs exactly the same, but severely limit our ability to use the Internet.  There appears to be no way to track how much mobile hotspot data is actually being used (the data tracking includes both mobile web and mobile hotspot data), so the only really safe option financially is to turn the mobile hotspots off altogether.

Option 3: Go back to Satellite Internet.  For $79.99 per month plus the cost of a new satellite dish (my fourth), shipping, account startup, and installation, you can have 17 GB download and 5 GB upload per month.  If you go over this FAP, your account speeds will be severely restricted.  Experience has taught me that your Internet will basically be unusable if you go over (sometimes for weeks).  There is no ability to pay for extra data when it is needed.  This is the best satellite Internet plan I have been able to find.  The real problem?  Your upload speed will only be 256 Kbps.  That’s right, as fast as a dial-up modem (if you’re lucky).

Option 4: Use an “air card” of some kind.  Most of these plans run $40-$80 per month, with a data plan that is “unlimited up to 5GB” … leaving me to question whether marketers ever look at a dictionary.  Apparently the “new” definition of “unlimited” is up to a specified limit.

Option 5: Stop using the Internet at home.  Honestly. I thought seriously about this option last night and this morning.  We live without TV, and we’re probably better off because of it.

I’m tired of being screwed around by various mobile and satellite Internet companies.  Every time we find a solution and invest in the infrastructure to support it, the market shifts and we have to find a new solution.  The companies we “contract” with for Internet and cell service are held to no minimum standards of service.  They are allowed to change their end of the contract at a moment’s notice (and in this case, I have yet to be notified about the change that will take place on October 2).  But if I break the contract, I’ll pay penalties galore.

Powerless – this is the only word I can think of to describe how I feel today. Powerless.  Nobody is looking for real solutions to the lack of Internet for 30% of Americans and we are getting left behind, even more so as everything moves to the cloud.

Tablets, eBook readers, game consoles, and interactive TVs are all expected to run primarily off the wireless Internet in your home (too bad for you if you don’t have it).

This afternoon I resigned myself to my former life of satellite Internet (and a 2-year commitment to pay a little over $2,000 for the privilege of this somewhat questionable service with no minimum standard of quality. Speeds are only guaranteed “up to” a specified limit (oh wait, does that mean the speeds are technically unlimited?)  There is no recourse for a minimum speed, and if I cancel my end of the contract, I have to pay $15 for every month of unused service.  If my Internet speed turns out to be 1 Kbps, that’s allowed under the contract.  I’m paying for a complete and total gamble.

What you might not get yet is that we are all powerless in this new age of cell service and cloud-based computing.  They’re just coming for me and those like me first.  Anyone who has been relying on mobile Internet has now been cut off (Sprint was the last holdout for unlimited mobile hotspot data).  We got capped first, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be next.

These networks can’t sustain 70% of Americans streaming all their TV and games off them, and realistically, there is a potential gold mine in charging customers for data overages.  You might just think this is my problem and I could solve it by moving, but one day, this will be your problem too.  One day, they’ll come to cut off your unlimited Internet.  Can you live without it?

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Failure is a NORMAL part of Learning

“Dr. Tae is a skateboarder, videographer, scientist, and teacher. Contrasting his observations of his own learning while skateboarding with the reality that is the current education system, Dr. Tae provides some insight as to how we might better educate in the future.” (from the YouTube description of this great TEDxEastsidePrep video called “Can Skateboarding Save Our Schools?“)

Some observations.  As Dr. Tae says, “Failure is Normal.” Period. You might try to solve a proof or a mathematics problems many times before you succeed at doing it correctly.  You will only learn the correct process by making mistakes.  I’d venture that more is learned from making the mistakes than by doing the problem correctly.  Every mistake branch tells you valuable information – this is something that didn’t work.  Huh.

This week I told my Calculus students that “division by zero” no longer means the problem can’t be done.  It just means “try another way.”  This is an incredibly hard lesson to learn.  Many learners are too quick to just give up when they encounter something that doesn’t work.

“Nobody knows ahead of time how long it takes anyone to learn anything.” – Dr. Tae

I agree. And yet, here we have the so-called modern education system, where 1 credit hour equals 15 weeks of one hour in class time and 2 hours of out-of-class time.  We predict, several times a year, that it will take 3 credits or 4 credits for every student to learn the topics that are covered in a course.  On top of that, we are starting to be held accountable if students aren’t successful enough.  If we don’t know ahead of time how long it takes any student to learn a body of knowledge, then why do we keep pretending we do?

Some time last year, I wrote down this quote in my Moleskein notebook, and I’ve been running back across it ever since:

“Grades are simply a measure of the speed at which a student learns.”  - Unknown source

If a learner manages to become competent at an average level during the period of learning (semester or quarter), they get a C.  If they manage to become expert, then they get an A.   I think there’s an argument to be made that learning math should be more about mastery, like skateboarding.  Either you “land the trick” (problem, concept, proof) or you don’t.  Any assigned grade in between just leads to problems down the road.  For example, “average” understanding of algebra and trigonometry leads to a pretty poor understanding of Calculus.

Another point from the video, “Learning is not fun.”  I would revise that slightly. The process of learning is not fun.  The process of learning is work.  The moment when you finally master a technique or synthesize an idea is fun, and it continues to be fun up until the point where it just becomes boring.

[Thanks to David Wiggins for pointing me to this great video.]

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Future of Education Interview in Unlimited

About a month ago I had an interview with Lewis Kelley at Unlimited Magazine.  A portion of the interview, called The Future of Education, was published yesterday, along with interviews with two other “leading education thinkers.”

Here’s a short excerpt from the interview …

“I’m not optimistic that real change is going to happen from within education. I think education is kind of a behemoth. It’s an interconnected system, and any kind of interconnected system is really hard to shift. You can push on parts of the system, but they still have to align with the rest of the system. You can’t push too far.

We can’t radically change our curriculum because that would affect the students coming in and the students going out. K-12 can’t radically change their curriculum without affecting their students’ ability to do well in college, and college can’t radically change its curriculum because students would be coming in out of K-12 and not prepared.

We can’t move unless everybody moves together, and that’s the thing that I think is particularly rough. But …”


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Ignite on the Learn This Button

After this presentation, my husband told me it was the best one he has ever seen me do.  The Ignite format is 5 minutes, 20 slides, 15 seconds each.  Please watch, and if you want to see Socrait get built, please forward it to everyone you know, post it on Facebook, share it on Twitter and GooglePlus.  Thanks :)

Ignite Great Lakes: Where’s the Learn This Button?

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Students and Optimism Bias

In a nutshell, optimism bias is the tendency to make overly positive assumptions.  This serves us well (giving us courage to try new things) but it also leads us astray (viewing the future as rosy despite the bad choices we are about to make).  There’s an excellent article in Time Magazine called The Optimism Bias that I highly recommend reading before you go any further.

Apparently our brains (most of them) are “hardwired for hope.”  When we remember the past, we omit details and our recall contains errors, but when we imagine the future, we tend to construct fiction that is dramatically better than the likely outcome.  This is, for example, why New Year’s resolutions are so intoxicating to us – we construct a “future me” that is thinner, healthier, happier and we can literally see ourselves living that life (even if past experience with resolutions would tell us otherwise).

Consider the optimism bias of our students.  In particular, consider the belief that things will turn out better at the end of the semester.  For example, how many of you have had students who fail exam after exam, but believe that in the end, their grade will come out okay?  There is no indication from the instructor that this will be the case. In fact, the syllabus clearly states the likely outcome by including a grading scale, but the students’ optimistic prognosis keeps them from seeking help when help could still be afforded.  As soon as final grades are published (or sometimes a day or two before the final exam), these students suddenly face reality and are angry that their vision of success is not what actually happened.  Their optimism bias has just met reality and they are usually pissed.

Another classic case of optimism bias is evident in online classes.  Anyone who has taught an online course knows that some students are just not realistic about the commitment to learning.  A recent column in the Chronicle of Higher Ed, called Improving Online Success, by Rob Jenkins tackled the issue from the point-of-view of time-management.  I’ve been teaching online Calculus since 2007, and I don’t think the problem is as easy as time-management.  That’s just what administrators tell themselves so that they can optimistically see themselves fixing the problem.  The real underlying problem is optimism bias.

Students, especially those at 2-year colleges, believe that they are supermen and superwomen, that they will be able to work 40+ hours a week, take care of their families, and go to school full time.  When they sign up for traditional classes, they come face-to-face with the fact that they cannot simultaneously be going to work AND attending a live class.  They cannot be simultaneously taking care of children AND attending a live class (without making childcare arrangements).  With online classes, these students never face this discordance.  They optimistically believe that they will somehow “find the time” to attend the class (even if it is not reasonable).

I used to have students fill out a “study schedule” at the beginning of each semester, where they filled out the blocks of work hours, class hours, family hours, sleeping, eating, etc.  This was to help them see that there was precious little “study time” left.  But this never seemed to have any effect.  The students with the least study time in their schedule still believed that “it all works out in the end.” Lessons in time-management did nothing to bring their imaginings in line with the reality of the need for study time.

For the students who take my online Calculus classes every summer, I meticulously track their participation metrics for the first two weeks.  I call every student, starting with the ones with dismal participation metrics – I walk them through which buttons to press, I ask them if they are sure they have enough time for the class (especially when they’ve logged in only once in 7 days), but they are always optimistic.  ”Well,” they say, “it was just that this week was so busy. Next week will be different.”  Next week is rarely different.

Rather than a course on time management or how to “succeed” in online classes (neither of which would solve the optimism bias issue), I would prefer that we simply offer a 1/2-credit online learning experience as a precursor to the regular semester.  These would be short 2-week “topics” courses, something the professor would like to teach but is not already part of a regular course (e.g. fractals, data visualization, vegetable gardening in cold climates, vampires in literature, etc.).  This course could include advice on time management, but its real purpose would be for the student to prove to themselves that they can (or can’t) learn something (anything) new using an online format.  The topics courses should be rigorous enough to give the students a real taste of online learning (reading assignments, discussion board participation, assignments, and assessments) .  After all, if you can’t cut it in a 2-week online course, you’re not likely to make it in a lengthier and more difficult course.  If a student fails an online topics course, they should not be allowed to take higher-credit online courses.  If, next year, the same student claims they are now ready for online learning, let them take another 2-week topics course to prove it.

I’m sure you can think of dozens more cases of optimism bias in Academe, including cases of professors with optimism bias.  For example, I spend the weeks before classes dreaming of wonderful assignments and projects I can give in my math classes while glossing over the fact that every extra assignment will take time to develop and time to grade.  Only several semesters of past experience grounds me to the reality that I probably can’t change more than one major thing about a course at a time, and at this point, even that one major change is looking kind of optimistically rosy.

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What is SOCRAIT?

SOCRAIT is my name for the SRSLS (spaced-repetition socratic learning system) that we need to push learning into the digital age.  The name SOCRAIT (pronounced so-crate) is a play on Socratic (because it’s based on Socratic questions), it contains SOC for social, AI for artificial intelligence, and IT for information technology.

Since July,  I have been preoccupied with this idea.   Many technology and learning experts who have read or talked with me about SOCRAIT have told me that they believe that our learning future has to at least look something like SOCRAIT.  They say (and I agree) that the simplicity of it just makes it feel “right.”  In fact, it’s such a simple idea, that I spent the last four months wondering if I was crazy – after all, if you’re the only one with the idea, then there must be something wrong with it, right?  As more people read the article and prodded at its weaknesses, the idea grew more robust.  The text of my article, The World is my School: Welcome to the Era of Personalized Learning, published today in The Futurist (read it as a PDF or read it online) has been finalized for some time, and at this point, I could probably write another article just about the game layer that SOCRAIT will need.

Now I need your help.  Someone or some company needs to step forward and build SOCRAIT.  I’ve pursued as many avenues as I could, but as a community college professor from an obscure city in recession-occupied Michigan, it’s hard to get taken seriously.  So, here’s your assignment:

  1. Read the article (the whole thing).  You can’t stop halfway, or you’ll get the wrong impression.  Every sentence matters.  Print it and read it.
  2. Agree or disagree, please share your thoughts and ideas (and if you have a public space, please use it) … tweet, blog, write, discuss.
  3. Send the article on to others through email, Facebook, and discussion forums.

If you believe in the power of a new way of learning (even if it doesn’t turn out exactly like SOCRAIT), please help me spread a new (positive) vision for what education could look like in the future.  Thanks!

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Hacking Higher Education

A few months ago I was interviewed by the  guys from the Business Innovation Factory.  We talked about a variety of things, including the transactional nature of college education today (when it should be a transformational experience).  At some point in the interview, they asked me to explain how I am “hacking” education.

This is an interesting phrase and It gave me a bit of a pause, “am I hacking education?”  What exactly would that mean?  There are many ways we can consider the phraseology of hacking. Some connotations of hacking are positive and some are negative. A lot depends on the perspective. If you think there’s nothing wrong with education. Then “hacking education” would be seen as derogatory — someone who is working outside the accepted structures and norms of the environment.  In an earlier post, Everybody Teaches Everybody Learns, I mentioned that it’s difficult to be a “prophet in your own land.” As soon as you mention changing the system, you imply (whether you mean to or not) that there’s something wrong with the current system, which in turn seems to imply someone is not doing their job.

On the other hand, suppose we see “hacking” education from the point of view of someone who thinks education is broken.  If this is the case, then you may consider hacking to be an alternate definition: an elegant solution to a difficult problem.

Now, the group in charge rarely wants their system to be hacked.  Apple doesn’t want the iPhone to be hacked.  The music industry doesn’t want their DRM to be hacked.  Many administrators and faculty don’t want higher education to be hacked.  And yet there are those of us working within the system, who are trying to find that “elegant solution” to move this mountain.

Why do I think the system of higher education needs a good hack?  In my opinion, education should be a transformational experience, but somewhere along the way, higher education became transactional: student pays x dollars, completes x courses, receives (insert name) degree. Instructor creates several “hoops” for students to jump through. Students jump through these hoops. They receive credit.

I hear over and over that the most important skill we can teach students is how to learn.  But think about the last time YOU sat down with a textbook to learn something. Let me guess – it was the last time you were in school?  Outside of academia (in the “real world”), we learn by discussing problems with our social networks. We learn by trial and error. We learn by exploring and by experience.  We learn by play.  We learn from reading (from a variety of sources, many of them on the Internet).  We learn from watching videos.  When did higher education lose this?

Learning in education is judged, for the most part, by strange transactions between the student and the instructor: papers are submitted, homework is completed, and discussions are moderated. On exams, we look for holes in what the student may know.  Maybe (watch out, radical unjustified idea coming) we should just be asking one thing: Tell me what you have learned. If it’s enough, you pass.  If it’s not enough, you keep learning.

Let’s get back to this transactional system of education.  Consider the discipline-silos of higher ed.  In elementary school (you know, when students still enjoy learning) the instructor teaches a variety of subjects to the same group of students.  If we ignore NCLB and high-stakes testing, we can imagine that these instructors are able to weave subjects together in a cohesive manner and plan class time around themes.  A theme might include a blend of English, science, humanities and mathematics.   In higher ed, we’ve separated all the ingredients.  Math, English, Chemistry, Humanities, Philosophy, Economics, … these are all stand-alone subjects.  In many of these disciplines (math and science in particular) the huge content requirements (breadth not depth) leave little room to stretch outside the discipline.  Is this still appropriate today?  Like lonely ingredients, the disciplines are, by themselves, bland.

As the lines between careers become more blurred, the courses we teach in the discipline-silos of Higher Ed become increasingly removed from reality. Although we do strive to create programs that are well-rounded (i.e. the foundation courses of Liberal Arts), each individual course exists in something of a contextual vacuum.  To prepare students to understand the complexity of our modern society, the core liberal arts curricula should include courses like :

  • Trend Analysis (Math + History)
  • Biology and Human Enhancement (Biology + Philosophy)
  • Science of Exercise (Science + Health & PE)
  • Exploring Water Issues (Science + Politics)
  • Design and Digital Presentations (Graphic Design + Communication)
  • Data Analysis and Information Presentation (Statistics, Graphic Design, and Communication)
  • Exploring Recycling and Refuse (Science, Government, and Humanities)
  • Chemistry of Nutrition (Chemistry + Health & PE)
  • Poverty and World Culture (Humanities, Government, and Sociology)
  • Sociology and Psychology of the Web (Sociology + Psychology)
  • How Computers Think (CIS + Philosophy)
  • Art, Media, and Copyright (Fine Arts + Law)
  • Writing for the Digital Age (CIS + Communication + English)
  • Energy (Physics, Chemistry, and Government)
  • Information, Query, and Synthesis (Literacy, Logic, English)

There are two big problems with teaching these courses.  First, most instructors would feel uncomfortable crossing these discipline lines.  That’s not to say they wouldn’t be willing, but it would require some learning and retraining at the faculty level (and that costs money).  Second?  Transferability.  For example, at community colleges, all of our courses are ultimately given final judgment on one tenet:  Does this class transfer? If the answer to this last question will be no, there’s little point in going through the work to walk a proposed course through the approval process.

We need a swift, national movement to create a set of universally-transferable, interdisciplinary, 21st century courses so that any school with faculty who are ABLE to teach these courses can immediately BEGIN teaching these courses. But how to do it?

Here’s my proposed higher education hack:

In a manner similar to Perkins funding, suppose the government offered an extra federal education stipend to any college or university that offers at least 5 of the courses on the interdisciplinary list (what list? well, some group of “experts” would have to propose the master list).  Instantly, every college in the country would begin scheming about ways to get their faculty ready to teach these courses. Within a year or two, most colleges would have these courses on the books, and they would be immediately transferable.

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Moving Math from Analog to Digital

Arthur Benjamin has been on TED in the past (see Mathemagics) and has done a really phenomenal job.

Here’s his latest 3-minute appearance, called “A Formula for Changing Math Education.”

The problem is that the very short talk does not present a “formula” for changing education, just Benjamin’s idea that the pinnacle at the top of the math pyramid should be statistics instead of calculus. There is nothing in the the short talk that suggests any kind of coherent plan for how it could be done, or even a suggestion that he has a plan. That’s what I would want to know about. Of course, it’s only a 3-minute talk and it’s certainly possible that he had nothing to do with the name of the talk.

I did agree with these two statements, but want to add my own two cents:

1. “very few people actually use calculus in a conscious meaningful way in their day to day lives” … but I’m not sure we teach people how to use calculus in a “conscious meaningful way” nor are many of us required to use calculus for the simple reason that our superiors don’t understand it at all. Calculus could be used in a “conscious meaningful way” but our society chooses not to engage. As a matter of fact, very few people actually use statistics in a conscious meaningful way in their day to day lives. Enough said.

2. “it’s time for our mathematics to change from analog to digital” … here I agree, kind of. It’s time for our mathematics to include both analog and digital, and it’s definitely time for our mathematics teaching to change from analog to digital. What happens in most math classrooms is based on a factory-model of education that developed before computers even existed. Even though the world has changed, the instruction (for the most part) has not.

I found it more interesting to read through the comments that followed the short TED talk. There is an interesting conversation taking place there. One wise commenter pointed out that it’s possible that there should not be just one pinnacle on the math pyramid. Both Calculus and Statistics could be considered penultimate goals of a mathematics education. I think that’s dead-on.

If there’s anything I’ve learned during the process of writing my dissertation, it’s that the system of collegiate mathematics education is extremely complex.  There will be no “easy” fix to the system, even if someone is able to convince a majority of the stakeholders that their change is the correct one.

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Everybody teaches, everybody learns.

The title of this post, “Everybody teaches, everybody learns.” is a shared vision for those of us who are in the business of education, whether it is corporate training, teaching students in K-12 or on college campuses, or working in an educational institution in an administrative or support role.

The vision statement grew out of a “rogue” Innovations in eLearning session (spontaneous tweet-up). We met to discuss how to encourage our colleagues and clients to both trial and adopt new technologies and instructional techniques. What emerged was not only a list of suggestions for accomplishing this (and the formation of the Black Swan Society) but also a vision statement for all levels and types of education (attributed to Koreen and Aaron for the wording, but to the whole group for shaping the conversation that ultimately produced it). For one hour the tweet stream slowed down considerably while this conversation took place.

Let me try to outline how we arrived at the need for a collective vision.

We began by brainstorming ideas for encouraging adoption of new practices within our organizations (what follows is in no particular order):

1. Identify early adopters in your own organization, recruit them, train them, and help them to spread new techniques to their own networks in the organization.

2. Speak to the core problems. For example, rather than trying to get adoption of twitter simply because it would be a cool tool to use, speak to the problem of needing to engage students in the learning process, with twitter with being one of the solutions that could be use for this problem.

3. Context is key. If your belief system leads you to be suspicious of new technologies, and you are only shown those new technologies in contexts outside of your own field, then it becomes far too easy for your belief system to assimilate the existence of this technology with the dismissal that the new technology could only possibly work outside of your field. Therefore, it is vitally important that each potential adopter be shown context-specific examples of how a technology could be used to enhance learning in their own field. How to find these examples? One way to do it would be to take advantage of a social network like twitter, and simply ask your network “can you point me to examples of using ______ in the field of _____. ”

4. Convert the dissenters. If there is a vocal resistance within your organization to the use of technologies for learning, it is vitally important that you find ways to convince these folks. Quite possibly, the best way to do it is to find others in their field using technologies in their teaching and learning (see #3). Don’t experiment with these folks. Know that what you are suggesting that they try has worked in their discipline on other campuses.

5. It’s hard to be a prophet in your own lands. You can be the support system on your campus, but if you stray too far from acceptable practice you could find yourself being viewed as too much of a threat to the status quo. You can be the one who facilitates the change by bringing in an outside person to demonstrate new tools, or by suggesting conferences that will expose instructors to skills they might then want to use, but recognize that it is difficult to try to introduce a lot of change in a way that’s nonthreatening to the organization.

6. Personal use first, instructional use second. Very rarely are instructors given an opportunity to play with technologies in a safe environment with their peers. Often the first use comes when they are interacting with students and ends after dealing with all the myriad of motivational and behavioral issues that seem compounded by the use of a new technology. Here are two examples that illustrate a better way to help instructors try new technologies. At some institutions, instructors participate in their own professional development by taking online webinars or courses. This gives them perspective in online education as learners first before they teach online themselves. This gives them a safe space to encounter the types of technical problems, pedagogical issues, and course redesign that will be necessary when they themselves teach online class.

Another example, from my personal experience, has been using twitter to form my own social network, to learn from it, and to share resources with it. This has given me an understanding of how twitter can be used for learning that I would not natively understand if somebody just told me that you could use twitter for learning. If you wanted to get your campus instructors to adopt twitter as a learning tool, perhaps your first step is to create a secure version of twitter (i.e. a virtual teachers lounge) where instructors can share information with each other in real time. Imagine that one of my students is really acting up in class and I send a “tweet” to my (secure) internal social network about the problem; another instructor responds that the student did very poorly on an exam in the previous class. Now I realize why the student is acting up in my class and can try to address the real issue with the student with a private conversation. As we realize that such a social network could be valuable, we naturally begin to ask how such a social network could be valuable in the courses we teach. It is, essentially it, a constructivist way to learn to use educational technology. First use them in your own learning.

7. Culture is key. Everyone must understand what it means to be a part of your organization — from the bottom to the top, everyone should buy in to the same core beliefs. You should be able to see your leadership participate in a way that speaks to the core beliefs in the same way as the people who are at the bottom of the organizational charts. Forgive the military example, but it was a good one… as Mark explained: if you’re in the Marine Corps you know that above all else your role is to be ready to fight if needed, this is summarized quite succinctly as “every man a rifleman.” Mark explained that every Marine from the newbie in bootcamp to the leadership at the top lives this vision: they stay in good physical shape and stays firearms-certified, all for the purpose that they maintain their role as someone who is ready to fight if it becomes necessary.

Since many at the conference do contract work for the US government and military, this example resonated with the group and we began sharing mission and vision statements from our own colleges and organizations. Unfortunately most of these statements are extremely wordy and difficult to remember. None were something that really resonated well with all levels of educational learning until Koreen and Aaron came up with “Everybody teaches, everybody learns.

What we mean here is that it is not just the students who should be learning and not just the instructors who should be teaching. Students should be teachers to their peers, administrators should spend time in classrooms to remember the core values of the institution, instructors should be learners without mandates from the institution to do so.

This is, I think, a remarkably simple way that we can focus ourselves in education on what is truly important.

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