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Nov
15

“The influence you exert is through your own life, and what you’ve become yourself.”   — Eleanor Roosevelt

Last Thursday evening I attended the Bravo Awards, an annual event celebrating extraordinary Chesterfield alumni.  I am proud to have been a part of developing this fund raiser, and continue to be influenced by the truly extraordinary individuals it honors – alumni of Chesterfield County Schools that not only have achieved amazing things in their careers, but also use their influence to better the communities in which they live.  This year in particular I looked forward to the event with great anticipation as one recipient was a former fullback for the Green Bay Packers, William Henderson.  My husband and I awkwardly approached him for an autograph and a picture after the event – and he was very willing to do so as we proclaimed we were stockholders of the Team (as he responded – his boss).  Secretly, it was great fun to think of how we would make our fellow Packer fans jealous.

It isn’t the memory of meeting William Henderson that makes my heart full, though.  It is the other reason I was so looking forward to the event:  a former student of mine also received an award that evening.  I taught Kellee Santiago as a 4th grader.  Then she was a demure young lady — quietly creative.  Today Kellee is a pioneer of the video game industry, co-founder of thatgamecompany (www.thatgamecompany.com – check it out).  Her company aims to make non-violent video games that communicate different emotional experiences and expand communicative possibilities of games.  She has worked with the DOD to develop video games that teach US Army offices cultural sensitivity and negotiation; she was recognized by Gamastura as one of the 20 Breakthrough Developers of the Year, she was named a Fellow of the TED Fellows 2010 program; she was named a Top 10 Innovator to Watch by Variety magazine and was one of the Ten Most Influential Women in Games of the Decade on Kotaku.com.

Kellee has spoken around the work on game design, production and entrepreneurship. She has been awarded for HER influence in her field.   It was the words she spoke upon her receiving her award, however, that had an amazing influence on me – because she spoke of how an innovative mathematics program she was taught in elementary school was influential in helping her make the connection between math and creativity – and started her on the pathway to where she is today.  She did not know I was there, or what it meant to hear that an innovative mathematics program I taught her had made a difference in her life.  I piloted this program; I taught others how to teach it.  I used it for gifted students and for students with learning disabilities.  I believed in its ability to make mathematics meaningful to elementary students – rather than rote memorization of facts and practice of 100 problems.  Unfortunately, parents and other grownups did not feel the same way.  It wasn’t how they had learned; it couldn’t be reinforced with a book.  The program was rescinded within five years. But in that short period of time, it had an influence on a young lady’s life.  I helped to make that happen.

These are the moments we live for, but rarely get to experience or know – the satisfaction of influence felt.

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Nov
12

“The universe is true for all of us and different for each one.”     Marcel Proust

When I was in elementary school, a lesson each year in geography had to do with contour maps.  The maps were in 2D on a textbook page, and I never understood the concept that these maps represented elevation.

Years later, I taught the same lesson, in the same way, forgetting how difficult this concept was to grasp looking at a flat representation of elevation.  On one of the first days working in an architectural office I came across a model of a house addition, sited on a steep hill.  The model of 3D, with elevation represented with layers up gator board in contour format, caused a glaring light bulb to go off in my head – “oh, contour maps show elevation!!” The truth was there all the time; however it now had a more meaningful representation for me.

And so it was after our discussion about Hatch’s Cultural Dynamics theory.  I had a very difficult time getting through The Dynamics of Organizational Culture (Hatch, 1993). Our class discussion helped a bit, in particular the diagram of the theory and the discussion around symbols as representations of individual meaning.  We picked at the model, we discussed it, we tried to interpret it, and we applied it to a research study.  At the end of class, I concluded that the way the model is presented allows it to be all things to all people.  If you can’t quite wrap your hands around Schein’s Artifacts/Values/Assumptions framework, just add symbolization, interpretation, manifestation, and realization in a reciprocal relationship and you can prove it relates to any cultural observation somewhere within the model.  Yet, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a way to simplify the concept, to increase my understanding of cultural dynamics, much like the 3D contour model had done for contours and elevation.

The name Mary Jo Hatch seemed to emit a sense of awe among class colleagues and our guest instructor.  It was inevitable that YouTube would not disappoint – but there were only 2 videos of Hatch.  I decided to watch this video:  Art, Design and Management.  To my surprise, in this video Hatch reveals extreme aggravation with the academic world over doing exactly what we had done with her work:

“…you can only define concepts related to something as complex as organizational culture so far, and then you run into a series of overlaps and it gets messier and messier.  They want clean, clear definitions so the methods vultures can descend on your definition and feed upon it until the point of saturation, which is when they have sucked all the meaning out of the words.  ….the more you can extract the meaning away from the data you are working with the easier it is to use the data to generalize, to get us closer to that universal meaning.  The trouble is the meaning lies in the difference that the universe is for each of us, and we lose that when we conceptualize something for the purpose of operationalizing it, measuring it and then nailing it with the numbers…”
 
 Were we being vultures?  Should we focus less on how an element of culture fits a framework or theory and more on how a framework helps us to understand the culture?  The meaning lies in the difference that the universe is for each of us.

 Schein makes a similar point in Organizational Culture and Leadership when he suggests, “you will benefit most from asking yourself in each of the chapters what your own position is on every dimension we will review.”  Whether it is discovering what the universe is for me or as Shein suggests, discovering “the layers of culture within yourself,” I need to remember as I conduct organizational analysis of any kind – for academic, social, or personal reasons – to be very aware of my position as it relates to the analysis: there’s a 2D version, and a 3D version.

Oct
26

“Resistance is thought transformed into feeling. Change the thought that creates the resistance, and there is no more resistance.”       — Robert Conklin

Newton’s First Law of Motion – a body remains at rest unless acted upon by an external force.  And so it is with client resistance.  We were flowing along well, our client started our meeting declaring that she had an ‘aha moment’ since our contracting discussion – that she was resisting change, which is generally not in her nature.  Breakthrough #1 — and we are barely into the process.  I was feeling quite proud of our work.  Building on this, we were able to get enough information to develop a strong contract with actionable goals and timeline.

Then it happened.  On the day of our scheduled meeting, we received this email:

Alan and Joanne,

I’m so sorry but I need to cancel our meeting this afternoon. I’ll be at Challenge Discovery with the Emerging Nonprofit Leaders until 3 – and with the weather, and the presidential congestion, don’t know that I would make it back to the Boulders. Ack! 

Sorry for the last minute notice. I was really looking forward to our meeting and hope we can pick up next week.

All my best,

Luckily, Block tells us that resistance is an emotional process taking place within the client and that it is predictable when facing difficult problems – AND that it is a necessary part of the learning process. Resistance should be viewed as a sign we are on target.  So, should we grin and shout as Charlie Sheen would, “I’m WINNING!”?  It really doesn’t feel like that – it feels a blow to our process, our ability to ‘get along’ with the client.  Now we have to name it, to confront it, to potentially cause more discomfort in our client – and in me.

What type of resistance are we dealing with here?

Is the client asking for MORE DETAIL instead of deciding what to do….

Is the client using busyness and how little TIME there is to avoid meeting…

Is the client not ‘SURPRISED’ by the discussion…

Is the client CONFUSED and asking for clarity more than three times….

Is the client is passive and SILENT…

Is the client INTELLECTUALIZING why things are this way…

Is the client in AGREEMENT with everything you say….

Is the client sure everything is HEALTHY now…

Does the client just want SOLTUIONS not process….

There are actually a few faces of resistance at play here, I think, and I shouldn’t be surprised.  There is a lot at stake for our client, most of all her vulnerability in a changing work environment – one in which she has little control over the politics at play.  Should her willingness to name the issue as her resistance to change so early on have been a red flag of INTELLECTUALIZING?  Is she really strapped for TIME or is she avoiding discomfort?  Is her lack of response to request for data from her a sign that she really wants only SOLUTIONS even though she stated she knows this isn’t the quest here?  Is she avoiding responsibility for the problem or solution?

What about ME?  Am I resisting as well?   Am I also avoiding my responsibility?  Block says that “resistant clients are defending against the fact that they are going to have to make a difficult choice, take an unpopular action, and confront some reality that they have emotionally been trying to avoid.”

Perhaps Newton’s First Law of Motion may also apply to people:  a body remains at rest unless acted upon by an external force.  If there were no demand from consultants and no push back from the client, the problem would remain at rest and not evolve into discovery and a preferred future. Name it and be silent.  Alan and I are going to give this a try.

 “It’s the constant and determined effort that breaks down all resistance, sweeps away all obstacles.”        — Claude Bristol

Oct
21

“Changing the attitudes and behavior or hundreds of thousands of people is very, very hard to accomplish…what you can do is create conditions for transformation.” – Lou Gerstner

What does it take to change attitudes and behaviors about teaching and learning?  Why does it seem so easy to accomplish within other settings and so difficult within educational institutions?

Let me start by saying this reflection is a very broad generalization of educational institutions.  I know pockets of excellence exist, but I also speak from ‘real world’ experience in educational environments – over a period of 30 years. Ian Jukes, an educational ‘futurist’ refers to these pockets as ‘committed sardines’ – here’s why:

 If you take a careful look at a school of sardines, you’ll notice that although the fish all appear to be swimming in the same direction, in reality, at any time, there will be a small group of sardines swimming in a different direction, in an opposite direction, against the flow, against conventional wisdom. And as they swim in another direction, they cause conflict, they cause friction, and they cause discomfort for the rest of the school.

But finally, when a critical mass of truly committed sardines is reached – not a huge number like 50 percent or 80 percent of the school, but 15 to 20 percent who are truly committed to a new direction – the rest of the school suddenly turns and goes with them – almost instantaneously!

Three excellent examples of organizational learning ‘committed sardines’ were presented last week in class – all with different institutional backgrounds:  corporate, military, and medical.  These are lessons Education can take away from them as they relate to changing Learning:

One – focus on who the learner really is

The Mayo Clinic has always focused on what is in the best interest of the patient, on innovation for a better patient experience.  The Army, over the years, has adapted to learning styles, particularly in their innovative use of technology and contextual-based delivery of the AAR process – learning is driven by experience (Kolb).    IBM shifted from” bringing the worker to learning to bringing learning to work” because they realized learning doesn’t happen only in a classroom on a given day and time.

Two – learn from each other

Each of these institutions understands the necessity of the team approach to work, of the importance of peer and expert contributions.  They have developed whole entities for this:  Mayo Clinic’s Center for Innovation (CFI), IBM’s – Center for Advanced Learning and Institute for Business Value, and the Army’s companycommand.com -– a social media portal that is a “means of connecting past, present, and future company commanders in an ongoing conversation about leading soldiers and building combat-ready units” Connecting leads to conversations, which leads to content – to advance the practice of the company command. (read more about this in Company Command:  Unleashing the Power of the Army Profession).

Three – use data to improve practices

The Mayo Clinic uses shared medical records, the Army collects AAR data and focuses on knowledge sharing and innovation, IBM is the daddy of data generation and use, but one specific example for improvement of practices is their Client Team Advantage program for team building.

Four – change the environment

The big idea here that all of these institutions understand is that learning takes place anytime, anywhere and always.  It is not confined to space, time, or context.  These can be simulated through technology.

Five – invite outsiders to join the conversation

Lou Gerstner of IBM fame sums this one up perfectly:  “Anything of value to us has value to others…one of the lessons we are learning (was that knowledge) can’t be proprietary.”  IBM’s idea that we are living in a time where there is not only fierce competition, but broad collaboration (love the term coopetition) is an essential lesson for the institution of education.  The Mayo Clinic understands this, having always sought out the ‘experts’ in the field to add to their knowledge bank.

In each of these examples, there were committed sardines – some that swam in the opposite direction for a long time and through long periods of adversity before the group joined their direction.  What I love about committed sardines is that it doesn’t take many to ‘convince’ the majority – just the will to keep swimming against the crowd.  Can the pockets of excellence in our institutions of education meet the required ‘critical mass’ to turn the crowd? 

Oct
06

“The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.”  — Vince Lombardi

One of my favorite things about this program is the diversity of backgrounds/career experience of the students.  I enjoy content discussions from the perspective of training experts in the corporate world, teachers in prisons, non-profit staff, literacy experts, and a variety of medical professionals.  So when I read Top athletes and singers have coaches. Should you? (Atul Gawande), an article provided by a student in another class, featuring a surgeon reflecting on hitting a ‘slump’ in his expertise and subsequently hiring a coach to work with him on review of technique, I naturally thought about fellow classmates.  This decision wasn’t without a lot of trepidation and a bit of justification about the need for a coach – which he found in athletes, musicians, and teachers. The results — delivery out of the doldrums and increased skill and knowledge.

So who is in charge of learning transfer?  Gawande’s surgeon says, “Expertise is thought to be not a static condition but one that doctors must build and sustain for themselves.”  In The Organizational Learning Cycle Dixon says “Individual learning is dependent upon the collective.  . . .  we shall see that the converse is also true:  collective learning is dependent upon the individual.”  Are both my learning and collective learning dependent on me?

Dixon’s Five Types of Knowledge Transfer refers to the collective, but I can’t help wondering about who initiates the request for knowledge transfer in the name of the team?  If someone is always the seeker of knowledge
for the team, how do they sustain their own knowledge?  I believe that when the individual learns in the collective, both goals are achieved.

We’ve been discovering a great deal about learning in the collective from IBM, which we will share in our team presentation.  The most important thing I see in this organization is that learning and knowledge transfer do not happen by themselves.  When a culture of seeking knowledge is established, it can grow and develop in such a large variety of creative ways and actually begins to permeate daily work – thus blurring the line between transfer of knowledge and process of work.  Crossan, Maurer and White’s framework for organizational learning includes a strong connection between cognition and behavior.  They suggest that “learning captured at the organizational level becomes institutionalized in the form of nonhuman elements such as products, processes, rules, routines, systems, structure, and strategy.”  Is this what is meant by a learning culture?

Is it learning, not knowledge itself, that is critical?

Oct
02

“Most people listen without hearing.”   —   Leonardo daVinci

Did you know that your brain can think at between 4 and 10 times the speed of speech?  That means when you are listening you have spare time to use ‘brain time’ for looking for meaning between the lines. How does a process consultant make the best use of this brain time?  How should I make the best use of brain time?

I think I should begin by using this brain time to develop my listening skills – to fasten on the big ears and really listen.  What does this mean?  The paradigm of ‘process’ consulting is evolving for me, and I’ve had to link to other concepts or ideas to be able to thoroughly understand the process.  For example, in the last post I explored the difference between a consultant and coach.  I believe process consulting really first the definition of coaching more than consulting. 

Last week in class Alan made the comment, “the less I talked the productive it was.”  What other concepts or ideas could give me better insight into how effective inquiry – which relies on effective listening — provides for a productive conversation?  My search this week included active listening skills, social intelligence, and the attributes of a good therapist. 

I came across an interesting presentation on The Art of Listening  based on social intelligence.  The presentation points out (as Block concurs) that listening includes:

  • Being aware of body language – what is felt as much as what is said
  • Focusing – magnify the sound of the person’s voice so others fade to the back
  • Eye contact – fundamental to communicate interest
  • Creating pictures and links (mind maps) of what is being said
  • Keeping an open mind – avoid getting distracted by negative or emotional words; judging content, not delivery style and avoiding being critical
  • Collecting the big ideas – determining the emerging themes

 Is perfecting this art  how you make the best use of ‘brain time’?

I continued by exploring the concept of social intelligence, which I equate to one’s ability to make this art of listening tacit.  Dr. Daniel Goleman in his book Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships defines SI as “being smart about relationships. . . being empathetic, sensing what the other person is feeling, understanding their point of view, and ease and facility in having smooth, effective interactions. It’s both knowing what the person is feeling and acting effectively based on that.”   He says almost all of this is tacit.

Do we, then, build our Social Intelligence by developing our inquiry and listening skills?

 Finally, I thought about what kind of person would be an expert in active inquiry and high on the Social Intelligence scale?  This would be the type of person an effective process consultant would most likely emulate.  I came across a blog by Dr. John Grohol on Psych Central that had an interesting perspective on the qualities of a good therapist.  Dr. Grohol says, “A therapist is more than a plumber for your mind, you can’t just pick one at random from the yellow pages.”  I think Block and Shein would say the same about a process consultant.  Grohol says a good therapist:

  • Complements the needs and personality of the client – meaning they are positive and empathic
  • Has a relationship that is professional, courteous, and respectful – including explaining how they work in a clear and direct manner
  • Recognizes their own strengths and limitations – and looks for good fit with client
  • Is genuine (Block and Shein call this authentic)

Interestingly, good LISTENING skills are never mentioned by Grohol in the attributes of a good therapist, although it may be assumed in the other attributes. 

How do we identify a good process consultant?  The paradigm of effective process consulting for me now includes:  a socially intelligent coach, artful listener, and therapist.

Block says, “the hard time we have is not really with the action itself, but with valuing the importance of these actions.” (p. 57)  I’m beginning to value more deeply the importance of fastening on the big ears, and am looking forward to practicing using that ‘brain time’ to build my own social intelligence quotient.

Sep
11

“The doorstep to the temple of wisdom is knowledge of our own ignorance.”     — Benjamin Franklin

Modern Family is one of my favorite newer sitcoms, with the character of Phil providing, for me, the vast majority of the show’s humor.   Phil is an approaching middle age dad who tries to be ’cool’ for his young teen children and ‘sexy’ for his wife.  Part of Phil’s humor is his lack of knowledge of his own ignorance.   This picture shows Phil in a recent episode when he took a trip to the spa instead of his wife because her gift certificate was expiring  and she had too much to do.  While there, she calls to ask him to make dinner because of all she has to get done and he immediately goes into what Peter Block would call ‘doctor’ mode, suggesting a fix for her errands (but not saying yes to the help she is asking for – making dinner).  The women at the spa provide immediate feedback to him, telling him she doesn’t really want him to solve every problem, just to be there for her, making her feel supported.  In essence, they are telling Phil Claire needs a process consultant.

Block says as a ‘flawless consultant’ we must assess our ignorance, “distinguish what I know from what I assume I know from what I truly do not know”  in order to create a relationship with the client that allows them to improve their own situation.  Schein, in this Youtube video Helping, talks about the types of questions that build this relationship:  humble inquiry, diagnostic inquiry and confrontive inquiry.  He states that humble inquiry — asking the client to tell you more — allows yourself to be ignorant.  It is through the client’s discourse that you gain wisdom, the wisdom to best discern and provide the type of help the client really seeks.

Helping without providing solutions is not easy – for Phil or for me.  Phil discovered that providing support and drawing out more information was the key to winning Claire’s trust and affection.  This is a role I have to learn to take more often.  I start out with good intentions, but then my nature tells me to solve the problem when there is pushback.  Block says this pushback is crucial. It indicates you are asking the right questions because you are touching on the REAL issue.  I tend to react to pushback as a signal to solve the problem.  I resist confrontation and awkward silences.

A good example is when a teacher recently came to me to ask for thoughts about the implementation of a new curriculum.  He wanted to make it exciting and meaningful to the students from the first day.  BUT it was 3 days before the first day!  I started by suggesting we schedule some time to go over his thoughts about the curriculum and his plan for implementation (setting the platform for process and humble inquiry).  But I saw he was uneasy with that answer, so we briefly discussed a few ideas for the first week.  That evening I came across something that reminded me of our conversation, so I shot him the information – providing a solution.  He has not returned the email or scheduled the conversation.  Schein says that often if we try to help by doing something the other person can do for themselves we make them feel less than who they are.  Perhaps I have done this.

Asking for and accepting help does not come easy for me, but due to an accident break of my ankle I’ve spent the better part of the past few months both having to ask for help and trying to humbly accept help that is offered — even help I don’t always want to accept – because it makes me feel less than capable. Contracting for help on both sides of the equation is a delicate balance.  When asking for help, you need to be clear what you need.  When offering help, you need to be clear what is needed.  I believe it is important to not only consider how to respond as the helper, but also what it feels like to be the one asking for help, and sometimes the reaction to solutions offered without solicitation. For me, this has helped to “access my ignorance.” 

  • How do Block and Shein’s definitions of ‘consulting’ differ from coaching?  From leadership?
  • Is it possible to build a sustainable business model on flawless consulting?  Are there enough clients that would accept this type of ‘contracting’ for consulting services?
  • How does one/ can one recover from providing ‘bad help’ (both given and received) and move on to a more productive relationship?
  • How have others learned to be more proficient process consultants in the uneasiness of confrontation and awkward silence?

 “The greater our knowledge increases the more our ignorance unfolds.”     — John F. Kennedy

Sep
01

 “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.”     — Steve Jobs

 

On the first day of class, Steve Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple.  A tweet entitled Why Steve Jobs’ resignation is a (relative) non-event as Apple becomes a living company” by Ross Dawson caught my attention that evening, and I clicked on the link.  In his blog, Dawson asserts that (Jobs) “has been able to build a company that is far, far more than an execution arm for his vision. He has imbued his vision and quest for excellence in those around him and through the organization,” and asked, “Is Apple now a ‘living company’ that truly transcends its founder and any individual in it?”

This was an interesting question considering the class discussion on organizational learning as a process, as the sum of the shared learning of individuals that moves the organization in a specific direction.  Is organizational learning, then, an essential ingredient in becoming a ‘living company’ such as Apple?  If so, what values, beliefs and assumptions must a founder embed in an organization to not fear the ‘letting go’?  And, I wonder, how exactly is knowledge and learning effectively shared in ever-changing 21st century organizations?

Dawson had another blog post that caught my eye, “The role of information social networks in building organizational creativity and innovationin which he talks about the power of social networking in building value in a company.  He references an IBM Institute for Business Value report on the use of ‘social network analysis,’ data gathering with what occurred to me as an interesting perspective – relationship networks and the collective visualization of data.  What a potentially amazing tool to peer into the role of organizational learning in a ‘living’ company.

A second tweet that evening let me to a series of articles entitled “Social media and its impact on workplace learning OR how the Smart Worker works and learns.”  Serendipitous in light of the timing of our first class discussion?   The author states, “…social media is now fundamentally changing the way many people – those I call Smart Workers – are now working and learning – and this is opening up a new era of workplace learning.”  8 Key Features of how the Smart Worker works and learns are highlighted, one of which — learns best with and from others— seemed to be consistent with class discussion.  There are many great points in the August 16 blog on this topic, including this question: 

“What does all this have to do with workplace learning?  It implies we should be thinking much much more about how we can support these personal human interactions in learning – both in one-to-one and group based approaches.”

I look forward to our discussions about supporting personal human interactions in the process of organizational learning and how these contribute to the culture of ‘living’ companies.  To begin with, a few observations from this week’s reading from Dixon’s The Organizational Learning Cycle:

  • “Learning is not something that requires time out from being engaged in productive activity; learning is the heart of productive activity – the new form of labor.” (intro p. 5) – fabulous statement, but who really believes this?
  • “In order to alter tacit meaning structures, it is first necessary to become aware of them – a major problem, since it is difficult to become aware of that which you are unaware.” (p. 35) I see this as the major benefit of the reflector/mirror teams, but is this feedback accepted in the work environment?
  • “Collective learning requires not just the new experiences, it also requires the processing space in which those members can connect the ideas they have with the ideas of others – the hallways.”  (p. 59)  I wonder if ‘hallways’ are a 1990’s concept?  What technology tools support ‘hallways’ today?  In the future?
May
04

 “An idea is a point of departure and no more.  As soon as you elaborate it, it becomes transformed by thought.”  — Pablo Picasso

I recently went to the Pablo Picasso exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.  The $5 I dished out on the audio tour was well spent.  I learned things about the personal Picasso that changed the way I thought about his art.  He is an interesting study in adult development.  Even more interesting is his long and productive career “marked by unflagging spirit of exploration and discovery.”  The connection between eLearning design Picasso’s work, a process of exploration and discovery, was apparent to me.  Both develop over time as the ‘artist’ grows in skill and dares to challenge the pervasive thinking of ‘what is art.’ Picasso’s quotes that pepper this post demonstrate this parallel and frame my course design experience.

“I am always doing that which I cannot do in order that I may learn how to do it.”

From the start, my proposed project was lofty.  It was intended to be a redesign of a day-long face-to-face training for teachers, integrating eLearning strategies using a blended-learning instructional delivery model.  The clincher:

  1. This was my first try at designing an eLearning experience.  I had never actually used a LMS to deliver instruction or a digital tool for building a course.
  2. I had only read about blending learning, but felt it was an appropriate approach for what was to be accomplished.  Effective blended learning, as I had read, has at least ‘five key ingredients.
  3. Two professional development programs I had discovered also appeared to be great   models – but they were semester-long, and day-long conference models.
  4. With all this in mind, I chose to redesign the one day training into a six week, one full day a week, full-blown professional development course on the same topic – developing authentic integrated project units (AIPU).

My enthusiasm for the course framework soon gave way to an ‘oh crap’ moment, when I realized I could not draw on ANY previous experience for this project, other than years in the classroom and experience in facilitating high school teachers as they plan for and design new schools.  But I really wanted to learn how to do it.  So why not do it all?

This was the biggest challenge of the project, and became the key driver behind the design – experience so that you learn how to do.  What better theoretical framework for this than social constructivist theory (and by association connectivism).  This is one way to become an ‘expert.’

 “Bad artists copy, good artists steal.”

This is not advice (from Picasso) that I had at the time, but I have to admit I don’t mind being thrown into the ‘good artist’ category.  The entire project is based on material and resources used for the day-long training by SREB.  (I did add several resources and activities from my recent facilitation experience as time went on).   I stole from the PLEK12 MOOC model for outlining the weekly sessions.  I liked the model of having Live Sessions and a PLE component.  I also stole from the Maine Professional Development Collaborative – New Literacies Institute model.  This included the Design Studio and Cool Tools component – both of which were essential to the ‘experience so that you learn how to do’ concept.

“Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.”

I had a solid framework, I had great models to fit the framework, I even knew a bit more about learner needs from interviews I had conducted for another course project.  Great ideas were swimming in my head, waiting to be transformed, but the canvas had not yet been prepared.  Robin Smith’s Conquering the Content approach is to map out the entire project.  This required destroying the big idea, and breaking it down into its component parts:  competencies, major points, chunks, activities, transitions, resources (digital and otherwise), and assessment.  To this I added the F2F vs. online decision. 

This effort, though quite extensive, turned out to be a step worth taking as I began to transfer the content to the final products.  Picasso, over the course of his development as an artist, built on previous work, changing some parts and keeping others as a constant ‘signature’ of his work.  So, too, it was with my creation.  I sought to incorporate the ‘community of practice’ ideas of Palloff, Pratt and Anderson and the digital social and learning tools of my previously built PLE. In particular, I added a complete day devoted to ‘managing’ the change because I began to realize what I had learned, it takes a great deal to manage online learning and still have presence.  From observing teachers during the SREB training, I knew this was also a topic they enjoyed exploring in great detail.

“Are we to paint what’s on the face, what’s inside the face, or what’s behind it?”

Second only to my learning curve in challenges was determining the activities associated with each day.  I wanted to honor what I knew about the users of the end product – they are teachers.  They are not what’s on the face (the topic) or what’s inside the face (the content), but what’s behind the face.  They want learning to be practical, useful, and engaging.  Practical is built into the course framework, but useful and engaging depend on the level of the teacher, and became a struggle as I developed the activities. 

Two components of the ADLT 642 course design helped me through this although I considered them extra work and effort at the time:  weekly reflection and weekly updates.  Reflective practice helped bring clarity to what was ‘behind the face.’  Experiencing this clarity from reflection is important, as similar ‘artifacts’ – evidence of process thinking – are a component of my course’s formative assessment. As much as I was reluctant to provide updates on a weekly basis in class, getting feedback from my peers along the way was a great help.  I had not yet fully determined the direction of the Live Sessions, but it was suggested that these could be attended synchronously by some and asynchronously by others that needed less intensive background.  From this, the development of the model’s ‘digging deeper’ sessions turned into discussions based on experience that would engage each teacher in meaningful dialogue. Their knowledge could then be shared with all ‘levels’ within the participant group.  This takes care of engaging.  The Design Studio holds great promise as an extension of breakout learning and as a way to develop team among the participants, but more importantly as an opportunity to result in a relevant and useful product.

 “I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else.”

Another component of the course that changed as it was developed was the Cool Tools and PLE Activity.  I began thinking how great it would be to really immerse the participants in the use of digital tools – with the main purpose of transfer to student use.  As we continued to discuss our projects, I learned that others were struggling with the same issue – not overwhelming users with technology for the sake of technology, but selecting what was meaningfully linked to their purpose.  The tools I chose for each session are merely suggestions.  Many teachers have used tools that would be relevant to share, and will have the opportunity to do so.  The main idea of incorporating technology in the course now is to stress to teachers the building of a digital network, and offering the opportunity to do so with the support of their peers. 

Finally, my respect for a LMS as a learning tool is evolving.  The turning point was when I logged on to COURSEsites and was prompted regarding the structure of my course.  I selected constructivist, and was happily surprised when offered a prompt on how to set up the course tools using this structure.  Even the terminology used helped me to keep my focus on the main components of the theory – “guiding students through active learning experiences and encouraging peer-to-peer collaboration and interaction.”  With the peer coaching provided during the past few weeks, I have learned the value of the tool from those that use it currently in instruction – along with the large learning gap yet to be filled in making full use of the tool.

“Painting is just another way of keeping a diary.”

The course development of Developing AIPUs is on pause for now.  It is time to review purpose and process, time to evaluate the current product and plan for future development.  The evolving product can also be considered my ‘diary’ of eLearning design.

 What I intend to do as the result of reading my ‘diary’:

  1. Use my network.  George Siemans says, “learning is a process of growing connections.”  I did not develop or use connections as I should have while designing this course.  At one point, I even stated that I missed collaboration. While classmates were supportive and helpful, I used models from two individuals that would most likely have been willing to collaborate with me as I struggled through the course development process.  I also had at close disposal the developer of the original training and the end users.
  2. Continue to resolve lack of efficacy with digital tools. I am not sure if digital tools make teaching and learning easier or more complicated.  I just need to keep using them and discovering new tools through interaction with colleagues.  I am optimistic, based on the recent article about learning tool convergence that it will become easier over time.
  3. Take advantage of continuous collaboration of design and evaluation – the elements of rapid prototyping that I believe are just good practice regardless of the ‘rapid’ approach. 
  4. Provide more structure as part of course design purposeful feedback.  I have to admit that I felt like a first year teacher again – too focused on curriculum and delivery and not focused on my primary role – to guide the student through the learning process, which includes evaluation. 

“Id like to live as a poor man with lots of money.”

Picasso’s work was always a personal expression, very reflective of his own style, life, and experiences at the time.  His work, like course design, is both simple and complex.  While he engaged in a whole spectrum of media and materials, he was primarily a painter.  I am primarily a teacher, a workplace education practitioner. With a whole spectrum of digital media and materials at my disposal, I plan to continue developing that ‘niche’ in the eLearning world that effectively connects teachers to the changing needs of the learners.

Apr
27

“Being a workplace education practitioner often means being a person who brings educational know-how to bear on workplace issues, often issues of workplace change where people are looking together for new responses to new situations.  We operate in the overlap between education and work so that learning and work are meaningfully connected.”

Tracy Defoe, Sue Folinsbee,  Mary Ellen Belfiore

The creation of my first blended learning course is coming to completion. It is almost ready to vet with the user – most likely resulting in review and edit.  I’ve discovered many things in the process, but one stands out clearly above the others.  It is the lessons I learned while conducting a very brief study for ADLT 650 on the literacy practices involved with professional development for teachers.  Professional development is the purpose of my blended course.  The study methodology included observing teachers in the act of receiving professional development, surveying them on the experience, and interviewing several teachers of varying experience levels about professional development in general.  It was through the process of interviewing that I learned the most about the course design – much more than I would have learned in a traditional needs assessment process, much more than a ‘stakeholder focus group’ would have revealed.

The study revealed that current professional development practices are not aligned with the needs of teacher as learner; therefore teachers have little motivation to change instructional practices as a result.  In this context there are multiple layers of functional literacy in the deeply-rooted ideologies of the culture to further explore and comprehend.   One of the most interesting findings for me was the idea that teachers, in this high school environment, consider their subject area department as “family.” As such, there is an implied trust and belief in taking care of their own.  This is accomplished by observing and talking with each other, through mentoring and transferring of knowledge.  This is how they define meaningful professional development, not participating in a training session.  Teachers expressed a desire for professional development to be relevant to what they need to learn (practical), of their choosing, peer-to-peer based in small groups, applicable to their teaching practice (useful), and interactive-based (interesting).  Ironically, these are the many qualities of instructional theory and practice behind project-based learning.

And, fortunately, this is the magic of the blended learning design approach I took for my project. The bridge between theory and practice is built from both sides.  It applies collaborative problem solving with outside consultant expertise in successful implementation and internal experts (teachers and grant resources) shaping the content for relevance.  Teachers use their own practices and curriculum, integrating with other areas of instruction, and immediately applying their work in the classroom.

I just may have gotten it right.

Reading Work:  Literacies in the New Workplace (Belfiore, Defoe, Folinsbee, Hunter, and Jackson) is an excellent read for those that want to better understand the role of the workplace education practitioner.  It shed a new light on my practice.  The authors describe how they “work with people to build knowledge about learning, about being a learner and knowing themselves as learners when they might be very disconnected from that idea.”  Sounds very much like Connectivism to me.  I believe George Siemans and Wendy Drexler would concur.