Leader Strength is the Pack

As ILD 831 was wrapping up this week, I was down in Rhode Island spending spring vacation with my grandkids.  That meant a trip to the movies to see the latest Disney Movie, The Jungle Book.


Great movie for adults and kids alike!  A key feature of the movie which is repeated throughout is “The Law of the Jungle”, dutifully true to Kipling’s original:


As the picture above showed, the “pack” morphed into a diverse group binding together to overcome the danger that the tiger Shere Khan represented.  I was thinking about the line “…the strength of the Wolf is the Pack” as I read through the final blog posts for this term of ILD 831 – Technology and Leadership.  It is clear that one of the readings I shared, Michele Martin’s “A Deep Dive into Thinking about 21st Century Leadership” really resonated with the class.  Michele wrote about moving from leader as hero to leader as host – “hosting the space for people to come together to discover solutions through meaningful conversations and structured exploration and action.”  Sounds a lot like networked leadership…and on depending on the strength of the pack!  Here are some quotes from my students’ final reflections as they came online this week:

“…What has changed the most in my leadership style through this course is my understanding that I must be an adaptable leader … and wiling to be more flexible if I want to succeed and lead successfully for many years to come. Being more adaptable means far more than embracing technology, which is important, but more importantly is the growth that I experienced knowing that in order to be successful as a leader I must lead through areas that I know little about, such as technology and be willing to learn about them and embrace the changes in the digital age…” LeadershipandTechnologyBlog

“…The amount of information available to any employee connected to the Net provides seemingly endless opportunities for creative and free thinking. Therefore, leaders must create, or host, work environments that welcome individuals to meet, share ideas, and create solutions…” ILD831BlogChris

“…The greatest message within this lesson that I have learned is you will get back what you as a leader put in. I may be able to do an adequate job as a leader without embracing some of the opportunities the internet and collaborative discussion allows. However, if I put myself out there as a leader, sharing what I know, and opening my mind up to the knowledge that is out there from others, I have more of a chance for success…” AdventuresInTeachnologyandLeadership

“…If the public’s romanticism of technology is accurate, and the future is about creating tools making work easier for individuals and the organizations they work for, each must learn and adapt to evolving technology in order to remain competitive. For myself, beyond the discussion about specific technologies and our networked world, this course has reinforced a number of thoughts or forced me to consider the following as action we need to take today in creating an appropriate culture moving forward…” TechLeadershipCanada

“…As individuals, we are compelled to participate in using technology if we want to be socially connected, knowledgeable, or contemporary in our relationship practices. As organizations, technology can empower and enable services, increase productivity, improve efficiency, advance quality, and take over mundane or routine tasks.  The most significant challenge, however, is the nexus between man and machine.  The creation and application of technology happens because humans use their divine talents and gifts to create and the result has been breakthrough innovation and advancement of technologies that can change lives…” Raven765

“…Traditional hierarchies that operate from principles of command and control, the chain of command, and unity of command are a threat to increasing organizational adaptability and diffusion of technology.  In many government, tenured organizations, and institutions, much of its talent in information technology exists in lower ranking positions in the organizational structure. The percentage of personnel competent in the internet, technological tools, and social media platforms generally diminish the closer you get to the top of the pyramid.  The emerging principles of wirearchy (Husband, 2000) and leaders as social artists (Martin, 2015) offer non-traditional solutions to organizational management which maximizes idea management and diffusion of technology…”  CochranCreighton

“…Leading from the middle moves the sole liability of the organization from one person or a small group of individuals towards the entire community as a whole.  The idea of leading from within or the middle sets the named leader to become a host or guide rather than the hero (Martin, 2015). Maxwell (2010) discusses leading from where you are as being a way to share the responsibility and allow others to find their inner leadership strength and lead as well as the named leader…”  TechRyuu

“…With the rapid development of technology, trying to keep up with it is going to be not only a personal project but an organizational one also. Organizations will have to navigate the digital world in order to maximize the benefits it can yield…”  CupOfTeaWordpressom

“…I begin to conceptualize the notion that each of us could possibly be living within our own paradigm(s), which are defined by our own unique experiences, both formal and informal, and that that may also be influenced by other paradigms espoused by others. For example, if it is one’s practice to typically use or rely upon a certain type of technology or preferred leadership approach, this might be inferred as living within a particular paradigm that may or may not be shared, or completely shared, by others. However, if one were to discover, or unearth, new knowledge or ideas that would challenge and consequently cause one to question one’s current paradigm(s); and thus prompt one to remodel it—a shift would or might occur. This could be a shift in one’s thinking or practice that would cause one to act or operate differently. After reading Michele Martin’s article, A Deep Dive Into Thinking About 21st Century leadership, the idea of living within one’s own paradigm seemed to emerge as well…” SitiSnyder

“…Stephen Covey’s, author of The 7Habits of Highly Effective of People, noted that people who were able to use synergic communication, that is, the ability to open their minds and hearts to new possibilities, alternatives, and options are leaders (cited in Sprung, 2012). To be a leader in the digital age, we need to be open to innovation and welcome any and all ideas that may impact the learning outcomes for our students…” AlohaILD831

“…I continue to appreciate the importance of recognizing that successful leadership starts at the top, but it does not mean “top” in the traditional sense of hierarchy (or in this wirearchy). Instead, as a result of this course (and my Ed.D program) is that leadership is an intentional, interactive and based in relationships. While this particular posts focuses on leadership in the digital age, the core values and characteristics learned are applicable regardless if it is in person or online. Leaders and follows are connected and bond by the work we are doing…” lrILD831

Some have suggested that “it is a jungle out there” in referring to the world in which these leaders work and lead…perhaps it is time to update the Law of the Jungle:

For the strength of the Network is the Leader,
And the strength of the Leader is the Network.

I have really enjoyed our 8-week journey together exploring the intersection of technology and leadership.  I look forward to this cohort doing amazing things in the days to come!

{Graphics: RogerEbert.Com}

The Networked Age

The mind naturally looks for connections and patterns when involved in multiple tasks, and as I am currently teaching both EDU 6323 – Technology as a Medium for Learning – for Northeastern University and ILD 831 – Technology and Leadership – for Creighton University, there are common points.  One of those is the idea that networks are changing everything.

In ILD 831 this week, I introduce a quote from a 2014 Gartner News Analysis on successful digital businesses:

“…Digital business is not just about expanding the use of technology. Digital business leaders must think about technology in a fundamentally different way than in the past…”

Friedman in The World Is Flat suggested that work has become global – no matter the size of your company – and the shift of competition has moved from down the street to the opposite side of the globe.  Weinberger in Too Big To Know continued this concept of expertise within the cloud rather than within an organization.

Westerman, Bonnett, and McAfee in Leading Digital (2014) noted that the web has allowed previous paradoxes to become exploitable:


In the past, standardizing limited empowerment.  Controlling impacted innovation.  The desire to orchestrate action suggested “leashing” rather than unleashing employees.  As the web became increasingly open, social and participatory, Husband’s Wirearchy concept becomes possible, breaking these old paradoxes.

This sounds pretty rosy, but there are dark sides to this changing nature.  Ford in Rise of the Robots suggested that automation will increasingly eliminate both blue collar and white collar jobs, with no alternative work being created as happened in the past.  If all occupations continue to streamline due to technological advances, we may reach a point where there are no jobs for our college graduates or displaced workers – and no paid citizens to buy goods and services.  One of the readings this week has Bill Gates discussing the dangers of artificial intelligence.  And Harold Jarche posted in Medium that “The job was the way we redistributed wealth” but that will soon come to an end.

All of this suggests that the nature of work is changing – in good ways and potentially not so good ways.  Networks (both to people and to things) are a part of this change.  The same could be said about the world of education.

In EDU 6323 this week, after 9 weeks of exploring digital tools, I asked students to explore the concept of a Personal Learning Network.  One of the readings by Kay Oddone used Alec Couros‘s now classic illustration:


One of my students noted in discussions that after seeing this image, the whole course suddenly made sense!

My prompt for this week’s discussions noted that my colleague, Jeff Nugent, Academic Technology Director at Colgate University, once told me that the first reaction when faculty and staff are introduced to new technology is “rejection”, followed by “curiosity”, “exploration”, and potentially in the end, “adoption.” One way to more rapidly move from rejection to adoption is through trusted relationships. I asked the students, based on readings of Minds Online, as well as the collection of readings this past term and this week, to discuss their personal take on a “personal – learning – network”? Is this already a concept they use? If not, can teachers help students develop one without developing one themselves?

All responded positively to both creating a PLN and in using it in their teaching.  One noted that “Your PLN is a commitment.”  Several equated our class use of Twitter and the hashtag #edu6323 as the beginning piece of a PLN, noting that they had made connections in Twitter … and started following people … that they would not have otherwise.  One noted the frustration with the pace of decision making in education, and how a PLN provided a more flexible and nimble process for learning about change.  Another noted how Twitter had exposed her to others who had the same self-doubts she did.

“…Sometimes you don’t need to take specific action to improve as an educator; sometimes, you just need to know others have similar experiences. I am sure we have all had days that made us doubt our competency, and a strong PLN can combat that, increasing our fortitude.”

I loved this discussion statement by another student:

“I do not feel that we can help students develop a PLN without developing one ourselves mostly because as we monitor them, subscribe to them to make sure they are doing as instructed, create wikis, blogs, curriculum documents, etc….we have become (if only temporarily) part of their PLN defined by Oddone (2015)  as “a community of like-minded individuals who might never meet in person, but which challenge, push, share, teach and support each other”. We might begin our journey by having the typical teacher network but ideally we will work into being that networked teacher (supported by our global network) designing courses like Miller that can “put it all together”, can present ideas and opportunities for assignments, assessments, encourage peer to peer interaction and collaboration all while promoting deep meaningful processing and learning.”

And finally, this wonderful statement:

“…Jeff Nugent could not have described my own experience anymore accurately than had he known me personally going into this course.  I contemplated very deeply if this was a course I would enjoy or even be successful in.  It’s not that I have an aberation to technology, not really, it’s just that generally it frightened me I suppose, causing me to reject it as extra & confusing, nonessential fluff. I even approached one of my colleagues who is very tech savvy and got him to promise he would be a lifeline for me should I sink (which I was most certain I would). But the first assignment was indeed enlightening and sparked a curiosity, just as Nugent predicts…I think learning to develop my own learning network can help me assist my students in creating their own. I’m not going to say that I felt like the sole resource that my students should rely on for knowledge, but I can say that I was a bit against random use of sources such as Google. I felt that students would disengage in class and stop listening with the plan to go home and learn it at home from my Bb resources and Google.  So it annoyed me a bit..My philosophy was “I’m the one that makes the test, therefore, I’m the one you should get clarification from.” And I suppose that still applies to some minor degree, but I have completely changed my teaching philosophy and welcome the collaboration of knowledge that students can bring to the classroom.  I can’t search, analyze, and utilize every available source, but together, we can all contribute something and learn from each other and make each other stronger, including the old dog in me.”

It is nice to see these teachers fundamentally rethinking their teaching based on networked learning.  Now I need to go check out the blogs from ILD 831 to see thoughts about networked leaders!

{Graphics: Westerman et al, Alec Couros, }


Integrating EdTech into Lessons

This week in EDU6323 – Technology as a Medium for Learning – the students submitted revamped lesson plans that incorporated some aspects of the course into their planned teaching.  The focus of the week was formative assessment, so as expected, polling and practice quizzes factored heavily.  One student mentioned the interleaving principle raised in Michelle Miller’s book, Minds Online, and noted that she was shifting from a one-time timed quiz to one with no time limits and multiple tries.


After polling, the most used digital tools were screencasts, Diigo, Google Docs, Facebook groups, and blogging.  Group work was evident, with some using wikis or class websites populated with student-generated content. Several also incorporated tablets into their lessons, and our health science faculty made good use of simulations.  There were also some unique applications, such as Pinterest, Learni.st, FlowVella, Slack, and backchannel chat.

There were some interesting themes mentioned by the students as they discussed their rationale for using edtech.  Engagement was mentioned frequently, as was deeper memory.  One student noted (in a screencast submission) that she had not really gotten the learning science aspect when she took How People Learn previously, but that the combination of Minds Online and our discovery process helped her “get it” now.

An example of synchronicity at play was my colleague Enoch Hale’s post this week – Teaching and My Journey with Technology.  I appreciate Enoch tipping his hat to me regarding his blogging, but I find his thinking out loud refreshing!  His post eloquently explains how to put the thinking goals first, then figure out the technology.  The majority of my students get that…and the diversity of tools exhibited in their submissions illustrated that there is not one cookie cutter approach to integrating technology into learning.

As a side conversation in Twitter this week, I shared Alfie Kohn‘s article “The Overselling of Ed Tech” with my class.  I saw this article linked from someone in my Personal Learning Network, and thought it worth sharing.  But then I saw Jennifer Borgioli Binnis’s post, “The Problem with Kohn,” and thought her points were spot on, and so also shared her post with my class.  AS Jennifer noted in her post:

“…On March 12, Kohn released a post his wrote on educational technology. It was then published on Valerie Strauss’ space on The Washington Post website. From there, it was picked up by several education newsletters and Twitter accounts with thousands of followers. His own tweets linking to his article were re-tweeted at least 100 times and those who tweeted a link to his article were likewise RTed. In other words, lots of eyeballs saw Alfie Kohn’s thoughts on ed tech.

Kohn, a non-expert on technology in schools was treated as an expert in technology in schools. The reason this matters is because of a woman named Audrey Watters…”

social-media-conversationsHer point is well taken.  I feel guilty that one of the lessons in EDU6323 that we discussed earlier in the semester was determining validity on the web, and yet I was guilty of quickly retweeting to my class an article I had simply scanned.  Kohn does make some interesting points about the edtech bandwagon, but I was also troubled that his “blog post” did not allow commenting.  As Jennifer noted, there was nothing in Kohn’s piece that Audrey Watters had not been saying for years.  I follow Audrey in Twitter and my blog RSS, and concur that she is one of edtech’s influencers.  So my retrospection is on my own digital habit of scanning links from my PLN (that has male and female, North American as well as Asian, European, and Australian connections).  Much of what I learn about edtech comes from my PLN, but do biases show in how I use it?

A good week in EDU6323.  In this coming week, the students will be reflecting on what “Personal Learning Network” means to them.  I continue to wrap my head around it, so it should generate some interesting discussion!

{Graphic: Melanie Taylor, Benjamin Mayfield}


Is Knowledge Management Relevant?

This week in my course for Creighton University – ILD 831: Technology and Leadership – the students are exploring the concept of knowledge management.  Nancy Dixon had described the three eras of knowledge management back in 2009 as moving from leaders leveraging explicit knowledge, to leaders leveraging experiential knowledge, and finally to leaders leveraging collective knowledge.  I have remixed her graphic some to suggest that we have moved into a fourth ill-defined era:

KM Evolution RevisedHarold Jarche in his post “Loose hierarchies for knowledge management” noted that KM has become contextual, requiring loose hierarchies and strong networks.   This networked concept also surfaces in Weinberger’s (2012) Too Big To Know, which suggested the internet has fundamentally altered how organizations will work and succeed.  According to Weinberger, knowledge in the past was seen as a narrowing pyramid, with those at the top having the most critical knowledge. Yet the web now allows any level of employee to gain information from the vast storehouse of human knowledge, and share that with anyone else at any level of an organization … or outside the organization.  Jay Cross called this “social learning“.


If knowledge is now socially developed, what is the role of leadership in knowledge management…particularly in a world in which, as Clay Shirky suggested, anyone can publish anything…and it is up to us to filter, rather than the previous centuries-old vetting process of filter…then publish?  After all, is not knowledge management a form of filtering?

Thomas Davenport wrote off knowledge management in an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal last year.  He suggested that individuals focused on managing knowledge missed the boat when big data came along.

“Any chance that this idea will come back? I don’t think so. The focus of knowledge-oriented projects has shifted to incorporating it into automated decision systems. The hot technology for managing knowledge is now IBM Corp.’s Watson—very different from the traditional KM model. Big Data and analytics are also much more a focus than KM within organizations. These concepts may be declining a bit in popularity too, but companies are still very focused on making them work.”

The tag line for David Weinberger‘s book is “Rethinking knowledge now that the facts aren’t the facts, experts are everywhere, and the smartest person in the room is the room.”  In this era of machine intelligence and rapidly evolving work structures, we need to rethink knowledge.  Davenport ends his piece suggesting that one should continue to believe in knowledge management, and I agree … but as Weinberger noted, we have to be smart differently.

I am looking forward to hearing what my students make of this evolving concept!


Curating Curation

I noticed this tweet last night from Laura Gogia:

Curating curation is what my class at Northeastern University spent this past week doing in EDU6323!

My point for the week was that one of the major issues we as educators (and society) have today is that we have access to too much information. This can be overwhelming and time consuming.  But as Clay Shirky has pointed out, the issue is not really information overload but filter failure.  And curation is a form of filtering.  In recent years content curation and media sharing tools have become increasingly popular.  I wanted to give my students some experience using a media sharing tool, and as part of the process, to learn about a major influencer in the field of educational technology.  Their activity this week:

  • Choose a curation tool (Storify, Learnist, Scoopit, Pinterest, or Pearltree).  We had already been using Diigo for the past four weeks, so this was an opportunity to try something different.
  • Next, choose one of the people I listed and do a little research to find some websites, articles, videos, and/or blogs, etc., that helps demonstrate how these people have influenced educational technology.  Their options:
  • Curate some information using the tool you selected. Just include 5-6 pieces of information that explains their role in educational technology.
  • Share a link of your curation in the Weekly Discussion, adding in your thoughts about what you learned about the influencer, as well as the tool you chose to use.

Out of 14 graduate students, someone used each of the five tools suggested, though Pinterest was the most popular.  Of the nine influences suggested, seven were selected by someone, with Arne Duncan being the most popular.  The curations were shared and viewed by all, and the most common comment was about ease of use.  Several noted that they were sharing their tools with their colleagues.

Several students noted that student activities associated with building and sharing curations ties in with Miller’s Minds Online book and her chapters on Attention, Memory and Thinking.  As one student noted:

“…First of all, I think curation can greatly help learners improve memory. Take Learnist for example, when you work on a particular topic, Learnist … seemed like a search engine, but it differed from Google or Bing. There was a brief description of a topic, followed by links, YouTube videos, and short accounts of what the link would entail. Through different resources, and repetition, it could be very helpful for learners to stay focused and improve their memory on the topic they work on. Also, they are great tools to incorporate multimedia effectively. From pictures to videos, from visuals to audios, they can engage learners to make choices about moving within the material in meaningful ways and give students more control of the outcomes.”

I also had my students watch Mike Wesch‘s Anthropological Introduction to YouTube. 

The statistics blew many away.  One noted that she had not realized that YouTube was only 10 years old.  One of the more insightful tweets was this one from David:

A huge take-away for many students was the community aspect of YouTube.  The tie-in between community and networked learning really jumped out at them.

So…a good week curating curation.  Next week, my students are revamping a lesson to demonstrate how they might incorporate some of the concepts we have explored over the past nine weeks.  I am looking forward to seeing their creativity!

Viewing Digital Tools through Leadership

Collection of ToolsThis week in my Creighton University course, ILD831 – Technology and Leadership, my students are exploring digital tools.  They started by reviewing Jane Hart’s list of Top Tools for Learning and selecting different tools for each to research.  In our Netvibes page this week, they will be posting:

  • Brief background on their selected tool
  • How might it be used for their leadership situation (education, healthcare, business, non-profit, etc.)?
  • What are downsides to using it?

They are also starting to read David Weinberger‘s Too Big To Know, and it will be interesting to see what aspects of their reading align with their tool research.

Viewing tools through the lens of leadership aligns with Westerman, Bonnet, and McAfee’s 2014 book, Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation.  In this book, the authors discuss the concept of Digital Mastery.  In their viewpoint, digital masters excel in two dimensions.  The first is digital capabilities -the “what” of technology.  Technology is not an end to itself, but rather a means to get closer to customers, empower employees, or improve processes.  The second dimension is leadership capabilities – the “how” of leading change.  Interestingly, the authors suggest that this requires strong top-down leadership, with strong governance and coordination.  The authors suggest that these two dimensions can be mapped as such:

4 Levels of Digital Mastery

I like how Westerman’s book gives equal weight to both digital capability and leadership capability.  I am not sure I totally buy the idea that this means top-down leadership.  I think that there is a difference between “strong” and “top-down”.  I like how Harold Jarche describes it in his post this week “What is Connected Leadership“.

“Connected leadership is not given from above, as there is no top in a network. To know the work culture, connected leaders marinate in it. This cannot be done while trying to control the culture. Organizational and network resilience is strengthened when leaders let go of control. Connected leaders use compassion, empathy, and trust to influence networked people. Transparency eliminates the need for most traditional management control mechanisms.”

I agree with Westerman and his colleagues that leaders in this digital age view technology as a way to change the way they do business, whether that business is commercial, education, healthcare, or government.  Strong leadership can still provide the vision for their organization, but as Jarche noted, also use compassion, empathy, and trust to influence the direction their entity is heading…and the culture of the organization.

So I am looking forward to the ideas my students surface this week!

{Graphics: Lachian Donald, Capgemini}



The Pedagogy of Screening

My students in EDU6323 had a blast last week.  The focus was on screencasting, and for many, it was the first time they had created and shared a screencast.  Based on comments, I suspect it now will not be the last time.  Several have already begun incorporating short screencasts into their classrooms or work settings.

To set the stage for this week, I shared Kevin Kelly‘s 2011 talk at NExTWORK:

Kelly, senior editor at Wired magazine, noted that the web has evolved in unexpected ways…and one of them is “screening.”  Kelly added five other verbs to demonstrate how the web is evolving:

  • Screening
  • Interacting
  • Sharing
  • Flowing (Streaming)
  • Accessing (as opposed to Owning)
  • Generating

In the five years since Kelly prognosticated the future of the web, much of his insight has proven true.  Screencasts fits several of these trends.  Screen recording software started being used as early as the mid 1990’s, but the term screencasting was popularized around the same time as podcasting and became a common term for the production of digital recordings of computer screen output accompanied by audio narration. John Udell is largely credited with the development of the screencast as a medium for instruction. His “Heavy metal Umlaut” screencast demonstrating how Wikipedia articles evolve has become a cult classic among screencasters.

This concept of screening is illustrated in Corning’s look to the future in Day Made of Glass Part 1 and Part 2.  Kecie added to this with this tweet:

By the way, I refound this tweet by using twXplorer from Knight Lab.  Searching for “edu6323”, it collated all the links shared this past week by my class in one place.  Nice!

Some of the richest discussions concerned the pedagogy behind screencasts.  Students shared a video by Salman Khan discussing how screencasts can be an effective way to share ideas, deliver content, and obtain student feedback.  Another noted:

“…For more than a century people have been taking pictures, making movies, and distributing their creative efforts to viewers. Today’s camera technology enables students to do the same in the classroom, and in so doing, learn not only academic subject matter but also digital camera technology, which is educationally valuable. Here is a great article about Film can have a leading role in education.”

There was some excellent transfer from Laurie Poklop’s course on How People Learn.  Mayer’s Multimedia Principles came up from more than one student.

“…I think you are absolutely on to something by connecting the principles of embodiment and personalization in educational multimedia espoused by Mayer (2014) to the value of human connection in the learning process. While the use of a conversational tone may simply reduce extraneous cognitive load that may occur from attempting to “decode” academic language, I also think that we are hard-wired to respond to human faces and voices, helping us focus our attention in such situations, as our brains are apt to see patterns in terms of human faces in otherwise random patterns (Svoboda, 2007). Additionally, Mayer (2014) interestingly points out that having a static image of a speaker during a multimedia presentation actually does not help learning (p. 9). It is necessary to not only be aware of a human origin for narration, but also it is important to be able to see them behaving in a familiar, naturalistic manner…”

The self-pacing and control aspect of screencasts came up repeatedly.  One noted: “…I actually stumbled upon a cool study here when looking for a site to share on Diigo that talks about the pros and cons of screencasting as a self-pacing tool…”

Another conversation revolved around the best length for a screencast.  One student shared an article that suggested a two-minute video with one concept is better than a four minute video with two concepts.  Others suggested around 6 minutes.  TechSmith, maker of SnagIt and Camtasia, asked on Twitter and got a range of responses.  Interestingly, the student created screencasts went from under 2 minutes to nearly 20, on the subject of “Favorite Vacation Spot.”

So a good exploration of screencasting.  Next week, EDU6323 explores the curation of media, using a variety of tools.


Exploring the Intersection of Leadership and Technology

I am always stoked when I get a chance to teach ILD 831 for Creighton University.  This course in their Interdisciplinary Doctorate in Leadership Program has an eclectic group of leaders from around the world exploring the impact of technology in general and the internet in particular on leadership in organizations. Through this examination, these students struggle with how leadership does (or should) adapt to a changing world. In the past decade, the internet has certainly become a part of life and work. The internet has moved from a virtual space where people went to find information to an active place that is open, social and participatory. This shift has profound implications on leadership. How does a leader manage information (and knowledge) when the sum of all human knowledge is available to anyone in her or his organization from their smartphone? How is communication evolving? What are ethical issues associated with networked employees, students, or patients? What is on the horizon? This course gives students the opportunity to explore leadership mediated by a digital world.

My course map shows the flow of this 8-week course, which is starting this week:


This Spring class has teachers in K-12 and higher education, technologists, industry managers, a fire chief, and the CEO of a health system.  I always love the mix of experiences these students bring to this examination.  As we move through these eight weeks, they will all be blogging.  You can see their posts – and interact with the class – at our Netvibes site.

ford_riseofrobotsThese are interesting times to examine this intersection.  I am currently reading Martin Ford’s 2015 book, The Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future.  It paints a rather bleak picture around the idea that technology – and in particulary artificial intelligence – is creating a future where lots of jobs are eliminated but few jobs are created in their place.  In other words, according to Ford, we face a future where unemployment and inequality will reach catastrophic levels.  Scott Santens in an article in the Boston Globe last week mirrored similar thoughts.

Last week in Medium, danah boyd discussed “What is the Value of a Bot?”  She noted that as systems get more complex, it becomes harder for developers to come together and develop “politeness policies” or guidelines for bots. She noted that it is getting increasingly difficult to discern between bots that are being helpful and bots that are a burden and not beneficial.  One of the key points she made:

Bots are first and foremost technical systems, but they are derived from social values and exert power into social systems. How can we create the right social norms to regulate them? What do the norms look like in a highly networked ecosystem where many pieces of the pie are often glued together by digital duct tape?”

This is the world these leaders are and will be leading in…and there are no easy answers.  I am looking forward to our dialogue on the open web over the next two months!


Lesson in Explicitness or Lack Thereof

head slapEver developed one of those killer assignments that you know would be dynamite … and then you review the graduate student submissions and wonder – How could they have missed that!?!?

Yep!  It happened to me this week.  It happened ironically during a synthesis assignment on attention, memory and thinking, and it pointed out to me (again) how critical being explicit is in online learning (or any learning).

Let me provide some context.

For the past four weeks, my EDU 6323 class on Technology as a Medium for Learning has been reading the chapters on attention, memory and thinking in Michelle Miller’s Minds Online: Teaching Effectively With Technology.  I had previously blogged about her chapters last year – see my posts on Attention, Memory, and Thinking.  These chapters provided background as we explored digital tools for tagging, aggregating, social networking, and collaborating.

During those same four weeks, the students began using a group page in Diigo, purposefully curating resources around the topics of attention, memory and thinking.  They collectively shared over ninety articles, both from scholarly sources as well as mainstream media.  See below for some examples.

The assignment this week:

Over the past weeks, we have explored a number of Web 2.0 technologies (and we have a few to go).

EDU6323coursemap .

We have also been reading Miller’s book Minds Online. Chapters 4-6 focus on key cognitive attributes of attention, memory and thinking.  Also, we have been collectively gathering web resources on these topics in our Diigo Group page.

During this week, you will submit a 2-5 page double-spaced paper, synthesizing the lessons you take from these chapters and resources, and discussing specific ways some of the technologies we have discussed could be used to improve your teaching and student learning.  You will bring highlights of your thinking into this week’s discussion to share with your classmates.  The focus this week is on “collaboration” – so let’s learn from each other!

I thought it self-evident that the “collectively gathered web resources” in Diigo would inform their papers.  But that was not explicitedly stated in the assignment nor the rubric.

One student did, weaving in to his analysis three different articles that other classmates had saved in Diigo.  Four others used one or two of their own resources that they had added to the Diigo group page, but none from their classmates.  Half of the class had Miller’s book as their only resource, with no mention of the curated resources.

I place the “blame” (if that is the right word) squarely on my shoulders.  I did not make my expectations explicit and I did not provide enough scaffolding.  For the past three weeks, I have reminded students to pay attention to Miller’s chapters, as they would be using them as a lens for their upcoming paper.  In doing so, I focused their attention strictly on the book…and failed to highlight the importance of the other sources they were dutifully collecting.

In general, the papers were fine.  They summarized Miller’s key points and then discussed possible applications to their own teaching situations.  I just assumed that they would connect the dots between (1) the activity of gathering resources on attention, memory, and thinking and (2) the paper they were writing on applying the lessons to their own teaching situation.  That connection was crystal clear to me … but alluded 93% of my class.

My fault!

This is my first time teaching EDU 6323.  Next time, I will spend more time connecting the dots – and making explicit my expectations.

And just to share some of the good work the class did curating resources, here is a sampling:

I would welcome any suggestions you might have on making lessons more explicit.  Maybe I watch too much NCIS – but a head slap is what I feel I need right now!


{Graphics: Chris Sabo, Watwood EDU6323 Course Graphic, Patricia Goldbach}

Overcoming Old.Edu

My wife and I have been on the road this week down in the Richmond VA area.  We found a house in Chesterfield, and will be retiring there this spring.

Old SchoolDriving back to Boston yesterday, I had smooth jazz playing on Pandora in the car, and one of the songs that played was “Old.Edu (Old School)” by Euge Groove.  A clever title, but it also fit my thinking about this week in EDU 6323.

The topic this week was Re-Wiring the Web using RSS.  The web experience for users has morphed in the last decade. Initially, the web was simply a destination for users, a place one “surfed” content others created. At that time, there was no effective way to determine when content on a site had been modified or updated.

rssReally Simple Syndication (RSS) fundamentally changed this.  RSS feeds enabled news headlines, blog posts, audio and video files to be automatically updated and easily accessed through RSS readers or “aggregators” like Feedly, Netvibes, Protopage, and iTunes.  One could now control the web!  Rather than having to go out to favorite websites to see if there were updates, content was now served up or “pushed” to individual users through subscriptions that they customized.  When one could now gather dynamically updated web content, the notion of what it meant to access information radically changed.  During this week, my students explored setting up and customizing RSS aggregation tools, considering how they might leverage RSS technology to support personal and student learning.

One of the things I found interesting this week in my students’ reflections was that 90% said that they had never heard of RSS.  Yet, many admitted that they had noticed the orange RSS icon on webpages, but never felt compelled to check out what it was.  I found this most interesting.  We live in a rich media environment which is social, open, and participatory … but that presupposes that one will engage.  I have not bought in to the concept of “digital natives versus digital immigrants”, but Prensky’s idea of “digital wisdom” seems more on the mark now.   As the 2014 Huffington Post article by Jeff DeGraff noted:

“Don’t let the word “digital” fool you in all this talk about how difficult it is for digital natives and digital immigrants to communicate. The truth is that this generational gap between the so-called digital natives (the generation of people born during or after the rise of digital technologies) and the digital immigrants (people born before the advent of digital technology) doesn’t actually have to do with technology. The real issue is that the two worldviews that they represent are so different.”

So what I may be seeing in my students’ reflections is a different worldview from mine – one that may be more “old school.”

Maryellen Weimer noted in her post this week, “Why Are We So Slow to Change the Way We Teach?“, that many aspects of teaching are slow to change.  She suggested that this is due in part to change being harder than we think, that teachers tend to underestimate the complexity of changing teaching, and that many make change harder by going it alone.  My students seem to mirror this.  Several noted that they were glad the class was forcing them to examine something they would not do on their own.  It was interesting that several were immediately implementing aspects of RSS into their classes, where as several others thought it was a good idea and would try it out “sometime.”  I hope that they do!  Those experimenting with Feedly and Protopage seemed excited!

One student raised an interesting question.  He noted:

“…Individuals are only likely to pull in feeds of immediate relevance or concern, potentially blocking out important sources and perspectives in favor of just using what is fed to their aggregator. Additionally, pulling in too much information from news sites or other locations that frequently post new content may lead to information overload, creating the very clutter RSS is intended to avoid.”

Does rewiring the web keep us from seeing alternative viewpoints?  Michele Martin suggested this in her blog post “Understanding Homophily on the Web.” She noted:

“…My point here is that if we are getting a lot of information from and engaging in dialogues with other bloggers (as many of us are), it’s easy for us to forget who is NOT part of the conversations. We end up operating in siloes without even knowing it…”

Wrapped around our discussions this week was Michelle Miller’s fourth chapter from Minds Online about attention.  Miller noted that it is easy to derail attention. Yet, attention can easily be shifted. As Miller noted:

“…The inattentional blindness effect illustrates a broader truth about human perception and attention, that looking and seeing are two different things – and that we are remarkably prone to missing stimuli when our attention is directed elsewhere.”

While capacity cannot be expanded, it can be altered by practice. Actions that become automatic free up the brain to process other information. Attention is highly intertwined with visual processing, which is another facet of online course design that matters. The book explores change blindness, in which changes to the screen are not picked up readily. Most people think they perceive more change than they really do.

Working memory is an area of significant variation among individuals. Attention directs what goes in to working memory, so again, understanding attention is important to creating a learning environment. Miller suggested several strategies regarding attention and online learning.

  • Ask students to respond – Chunk material into short segments and have students do something (answer a question, click on a hotspot, etc).
  • Take advantage of automaticity – Use auto-grading features of LMS’s to provide practice opportunities and feedback, with incentives for completion.
  • Assess Cognitive Load – Positively impact cognitive load through design features. Poor instructions or requiring new features without practice can negatively increase cognitive load.
  • Discourage Divided Attention – The web is full of distractions, but simply informing students that they should pay attention actually increases attention.

A hotspot for my students this week regarding attention suggested that teachers should educate students about multitasking, make materials as seamless as possible, minimize extraneous attention drains, and keep them engaged through compelling activities.

My students and I grappled with how to actually apply this to the classroom.  It has become apparent to some that their own inattentional blindness affects how they are teaching their students, who in turn move forward lacking digital skills to effectively use the web.  Breaking the cycle of “Old School” is hard!

A third transformation is now taking place in a networked world, where the emphasis has shifted from first pulling, then pushing, to now curating and sharing information.  We will explore curation in four weeks, but next week, the focus will be on using Facebook and other social media as learning spaces.

And here is the song that got me thinking in the first place:

Of course, not everything O-L-D Dot E-D-U is bad…but we should be careful not to be too old school!

{Graphics: Duncan Hull, Rodney Calafati}