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,, 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!