Smart and EdTech

A few days ago, I discussed my upcoming doctoral class on leadership in a wired world.  I will also be teaching a Masters of Education course starting next week.  EDU 6323 at Northeastern University is entitled Technology as a Medium for Learning.  We explore aspects of digital technology through the lens of Michelle Miller’s (2014) book, Minds Online: Teaching effectively with technology.  My course (adapted from one developed by Stan Anamuah-Mensah at VCU) flows like this:

I would like to think that this course explores “smart” uses of digital technology for learning…but “smart” has nuanced meaning now.  We are seeing more and more application of AI in our everyday life.  Just examine the Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies.

Smart dust, smart workspace, smart data discovery, smart robots…there are a lot of smart applications emerging!  Two books that I have read recently around smart technology are Martin Ford’s (2015) Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future, and Kevin Kelly’s (2016) The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 technological forces that will shape our future.   One scary…one hopeful…and both directly applicable to this course!

So I read with interest a short article this week in MIT’s Technology Review by Hossein Derakhshan.  In “A Smarter Web”, Derakhshab suggests that we need more text and links, and fewer images, videos and memes.  He noted how the early days of the web and it’s text-based blogs served to nurture varying opinions, while lately, social media apps like Facebook, Twitter and SnapChat have served to amplify existing beliefs, polarizing and fragmenting society.  He suggests that the lack of varying opinions had more to do with the outcome of the recent USA Presidential elections than false news.  Derakhshan suggests that a smarter web would be one that stepped backwards in time.

As I mentioned in my previous post, we are moving as a nation into a future where the old rules seem to have shriveled.  Robert Reich noted earlier this week that Trump’s tweets are becoming a new form of governing by edict..or “Tweedict” as he termed them.  In my EDU 6323 course, we will be using Twitter as a form of class communication using the hashtag #EDU6323…but hopefully in a more collaborative way than the Tweedict suggests!

In the third week of the course, we will explore validity on the web.  I am adding danah boyd’s recent Medium article – “Did Media Literacy Backfire” – to the reading for that week.  danah noted that media literacy asks people to question information and be wary of what they are receiving…but, in line with Derekhshan’s article, this has led to where we are questioning so much that we talk right by each other.  danah ends her article noting:

“The path forward is hazy. We need to enable people to hear different perspectives and make sense of a very complicated — and in many ways, overwhelming — information landscape. We cannot fall back on standard educational approaches because the societal context has shifted. We also cannot simply assume that information intermediaries can fix the problem for us, whether they be traditional news media or social media. We need to get creative and build the social infrastructure necessary for people to meaningfully and substantively engage across existing structural lines. This won’t be easy or quick, but if we want to address issues like propaganda, hate speech, fake news, and biased content, we need to focus on the underlying issues at play. No simple band-aid will work.”

So I know that my course will engage students and introduce them to new technologies.  But my hope is that my course will also begin to shift some paradigms and shake up some cultural norms.  Otherwise, their future students might not hear these different perspectives that they need to hear!  And that would not be smart!


Leading in a Wired World

Next week, I will once again be teaching a section of ILD 831 – Technology and Leadership – in Creighton University’s Interdisciplinary Doctorate in Leadership.  I have taught this course for five years and over those years, evolved the course, shifting the textbook from Tom Friedman’s (2007) The World is Flat to Clay Shirky’s (2008) Here Comes Everybody to currently Dave Weinberger’s (2011) Too Big To Know.  The course flow looks like this.

This is a fascinating time to consider leadership in a wired world.  As the past few weeks have illustrated, we have a government in transition in America in which policy implications are unfolding on the President-Elect’s Twitter stream.  What does this suggest for those studying leadership in courses such as mine?  At a minimum, old rules no longer apply!

We will have two sections of ILD 831 exploring topics around leading in a networked and wired world, and I look forward to the blog commentary that will start up later next week.  I will be aggregating posts in Netvibes, so feel free to join in and comment as you see opportunities.

Social Media and Education Redux

At Northeastern University, I teach a graduate course on Social Media and Education – EDU 6333.  I have been teaching it for two years, and it is fascinating to work and learn with (relatively) younger Masters students on this topic.

The course is 12 weeks in length and flows like this, shifting between tools and processes:

Course Map

Our Twitter hashtag is #EDU6333.  The course runs in Northeastern’s Blackboard .. but in this Fall’s course for the third week on Communication, we shifted and conducted our weekly discussions in a private Facebook group.  It was interesting to hear some of my students’ perspectives about this shift – viewing communication within social media versus within Blackboard:

…I would have to agree with you that in many courses the discussion boards have been a forced post/response system where students post their required responses and then move on to the next week. I always put significant thought into what I am posting in both initial posts and responses but there rarely seems to be an actual back and forth conversation between classmates. I have to say that in this courses Twitter and Facebook seems to facilitate a genuine conversation, largely because of the notifications of responses in my opinion.

…With this being my 8th class on Blackboard, I have become use to it, but it is not intuitive and I use it because I have to. Not because I want to.

…In previous courses, I found myself completing the baseline of our expectations and not going above and beyond. With the ease and simplicity of using Twitter and Facebook on my phone, I find myself accessing course information a lot more, and I find myself a lot more engaged in the course, time wise and frequency wise!

…Most of us have gotten used to almost instant satisfaction with our social media, in that we are able to search for and view whatever pops into our mind in a matter of seconds. Blackboard would be wise to incorporate tools that allow users to operate more fluidly and with ease, instead of forcing us to click and click, searching for simple information.

…I think Blackboard would do well to infuse various components of popular social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, into their academic-based platform. Increased accessibility by cell phone and an insta-chat feature should be at the top of their list. These additions would facilitate higher levels of communication amongst instructors and students, as well as encourage contact with class-related content.

…Blackboard compared to Facebook as a discussion platform is similar to comparing penny farthing bikes to cars in regards to transportation. Blackboard is clunky, cumbersome and crude. More often than not, I type up my responses on google docs and then copy and paste them into Blackboard. Even simple tasks such as hyperlinking are using outdated code, requiring it to take a much longer time than is truly necessary. Additionally, consider the image I posted below. It took me only a few short seconds to type the term into my open search bar, find an image, copy it, and paste it below. In Blackboard, I need to find the image, download it, and re-upload it back in order to incorporate it.

…social media can enhance interactions with instructors and peers. Discussion boards do not achieve these goals. They are in my o experience contrived don’t emulate in class discussion nor do they take advantage of existing platforms today’s students use to communicate. In most (not all) online classes I’ve taken faculty do not participate on the discussion board, virtually eliminating all informal faculty and student communication. They are used more as formal assessment like a short paper.

…I have taken over 60 online courses at the college level, and I find myself more engaged in this course than any of the others because of the frequency and conversational format of communication that Twitter and Facebook allow. I really wish other instructors gave us these opportunities to converse more freely!

Now, not all students necessarily were in favor of social media as a learning platform:

…the lack of connectedness and immediacy to Blackboard can be seen as one of its strengths because there are not the same kinds of distractions you would have with Facebook or Twitter. In this sense, CMS platforms create a separation between learning and everyday life which might be beneficial. This is especially important for adult learners who might be working full time or have a family to take care of and can’t feel connected all the time.

…I would strongly prefer to NOT have my classes be based on Facebook compared to Blackboard. I am very diligent about deadlines, so I am not one of the students who needs constant reminders. Another downside for me is that when I come on Facebook, I just want to scroll through some friends and family, watch some funny cat videos, and generally have fun with it. It is good for winding down. If all of my classes notified me each time something was posted on the Facebook page, I would get jolted back into school mentality even during a time I have set aside for not school work, which bothers me.

…I enjoy having a Twitter to communicate with classmates, the conversation flows naturally and quickly between classmates (more like a “real” conversation). On the contrary, it is also nice to have a home base where the material lives for a course such as blackboard. Facebook is a great method of communication but I can also see how it could be disruptive for completing course work (i.e getting notifications on the picture you posted 5 hours ago while trying to complete a discussion post for your course).

…The BB can be utilized as a tool for means of communication among peers and instructors but similar to any social media outlet this varies from person to person and instructor to instructor.

A side conversation this week began as students discussed meeting their K12 or undergraduate students “where they were.”  Rather than Twitter and Facebook that is being used in our course, they suggested that their students were elsewhere:

…I offered Facebook or email; both were met with a chuckle. High schoolers have moved on from Facebook. We discussed Instagram, Snap Chat and Twitter as possible option and settled on Twitter. I’m sure most them have Facebook, but just do not use it much in their daily social online interactions.

…my middle schoolers said they would prefer instagram, snapchat and imessaging as methods of communication, in that order.

…I just sent a Facebook message to my best friend’s son, who is 17. I will say it only took him 30 seconds to respond. He tells me that high school kids have moved to Instagram and Twitter because Facebook is for old people

…I’ve had similar conversations with my 7th grade students. They are all about Instagram and SnapChat now because the pictures are most appealing to them and there is still a text chat feature on both for two-way communication.

To see a possible more up-to-date use of social media in education, I was exploring a class at Virginia Commonwealth University earlier in the week being taught by Jason Coats, Bonnie Boaz and Ryan Cales.  They have a common WordPress site for their three sections of UNIV 200.  They are using Slack for discussions, Flipgrid for weekly video reflections, and blogs for individual assignments.  Cool!  Is this how classes are evolving?

Last week, Jane Hart published her latest list of Top Tools for Learning…expanded this year to the Top 200.  For the first time in 7 years, Twitter is no longer Number One (though it is still a very healthy Number Three).  Facebook is Number 6.  But Slack is Number 20, up 63 places from last year.  If I counted right, there are 78 new tools on this year’s list (of course, it is an expanded list).  And not all meet the definition of “social media” … but many do.

So I am wondering – how would I redesign my Social Media and Education course in a School of Education Masters … taking in to consideration all these new opportunities!  How would you?

I would be interested in your thoughts…

And here is the latest Top Tools list:




Another Tools Post

Wow!  It has been almost 5 months since I last posted.  It is not for lack of content, but the past 5 months have been busy.  My wife and I moved to Virginia, I taught 4 courses online, and we traveled to New England to see the grandkids twice.  So blogging dropped in priority…who knew that retirement would be so tiring!

In July 2015, I posted on my top tools for learning in response to Jane Hart‘s annual call for top tools.  At the time, I noted the following tools (and how they had changed over the years):


2016 marks the 10th anniversary of Jane Hart’s wonderful Top 100 Tools list.  As Jane noted in this year’s call for votes:

“Due to the fact that the same tools have dominated the list in recent years, for 2016 the list will be extended to contain 200 tools so that more tools can be mentioned to create the Top 200 Tools for Learning 2016

Additionally, in order to understand how these tools are being used in different contexts, three sub-lists will also be generated:

  1. Top 100 Tools for Education – for use in schools, colleges, universities, adult ed
  2. Top 100 Tools for Workplace Learning – for use in training, for performance support, social collaboration, etc
  3. Top 100 Tools for Personal & Professional Learning – for self-organised learning”

That is exciting!

This past year, I retired from faculty development, relocated to Virginia, and engaged more fully in online teaching.  So, my tools have shifted.  Here are my top ten tools for this year (in Category One):


I teach for both Northeastern University and Creighton University.  That means two different LMSs (Blackboard and Canvas), but the LMS does not make my top ten…and I would be comfortable teaching in any (or none).  I introduce my students to blogging and social media, so Twitter, Tweetdeck, Diigo, WordPress, and Facebook are all actively used in my instruction (and in work submitted by my students).  I use Feedly and Netvibes to organize student tweets and blogs.  Camtasia and Snagit are used weekly to create multimedia for my classes.  I also instruct my students on curating their own content, and a favorite of my students this past year has been Pinterest.

If I was doing my top 20, some other tools that I use with my students would  be (in no particular order):

  • Storify
  • Piktochart
  • Hootsuite
  • VoiceThread
  • Blogger
  • Learnist
  • Pearltree
  • ScoopIt
  • YouTube
  • iPad

I list these because they surface as students curate and share content.

Thanks, Jane, for a remarkable 10 year journey.  Looking forward to the next decade!

{…and I plan to start blogging again…I have things to share and thoughts on which to reflect…}



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,, 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}