Lame Excuses

Lame Crutch

One aspect that I suspect holds true for faculty developers worldwide is the myriad of excuses one hears in the course of working with faculty on why these faculty can not adopt technology as part of their teaching and learning.

So, thanks of Jane Hart, I checked out this interesting posting by Mitch Ditkoff on The Idea Champions Weblog – The Heart of Innovation blog. He lists the excuses he hears again and again on the front lines of corporate America when he tries to help organizations innovate. There are some amazing parallels to the excuses we hear, but what I found helpful was Mitch’s suggestion for overcoming these excuses. His recommendation:

1. Make a list of your three most bothersome excuses.

2. Turn each excuse into a powerful question, starting with the words “How can I?” or “How can we?” (For example, if your excuse is “That’s R&D’s job,” you might ask “How can I make innovation my job?” or “How can I help my team take more responsibility for innovating?”

3. Brainstorm each question — alone and with your team.

No Excuses

This technique could easily be applied to education!

Quoting from Mitch’s blog, here are the 100 lamest excuses (and his number one is also our number one):

1. I don’t have the time.
2. I can’t get the funding.
3. My boss will never go for it.
4. Were not in the kind of business likely to innovate.
5. We won’t be able to get it past legal.
6. I’ve got too much on my plate.
7. I’ll be punished if I fail.
8. I’m just not not the creative type.
9. I’m already juggling way too many projects.
10. I’m too new around here.
11. I’m not good at presenting my ideas.
12. No one, besides me, really cares about innovation.
13. There’s too much bureaucracy here to get anything done.
14. Our customers aren’t asking for it.
15. We’re a risk averse culture. Always will be.
16. We don’t have an innovation process.
17. We don’t have a culture of innovation.
18. They don’t pay me enough to take on this kind of project.
19. My boss will get all the credit.
20. My career path will be jeopardized if this doesn’t fly.
21. I’ve already got enough headaches.
22. I’m no good at office politics.
23. My home life will suffer.
24. I’m not disciplined enough.
25. It’s an idea too far ahead of its time.
26. I won’t be able to get enough resources.
27. I don’t have enough information.
28. Someone will steal my idea.
29. It will take too long to get results.
30. We’re in a down economy.
31. It will die in committee.
32. I’ll be laughed out of town.
33. I won’t be able to get the ear of senior leadership.
34. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
35. The concept is too disruptive.
36. I won’t be able to get enough support.
37. I don’t tolerate ambiguity all that well.
38. I’m not in a creative profession.
39. Now is not a good time to start a new project.
40. I don’t have the right personality to build a team.
41. Our company is going through too many changes right now.
42. They won’t give me any more time to work on the project.
43. If I succeed, too much will be expected of me.
44. Nothing ever changes around here.
45. Things are changing so fast, my head is spinning.
46. Whatever success I achieve will be undone by somebody else.
47. I don’t have enough clout to get things done.
48. It’s just not worth the effort.
49. I’m getting close to retirement.
50. My other projects will suffer.
51. Been there, done that.
52. I don’t want another thing to think about.
53. I won’t have any time left for my family.
54. A more nimble competitor will beat us to the punch.
55. Teamwork is a joke around here.
56. I’ve never done anything like this before.
57. I won’t be rewarded if the project succeeds.
58. We’re not measured for innovation.
59. I don’t have the right credentials.
60. We need more data.
61. It’s not my job.
62. It will hard sustaining the motivation required.
63. I’ve tried before and failed.
64. I’m not smart enough to pull this off.
65. I don’t want to go to any more meetings.
66. It will take way too long to get up to speed.
67. Our Stage Gate process will sabotage any hope of success.
68. I’m not skillful at building business cases.
69. Summer’s coming.
70. The marketplace is too volatile.
71. This is a luxury we can’t afford at this time.
72. I think we’re about to be acquired.
73. I’m trying to simplify my life, not complicate it.
74. The dog ate my homework.
75. Help! I’m a prisoner in a Chinese fortune cookie factory
76. My company just wants to squeeze more blood from the stone.
77. My company isn’t committed to innovation.
78. I don’t have the patience.
79. I’m not sure how to begin.
80. I’m too left-brained for this sort of thing.
81. I won’t be able to get the funding required.
82. I’m getting too old for this.
83. We’re too competitive, in-house. Collaboration is a rarity.
84. Spring is coming.
85. I’m hypoglycemic.
86. That’s Senior Leadership’s job
87. I’m thinking of quitting.
88. Market conditions just aren’t right.
89. We need to focus on the short term for a while.
90. Innovation, schminnovation.
91. What we really need are some cost cutting initiatives.
92. Six Sigma will take care of everything.
93. Mercury is in retrograde.
94. IT won’t go for it.
95. Maybe next year.
96. That’s my boss’s job.
97. That’s R&D’s job.
98. I would if I could, but I can’t, so I won’t.
99. First, we need to benchmark the competition.
100.It’s against my religion.

What are the top three excuses you hear from faculty?

How might they be reframed into questions for mutual exploration?

What excuse do you have not to try?

[Photo Credits: jm3, vandys]

Here Comes Everybody…But When?

Visualization of Blogs

I just completed Clay Shirky‘s very interesting book, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations (2008). Shirky analyzed how social media is changing the ability of people to organize for change without overlying administrative hierarchies – a change he sees as fundamental to society as the printing press. Wikipedia is a success not because it is brilliantly managed but because it is unmanaged and open – the cost of participation is low and the perceived rewards by those who contribute high. Through blogs and wikis, anyone can now publish (thought there are many examples of some who should not!). Shirky maintains that we are only now beginning to understand some of the implications of social media and its associated power to connect people around specific goals and objectives. He noted (p. 270):

“The most profound effects of social tools lag their invention by years, because it isn’t until they have a critical mass of adopters, adopters who take these tools for granted, that their real effects begin to appear.”


This is swirling around my head as I look at two posts from yesterday. Will Richardson in “Control vs Self-Control” talked about some horror-stories of technology lockdown – administrators and teachers (and students) not being allowed to use flash drives in one school and laptops being forbidden in another district, all in the name of control and standardization. Will quotes Sir Ken Robinson who stated that “we have to stop talking about school reform and start thinking about school ‘transform’.”

Meanwhile, over in Darren Drapper’s blog, he posted “Shift *Is* Happening – But Are We Shifting?“. Some statistics he noted:

The March 2008 survey of 17,000 global internet users is, according to Universal McCann, “the most detailed survey of the Social Media revolution.” In spite of the bias that such a claim emits, Darren thought these figures are something that educators everywhere should consider:

  • 83% of internet users watch video clips, up from 62% in the last study in June 2007

  • 78% of internet users read blogs, up from 66%

  • 57% of internet users are now members of a social network

  • 70% of internet users in China write a blog, 66% in the Philippines and 60% in Mexico

  • China is the world’s largest blogging market with 42 million bloggers – versus 26 million in the United States.

Darren also noted that social media – and blogs in particular – are becoming a more important part of global media consumption for internet users than some traditional media channels. In South Korea – the market Darren noted that is leading the world in digital trends – 77% of internet users read blogs each week compared to just 58% reading the mainstream press. Globally, 73% of internet users are reading blog. Shirky stated that when we change the way we communicate, we change society. These statistics point to the change that is occurring.

Wow! Put these two posts together and one begins to suspect that the rest of the world is achieving that critical mass that Shirky alluded to while America (and particularly American education) lags behind. As Skirky noted, the important question is not whether social media will reshape society but rather understanding how it is already happening.

Kids and Computers

Here at the Center for Teaching Excellence, we struggle with questions of adoption. Jeff Nugent has raised some interesting aspects of the “backwards translation” challenge that innovators and early adopters have with the 80% lagging them in adoption. We are at an interesting junction in education where early adopters are swimming in social media – we are part of the shift – and our challenge is to look back and now assist the early and late majority that make up the majority of our faculty in also making that shift. It no longer is a consideration, it looks like it is a national imperative.

Many are worried that our dollar is becoming irrelevant – I would suggest we worry instead about whether our educational system as a whole is becoming irrelevant. If we do not recognize the societal shift occurring, we will not be in a position to have an economic impact in the world a decade from now. We need to transform, we early adopters are positioned to make that transformation, and the recent statistics suggest that we start action and not debate!

Any one else seeing this imperative as I do?

[Photo Credits: Rob Goodspeed, Shareski]

The Gold Standard for eLearning

I am back in Richmond from the ITC eLearning 2008 conference. Spent yesterday traveling (and losing my cellphone in a Florida IHOP … whole ‘nother story!!!)

So wanted to post a few blog posts about Monday’s sessions.

The keynote speaker Monday was Patrica McGee, Associate Professor of IT and Program Coordinator for Adult and Higher Education at the University of Texas – San Antonio. Her talk was on the “seeking the gold standard,” as she described below:

Many institutions see the use of technology as a way to increase revenues and decrease the need for campus-based classrooms and other resources. However, emerging Web 2.0 technologies have moved our instruction from teaching- to learning-centered education. Strategies that were effective in the past no longer offer the same return on investment and elude the “gold standard” for using technology for learning. She discussed how we could maximize the return on the value of technology to increase learner engagement, add instructional options and improve faculty capabilities, without devaluing students, instructors or content.

Patricia used the term “gold standard” to remind us that American money was once backed by the equivalent value in gold. This gold standard gave value to our currency. Her question to us was – What are the underlying values that we use in determining to use or not use educational technology?

Technology provides us with both choices and challenges when it comes to access, accountability, assessment, and retention of students. Technology allows for increased access and alternate modes of communication with students (and the world). It provides opportunities for data collection and data mining. Assessment can be interactive, formative, and again, provides opportunities for data warehousing. The ubiquitous availability of the web and social networks opens up new ways to connect with and retain students.

Yet, Patricia suggests that we are making technology decisions without looking at the multiple perspectives concerned. She polled the audience using clickers and determined that we were:

– 1% Veterans (born before 48)
– 63% Boomers
– 33% Gen-X’s
– 3% Millennials

Most of the administrators were therefore boomers, not necessarily looking at technology with the same perspective as Gen-X’s or Millennials.

Patricia said one myth might be Prensky’s concept of digital natives. She cited a recent Australian study that found that unlike Prensky’s assumptions, more than half of the teens in Australia had never sent a photo by phone, never blogged, never accessed the internet from their cellphone, nor ever set up a personal webpage. We may be making false assumptions about the degree to which entering students ARE savvy when it comes to technology {…though I would counter that the entering students appear to be much more comfortable with technology than many faculty today}.

Patricia showed the K-12 take-off of Michael Wesch’s Vision video: A Vision of K-12 Students Today. She suggested that in higher education, we need to ensure that our adoption strategies align with the digital skills emerging from K-12. We should examine acceptance of edtech from both undergraduate and graduate perspectives, as well as from gender, cultural, and disciplinary differences. Technology should integrate with both school and life, and allow for delivery of learning in multiple formats.

She reminded us of how far we have come in the last ten years. In that time, email shifted from being an option to being required. Access to course materials is now expected from off-campus. Classrooms are expected to have web access. She chided those of us in faculty development to recognize that while both learning and teaching have a variety of styles, we tend to use only workshops to deliver faculty development {…a topic we have been recently discussing in our Center for Teaching Excellence…where we do offer online tutorials, institutes and consultations in addition to our workshops!}.

Patricia raised some good points, and one of her final ones hit home for me. Many faculty come to us in the Center looking for help in using some “tool”…be it Blackboard, blogs, wikis, or podcasts. She noted that in research for her book, Course Management Systems for Learning: Beyond Accidental Pedagogy, she found that the CMS was invisible to Millennials. The technology was like the air – necessary but not noticed. We need to become familiar with the various technologies we use in technology, but they are a means to an end…and we need to focus first and foremost on the learning.