30-Day Challenge – Day 28 – Class Knowledge Sharing Paradox

Harold Jarche blogged about the knowledge sharing paradox today.  He defined this paradox as one where:

“….enterprise social tools can constrain what they are supposed to enhance. People will freely share their knowledge if they remain in control of it because knowledge is a very personal thing. Knowledge workers care about what they need to get work done, but do they care about the organizational knowledge base?”

pair of docks

A “Pair of Docks”

He went on to suggest that the more someone in leadership attempts to control knowledge-sharing, the less knowledge gets shared.

“The only way to build useful organizational knowledge is by connecting it to individual knowledge-sharing…The responsibility for knowledge-sharing must remain with the individual, but the organization can collect, collate and redistribute what is shared…The organization’s role in knowledge-sharing then moves from being directive to facilitative.”

I think there are interesting parallels to classrooms…and educational organizations.  My 30-Day Challenge question:

Day 28 – Can I create more sharing of student-generated knowledge or faculty-generated knowledge by working less at controlling it?

The Educause Learning Initiative released this month “7 Things You Should Know About Web Syndication.”  It noted that:

“Web syndication applies the principles of discovery and distribution to the online environment, offering content producers and readers a flexible, powerful, and largely automated means of accessing and distributing content…Information coming from a wide variety of sources may broaden student learning horizons as it inspires discovery, curation, and sharing.”

Six years ago, I led a brown-bag discussion here at the Center for Teaching Excellence on Personal Learning Environments.  Interesting to go back and see that this slide deck has been viewed over 3,600 times.  In a micro way, it suggests how distributed learning has progressed…and how knowledge has been shared  My point in this slidedeck was to use RSS to build an automated way to access and distribute content.  Fast forward six years, and one can now build customized class websites with WordPress that allow for this automated means of accessing and distributing content.  Last week in GRAD-602, we discussed content creation and curation…and we sometimes have a hard time separating the two.  As Jeff Nugent noted in a conversation this morning, we have gone from “personal” learning environments to group learning environments.

The technology is easy…it is the practice that may be the harder nut to crack.  As my colleague Enoch Hale noted in “We are all mutants,” we need to help “…faculty (like our students) imagine new possibilities.”

Part of that hard nut is developing a digital community for faculty that thrives and grows.  We have attempted that in the past with Blackboard, Ning, Canvas, and blogs.  All took off initially and then died within a few months.  The time commitment and return on investment just was not there for most faculty… and perhaps we were trying to control it too hard. For some, though, a loosely formed community did grow – but ebbed in and out – within Twitter.

In our Office of Innovation, we are trying a new space – A Third Space – as a place to aggregate digital exhaust from any of us in the office.  It is a form of web syndication…but is it community?  Would a similar space within a “class” help students take ownership of their digital work…and would it have legs to last beyond the single semester?

I would be interested in your thoughts….

{Graphic: New Wave Docks … but “pair of docks” stolen directly from Harold…) 🙂 }

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30-Day Challenge – Day 23 – Trust, Leadership and Learning

Harold Jarche had an thoughtful post – really a series of quotes – today – “Move the hierarchy to the rear.”  Harold started with a quote from the Harvard Business Review:

In an environment where everyone is a leader, some other mechanism needs to be put in place to ensure that everyone can maintain and optimize the tenets of fairness, trust and transparency so the entire organization can move forward. – Harrison Monarth: HBR

Harold is focused on business leadership, and the “other mechanism” he suggests is “the wirearchy framework,” proposed by Jon Husband as a web-based alternative to the hierarchical model.

But what if we changed one word in the Monarth quote?

In an environment where everyone is a learner, some other mechanism needs to be put in place to ensure that everyone can maintain and optimize the tenets of fairness, trust and transparency so the entire organization can move forward.

For me, the wirearchy framework can work just as well in a classroom.  Jarche goes on to state:

Solving problems is what most knowledge workers are hired to do. But complex problems usually cannot be solved alone. They require the sharing of tacit knowledge, which cannot easily be put into a manual. Tacit knowledge flows best in trusted networks. Trust promotes individual autonomy and this becomes a foundation for social learning. Without trust, few are willing to share their knowledge. An effective knowledge network also cultivates the diversity and autonomy of each worker. Connected leaders foster deeper connections, developed through ongoing and meaningful conversations. They understand the importance of tacit knowledge in solving complex problems. Connected leaders know they are just a node in the network and not a position in a hierarchy.

networks and nodes - gapingvoid cartoonNow again…think classroom…

  • Solving complex problems…
  • Sharing of tacit knowledge…
  • Trusted networks…
  • Individual autonomy and social learning…
  • Deeper connections…
  • Ongoing and meaningful conversations…

“Connected leaders know they are just a node in the network and not a position in a hierarchy.”

I would submit that connected teachers likewise understand that they are a node in a learning network.  They understand trust, leadership and learning.  This aligns so well with the connectivism approach to learning!

For my 30-Day Challenge question today, I am wondering…

Day 23 – How can I lead from the rear to build trust and facilitate networked learning as a norm in my class?

In another Jarche post – Hierarchies are Obsolete – Harold noted that hierarchies may technically be networks, but they are simply branching ones, good when information flow is one-way and down.  Hierarchies do not facilitate creativity or innovation.  Some classes I have seen in higher education seem to be set up to facilitate the one-way flow of “content” without engaging the students.  In today’s rapidly evolving knowledge era, co-learning with your students seems to be more aligned with the digital world in which our students (and we) reside.

So open up, build trust, and let the learning flow (with all its messiness).  As Harold noted:

“Evolution is on the side of those who cooperate.”


{Graphic: GapingVoid}


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30 Day Challenge – Day 17 – Teaching Like Penguins


PenguinYesterday, I talked about woodpeckers and swifts…today my inspiration is penguins.

Actually, my inspiration was a blog post by Garr Reynolds last week – “There’s no shame in falling. The key is getting up!

As Garr noted:

“…What inspires me most about this flightless bird is their resilience. They make the best of a difficult situation with what they have. Penguins may be better suited for the sea than the land, but on the land they must also navigate if they are to survive. …They make mistakes… They slip, they slide, they bump, and they fall. And yet, even after these little blunders they do not seem to care at all what other people—I mean penguins—think. They simply get up, shake themselves off, and try it again.” {Emphasis mine}

As we work with future faculty in GRAD-602, I am struck with the notion that many of them do not want to make mistakes. Yet, in my own teaching, I like to experiment. Experiments mean trying new things…and sometimes, new things means that I make mistakes. When I do, I try to learn from them and – like penguins – I simply get up, shake myself off, and try again.

So my 30-Day Challenge question for today:

Day 17 – How might I approach teaching like a penguin?

A year ago, Harold Jarche blogged about “The Risky Quadrant.”  Harold was focused on business training departments…but this could equally apply to centers like mine that focus on faculty development.  Harold forwarded questions Don Taylor had asked about training departments:

  1. Are you unacknowledged prophets, with a manager or executive who understands that you need to change, but the organization lags behind?
  2. Are you facing comfortable extinction, like the once dominant but now bankrupt Kodak?
  3. Or are you in the training ghetto, disconnected from the business and unable to be part of any change?

Risky Quadrant

Harold suggested that the reality is that we should be in the quadrant of risky leadership.  He quoted Don Taylor:

“…If both the department and the organisation are changing fast, this is a great opportunity. We can invest in new procedures and systems, build our skills and experiment with different ways of working with the business, and the business – because it is also changing fast and open to new ideas – will respond. It’s in this quadrant that we find really progressive L&D teams that are making an impact. While they are undoubtedly leaders, this quadrant is also risky, because that’s the nature of change.”

I would like to think that we have occupied the risky quadrant for the past five years, issuing our white paper on online teaching, rolling out our Online Course Development Initiative, and experimenting with iPads, digital storytelling, and online faculty development.

The world, however, continues to change fast.  This summer, we are potentially moving further into the risky quadrant with a new online initiative. In a news release yesterday, Gardner Campbell was quoted discussing experiments VCU will be conducting in online learning. He noted that:

“…untidiness and uncertainty are not to be feared, nor do they necessarily signal problems. “It’s all a work-in-progress,” Campbell said. “All of it has the potential to be messy and risky, but it’s a lot like life that way. And the potential benefits far outweigh the risks.”

The academic environment in which our future faculty members will live and grow is quite possibly going to be very different – and risky – from the academic environment in which I have worked for the past two decades. Learning to simply get up, shake themselves off, and try it again will be the norm.

And that can be quite exciting!

Garr shared a great video in his post, so I am replicating that here. Enjoy!

{Graphic: Gilad Rom}

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30 Day Question Challenge – Day 1- Complicated or Complex

My colleague here in our Center for Teaching ExcellenceEnoch Hale – intellectually pushes me all the time…and that is a good thing.  Enoch has become a valued addition to co-teaching GRAD-602 with Jeff Nugent this semester.  If you have listened to some of our podcasts, you have heard him.

Like many of our colleagues, Enoch is beginning to explore the concept of networked learning.  He has recently started blogging.   In yesterday’s post, he posed an open challenge: Post an out-of-the-box question about teaching and learning each day for 30 days.  He came up with this idea after hearing me talk about my own blogging challenge issued by Michele M. Martin back in 2008, and recently modeled by Michele in her 30 Juicy Questions series.  Enoch is doing this to jumpstart his own blogging…but it is a great way to potentially build a personal learning network via blogs.

I’m game.  As Enoch noted, answers can stop thinking, but questions move thinking forward.

Enoch’s question yesterday was: DAY 1: What would my class look like if every student embodied a sense of intellectual playfulness?  Great question.  The concept of “play” is ingrained in pre-schoolers’ learning, but “school” too often seems to strip play away from learning.

So, my question:  Day 1: Is the instructional design for teaching with new media complicated or complex?

This question came to my mind after reading Harold Jarche‘s post back in February – Management in Perpetual Beta.  He suggested that managers with good judgement might still make poor decisions, because they are viewing problems as complicated, when in fact they are complex:

“Complicated, in which the relationship between cause and effect requires analysis or some other form of investigation and/or the application of expert knowledge, the approach is to Sense – Analyze – Respond and we can apply good practice.

Complex, in which the relationship between cause and effect can only be perceived in retrospect, but not in advance, the approach is to Probe – Sense – Respond and we can sense emergent practice.”

In my view, integrating new media into teaching is an emergent practice…and as yesterday’s post suggests, must be viewed in context.  So, does that make the instructional design complicated (which suggests right and wrong answers) or complex (which suggests experimentation because we do not yet know “right”)?  Just yesterday, Debbie Morrison posted “Why is Adoption of Educational Technology So Challenging?… ‘It’s Complicated’“.  My question – is it complicated?  Or is it complex…and how might that change of terms impact design?

If you are in on Enoch’s 30-Day challenge, link back to his blog so that he can collect – as he says – the collective genius.


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Call Me Hammerhand

I am still buzzing from all the ideas percolating from SLOAN International Conference on Online Learning, but today my buzz was from two totally unrelated (and yet totally related) blog posts from my PLN.

At the conference, there were many of us who cautioned people to not fixate on the latest digital tools, because the tools come and go, and what is important is teaching and learning.  After all, Jane Hart noted in her 2013 Top 100 Tools for Learning that the Number One tool of 2007 (Firefox) is now #97, and the Number One tool of 2008 (Delicious) has slid to #60 (and one I have abandoned for Diigo).  Things like WordPress or Pinterest or Poll Everywhere are “just a tool.”

How many of YOU have said similar words!?!

So, this morning I am reading a post from Gardner Campbell entitled “Doug Engelbart, transcontextualist.”  Gardner writes:


“There is no such thing as “just a tool.” McLuhan wisely notes that tools are not inert things to be used by human beings, but extensions of human capabilities that redefine both the tool and the user. A “tooler” results … The way I used to explain this is my new media classes was to ask students to imagine a hammer lying on the ground and a person standing above the hammer. The person picks up the hammer. What results? The usual answers are something like “a person with a hammer in his or her hand.” I don’t hold much with the elicit-a-wrong-answer-then-spring-the-right-one-on-them school of “Socratic” instruction, but in this case it was irresistible and I tried to make a game of it so folks would feel excited, not tricked. “No!” I would cry. “The result is a HammerHand!” …

So no “just a tool,” since a HammerHand is something quite different from a hammer or a hand, or a hammer in a hand. It’s one of those small but powerful points that can make one see the designed built world, a world full of builders and designers (i.e., human beings), as something much less inert and “external” than it might otherwise appear. It can also make one feel slightly deranged, perhaps usefully so, when one proceeds through the quotidian details (so-called) of a life full of tasks and taskings…”

Let me repeat, a HammerHand is something quite different from a hammer or a hand, or a hammer in a hand.

Which brings me to the second post I read this morning, from Jane Hart entitled “The Social Learning Revolution and What It Means for Higher Education.”  Jane provides the Slideshare below which she used for her closing keynote at the WCET Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado last week.

Jane discusses her latest findings for the Top 100 Tools for Learning, where free online social tools dominate the top of the list.  She also notes that  learning, working and personal tools are merging, and that personal and professional learning is under the control of the individual.  She suggests that in the workplace learning revolution, individuals now have the tools to solve their own learning and performance problems.  The connected workplace with its wired workers – what Harold Jarche and Jon Husband call a “wirearchy” – increasingly demands new skills and practices.

Jane then suggests that what this means for higher education is that it is not enough to just add social tools to instructional practices.  Our students need to build social competence within a Personal Knowledge Management framework to prepare them for the new world of work.  They need to learn how to leverage social tools to solve their own learning and performance problems, as they will be expected to do when they enter the world of work.  Their “school work” should not be done in isolation, but integrated with a professional external network.  Working with this external network, our role as faculty is to help students make sense of what they find in the confusing world of the web – learning how to filter, synthesize and analyze, then encouraging them to share their learning back with their network.  In other words, our role as educators is to help students develop their digital identity.

She asks “How are you preparing your students for this new world of work and learning?”  Which begs the question, how are we in Centers preparing faculty to help them prepare these students?

Gardner’s post has me considering that whether working with faculty or students, when we begin to use a digital tool in our instruction, a HammerHand is something quite different from a hammer or a hand, or a hammer in a hand.

How does our use of a digital tool change us, our students, and the teaching moments?

As I said, my brain is buzzing.  Would love to hear your thoughts….

Graphics: {Recon Construction}




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A Piece of My Network

Harold Jarche had an interesting post today on “Leveraging Visualization” that included his LinkedIn Connections.  His map shows lots of nodes amid his distributed connections.

It got me thinking about what my map might look like, so I used LinkedIn Labs website to create my own map:

LinkedIn Map

What is apparent (to me) is that I am a node connecting five different networks, but only two of them are tightly linked.  The yellowish network to the right is VCU related, while the blue and pink networks are edtech related (blue being Edubloggers).  Two institutions I have worked with remain islands in my total networked sea.  Quite different from Harold’s network, and again, it is a piece of my network.  While there are overlaps, many of my Twitter and Facebook connections do not show within this LinkedIn arrangement.



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Bridging the Chasm

In 10 days, we start our summer institute on online teaching and learning.  This is an experiment of sorts for my institution.  For the first time, our institute this year will be the start of an upcoming year-long process to help a cohort of faculty develop and teach online classes.  Following the institute, each member will attend the Quality Matters “Build Your Online Course” and continue to work as a cohort as they develop and refine their course, then teach it the first time.  They will also meet physically three times in the fall and stay connected virtually through a Ning site.

It sounds good on paper (or whiteboard)…but I am pondering this real world of faculty development as I considered a couple of interesting blog posts that crossed my Google Reader this week.

The first was Harold Jarche‘s “Once More, Across That Chasm.”

As Jarche’s graphic above illustrates, there is a chasm that must be crossed before the majority adopt new technologies or new practices.  He suggests that the growth of informal learning and integration of learning into work could bridge this chasm.  That is precisely what our intentions are with our Ning site.

For faculty who have never taught online, transitioning from classroom instruction to online instruction in many ways involves a similar chasm that needs to be bridged.  Our summer institute gives us an opportunity to lay a foundation and build momentum, but I worry that this momentum could be lost if we do not work to sustain the community.  In many ways, our efforts will be focused on developing an online learning community with this cohort through the next year that models the learning communities we hope they will build in their online courses.

Jarche also pointed me to another post by Charles Jennings, “ID – Instructional Design or Interactivity Design in an interconnected world?”  Jennings noted:

“The vast majority of structured learning is content-rich and interaction-poor. That’s understandable in the context of a 20th century mindset and how learning professionals have been taught to develop ‘learning’ events. But it simply isn’t appropriate for today’s world.”

He goes on to state that learning is about action and behaviors, not how much information one retains. He cites the exponential curve of forgetting first postulated by Ebbinghaus where 50% of context-information is lost in the first hour after acquisition if there is no opportunity to reinforce it with practice.

I am not too worried about this during the week of the institute, as we have loaded our institute with a fair balance of information and actions.  We hope to establish some practices with the cohort through the week regarding informal learning through the use of Twitter and our Ning site.  What I am pondering now are the actions we need to provide to continue the momentum beyond the week in June when our cohort is physically present.  They will be interacting in the QM online course 6 weeks after the institute, and will meet together again 6 weeks after that.  That is an eternity in the online world – and is another chasm that needs to be bridged.

For the past two years, we have talked a lot about networked learning.  This will be a real opportunity to put actions to these concepts and work through the Ning site to create a network with faculty members developing both the courses and the practices online that will support these courses.  In many ways, what we are attempting with this cohort mirrors what we would like to see them model in the online courses that they develop.

As Jenning’s noted:

“We need designers who understand that learning comes from experience, practice, conversations and reflection, and are prepared to move away from massaging content into what they see as good instructional design. Designers need to get off the content bus and start thinking about, using, designing and exploiting learning environments full of experiences and interactivity.”

Good advice as we consider how to use the Ning to build community and engagement over the summer and into the fall.

{Graphics linked from Jache blog and Wikipedia}

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