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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A Conversation on Risk Taking by New Faculty

Flickr CC/NC/SA

It’s Spring Break here at VCU, so no GRAD-602 class this week.  However, as Jeff Nugent, David McLeod and I are all here this week…and since the Open VA Conference was cancelled due to a March snow storm, we decided to have another podcast conversation.

Last week in our class, our students discussed a case study around a new faculty and his integration of technology into teaching.  During the class and afterwards in the blogs, a number of students noted that they would not take “such a risky behavior” as trying new ways of teaching in their new job. For instance, one student said, “After reading this case, I was like “Wow, this dude is pretty ballsy!”  I would be scared to do anything this big my first year whether it’s a tenured positions or not.”  In the comments, another said that having students blog was “a radical move”.  We heard similar points in class.

That got Jeff, David and I thinking, and this conversation ensued…

Thoughts?  Reactions?

{Image Credit: kyz}

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