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:

coursemapILD831

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!

 

Toe Dipping in Technology

Dipping Toes

As many of you know, Jeff Nugent and I teach a graduate course in the Preparing Future Faculty program called GRAD-602: Teaching, Learning and Technology.  Our 24 PhD candidates and post-docs spend the first 6 weeks exploring different potential technologies, such as blogs, Twitter, Diigo, and other networked applications.  Most of them are familiar with Facebook but had not used other social media.  We are attempting to familiarize them with the notion that today’s web is social, connected, and participatory.  So they are dipping their collective toes.  We are having them blog weekly and are aggregating their posts with NetvibesThe course feed is here.

We are seeing some excellent writing in their first posts, but few have caught on to commenting so far.  That will come with time.  We are also seeing some interesting push-back on the use of technology in teaching and learning.  One student posted today:

“…When this class started I was slightly apprehensive about the idea of creating a blog, but I could see the usefulness of it and I resolved to at least give it a good try. This Twitter thing though…I have to say I have several negative feelings about Twitter and I’ve been against creating one and just kind of hoping the Twitter craze would pass by sooner rather than later.”

 Another asked:

“…how can a teacher measure his or her student’s engagement when the latter resorts to technology? Does technology facilitate to live by seven golden Principles of improving Undergraduate Education? The answer is both Yes and No.”

And a third blogs:

“Doesn’t showing up for class and being prepared to share your ideas and knowledge still count for something? While technology opens education to many in various parts of the world, one of the things that both articles mention is that education is social and collaborative. We still need to discipline ourselves to come together and share ideas face-to-face. There is something innately human in this, and while it can be improved with technology-based material prepared for a variety of people, you cannot take this away without changing the essence of what it means to be human. We learn by doing, but we also learn, especially as youngsters, by following examples. Technology in isolation, maybe even in majority, sets a poor example.”

Okay….I am cherry picking some comments, and the class as a whole is not setting up an “Occupy 602” camp.  But with only 100 minutes a week together face-to-face, I find it fascinating that the conversation is not only continuing between classes in the blogosphere, but surfacing ideas that have not come out face-to-face.

It would be neat and helpful if our colleagues around the world checked out some of these student blogs and joined in the conversations.  These student are still attempting to frame social media in their past frames of reference, and the global networked learning that COULD occur is so much broader than that.

So come on in, the waters fine!

{Photo Credit: Ben W}

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Sorta Like the Sky

rewiredMy wife was shopping at Jo-Ann‘s Fabrics this afternoon, which meant I was across the street with a cup of coffee and my Nook ereader.  I have just started Larry Rosen’s 2010 book Rewired: Understanding the iGeneration and the Way They Learn.

So far, I am only up through Chapter 2, but I came across an interesting quote in Larry’s book that made me reflect on this past week in our GRAD 602 course.  Jeff Nugent and I are co-teaching this course, Teaching, Learning and Technology in Higher Education – part of VCU‘s Preparing Future Faculty program.  We have 24 bright doctoral students / post-docs in the course.

In his book, Larry examines the way generations approach technology, from Baby Boomers like me through Gen Xers (my daughter gags at that term – “What? Named after a letter in the alphabet?”), then NetGen or Millennials, born in the 80s and early 90s, to the latest generation – the iGeneration.  The newest kids on the block have lots of technologies with “i” in them – iPod, iTunes, Wii, iPhones, and of course, my granddaughter’s favorite, the iPad, as shown below.

ipad_mollyOne of my favorite quotes starts the chapter:

My younger brother, Aiden, is only 7 and already he is doing techie stuff that I haven’t even tried.  And he picks it up so fast.  He was on the web when he was 3 and already has a cell phone and knows how to text me.  I can’t imagine what he will be doing when he is my age.

—Adrian, age thirteen”

I cannot imagine either!

On Thursday night, Jeff introduced Twitter to our class.  None previously had accounts in Twitter, and in fact, many had stated they had no intention to start.  When Jeff told them that exploring Twitter was a component of this class and that they would all have to set up accounts, there was a collective groan from the room.  Some of their initial reactions can be found here and here and here.

Those groans were background noise as I read Larry’s book today.  And while Adrian’s quote was neat, the one that blew me away came from Ashley…who helped title this post:

Larry stated (p. 29):

“I have interviewed thousands of children in both formal research studies and informal settings.  I will never forget an interview with Ashley, the ten-year old daughter of a friend of mine.  I asked her why she liked technology so much.  Ashley looked at me blankly and said, “What do you mean why do I like technology? Isn’t everything technology? I guess I don’t even think about it. It’s sorta like the sky, ya know.  I don’t think about the sky.  I just know that when I look up it’s there. Same with technology. It’s just everywhere.” To Ashley, technology is not a tool to use, as it is for many adults.  It is the center of her life…she most certainly is consumed with it and by it.”

Jeff and I have been introducing our students to various web technology tools over the past five weeks.  As Jeff noted in “No guarantees…“, we have used the 7 Principles of Good Practice as a lens to examine whether to adopt a particular technology or not.  So far, these technologies have included blogging, social bookmarking with Delicious and Diigo, RSS feeds and aggregation, and last Thursday, Twitter.  I think I can safely say that our students do not feel that technology is the center of their universes…though thanks to Jeff and I, they may feel consumed by it!

Yet, these future faculty will be facing (live or virtually) students from this iGeneration in not too many years as they teach in higher education.  Larry’s research found that 16-18 year-olds now spend on average around 2.5 hours a day online, not counting the other media with which they are engaged simultaneously.  They are texting on average around 3.5 hours a day.  Nearly half of all high school students have their own computer in their bedroom.

If one assumes that communication is a key element of their lives, then what does that mean for our future faculty?  How connected will they be with their students?  What will be the expectations of these faculty and how will those expectations mesh with those of their students?  I really do not know, but I see the future as both exciting and a little scary.  Jeff and I both gave our cell phone numbers to our students, yet in six weeks, I have not received one text message from any of them.  Will that be true of their future?  If technology is sorta like the sky, what will that mean for teaching and learning?

As always, if you have thoughts on any of these questions. I would like to extend the conversation.

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What Walls Need Tearing Down?

labels

Michael Bugeja’s opinion piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Reduce the Technology, Rescue Your Job,” struck a nerve today.  He started by noting that for “most of this decade, professors embraced the pedagogy of engagement, wooing students via technology and ignoring the costs because traditional methods, from textbooks to lectures, purportedly bored students who multitasked in the wireless classroom.”  He then noted the massive cuts occurring across higher education, and suggested that these “facts alone merit an immediate technological and curricular assessment, or else hundreds more professors and staff members could lose their jobs in the coming weeks and months. You may lose your job.”

Bugeja raised the valid point that too often technology decisions are made without factoring in true costs, but he then suggests that teaching centers (like the one at which I work) are part of the problem for pushing the use of technology for teaching and learning.  His final paragraph reads:

  • “I challenge anyone objecting to these arguments to look in the eye of secretaries, janitors, adjuncts, advisers, and professors of eliminated programs and say that avatars, clickers, social networks, and tweets—and the pedagogies, IT expenses, and teaching centers supporting them—are more important than feeding their families. To believe we can afford both indicates how incapable many of us are of making the difficult choices that the times require.”

It would be easy to dismiss this article if I did not think that his way of thinking was not reflective of many in mainstream faculty.  I have seen a number of faculty in higher education, as well as teachers in K-12, who see technology as an evil.  In many ways, they want to wall off their classes from the outside world.

That image of a wall is particularly relevant today, the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.  President Reagan has always been one of my favorites, and one cannot think of him without hearing his exhortation:

“Mr. Gorbachev…tear down this wall!”

That is the line most remember, but I like his comments later in the same speech, in which he stated “this wall will fall. For it cannot withstand faith; it cannot withstand truth. The wall cannot withstand freedom.”

Bugeja’s comments to reduce technology in order to save jobs ignores the realities of a changing world…much as the Berlin Wall did.  Technology in and of itself is not evil, and technology integrated into education is opening minds, not closing them.  The participatory web and open access to information has created freedoms that never existed in the past.  Those freedoms directly and positively impact learning.  As Derek Bruff noted in a comment to Bugeja’s piece:

“…point out that Bugeja has focused here on the cost of instructional technology, but not on the benefits to student learning. There’s plenty of research that shows that student learning is positively affected by instructional methods that involve more active student engagement before, during, and after class. Technologies that support or facilitate such instructional methods are certainly worth exploring, if our goal is student learning. When conducting a cost-benefit analysis, it’s only appropriate to spend as much time thinking through the benefits as it is thinking through the costs.”

“…if our goal is student learning…”  Well said, Derek!  If one shifts the microscope from technology to student learning, one might find many traditional classrooms in trouble!  President Reagan made his speech in 1987, and during that same period, Chickering and Gamson developed a seminal work on teaching and learning, their Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Instruction.  They synthesized fifty years of research on teaching to develop these principles:

Good practice in undergraduate education:
1. Encourages contact between students and faculty
2. Develops reciprocity and cooperation among students.
3. Encourages active learning.
4. Gives prompt feedback.
5. Emphasizes time on task.
6. Communicates high expectations.
7. Respects diverse talents and ways of learning.

Rather than cast technology as an evil, I would suggest that technology is a powerful tool that encourages contact between students and faculty, provides avenues for reciprocity and cooperation among students, creates new venues for active learning, enables more timely and prompt feedback, and gives new opportunities to keep students on task.  High expectations can now be communicated in multiple ways across social media that students are using, and these diverse and multiple paths respect the talents and new ways our students are learning.

We certainly need to be fiscally prudent with taxpayer and tuition-funded monies, but now is not the time to build walls and isolate our students from a 24/7 wired world.  Instead, we need to actively help our students create the learning networks that they will need to thrive in the 21st Century.

So to Mr. Bugeja and others who agree with him, I say “Tear down this wall!”

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Ada Lovelace Day

Ada Lovelace (per Wikipedia) “is today appreciated as the ‘first programmer’ since she was writing programs-that is, manipulating symbols according to rules-for a machine that Babbage had not yet built. She also foresaw the capability of computers to go beyond mere calculating or number-crunching while others, including Babbage himself, focused only on these capabilities.”  Wikipedia goes on to explain:

“During a nine-month period in 1842–43, Lovelace translated Italian mathematician Luigi Menabrea‘s memoir on Babbage’s newest proposed machine, the Analytical Engine. With the article, she appended a set of notes. The notes are longer than the memoir itself and include (Section G) in complete detail a method for calculating Bernoulli numbers with the Engine, recognized by historians as the world’s first computer program.”

I first became aware of Ada Lovelace while in the Navy.  The Department of Defense computer program “Ada” was named for her.  Ada Lovelace Day, March 24th, was created by Suw Charman-Anderson to “to draw attention to women excelling in technology” by having everyone publish a post on this day about a woman in technology she or he admires.

I certainly have some fantastic role models in my PLE, so thought I would highlight them:

Laura Blankenship

danah boyd

Martha Burtis

Kim Cofino

Vicki Davis

Gabriela Grosseck

Jane Hart

Gayla Keesee

Jennifer Jones

Michele Martin

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach

Sarah Robbins

Barbara Sawhill

Elaine Talbert

Sue Waters

Then again, being surrounded by women who excell at technology is old hat with me.  My twin daughters grew up digital and continue to this day to use technology.  Melissa Frail is at MathWorks and Stephanie Watwood works out of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.  Ada would have been proud of them…and all the women listed above.  They all will serve as wonderful role models for my two granddaughters, Molly and Marin.

Catch and Release Twitter

Trout Creek

My colleague Jeff Nugent just returned from a week of fly fishing in Western Virginia, including the story of the largest trout he had ever caught – an 18-incher on Mossy Creek (picture of fish here). However, what I “caught” today was an interesting metaphor associated with his forced disconnect from being online 24/7. He said it took a couple of days to stop wondering what he was missing on Twitter, and then a realization that, just as there would always be fish swimming by 24/7 and he would only catch some (if lucky), so too it is okay to simply catch and release from Twitter, savoring those you reel in but not fretting over those you miss. This Tweeter creek will continue to flow and you do not have to fish 24/7.

Sounds like good philosophy…and I don’t have to fib about the ones I let get away!

At the same time, I am mindful of some points Wes Fryer made today in his post “Here for the Learning Revolution.” What is fantastic about the new twitterverse is the continuing conversation unfolding. You can miss some…but you can also get up to speed pretty quickly as you join back in. For instance, I blogged yesterday about the amazing unfolding of the Advocates for Digital Citizenship, Safety and Success, spearheaded by Vicki Davis. This conversation is continuing to unfold and now includes a Goggle Group page, a collective tag “ad4dcss” (with 28 sites tagged in Diigo in the first half day), a wiki, and a growing number of members. A TweetScan for “ad4dcss” shows 32 tweets in the past day. A conversation is beginning to expand about a critical issue that is capturing the passions of some great teachers. Please join in yourself! As Wes noted, conversations can begin in Twitter or one blog, move to another blog, circle back around to Twitter again, shift to an expanding wiki or other social media site, move to Elluminate or Skype, and even show up in face-to-face gatherings…such as our Monday morning coffee sessions at our Center for Teaching Excellence. While pieces may seem disconnected, a synergistic whole emerges. I find this invigorating and encouraging for our future!

Thanks, Jeff, for the great fish story and the even better life balance suggestion. And thank you, Vicki, for having the passion to make sure certain conversations DO take place!

[Photo Credit: Savethewildup]