Thursday, July 31, 2014

Tack, meet Blackboard; Blackboard, meet Tack

Tackk.com/education
Teaching online in higher education requires most instructors to use an LMS (Learning Management System; i.e. Blackboard, Moodle, Desire2Learn, etc.). According to ECAR, 99% of higher education institutions report LMSs use as ubiquitous on campus. Understanding how an expensive LMS displays content on mobile devices (used more and more by students to access content -- as well as a huge opportunity increase interactions with and among our students) and ensuring the user experience of a course designed with an LMS is up to par with user experience created with  free, more social, and easier-to-use technologies that are surfacing like wildfire these days in the edtech startup arena are important topics for higher education administrators, instructional designers, and faculty to remain aware of.

I shared some of other thoughts LMSs in a recent post (to be fully transparent) and will reserve those for the moment, as my reality for today is the same as that of many other faculty -- I can use external tools but I also have to use an LMS.  So, how the question becomes we bring these two worlds together in design that makes sense for our students?

And, most importantly, what can the LMS community and edtech startup community learn from our experiences as educators?  I hope this post will illuminate a few insights for both communities, as well as for faculty who share my own interests.

Life as a Hacker Teacher

Often we hear about new tools and their potential for learning.  That may mean they create more visually engaging content than the content within our LMS, which can be flat and simply boring. It can also mean a tool could inspire new options for engaging with students including opportunities for content creation, which can be clunky and even down right impossible with some LMSs.

But then there is the somewhat uncomfortable introductory moment...when you must figure out how to integrate that awesome new tool with your LMS in a way that creates a fluid experience for your students. If you can't do that, it's not worth it.  And, to me, this can be the most difficult part. I often tell people, teaching with Blackboard has taught me some pretty impressive hacking skills.

This week, I am experimenting with Tackk.com/education. I learned about Tackk after follwing the ISTE feed this year. There was much awesome chatter about it! Then yesterday, my good friend and colleague Anna Stirling shared a post on Facebook about it, which nudged me to take another look. It was enough to get me to spend the day exploring, thinking, and wanting to redesign much of my class.

What I Learned:


What I learned (view the 9-minute video above for a visual tour!):
  1. Tackk's user interface is simple and intuitive.
  2. Tackk offers cool features including a simple URL paste option for plugging in online videos and a nice RSVP feature that allowed me to ask my students if they're planning to attend my online orientation. The content items on a Tackk can be moved up or down with a simple arrow (similar to Blackboard's drag/drop feature).
  3. The overall design of a Tack is more coherent and visually appealing than content designed using Blackboard. I've tried for years to create content with Blackboard that is visually appealing and I have simply given up. I'm not a web designer and neither are more than 99% of college instructors. Creating content should be simple and intuitive, and it should look beautiful. Period.
  4. I also learned that the YouTube videos I have manually embedded into my Blackboard course do not render on either my iPad or iPhone. This was disappointing, to say the least, considering that the majority of my students own these devices (a fact I know because I've surveyed them for years). Each of my learning units includes a welcome video that I have taken the extra time to record and YouTube videos that demonstrate complex photographic processes. Does this gap prevent students from viewing the content? Or at the very least create a missed opportunity for reaching my students (that I wasn't even aware of)?
  5. The very same videos render beautifully in a Tackk embedded into Blackboard.
  6. While a Tackk can be embedded into Blackboard, there are only three embed code options provided by Tackk and the largest one is tiny. It does not render a visually appealing experience in Blackboard. I edited the HTML code (to 800 wide x 1200 tall) and it then it rendered well in both Firefox and on an iPad. Tack needs more embed options that play well with LMSs.
  7. The embed code created a scroll bar, which resulted a double scroll situation in Blackboard. This is a problem that also needs to be resolved.
  8. There is no option to add alt-tags to images in a Tackk. Alt-tags are critical additions when creating web-based content because they are read by screen readers (accessible devices used by blind students when navigated the web) and are a necessary element for creating accessible web content.  This needs to be resolved on Tackk's end (and I would add, nearly all ed tech startup tools I experiment with).

Moving forward

This semester, I'm considering using Tackk for some of my content in my online class. I'd like to hear from Tackk about some of the suggestions I offered above to see if they could be implemented.  Next semester, I'm considering having my students create visual learning journeys with Tackk. I think it's a promising learning tool!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Threat of Higher Ed's Love Affair with Closed-LMSs

Closed Sign in Yellowstone from Flickr via Wylio
© 2012 Bryan Mills, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Michael Berman (whom I am fortunate to work with at CSU Channel Islands) has been blogging about "LMS Futures," a topic he presented on at BbWorld in Las Vegas this month.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term LMS, it stands for Learning Management System and refers to the application used by nearly all colleges and universities to administer and teach online/blended classes, as well as organize digital content for face-to-face classes (examples of the most popular LMSs include Blackboard, Desire2Learn and Moodle).

The post Michael shared yesterday got me thinking more deeply about the "closed" nature of the LMS.  When I say "closed," I am referring to the way the activity and content within an LMS is disconnected from the open web. I understand the development and adoption of the closed LMS is intertwined with compliance of FERPA policy. Yes, that's part of the conversation but, as we know, priorities guide change. And currently, there are important social shifts that are ignored when efficiency and compliance of policy become our guiding lights. 

I am writing this blog post in an effort to try to encourage awakening in those who use LMSs and may not be part of the usual conversation.  And to understand that the act of implementing a closed LMS within an organization and constructing policies around it, as well as teaching within a closed LMS constructs a "mental model" about using social media that positions social technologies as threatening and bad.  That, I believe, is the wrong direction for us to be headed as college educators situated on the brink of a new social era.

Constructing and Reinforcing Mental Models

A mental model refers to ideas, descriptions, and beliefs that guide one's actions.  Mental models may exist within a broad culture, a company, or a broader organizational context (like higher education).  Individuals are extremely committed to mental models, as they are guide us through our actions at an unconscious level. When mental models are challenged, one's first reaction is to act defensively.  This is one reason why we must be critical of how the technologies used at a systemic level can foster status quo attitudes, which can become intensely difficult to change over time.


Leading Through Change: Inspiring Awakening - by Michelle Pacansky-Brock
Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

Through my social media interactions, conference attendances, and presentations over the years, I have noticed a generalized difference in attitude between K12 and higher education educators on social media about teaching with social media (again, this is anecdotal). I blogged about this observation in 2011 after attending the annual CUE Conference, a large (and awesome) ed tech conference attended largely by a K12 audience.  Essentially, over the years, in K12, there seems to have been rising consensus of teachers who demand access to social technologies for learning. While, in higher education, where more than 30% of students took at least one online class in 2013, the story is somewhat different.

K12 leaders have advocated for access to social media for learning, arguing that, "Knowing how to build successful communities of learning and how to integrate social connectivity within a learning environment is a much more needed outcome than finding a way to control and monitor specific users and content." I wonder how this difference in attitude toward social media in K12 is informed by the lower LMS use. I realize FERPA is a big player in the conversation in higher education -- but, come on, in K12, we are dealing with users who are younger than the permitted age on the Terms of Use for the technologies  being references. The point is, our actions are driven by our mental models.

Closed for Learning

Image by Michael Berman

While there are many innovators in higher ed (whom I am grateful for and I learn from every day in my PLN), and there are colleges/universities that have made the jump to create social media guidelines that foster understanding and stress the value of openness, what I feel concerned about is how the mainstream integration of the closed-LMS system across higher education is constructing and enforcing a mental model in college and university faculty ("Here is your shell, go teach with it.") that undercuts values graduates need to succeed in the workplace today.   According to a 2014 report from ECAR about LMSs in Higher Ed, 99% of higher education institutions report use of the LMS is ubiquitous. These values -- community, sharing, relationship building -- are the very values employers expect college graduates to have mastered and demonstrate within the workplace, which is becoming more and more social each year. 

"The social network is the new production line."

The world has been deeply transformed by globalization and technology. As college graduates enter the workplace today, they are expected to demonstrate how they are unique from others and in what ways their contributions set themselves apart from others. One's digital footprint is an opportunity to do be one step ahead in life at graduation.  And the continuous reliance on the closed-LMS environment continously constructs a mental model for faculty, instructional designers, administrators, all members of higher education that using social media is, in essence, the wrong thing to do.  Moving forward, the mainstream use of closed LMS environments is creating yet another digital divide.

As I discussed in an earlier postGartner predicts that by 2016 many large companies will begin to replace the use of phones and email with social networks.  Ginni Rometty, the CEO of IBM, noted in 2013 that "the social network is the new production line." Value in the social era is cultivated around openness, collaboration, shared visions, and transparency. Individuals who demonstrate their ability to foster relationships through social technologies (which is very different from simply having accounts on or using social media) will be one step ahead of the rest.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

8 Tips for Making Beautiful Presentations

Believe it or not, when I started teaching art history I had to rely on physical color slides to illustrate my presentations. Ugh. When I stop to pause and think about how technology has revolutionized communications and learning, the transformative nature of digital images makes me speechless.

Still, it takes more than access to an endless flow of digital content and knowledge of how to effectively use this content to make something meaningful.  And that is why I am writing this post.

Last night, I received these two Tweets from Michael Berman (who happens to be my boss) in response to my presentation, The Fractal Life: Harnessing the Power of the Social Era for Agile, Authentic Living.
Michael's nudge made me think about how I've improved my design sense over the years to put together beautiful presentations but it also made me think about the importance of stressing why this is so important.

Humans are visual creatures. Creating and engaging with visual content was more innate to our species than text.  But beyond the "what came first" argument, we must understand the power of images to engage the affective domain of learning.  For a moment, reflect on your childhood memories. What comes to mind? How much of what you remember is imprinted in memory because someone took photographs of those moments? Just last week, I spent a week in Carmel with my family and visited the gorgeous Point Lobos State Park. My older sister mentioned, "Wow, I remember coming here with mom and dad as kids!'  I thought about that and could not remember the trip at all but had a clear vision of a single photograph of me and my two sisters sitting on one of the creamy colored rocks. I remembered the Pepsi-Cola jacket I was wearing, the "Captain and Tenille" style haircut I had, and I also remembered my younger sister clinging to her favorite stuffed animal (in tears because she had been told to leave it in the car initially). 

Our personal memories, our lives are shaped through images. And as they have become more accessible to educators, understanding how to use them effectively to persuade, impact, empower, and inspire others is an important part of communicating.

But Michael's Tweets also made me realize that creating beautiful presentations requires more than nice images and thoughtful design.

Here are just a few tips I would offer to anyone who has a desire to create more beautiful presentations.

1. Make the text-to-image paradigm shift.  

  • This can be a big, very big shift for college educators. If you are presenting live to a room of people, your voice, your facial expressions, and your the motions of your body should deliver your textual narrative.  The screen behind you should be an opportunity to enhance what you say. Build your slides around images, not text. Text will play a role but it is more of an opportunity to anchor thoughts, reference sources, showcase key concepts. 

2. View your role as a storyteller. 

  • What is your story about? What key message(s) do you want your audience to walk away with?  And what image(s) come to mind when you imagine these messages?   
  • Be vulnerable and share stories from your own life. Make yourself and your topic real, relevant, and meaningful to your audience.  I often use images of my family and videos of them or that they have created.  I delete these slides before I share my slide decks on Slideshare or other social media sites publicly, out of respect for their privacy.

3. First impressions matter. 

  • Create a compelling title and a great title slide with an visually dynamic image.

4. Be thoughtful about text placement and font choice. 

  • Using Haiku Deck to design your presentations is a good way to train yourself to create visually-centric presentations with beautiful text.  You'll see how the style of Haiku Deck demonstrates how laying white text over a block of transparent black will make it 'pop' off the page and anchor it visually on your slide. The transparency of the block also allows for the image behind the text to show through.  Also, you will begin to start thinking about text placement as you select your images (a sign that your skills are developing!). 
  • Haiku Deck is simple to use, free, and is available in a web and iPad app.  Another great feature is the direct integration with Flickr's collection of Creative Commons licensed images. When you select an image using Haiku Deck, it is automatically attributed (in very small text) at the bottom of the screen. Haiku Deck presentations may be presented from the web, embedded on other sides with html code, you may export them into PowerPoint files for offline presenting, export them into SlideShare, or you can export them into a PDF that will organize each image with your notes (a nice way to create a handout).
  • After I used Haiku Deck for a few months, I found that the style of my "decks" had grown on me so much that I now organically design my own slides in Keynote to look like Haiku Deck slides (and, yes, I still use it too for special projects).  
Here is an example of a Haiku Deck presentation I made.


The Power of Images in Teaching & Learning - Created with Haiku Deck by Michelle Pacansky-Brock

  • Another incredible tool I use heavily and learn a lot from is Canva. It is an online graphic design tool. Even if you don't think of yourself as a graphic designer, I encourage you sign up for a Canva account if you are interested in creating more visually aesthetic content.  You will receive emails (not frequently) notifying you of new, awesome, interactive tutorials that will teach you how to improve your design skills. Being a Canva user is like being enrolled in a Design Academy!

5. Use Creative Commons-licensed images and learn to attribute them correctly.

Image by Michelle Pacansky-Brock CC-BY
  • Be a rockstar and model how to properly re-use digital images for your peers and students.  If you are using images in a presentation, on a blog, or in some other manner that you did not take, you are using images that are shared under some type of copyright license. 
  • Traditional copyright (all rights reserved) requires the permission of the copyright owner for re-use, unless your re-use falls under Fair Use of the U.S. Copyright Law (see this fabulous video for help with this complex topic).  Creative Commons licenses offer more flexibility for re-use.  Images that were never covered by copyright or that have have a license that has expired fall into the Public Domain and may be freely re-used.
  • If you locate an image on Google Image search, for example, you likely have no clue who the copyright owner is and if you choose to download it and use it in your presentation, you may be violating copyright law. 
  • Try searching for Creative Commons licensed images on sites that provide you with the full attribution information. Some recommendations are FlickrCompfight, and Wylio (requires an account and a premium account will auto-attribute images for you!).
  • Want to understand how to attribute CC-Licensed images? Check out this great article from Creative Commons, "Best Practices for Attribution."
  • Don't hesitate to search for Public Domain images too! Check out this presentation by kapost for some search recommendations.

6. Make it a labor of love.

  • Creating beautiful presentations is intensely time consuming. I put dozens of hours into the creation of each presentation. When I look at my slides, I need to be able to feel my ideas through the slides. If I cannot feel what I'm trying to convey, then I know the presentation is not working.  I know I am done with my presentation when I love it.

7. Vary your content

  • The human brain becomes likely to drift off about 10 minutes. So, as you design your presentation, build in "moments" that will shift your audience into different experiences. This may simply be including a silent video that plays behind you instead of a still image, pausing to play a 1-minute video, having your audience respond to a poll, shifting over to Twitter to acknowledge Tweets coming in on the backchannel, or posing an open-ended question to the group. 

8. Share your stuff!

  • If you don't have one already, create a Slideshare account and share your presentations. When you upload a presentation, you'll have the option to share it with traditional copyright or select from one of the Creative Commons licenses.  It will default to allow users to download your presentation but you have the option to disable this by editing the settings. Once your presentation is shared on Slideshare, you can embed it on a blog, Tweet it, and even directly share it to your LinkedIn profile! Make it social and inspire all your networks with your beautiful work!

    Follow me on Slideshare!

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Fractal Life: My Day of Learning With LinkedIn


On Friday, I spent the day sharing and learning with the User Experience Design team at LinkedIn in Mountain View. It was an awesome day! I grew up in the Silicon Valley and spent years of my life before I went into education commuting the freeways throughout the valley. The drive in to the LinkedIn headquarters was a reminiscent one for me personally and also provided me with ample time to reflect on the increasing role that technology plays in formal education and the social landscape that continues to transform our lives, the very nature of informal learning, and the possibilities it holds for transforming education.

The Fractal Life


The Fractal Life: Harnessing Social for Authentic, Agile Living from Michelle Pacansky-Brock

Steve Johnson, LinkedIn's VP of User Experience Design (and a friend of mine from high school) invited me to join his team for the day and it started with my presentation, The Fractal Life: Harnessing Social for Authentic Agile Living.  My presentation was very much a story about my own life as an educator and how, through my professional risk-taking -- inspired by two amazing parents and open heart surgery at age 34 --  and the intensive development, continuous nurturing, and on-going sustaining of my social networks I have been fortunate to discover my authentic passion and align it with career opportunities that make me look forward to every day.

Living authentically has given me clarity that vulnerability is not only important to being happy, it is the essential element that individuals should leverage as an ongoing feedback loop in their life.  Using vulnerability as a feedback loop reminds an individual every day of the need to take risks, the need to lay our souls bare to understand who we are really are, what we are good at, and what makes us entirely miserable.  The outcomes are not successes or failures; they are simply experiences that we loop back inside and sort through to identify what we have discovered about our uniqueness.  In this way, our feedback loop transforms our life into something like a fractal, always in motion, taking in fresh experiences, while learning from everything -- yet, always guided the same, consistent pattern, our commitment to vulnerability and risk-taking.

Learning with LinkedIn


After my presentation, I had an exciting day sharing my experiences in higher education with leaders from the UED team.  I am unable to write about the details, due to a non-disclosure agreement I signed upon arrival.  But on a more broad level, I can share that conversation simply made me wanting more.  While I had opportunities to share many of the realities that educators face when it comes to making sweeping changes within our organizations, the need to make these changes is more clear than ever.

LinkedIn has 300 million worldwide users and has extended the professional network experience into a virtual, global space.  Fostering relationships has always been key to a successful career and as we prepare students for the future, ensuring they understand how to do so with social technologies is invaluable.  A mindfully nourished LinkedIn network can be an invaluable resource for an individual seeking to make a career advancement or to a graduating high school student or community college student preparing to transfer to a university.  Yet, how often is LinkedIn leveraged as a learning resource in college? How many college students are encouraged to connect with and/or follow subject matter experts on LinkedIn or research company pages? These are questions I'd love answers to! I'd love to work on an eBook that contains activities that leverage a tool like LinkedIn for learning.

As more workplaces adopt the social business model and social technologies continue to become more integral to informal learning, shouldn't we be building more ways to improve dialogue between the private sector and education?

Thanks for inviting me for the day, LinkedIn!

Connect with me on LinkedIn!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A Graduation Gift for My Kids: Class of 2018 & 2020

Last month, I read this great post by Shawn Humphrey @BluCollarProf in which he wrote a fictitious commencement speech to the class of 2014.  I connected with the vision he portrayed of a social "deal" in which a child find oneself immersed as s/he grows, experiences life, learn who s/he is, struggles to find her/his passions, and understand where s/he fits into this world.  The deal includes a scripted path with behavioral and academic expectations at each bend. At the culmination of the journey, the young adult, according to "the plan," should encounter a quest in the real world -- a quest for employment for which s/he has been prepared and will consist of interviews and a self-fulfilling offer.

Humphrey's satirical examination of how we, in the U.S., prepare our youth for professional success today is something I often think about as an educator and as a parent. It was on my mind in June as I sat teary-eyed, celebrating my niece's graduation from high school, my older son's promotion from 8th grade and my younger son's promotion from 6th grade. But, really, are we preparing graduates for success in today's professional workplace or our own?

Humphrey continues:
With globalization, continuous technological innovations in communications, and ever decreasing transportation costs, more and more people are showing up each and every day to do what our educational system programmed you to do at a lower price. The barriers to entry that you spent a lifetime building are falling all around you. The visible manifestations of your academic superiority – the tassels and medallions that drape your neck, your Honor Society membership card, and even your diploma – will not protect you. You loyalty and long-term employment with a company will not protect you.
The world has changed. Our education system has not. For the most part, it continues to operate as if the aforementioned deal is still alive. Let me be clear. It is not.
With the nudge I got from Shawn's great post, I made the time today to purchase an early graduation gift for my children that I believe they will thank me for when they graduate from high school. I purchased their own personal domain name for each of them.  They will build their websites when they are prepared with the skills to do so.  These personalized URLs will be like business cards are today.  Each individual will be expected to have a public space on the web to point their global contacts to, facilitating the sharing of ideas and the fostering of relationships through collaboration.

I will continue to do what I can as a parent to ensure my children have opportunities to become proficient with creating a social presence that will foster values that are embraced in the social era.  Happy graduation boys -- class of 2018 and 2020!





Monday, June 30, 2014

Risking It All: Learning in the Social Era

This past week, I had the pleasure to present the keynote at the Academic Affairs Symposium for Rasmussen College in Minneapolis, MN and Tampa, FL. The back-to-back events came on the heels of my attendance at the Online Teaching Conference (OTC) in San Diego, CA, providing for a flurry of a travel for the week, but also some immersive conversations.  Lynda Weinman of Lynda.com was one of the keynote presenters at the OTC (watch the archive of her talk here).

I had heard Weinman speak at the MoblEd Conference at Pasadena College in 2009, but that presentation did not share her personal learning journey. Weinman's story was captivating and held so many poignant lessons for educators today -- from embracing our inner passions, recognizing that we're all good at something (and it's not going to always be reading, writing, or math), sharing the values she took away from her alternative higher education experiences at Evergreen State College where there are no grades, acknowledging that it was feminism that empowered her to recognize that she could truly be whatever she wanted to be in this amazing world, and being candid about the challenges of raising a child and being a successful professional.

Weinman's presentation had the conference attendees on their feet. It was not filled with cutting edge terms or glitzy tools. It was grounded in her real life journey, the raw experiences that make her human. 

After that moment in the audience, I knew I had some work to do on my own keynote presentation for Rasmussen, which would be shared at a symposium themed, "The Human Element in a Digital World."  I had already planned to open my presentation with a story about my son's very first video he recorded at age 7 after receiving his first hand held video camera for Christmas. He came to me and said, "Mommy, I made a video. Will you put it on YouTube?" Not really knowing much about YouTube at the time other than it was a website where people could share videos (which I valued as "pointless"), my parenting instincts replied with red flags. What does one do with that question? Ultimately, I obliged...taking a risk. You see, the video he recorded was a screencast of his handheld DS video game, showing the evolution of a Pokemon character. My son, at age 7, the very day he received his first video camera, was intrinsically driven to record this "screencast" and share it back to the same digital community from which he had learned to play Pokemon. He was teaching...in a global community.

Before long, comments came in on the video to which he commented back. There he was, age 7, engaging in a global dialogue with his personal learning network -- explaining where to find find Barboach to other players. Today, the video has more than 18,000 views. My son is almost 14 now, has a collaborative YouTube channel with a friend, and still looks back on that video with great pride.

Sadly, his formal learning has not kept in line with the type of connected learning he experiences in his informal learning. This is a problem today. Education is not the same as learning (another key phrase I picked up from Weinman's keynote) and this problem drains the relevance, as well as the passion from students.

The gap between learning and education is widening as the workplace for which we prepare our students for (one of, but not the only, objective of higher education) continues to shift to the social era.  Gartner predicts that by 2016 many large organizations will begin the adoption of social networks as a form of interaction that will significantly supplant the use of phones and email.  Value in the social era is cultivated around openness, collaboration, shared visions, and transparency. Those who demonstrate their ability to foster relationships through social technologies will be one step ahead of the rest.

But forming professional relationships via social technologies is an outcome that stems, first, from an individual's ability to understand who she is, what she loves to do, and what intrinsically drives her.  How else does one know who to connect with?  These are the factors -- the golden nuggets of life -- that are lost in today's educational system.  An individual won't create a blog, start to Tweet about a consistent and relevant topic, or even re-share existing web content through curation tools if one does not have a sense of where she fits into this world. And that is the fundamental problem with education.

In my keynote for Rasmussen, Risking It All: Learning in the Social Era, I attempted to highlight these issues but I also tried to frame them around my own story.  I shared the fortuitive psychological derailment (I really don't have better words to explain it!) that emerged after I had open heart surgery at age 34 when my children were 3 and 5. Three years after that surgery, I voluntarily resigned from my tenured teaching position at a community college, which I really thought was a job I'd keep forever.  I found myself with a new calling that involved supporting and discovering the role of online learning in higher education and I knew that I needed to find a new position to follow this calling.  I accepted a new role about 200 miles away and relocated my family. The position didn't work out. Seven months later, I resigned and had no job. Crazy? Stupid? Maybe.

I turned to my social networks, continued to blog, increased my Twitter network, and literally started to create small jobs for myself. This process took me to dark, scary places but it also brought me face-to-face with figuring out who I really was and what I wanted to do every day. I tried things -- many jobs.  Some lasted longer than others but duration was no longer how I measured success; for I understand that every step I was taking was a critical part of my learning journey. Failure really is the best teacher.

Another realization I have had through this journey of mine is how grateful I am for experiencing the type of real-life job search college graduates have today (and my own children have ahead of them).  I feel more empowered to stress the value of social media in the higher education learning landscape because
  1. Personal and professional success will improve if individuals can demonstrate how to create value in the social era 
  2. By fostering one's social presence one engages in a reflective and challenging conversation in a public platform that begins to help us become agile and adaptive professionals, while discovering our strengths and motivations
Today, I feel most fortunate to have found a culture at CSU Channel Islands under the leadership of Michael Berman, that genuinely takes risks -- as opposed to just talking about how we all should be taking risks. I am one of those risks. In March, CSU Channel Islands hired me remotely to support their faculty in their efforts to develop high quality, humanized online learning.  I feel grateful to be able to pursue my passion, share my talents with my new team, work closely with amazing educators, have the support and flexibility to share my ideas as a speaker, and not need to uproot my family again.


I believe educators must engage actively with social technologies to understand how value is constructed differently in the social era. Without this experiential learning, the mainstream perceptions of Twitter as nothing more than a hedonistic, superficial playground for celebrities and their followers will never be overturned. My engagement with social media has empowered me to learn a great deal about myself and allowed me to reconceptualize the idea of a "career."  I view my life now as a fractal, ever shifting and in a perpetual state of change.  As I look back and learn from my experiences, I understand that I cannot control the future. I can only prepare for it. And the best way to prepare for change is to consistently be genuine to myself, be good to others, and learn from absolutely everything.  This is the life -- the personal and professional life -- that more, rather than fewer, of our future college graduates will experience. 



Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Social Media: Its Impact on Life & the Workplace and 3 Takeaways for Higher Ed


I have been reflecting deeply on some startling predictions I read recently that indicate significant changes within the organizations of workplaces.  In an effort to be adaptable and agile in today's rapid changing environment, business leaders are embracing social business models.  One of the major changes that is expected to occur in just a few years is a significant increase in the use of social networking within organizations to facilitate stakeholder relationships and communications -- replacing today's commonly used tools, the telephone and email (Gartner).  




This led me to discover some compelling data from IBM's 2012 study, Connected Generation: Perspectives from Tomorrow’s Leaders in a Digital World, which examined the perceptions and values of a global sample of 3,400 college and university students.  The study found that the way college students are using social media is fostering a greater sense of awareness of global issues, increasing an individual's perception of his/her voice in society, and increasing engagement in real life activities.  There is no data to indicate that college age students value virtual relationships more than face-to-face relationships but there is evidence that these two types of connections are valued equally. 

The IBM report certainly doesn't paint the typical portrait of the technologically obsessed, apathetic college student that is so commonly referenced in discussions about technology and college teaching.  In fact, it seems to suggest that engaging in the use of social technologies has some educationally compelling outcomes.

What are the takeaways here for higher education? 

  1. We must be active participants in the social era.
    The ability to use social technologies to foster relationships is a highly valued skilled in a global, digital society. As the use of social networking trickles from informal learning (i.e. the perceived "fun" stuff like YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat, etc.) into the workplace, faculty, staff, and administrators must recognize that they too must step up and join the conversation. Twitter handles will need to become commonplace, just as email addresses are.  Experiencing the value that comes from interacting with one's own Personal Learning Network (PLN) will need to become part of the natural progression of being part of a campus community. 
  2. Social media tools are valuable assets to the college learning landscape.
    The boundaries between formal learning and informal learning in the social era must blur in order to sustain relevancy, students for success in the social workplace, as well as find one's authentic self through the development of one's own digital footprint. Recognizing this is one thing, overcoming barriers (like leading the way through the gray areas of FERPA because it's the right thing to do) will set the successful organizations of the future apart from the rest.
  3. "Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation." -Brene Brown 
    Risk-taking is the new norm. This is true for professors, for support staff, for administrators, for college presidents, and for students. We all need to learn to embrace discomfort, to experience vulnerability, and to know that through this pathway we will find new opportunities to create the learning spaces of tomorrow and the learners of tomorrow.  This is hard. This is very hard. The successful college leaders of the future will be those who will do the things they imagine to be the right thing to do, instead of just talk about them or imagine someone else doing them.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Evidence of Good Things Happening in "The Center"


Why use Google+ and Twitter for Professional Development in Higher Ed?

Last October, I began my journey as the Coordinator of The Center, a new social online learning community, part of @ONE's suite of  professional development services designed to support California's 112 community colleges. It has been an amazing ride! In June, I will be leaving my role as coordinator, but I will remain a contributing community member.

The Center was very much an experiment.  Utilizing social technologies to cultivate a professional development environment for higher education institutions is not exactly commonplace today. Yet, the need for educators to understand how to foster relationships through social tools, create value through collective exchanges, and realize how much more we learn together, as opposed to being individual people, organizations, districts, states, regions, nations, etc. is quickly becoming essential to our shift into the social era.

Fostering relationships through social technologies (which is distinct from using technology -- as anyone can learn to use a tool) will continue to define leaders in the future. And in the social era, a leader is not a position. In the social era, everyone is a leader.  And this is one reason why cultivating one's own professional online presence and developing a professional learning network (PLN) is essential for educators. If we aren't actively engaging, learning, and sharing to understand how social technologies transform the nature how knowledge is constructed and valued in the 21st century, how are we to model this essential skill to our students?

 

Outcomes

The primary outcomes of The Centery are to improve sharing and increase innovation across California's 112 community colleges. The Center attempts to achieve this goal through inviting members to join a Google+ Community and/or follow The Center on Twitter.  Google+ Hangouts on Air are held every two weeks, featuring faculty, staff, and/or administrators from CCCs who volunteer to share innovative practices using technology to improve learning. All Hangouts on Air are archived and shared on @ONE's YouTube Channel.
Joining The Center's community or following The Center on Twitter is open to anyone, as is viewing the Hangouts.  Therefore, The Center has the potential to be a global collective, while showcasing innovations from within the CCC's 112 campuses -- aiming to dissove the physical boundaries of campus walls.

A sampling of the Hangout on Air topics have included:

The Center's Spring Survey Results

This spring, I shared a link to an online survey in The Center's Google+ community and Tweeted it from The Center's Twitter account (@Center_Ed).  At the time, we had about 220 members on Google+ and 250 Twitter followers.  50 people responded to the survey. That is about a 22% response rate.

Here is a summary of the some of the findings from the survey:
  • 75% of respondents are employed at a California Community College 
  • 52% are a CCC faculty members
  • More than 3/4 (80%) of respondents strongly agree or agree that The Center improves awarness of innovations occurring on campuses other than their own.
  • More than 3/4 (78%) strongly agree or agree that The Center improves the sharing of ideas across campuses.
The open ended prompt, "Share a specific improvement or benefit that has been an outcome of your experiences" with The Center," generated some exciting qualitative data.
  • "I started a Google Hangout for a campus club meeting. Planning to use for online office hours, as well."
  • "I have changed the way I respond to student work (using video) as a result of several hangouts and the resulting discussions."
  • "Having a topic active for several days has led me to spend enough time thinking about it to feel comfortable trying something new in my classes. Also, having a channel to share how it went with others encourages me to do it and improve upon it."
  • "With my new awareness of what colleagues at other colleges are doing, I am helping my college to revise our Distance Education policies and training programs. I could go on and on -- The Center has had a huge impact on my teaching life!"
  • "I'm so impressed with the use of social media that is displayed. It is a great way to build community among educators."
  • "I've been inspired to do more videos and screencasts with my online classes for more instructor presence."
  • "I have created a personal faculty web page. I have started using new programs like Haiku Deck and introduced new programs to colleagues."
  • "Have found the thoughts of other faculty very helpful to my online teaching and my work with our Committee for Online Learning..."
I don't know about you, but when I read these statements, I get pretty excited. I see evidence of more faculty willing to take risks in their teaching. Today, fostering a culture of experimentation in which pushes college professors into vulnerable places.  A social community built with free tools that offers ideas, support, and reflection opportunities for instructors, staff, and administrators -- both part-time and full-time, regardless of one's physical location -- seems like worthy initiative. I look forward to seeing what continues to develop with The Center and am grateful for this opportunity!

Thank you +Micah Orloff for supporting this leap. 

Learn with The Center This Summer

  • The Center's Hangouts on Air are now on summer break but will reconvene in the fall.
  • Learn more about The Center here, includes links to all Hangout video archives!  Archives are a great way to learn this summer! And the Google+ community and Twitter are always open!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Join Me! Active Learning with Google Drive - Tips & Strategies


Active Learning with Google Drive: Tips & Strategies

Thursday, May 15th

4:00-5:00 Pacific

Click here to go to the Google Event.

I'll be moderating a fantastic Hangout on Air tomorrow, Thursday, May 15th at 4pm PT -- Active Learning with Google Drive: Tips & Strategies. +Kelly Falcone from Palomar College and +Gregory Beyrer from Cosumnes River College will be joining in to different perspectives about teaching with Google Drive. Kelly will be sharing her pedagogical tips and strategies for making your online, blended, or F2F class more active with some pretty impressive activities she has up her sleeve. The Hangout on Air will stream live online and all who view the live event will have an opportunity to contribute to an interactive activity Kelly will walk you through.  Stunningly simple.

While Kelly teaches at an institution without an Apps Domain (a sitewide license to Google Apps), Greg teaches at an institution that has an Apps Domain. He'll step in to share his perspectives about the benefits and challenges this brings to the instructional experience.

Like all Center Hangouts on Air, the Q&A feature will be enabled. All you need to do is open the Google Event at the time of the Hangout on Air and the video will start to stream right there on the page. If you have a question, click the Submit a Question button and we'll see it! Just remember, we cannot respond in writing -- only verbally (a subtle but important point).


What is The Center? 
  • A next-gen online learning community designed to connect California's 112 community colleges. All Center events are free and open to the public. The Center is brought to you by @ONE.  
  • All Center Hangouts on Air are archived. Click here to subscribe to the playlist!


Monday, May 12, 2014

How to Search for Captioned, Brief Videos in YouTube

This is one of those "ah ha" moments for me! I constantly find myself swimming in a sea of fabulous video content in YouTube that I want to share with my students, grappling with the voice in my head shouting "these videos need to be brief so your students will watch them and captioned so they are accessible to all learners."  (Online instructional videos re-used more than one term in a course at an institution that receives federal funds must include closed captions, per section 508.) But I never knew how to filter content in YouTube to find only captioned, brief videos.

And YouTube's captioning tool is a great option for adding captions to online videos but only for videos you create.   So, when designing an online class, it's an excellent strategy to seek out videos that already captioned and concise.  The question remained -- how does one do this? 

I dug into Google, did some searches and viewed several videos on YouTube that showed outdated search interfaces and then recorded my own short tutorial. Here it is. If you are like me and want to know how to find captioned, brief videos on YouTube -- this will be a game changer!