Different and Better – Week 8 Final Reflection

Much of the last eight weeks are a blur. I remember three different airports but could only tell you what the one in my home city looks like. I remember hotel rooms and rental cars restaurants, but the only thing that sticks out is hunting for a WiFi signals so I could get online and dive into school.

In this course, I had the opportunity to get to know many different versions of myself sister, daughter, granddaughter, friend, student, learning professional, and “teacher.”

Myself the Student

My learning in this course was hard won – not that the course was incomprehensible but in that the course was so dramatically different than any other course I have ever taken. This can all be boiled down to the ideas of “Push” and “Pull.” This is the first course where information wasn’t pushed at me and where I had to find my own way of pulling my learning from the materials into my sense of understanding.

This course also allowed me to explore texts in a new way. Instead of reading something and regurgitating it for a teacher, I was reading texts and finding a way to digest and integrate the materials to find my own meaning. Instead of having a teacher or professor tell me what was correct or incorrect, I had to determine that for myself or if “correct” and “incorrect” even applied. I could look at my learning from my own eccentric perspective and it would have meaning for me. Not only that, but I could also share that meaning with others and explore their perspectives, where we agreed, where we differed, and where we found additional meaning through our comparison.

“Push” and “Pull” have become new buzzwords in the Learning & Development function at my property. Now as we design learning and facilitate, we are talking about how we can avoid just pushing information at our learners and use the curriculum design to pull the desired conclusions and outcomes from their thoughts, words, and behaviors.

Myself the “Teacher”

As I’m sitting here thinking about ILT5340, I have realized that they’re really wasn’t one version of this class but as many versions of the class as there were students. As each of us read the materials and engaged in our individual explorations, we were each rewriting and remixing and mashing-up what Remi and Lisa presented to us that we were essentially creating our own curriculum and learning process within the course.

There were several key decisions that Remi and Lisa made that I think allowed this to happen:

  1. Creating minimal definition as to create space for individual interpretation
  2. Selecting tools such as DS106, Hypothesis, blogging and Twitter that required each student to build their own space (mental and online) within the course
  3. Minimal facilitation which made the student have to own their own learning process

As an Instructional Designer and learning and development professional, this has opened up what I thought were previously closed boundaries. As my team and I create learning, I’ve challenged them to start looking for spaces where we don’t need to be so proscribed in our learning design and facilitation. We CAN create spaces within our learning designs where participants can inject their own understandings and experiences and still have them arrive at the type of destination that we want them to.

Had Remi or Lisa just handed me a piece of paper that said what I’ve written here or in my Final Portfolio, I don’t think I would have found as much value as I’ve just now realized that I did find. ILT5340 is a “practice what you preach” type of course. Yes, you probably can teach the principles taught in this course in a more traditional setting, but then you would lose the power of the experience. Was it an easy experience? No, but now that I have a much clearer understanding of what was happening in my own head as I took the course I can see how the slightly chaotic and open-to-interpretation nature of the class creates real value for me as both a participant and would-be Instructional Designer.

Strangely, this takes me back to something my favorite elementary teacher once did. One day, she gave each of us a blank piece of paper and told us to make a paper airplane. After the shocked and confused looks passed, she repeated her instructions and challenged us to make what we thought was the “best” paper airplane. Needless to say, each of us created something wildly different from each other but here’s the kicker: each of the airplanes still flew.

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Raising My Voice Without Yelling – Week 7 Reflections

A long time ago, I made a promise to myself. I promised myself that I would never lie to myself. To me, that means I will never say that I agree with something that I know in my bones isn’t true. This also means that I will not let myself be labeled as something I’m not. If someone tries to pin a name on me, I will rip it off.

For me, this week wasn’t about being labeled as part of a group. It was about me using my voice to speak up for what I believe and how I live. To some me people, my life might look “privileged,”but everything I have in my life I have earned through buckling down, working hard, skipping sleep, and forgoing a lot of things I wanted to do in order to do the things I needed to do to reach my goals.

Being part of this class is a prime example. I didn’t have to choose to go to graduate school. I was doing well in my career and moving up. That being said, I decided that in order to keep progressing, I needed to learn more. Hence, applying for school and enrolling in this class.

There’s a lot that needs to be fixed in our society. Sometimes I feel like we spend so much time looking back and apportioning blame and accusation that the idea of working towards a solution together gets lost. Whether it’s Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, Eccentric, Abnormal or whatever, all these labels seem to do is create distance and separate groups that struggle to interact because they’re told their “too different” to get along.

Own-the-Room-HERO-853x1024That being said, this week was challenging. It was tough defending my beliefs in our annotations, disagreeing with my peers, and posting opinions that I know people would agree with. It was tough telling my story of growing up without a lot of money but I’m not ashamed of it. Looking back, I know I probably was a lot more defensive than I should have been, but I absolutely do not accept that simply because of the color of my skin that I have had an unfair advantage over anyone else.

It may sound naive, but this week has inspired me to start giving up labels. Colors aren’t supposed matter so why keep talking about them. If I don’t want people to assume things about me because of an arbitrary label then I need to stop using them.

I know my opinions are not politically correct but I don’t care about that anymore. I want to work on being emotionally correct. I want to use my voice, as quiet as it as when it speaks alone, to speak my truth.

Creating the New Normal

This week’s readings were all about finding what doesn’t work and building something new. Processes, systems and societies are constantly evolving. Sometimes, pieces get stuck and repairs need to be made.

In White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, we see that, even now in the 21st century, there are pieces of our society where the evolutionary process is not running smoothly. While I agree that there are inequalities, I don’t agree that it is the fault of any one race, gender, nationality, or societal position. The fault is in seeing “groups” instead of seeing individuals. Nobody truly knows what defines the thoughts and actions, conscious or subconscious. We can’t keep assuming negative intent when something bad or “unfair” happens. We can choose how we react. I choose to assume everyone has positive intent and build my reactions from that viewpoint.

Monica Nilsson’s Developing Voice in Digital Storytelling through Creativity, Narrative and Multimodality really spoke to me, especially in terms of finding my voice and not being afraid to use my voice even in the face of opposition. This was important to me this week since I knew that some of my peers would not agree with some of my annotations this week. These annotations were important for me to post because I had questions about what I was reading and I felt I needed to express a dissenting view when, in my opinion, the writer made too many assumptions.

Lyn Thurman’s article, Why We Need to Create Our Own “Normal”, really brought home to me how we, as individuals living in society that is for all intents and purposes broken, can reconnect with who we are and build a better path forward. I was struck by her reflection in realizing that the “normal” life she was leading had taken away the creativity and uniqueness that made her stand out from the crowd. She could have gone on living her “sensible” life but she chose instead to recapture a happier life by choosing her own path.

6231641551_541c96e583_bMaybe that’s what we all need to do. We need to scrap the “normal” ideas that keep us running around in circles trying to use the same solutions that didn’t work the last time to fix the current problems. We need to stop letting someone else talk for us and talk at us telling us how we should think, act, live, and believe. We need to stop condemning each other for disagreeing and using the past and imperfect present as a stick to beat each other with. We need to sit down, one on one and face to face, and get to know each other: our passions, hopes, and needs.

Then we need to shut up and listen.

Sometimes a Good Idea Isn’t Enough

As a final attempt to find an answer to the question of “What is normal?” I found a video on YouTube that took a deeper dive into the question and explored the issue from multiple directions. In “What is normal? Exploring folkways, mores, and taboos,” Jeffrey Walsh looks at four ways individuals and cultures try to define what is normal: folkways (norms for routine or casual interaction), mores(the essential or characteristic customs and conventions of a community), taboos (a social or religious custom prohibiting or forbidding discussion of a particular practice or forbidding association with a particular person, place, or thing), and laws. 

Critique

 Involvement:

To be blunt, the author’s involvement was not very broad. Very little effort was made to engage the audience. At some points in the video, the graphic would remain the same for minutes at a time with just some slight cursor movement. There are very few individuals or groups that would be able to dive into the story without struggling to access the materials in a way beyond the author’s narrative. Overall, it felt like a video that the author created for themselves with little though given to how viewers would participate in the narrative.

Literacy Dimensions:

The author uses some very basic techniques in the story. As I mentioned above, there was very little in the way of visuals though there was some limited on-screen illustration. The illustrations that were created were very basic and a little hard to accurately identify. There were a few drawings where I had to tilt my head to the side and mutter “What the…?” This lack of sophistication was a big distraction from the overall message and I found my attention repeatedly wandering because of a lack of inflection in the narration that did not engage my attention.

Relevant Online Space:

This video was created for the Khan Academy, a free online school/content provider that provides learning options for children and adults. This video is part of their “Medicine” series. I’m not sure what level of learner this would be intended for nor am I sure how this content fits outside of that environment.

Suggestions:

My primary suggestions relate to the visuals and the narration. The idea behind the content is solid but the lack of interesting visuals and narration get in the way. By incorporating a wider variety of visuals appropriate to the content and an audio narrative that directs the attention, this video could be accessible to a wider audience and add a deeper dimension to the philosophical and social questions it poses.

Backroom Girl Scout Cookie Dealing

Steven loves GS Cookies

I confess! I have become an illegal Girl Scout Cookie dealer!

And Steven Seagal is coming for me!

Funny thing is, I’m probably one of the few people you’ll meet who DOESN’T eat Girl Scout Cookies.

It all started by accident. A friend of mine from work has her daughter in Girl Scouts and when cookie time cam around this year, she (by her own admission) over-promised the amount of cookies she would be able to sell. It didn’t help that she got sick during cookie selling season and couldn’t take he daughter out.

So, left with a spare room full of cases of cookies, she did what any self-respecting mother would do: she used her “connections” to “get the word out.”

Like most workplaces, we aren’t allowed to solicit among each other or post non work-related flyers anywhere. But, if you have the will, the information will get out.

Being a good daughter, I hooked my mom up with a couple of boxes of Thin Mints (her favorites) and brought them to her church congregation. Well, someone saw me slip them to her and the word got out. Next thing I know, I have church ladies sidling up to me and saying “So, I hear you know somebody who has some leftover Girl Scout Cookies…” or something like that.

Every Sunday since then, I find myself bringing bags of cookies and slipping them under peoples’ chairs in Sunday school. My friend loves me as I’ve helped her offload most of her cookies and she can now see her window again.

It makes me nervous though. I feel like someone out there are going to bust me and ship me off to Cookie Jail. I know it probably won’t happen. The Girl Scouts has their money and my friend is only charging the authorized price for the cookies to make her money back. Everything is above board except for the fact that we’re selling the cookies “out of season.”

Just do me a favor. If you see Steven Seagal lurking around the corner anywhere near me, please let me know. That way I can throw some Peanut Butter Patties and Lemonades at him and get away while he is distracted.

The Price of Connectedness – Week 6 Reflective Summary

I know what I am about to write here will not go over well with everyone, so I’ll apologize in advance. I’m saying it because I need to say it not because I think that anyone needs to hear it. So, warning posted. This reflection is really just for me and to me.

The events in the last week or so have horrified me. People are dead who did not deserve to die how they died and all for, what seems at least to me, no good reason. Some we don’t know what lead up to their deaths, others we do. More and more we have people who say they “speak for the victims” when in reality they have know way of knowing what what these victims would say.

That being said, they have a right to speak. Everyone has a right to speak their mind and share their ideas. What no one has is the right to kill someone because that person doesn’t agree with you.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, it seems we no longer have the right to speak if there is even the slightest possibility that what is said or shared may cause “discomfort” or “offense.”

I don’t think most of us what true discomfort or offense feels like. As unhappy as I have been during some of the trials of my life, I don’t think I’ve ever really been uncomfortable. As many times as I have had someone disagree or rant at me because of my gender, religion, or perceived “white privilege” I’ve never been so mortally offended that I would want to shut that person down through violence or intimidation.

In my faith, we’ve faced persecution, degradations, insults, violence and even death. We are taught by our leaders not to keep looking backwards but to look forward with faith to a future where things will be better. We are asked to actively look for ways that we can just “be a friend” to others, regardless of what they believe and to not push our beliefs on others.

Now to the part that some of you may not like:

I read Remi’s open letter at the beginning of the week and I support his ideas in principle. To be honest, I thought that his reason for writing the letter would be different. I thought it would be geared toward the larger debate that has been going on this week in the U.S. Now, in the context of what happened today in France, I see the subject of his letter as both more important and less important. It is more important because it strikes at the fundamental loss of the ability to debate opposing positions in a meaningful way. It is less important because the debate is becoming less about being able to speak to opposing or “controversial” beliefs than it is to having the right to live when you disagree with someone who sees the life of someone who disagrees with them as meaningless.

I grieve for the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile who commited no crime worth dying for. I also grieve for the families of the slain police officers who also did not commit a crime other than choose to put themselves in the line of fire to protect others. I grieve for the families of the victims in Nice who only wanted to see some fireworks. And I grieve for all of us. I grieve for the lost art of civil debate.

Connecting, Disconnecting, and Reconnecting – Week 6 Reading Response

I have always believed that there are connections that, if you look hard enough, will bind everything together. Nothing is truly isolated.

This idea was very much in focus in our readings in Lankshear and Knobel Ch7: Social Learning, “Push” and “Pull,” and Building Platforms for Collaborative Learning. For me, this chapter reiterated ideas I learned last semester in my Social Media & Digital Culture class. The networked learning structure described in this chapter reminds me a lot of the L&D function in my workplace. I work in what would be described as a centralized node where curriculum and information are sent out to our 15 offsite locations where 15 counterparts to me work with their teams and each other to share information with their properties. The also send operations-based learning programs and feedback to me to learn and incorporate in my work. I also work directly with many operations teams, linking them back to other people in the L&D network and other operational departments. All this networking works great, but only when we are doing it in a context where we are not trying to “push” canned learning out to our learners without taking a had look at whether it meets their needs or not.

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During the last year, our focus changed to try and “pull” our learners into investing their time and effort into more quality programs that teach them skill and behaviors that can immediately be applied. This has been a game-changer for our function within the company. We’ve only test launched 3-4 programs, but already we have more and more company leaders and teams approaching us to draw us into their projects to share our expertise and help them achieve their goals.

On the flip side, Scott Campbell’s The Importance of Being Along in the Digital Era reaffirmed for me that as powerful as these networks can be, there are times when I need to disconnect to recenter my mind and recharge my batteries. I was especially struck by the author’s quote from Sherry Turkle:

“In solitude we find ourselves; we prepare ourselves to come to conversation.”

When I exist in a state of continual connectedness, I feel drained and out of sorts. That is why I set for my self “Solid Sundays” to disconnect. That’s not to say that I lock myself away from the world every Sunday. I don’t. I just put down the cell phone and laptop and reconnect with my real world and focus on deeper things.

For my interest-driven reading, I chose How do we define “normal”? from howstuffworks.com. While not having as deep a depth as I would have liked, the article posed some unique questions that caught my interest. I’m just going to ask this question: does it strike anyone else but me as odd that the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has proclaimed that 1 in 4 Americans has a mental illness i.e. isn’t “normal.” Personally, I don’t trust this assessment as being accurate. The article does a great job of pointing out that normal varies by situation and personal perception. The article ends with a very profound idea which I feel needs sharing:

“Normal, seen through the eye of the beholder, is filtered through the lens of society.”

In one group, each of us could be abnormal but as we form and reform and re-norm communities, that abnormality can quickly become normality.