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Thanks to advances in technology (of which I am complicit), the door to the teaching-with-tech business has been flung open for everyone. However, with great power comes great responsibility and there is a karma to easy-access: We call it “Powerpoint.” (To be fair, Keynote has elevated the act of murder-by-Powerpoint to a degree that is no less dreadful, though surely more dreadfully ironic.)
No 1-A-Day vitamin for learning, our defacto, slide-based medium for knowledge transfer cannot facilitate learning on its own. Knowing that people are accustomed to passively sitting through slide-based presentations, I try to create unexpected moments that capture their attention: With a degree of theatricality, I use humor (verbal and visual); I rearrange the seating and create small group sessions; I provide props and notecards and games — anything to stimulate the group to reach beyond comprehension to apply, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate the concepts presented.
I still have colleagues remind me of the time I held up a big ziploc bag of nuts and bolts to illustrate the challenges we face when workloads exceed capacity when suddenly (I had the bag rigged) the bag split and its contents went everywhere — they remembered the message that workloads that exceed our response-ability may go unnoticed until one little glitch causes everything to come loose.
Educomm Panel Discussion: Disruptive Technology in Education. Disruptive innovation describes a process by which a product or service relentlessly moves “up market” eventually displacing established competitors. This is especially pertinent to today’s higher education arena, as new disruptions are emerging to challenge the sustaining model of higher education, including online and virtual opportunities. For whom does disruptive innovation carry a high cost, and for who does it present a great opportunity? With Matt Kinnaman, Phil Ice, Sarah Smith-Robbins. Article.
North Carolina Climate Challenge Summit: Getting What You Want. Having worked with UNC Student Government’s Green Committee to bring about a reduction in paper usage through the OneCard Swipe and Release Printing initiative, I was invited to present some strategies and lessons learned to be gleaned from the experience. The group felt that such strategies might be successfully employed in future student-originated initiatives.
University of North Carolina: UNC Classroom Budget Model (a.k.a. “True Cost of Ownership”). As classroom deployment increased, our reliance on outside funding from the Registrar and Provost was essential to the success of the program: without adequate support for maintenance and lifecycle operations, system reliability and customer satisfaction would decline, jeopardizing mission-critical academics. No Powerpoint here, yet this remains my most requested workshop.
North Carolina Classroom Summit. In the Fall of 2007, an informal assessment of the state of learning space design and support at UNC’s campuses revealed learning space operations at each locale engaged in these activities largely in a vacuum, with little or no contact or collaboration with any other UNC System school. In light of the large investment required to develop and maintain these resources, it seemed wise to consider some way to engage all stakeholders in strategic discussions about the future of learning space resources. Classroom Summit 2008 was planned as a distinct event co-located with UNC-CAUSE at Greensboro. That November, 38 representatives from 13 UNC System campuses converged at the Classroom Summit to discuss pressing learning space issues and to exchange strategies and ideas. This year, NC Classroom Summit celebrated its third event.
The Project Game. Prepared as a half-day workshop for InfoCOMM, The Project Game combines role-play with Monopoly and Bingo. The learning objective was to give participants a better understanding of the dynamics of a typical project by simulating project teams (individual tables of six players and a game board) working through typical challenges that arise during a project. Players work to complete as much of the project as possible in the available time. Key features:
- Players take turns rolling the dice and moving their game piece (a large, colorful bolt) around the game space (arranged like chairs around a conference room table – much like what they’d encounter during a project team meeting).
- Game rules are presented during countdown to workshop start.
- Card content (Good News/Bad News, and Checklist) is synchronized to phases of the project.
While the game is in progress, open discussion occurs based on perils and setbacks encountered. These free-form discussions serve as introductions to key teachable moments prepared as mini-lessons:
- Working with Dealers, Consultants and Design/builders
- Anatomy of a Project Team
- The Basic of Being a Project Manager
- The Phases of a Project
- Five Steps to Ensure Project Failure
The Renovation Survival Kit. Finding that The Project Game was best suited for a half-day session with a large, knowledgeable group, I condensed the crucial elements into a more accessible format (ppt) that required little pre-existing knowledge of projects, AV or IT: Rather than covering each construction phase, The Renovation Survival Kit highlighted three critical windows of opportunity during the span of a project during which certain checklist items must be completed. Participants received three colorful (Red, Green, and Blue, to indicate proper chronology) cards with everything they needed to know.
The learning objective was to help participants identify the warning signs indicating that a project may be off-course (by way of checklist items not checked, questions not answered, key personnel not identified). The keeper of the cards need simply report the oversight to the project team and his/her supervisor to encourage the project back on track. A pop-quiz between each module reinforced crucial elements and stimulated discussion.
Better, Faster, Cheaper. I was invited to speak at UNC-CTC about adopting a positive mindset to meet growing demand in the face of limited resources. It was so well-received, I presented it at the AV-1 breakfast at InfoCOMM in Atlanta.
I chose to talk about a variation on a common refrain of many jaded academic support personnel, “You can have it better, faster, cheaper… just pick any TWO.” It was my objective to use this 15-minute chat to impress upon my peers that it could be possible to achieve all three if one was willing to reevaluate all options — including notions that might be difficult for those somewhat entrenched technologists to embrace, such as:
- Avoid the “Bleeding Edge” unless your client is willing to bleed with you
- Seek out your customers before they seek you
- Embrace mistakes as priceless learning
- Recognize limits and be sure they are vetted
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