This is what writing a thesis looks like?

So it’s been a long time since I’ve posted a blog entry. I’ve been pretty busy over the last few months with school, work and freelance… oh ya, and those people that live with me; I think they’re my family. Even though I’ve been consumed with work, I’m excited to begin my research paper. I’ve finally chosen a thesis topic and wrapped my head around where I’d like to focus my research. I’ve only begun working on my introduction this past week but I’m anxious to see how my paper develops. Fleshing out my ideas have taken longer than I expected but I think I’m on the right track now. It’s only the beginning of my writing process but I can see light at the end of the “Masters tunnel”. 7 more months to go!

I finally left my basement after 4 days… and this was just a rough draft… 😰

thesis

To Be or Not To Be Connected? Is Technology Needed To Be Educated?

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When reflecting on recent readings for my International & Global Distance Education course, the theme of providing education for all (Bates, 2013) and the need technology (specifically, Internet access) in developing and underserved countries caught my attention. While the shift to remodel learning environments and equipping them with modern technology; therefore spawning new and innovative teaching methods seem as logical solutions for those living in a modern society (Gulati, 2008), I have become conflicted with the notion that our biases and presumed need for global access to a connected world is necessary to provide education for all. I agree the use of technology can produce positive outcomes such as creative learning and efficient productivity, access to an abundance of web tools and information etc…. However, what good is a connected world without affordable access to technology that enables others to become connected and participate? What benefits does a connected infrastructure provide to people who cannot afford the devices to connect? What benefit is a connected device if the user is unable to operate the device or maintain it? Could the idea of establishing a globally connected world without providing affordability, opportunity and access to contextually appropriate information for the people increase the educational divide within developing countries and underserved societies?

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I’ve been wrestling with what the term ‘education’ means to those who provide it versus those who receive it. Are we educating or indoctrinating others to adopt our ways of learning, producing and innovating through the use of technology? With these biases of a connected tech savvy utopia, I wonder what other biases and influences will be passed on to societies with differences in culture, language, economy, etc…? How will these biases and influences affect what is learned? What will the side effects of online or tech-based learning produce in the future? Will this form of connected education sustain a population’s current cultural identity alongside the information delivered through the use of tech-based education? How would that conformity change a cultures perspectives on innovation and alter their creative ingenuity that their cultural identity has provided the world to date? To presume that education and the models that deliver knowledge is a one-size-fits-all approach is to assume that education processes like the very machine that we believe will provide education for all and improve learning. Education is not as absolute as an algorithm. If so, It possesses many if and then statements with infinite loops.

There are so many complex factors (other than providing broadband internet) involved in order to provide education for all and improve learning in developing countries and underserved populations. I hope to discover and contextualize these factors upon further research as I move forward into our future readings and discussions.

References

Anon – Not Sure If (2016). I2.kym-cdn.com. Retrieved from http://i2.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/original/000/437/437/a19.png

Bates, T. (2013 June 23).  MIT, learning technologies, and developing countries: lessons in technology transfer.

bmo GIF – bmo AdventureTime anxious GIFs. (2016). Tenor. Retrieved from https://www.tenor.co/view/bmo-adventuretime-anxious-nervous-scared-gif-3561125

Gulati, S. (2008). Technology-enhanced learning in developing nations: A review. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 9(1).

LRNT 513 – Learning Journal: Leading Through Fight or Flight Conversation Styles. Entry #4

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My Observations

During Assignments #4 and #5, I explored complex challenges that impacted leadership in a community based youth program for gaming and web development. I discovered much more about the challenges faced by leaders within the program by asking powerful questions, and suggesting applicable solutions based on what I had observed during an informal learning interview. I conducted a synchronous interview with the cofounder of the program individually and later within a team dynamic. Both experiences were valuable as they required similar but yet different skills and processes to execute a successful and meaningful interview with positive outcomes. In hindsight, while conducting the interview individually, my personal and unconscious biases surfaced versus my approach when placed in a team dynamic. Allowing others to contribute to the process allowed me to externalize my own beliefs and accept the perspectives of others; whether it be culturally, geographically and experiential. Leading a team allowed me to experience and view the role of leadership through various perspectives. In addition, my initial assumptions; in respect to ‘what makes a good leader‘ were affirmed as some of my initial characteristics of a leader were practiced during this experience. The biggest takeaway from these experiences were the effectiveness of our team conversations. I decided to take the fight or flight approach in communicating this time around in our team assignment. In order to arrive at suitable solutions for our client, as a collective, our team conducted a series of conversations while accommodating to the strengths of each member, which lead to some tangible ideas that would become possible solutions for our client’s long-term challenges. Allowing each member to contribute their thoughts and perspectives while voicing their ideas made for a positive learning experience and outcome.

My Reflections

Cross, (2007, p. 122) defines the fight and flight conversational styles as “The fight conversational style is competitive; a “win” conversation. The flight style is accommodating….” During our first meeting, we decided to have an open forum and presented our preferences for communication, contribution deadlines and had a conversation about our teams strengths and learning opportunities. This initial form of communication provided our team with a foundation for conducting a positive virtual working environment and an engaging learning experience. It was important to voice these concerns and be transparent with members of the group; as I found that we developed a mutual understanding of responsibilities, roles and team goals.

Lessons Learned

My approach to initiating an accommodating flight conversation style allowed our group to identify team strengths and learning opportunities that helped us develop a strong team dynamic that produced meaningful conversations and resulted in positive contributions from all members of the group while keeping them engaged in the process. Wheatley, (as cited in Cross, 2007, p. 124) said it best when describing the cultivation of change through human conversation, “I believe we can change the world if we start listening to one another again. Simple, honest, human conversation. Not mediation, negotiation, problem-solving, debate or public meetings. Simple, truthful conversations where we each have a chance to speak, we each feel heard and we each listen well”.

References

Cross, J. (2007).  Informal learning: Rediscovering the natural pathways that inspire innovation and performance.  San Francisco CA: Pfeiffer.

LRNT 513 – Learning Journal: Constructing Powerful Questions for Innovation and Change. Entry #3

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The linguistic architecture of powerful questions diagram [adapted]. The Art and architecture of powerful questions. Vogt, Brown, & Isaacs (2003, p. 3).

My Observations

I’ve attended and held many meetings surrounding the topic of change, innovation and professional development over the past 10 years as an instructor and program coordinator in media studies. In the past, many decisions that were made to initiate change within our department, program and courses were dictated by management without consulting staff and or faculty. Decisions were frequently implemented without consensus among our team and lacked insights and contributions from experienced members. Newly devised and implemented plans or strategies usually fell apart because these decisions were not thought through or simulated with input from experienced members or industry collaboration. Throughout my Leadership, Learning & Technology course I have learned that leaders—instead of delegating a plan of action—should be more inclusive when developing ideas and strategies for change, innovation and professional development.

“Questions open the door to dialogue and discovery. They are an invitation to creativity and breakthrough thinking. Questions can lead to movement and action on key issues; by generating creative insights, they can ignite change”
— Vogt, Brown, & Isaacs, 2003, p. 1

My Reflections

During Unit 3 of the course, I explored how to construct powerful questions to foster authentic and meaningful conversations. Cross, (2007) refers to this process as The World Café and references insights maintained by Brown and Isaacs (2005) publication, The World Café: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter. As I began to reflect more about the process of The World Café, I could imagine implementing this process during staff meetings or even during student feedback sessions. I then discovered that constructing powerful questions to provoke creative thought for innovation should start with a focused goal in mind. Giving clarity and context to challenges through the use of real-life issues and questions would allow participants to engage in collaborative, in-depth exploration and innovative thinking (Cross, 2007, p. 115). Vogt, Brown and Isaacs (2003) maintain that “Questions can lead to movement and action on key issues; by generating creative insights, they can ignite change” (p. 1).

Within ‘The Art of Powerful Questions’ article, Vogt et al. (2003) present the three dimensions of formulating powerful questions. Construction of a Question, The Scope of  Question and The Assumptions Within Questions. Discovering these dimensions has been very enlightening for me in my role as a program coordinator; as it has allowed me to think critically about the underlying challenges that my program, students and staff are faced with on a daily basis and within our industry. These formulas gave me a different perspective on the various system archetypes within our cluster of certificate and diploma programs and courses. In the past, I would experience questions that would evoke a defensive response, were too broad in scope or had presumed assumptions about a challenge. “When constructing powerful questions, queries should stimulate reflective thinking in order to spark deeper conversation” (Vogt et al. 2003, p. 4).

Consider the following questions and view how they move from broad in scope to becoming more focused in structure:

  • Are you satisfied with our program?
  • When have you been most satisfied with our program?
  • What is it about our program that you find most satisfying?
  • Why might it be that that our program has had its ups and downs?

Lessons Learned

Considering these new insights regarding the three dimensions of constructing powerful questions,  I now have a solid foundation to help my team clarify the scope of complex challenges while creating an environment for inclusion, deeper thought, and creative solutions. “As with any new skill, the best teacher is experience, and the best coach is a thoughtful listener” (Vogt et al. 2003, p. 6).

References

Vogt, E., Brown, J., & Isaacs, D. (2003). The art of powerful questions: Catalyzing insight, innovation and action. Mill Valley, CA: Whole Systems Associates.

Cross, J. (2007).  Informal learning: Rediscovering the natural pathways that inspire innovation and performance.  San Francisco CA: Pfeiffer.

LRNT 513 – Learning Journal: Cultural Perspectives of Transactional & Transformational Leadership. Entry #2

 

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My Observations:

During Assignment #2, I explored various cultural influences that impacted leadership, such as values, beliefs and perceptions of leadership. I discovered these influences from a transactional leadership lens versus a transformational leadership perspective.

My Reflection:

During my discovery, I identified the differences between Transactional and Transformational Leadership Theories and found relevance in these approaches within my day-to-day working experiences. Discovering these theories through systems thinking and complexity allowed me to relate direct and indirect consequences that arise when making work related decisions that may affect cultural factors. Discovering these theories allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of coping with complexity from a management perspective and coping with change through a leadership perspective. Peter Senge (n.d.) states that “Leadership is the capacity of a human community to shape its future. People who believe they can shape their future are passionately engaged”. If leadership is disconnected from cultures and communities, systems can become fragmented. It is beneficial to gain insights from people who have different views and perspectives in order to develop, adopt and apply alternate behaviours and approaches through triangulation. Senge (1990), identifies this concept as ‘collective intelligence’. “The concept of smart is not about individual learning, it is collective intelligence that produces value and change for social, economical and ecological well-being” (Senge, n.d.).

Not being able to see the connection between systems archetypes and our actions can lead to consequences which invoke an unintentional cultural reaction to the consequence. This form of systems ignorance is the result of failing to see the bigger picture, which causes us to react with our own self-interest in mind.

Resources:

Senge, (n.d.) What Makes A Great Leaders? YouTube [Video] Retrived from https://youtu.be/1aYaj2-GZqk?list=PLBRuTleUYDwrY3P7Zh92GcMvZ3TI8bLyP

Senge, Peter M. (1990, revised 2006) The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization New York: Doubleday Retrieved from https://books.google.ca/books?id=b0XHUvs_iBkC&pg=PA69&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=4#v=onepage&q&f=false

LRNT 513 — Learning Journal: Who Are Our leaders. Entry #1

 

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Overview:

During week one of our Leadership Learning and Technology course we discussed who we regarded as respected leaders. We explored our perceptions of leadership by submitting a short list of 10 respected leaders that came to mind during a synchronous session with our professor.

What I Observed:

Our lists of leaders were then posted in a forum and were open for discussion. The list included a variety of leaders based on faith, politics, celebrity, community, cultural, gender based and philanthropy. As a group, students commented and reflected on the common perceptions of leadership among the group.

My Reflections:

I reflected on potential unconscious biases that may have played a role in the selection of the posted leaders. Many students reflected on the factors of gender, age, culture, environment, location, personal beliefs and media may have played a role in the selection of the listed leaders.

Through my lens, the common thread discovered in leadership among the cohort was that many students believed that leaders were agents of change. The consensus was that leaders possessed influence over their following by creating awareness of a problem and providing a solution that usually appealed to various human factors. Kotter, (2001) explains that in regards to leadership, “achieving a vision requires motivation and inspiring—despite major obstacles—by appealing to basic but often untapped human needs, values and emotions” (p.86). Some other noted key perspectives of leadership found within the weekly discussion forum were:

  • Respected leaders took ownership and responsibility of their vision for change.
  • Their vision is usually rooted in their personal beliefs and experiences within their environment/community.
  • They inspire innovation for change and advocate collective knowledge building.
  • Influence others to take on leadership roles.
  • Make decisions on what is morally right for the sake of the group, based on personal beliefs.

Yuki, (2012) states that “Leaders use change-oriented behaviours to increase innovation, collective learning, and adaptation to external changes. Specific component behavior include advocating change, articulating an inspiring vision, encouraging innovation, and encouraging collective learning” (p.72).

Through my personal reflection, the leaders which I respect are ones that inspire individuals and groups through their work to make an impact on society and culture within their community. I believe I have unconscious biases that affected my choices of respected leaders. Some of the leaders on my list came to mind because they’ve made an impact or influence on my life because I share similar interests, philosophy, passions and beliefs as they do. Through their work, words and acts, I have made connections with the listed leaders as they inspire me to think differently and find comfort in being my authentic self. These leaders continuously stand up for what they believe in although it may go against status quo. Their ability to lead others is grounded in their passion and purpose and not for the results of their work. Whether it is to lead others to get involved in philanthropy or innovating technology that pushes our culture and design thinking forward in the 21st century, these leaders inspire me everyday to stand confident in my beliefs and vision while inspiring others to be their best at all times.

Review:

After reflecting on the weekly discussions and readings, It appears that the cohorts choices of respected leaders were chosen based on similarity of human factors, which makes it easier for our brains to rationalize. These factors that contributed to the selection of their respected leaders were unconsciously biased based on age, gender, personal beliefs or profession. Initially, the respected leaders that I chose were listed for these reasons as well. In addition to being agents of change, what I respect most about some of the leaders on my list are that they acknowledge the contributions of their team while inspiring their supporters and followers to become more confident, and prepared to make an impact on society and culture within their community and become leaders in their own way.

Insights from Resources:

Kotter, (2001) explains that in regards to leadership, “achieving a vision requires motivation and inspiring—despite major obstacles—by appealing to basic but often untapped human needs, values and emotions” (p.86).

Yuki, (2012) states that “Leaders use change-oriented behaviours to increase innovation, collective learning, and adaptation to external changes. Specific component behaviours include advocating change, articulating an inspiring vision, encouraging innovation, and encouraging collective learning” (p.72).

References

Kotter, J.P. (2001). What leaders really do. Harvard Business Review, 79(11), 85-96.

Yukl, G. (2012). Effective leadership behavior: What we know and what questions need more attention.  Academy of Management Perspectives, 26(4), 66-85.