Thinking about Learning Spaces

I attended the National Forum on Active Learning Classroom conference held at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. What an amazing conference! Between the Society for College and University Planning and this conference, my head is going to explode with all the great information that I heard. The good news is that I feel validated. Validated for my teaching style and the disruption that I cause in the classroom and with my educational technology use.

I understand from my friends and colleagues in many departments that their classroom is everywhere. They teach online and I tend to veer toward a blended or flexible format. I might have two sessions of lecture/discussion style, lab time or online/group learning time. The reality is that learning spaces exist in and outside of the traditional classroom and we need to make sure that we are supportive of the variety of teaching modalities. Likewise, our students are used to making virtually any space a learning space and we need to remember this as we plan space on campus.

One little takeaway was the artful way that the facilities office has suggested that students clean up after themselves. This is the way to encourage students and does not rant or nag at them, which they dislike. And, I cannot blame that. Many colleges are moving to recycling centers outside of classrooms to encourage sorting your garbage and recycling. I took lots of photos at the conference and there are some other great posters in the rooms. 


U of MN classroom

The conference was small with about 250 attendees and the group was mixed in terms of facilities staff, administrators, and faculty.  However, based on my interactions, it seemed like there were more faculty at this conference. The faculty shared a common interest–dedication to teaching and learning. It is refreshing to interact with large groups of people dedicated to teaching and learning. We talked lots about flipping the classroom and the importance of active learning spaces. The photos below are from the conference sessions. All of the sessions were held in active learning spaces. I have more to say, and this is just one post. Look for more about this topic.


Networking at Work

I am an administrator with teaching responsibilites, and at the same time I am a unionized faculty member. This role gives me the opportunity to lead a service department, and continue to teach and mentor. The department I run held our annual retreat this year and a colleague from Human Resources facilitated the event. Based on the response at the retreat and the ensuing days, I feel comfortable stating that it was a success. We did some team building and got to know one another better and this was fun. The manager and I also had a chance to speak to what is next and what our roles are in the unit. I am glad that I have taken the time to get out of my home department, Political Science, and know people throughout campus. 

Almost monthly I meet with my Human Resources consultant to chat about the unit, my team, and other issues as needed. These meetings provide me leadership coaching and human resources training. I have my advanced degrees, but none of them are in managing people or campus wide projects. The Human Resources team have been crucial to my leadership success. And, thinking back to the last year, establishing good, work relationships with others across campus has also served me well. Of course, it is not about me, but here I am thinking about the importance of face to face meetings and casual coffees to chat with people who I work with or need to work with on projects. I also have monthly meetings with others across campus, who I regularly work with and these meetings are coffees where we update one another about our projects. 

People always use the metaphor of silos for university campuses and it fits. Most tend to stick to their building or their side of campus. A new school year is upon on and I encourage academics and alt-academic types to venture out of their usual haunts on campus. Make a coffee date with a colleague who you have always wanted to collaborate with or who you know also teaches large first year courses. My point is to network with others who you might normally not take the time to get to know. 

This suggestion includes staff. It is my experience that academics tend to spend time with other academics. The campus is filled with people. Get to know others across campus in different roles. Before you know it, you have established more meaningful relationships around your campus. I realize that networking turns some people off, so think about expaning your circle at work. The photo below is one that I took at a conference where academics were the minority, but the goal was to move major projects across campus in a collaborative manner. It was a great exercise to see the numbers of staff involved in raising funds and planning for a new building or thinking about active learning environments for students. 


My falling-out with Myers-Briggs

Originally posted on o! wandering folk:

We have an identity crisis. Call it what you will, a post-modern, existential, millennial crisis of self, we are all asking ourselves: Which Game of Thrones character am I?

Ok, in all seriousness. The rash of Buzzfeed, Playbuzz, Quizmodo, etc “Personality Quizzes” that promise to tell you who you really are, in terms of your favorite fictional paradigm, is really just the latest symptom of our human desire to know ourselves, to approve of ourselves. “Ugh, I got Pansy Parkinson? Are you serious? I wanted to be Bellatrix Lestrange!”

For those seeking to understand themselves in less frivolous terms, we might seek to discover if we’re Type A or Type B, or which of the four humors we are, or, in terms of the perennial, inescapable, enduring favorite: What’s my Myers-Briggs type?


I’ve long been a fan of the Myers-Briggs. It’s helped me understand certain aspects of my personality…

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This is my house.

Originally posted on The Bloggess:

The greatest gift in the world is to grant a kindness to another. The amazing thing though is that the aforementioned gift is one you give yourself. It may be a small thing. Leaving a flower for the tired woman at the coffee shop. Telling a stranger that they have such kind eyes. Listening happily to a story told by an elderly friend or relative who has told you the same story a million times. Nodding in solidarity even when you don’t completely understand. Letting a friend or a stranger yell hurtful things at you because you hope it will help them let go of a small part of that anger…that it will open up room in them for the greater things that they deserve.

This is the way the world goes. Small, mean acts affect the next person who in turn amplify that anger or sadness and take it out on others who suffer…

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Creative Assignments and Student Centered Learning

I am finishing up another term and will spend next week grading research designs. This assignment is meant to provide students an opportunity to fully sketch out a larger paper. And, this assignment is quite specific in terms of the expectations. I offer creative assignments and couple them with the traditional paper assignment. I am going to list a few common issues that I have faced.

1. Just make me write a paper

2. Why can’t you give us a mid-term or final

3. I enjoy the opportunity, but learning the technology takes time

4. Thank you

I did not place these in a ranked format. But, these are the most common comments about blogging, vlogging, e-portfolios, proposals, and research designs. Trying to offer different types of assignments and foster student-centered learning presents opportunities and challenges! I will respond to the four points in another post.

Soaking Up Social: SMC2015

I have attended all six of the Social Media Camps held in Victoria, BC. Each one has had some special highlights for me and the 2015 camp is no different. Social Media Camp is nerd-prom for those of us heavily engaged in social media at work or for our personal lives. And, Social Media Camp Victoria is apparently one of the largest of its kind. 

My takeaways for this year vary from engagement, it is about the people, and your story counts. I have made some great connections, met some finally in real life (IRL), and have seen old friends/former students. The camp experience was great. Let me get to the takeaways more carefully. Social Media is not social if you do not engage with people and make an effort to connect and have conversations. Communication is not one way and when it is one way you can expect to get dropped, muted or blocked on the particular platform. You want to be authentic on your platform(s) and not just push out information. 

You need to think about your story and your purpose. What are you doing? Plan your posts. This is different than scheduling. Be thoughtful and you, and be careful. As I always say, if you pause before you submit or click–you might not want to share that post, joke or photo. You also want to think about what you are sharing. Are your posts and photos thoughtful. What are you trying to get across? And, are you posting or responding to something when you are tired, frustrated or angry. Posts can live. You might delete or rethink something, but it is too late. Practice safe social media! 

I have more to say about Social Media Camp 2015. #smc #smc2015 But these are my raw thoughts post lunch on day two.  


Post for My Students: Looking For Work

I have some points of advice for my current and former students looking for work. I was counting back and realize that I have sat on more than 3 dozen hiring committees in the last 15 years. In that time I have reviewed cover letters, resumes, CVs, and sat in on the interviews. I have also served as a job reference for countless people, and am a MBA Leadership Coach.

1. Proofread your resume or CV

2. Have someone else review your resume or CV. Chances are you are forgetting something about some of your skills or have missed an error with formatting or a typo.

3. Prepare for your interview. Find out information about the employer and the position that you have applied for. You can Google common interview questions and practice formulating your answers.

4. Send an email thank you to the interviewer after the interview. Be concise: thank you for the opportunity, I look forward to hearing from you.

5. If you do not get the job, it is acceptable to contact the interviewer and ask if they can offer feedback. They may respond with some, but do not expect that they will.

6. When you are in the interview, never speak ill of your current employer or any past employers.

7. Do not under any circumstance lie or inflate on your resume.

8. Be prepared for your interview and gracious to the interviewer or interview panel.

9. Be on time to your interview.

10. Dress appropriately for your interview. It is better that you are a bit overdressed, then not dressed up enough.

11. Try to relax and think positively before your interview. You do not want to be that candidate who was extremely nervous and could not answer questions.

12. Review your digital footprint. Update your LinkedIn account and make sure that you have your LinkedIn account information on your resume. 

Do not burn a bridge. If somehow you are not happy with the process, never send an email or make a phone call when frustrated. 

Overall, good luck with your job search! The Spring is busy with students looking for jobs, co-ops, and volunteer opportunities.