Week 4.1

Thought since I’m off work for a few weeks posting early was a good idea.

Have to admit to falling behind on the readings–a lifetime of never doing as I’m told has its effects even in courses I WANT to be in (like this one). And then there’s the little irritant of spending all day editing what are considered “popular” and “properly structured” courses that I find stupefyingly boring and why would I want to do this for a living? Except it IS what I do for a living, which is sort of (sad).

But not all is lost! I have an assignment when I go back to work involving taking a course in moving to online course work and teaching. Yes, just like this one except not as good. The official idea is our instructional staff are mostly dragging their heels on the move to online and somehow taking a course recommended by upper admin will somehow change this situation.

Well…a lot of politics and resistance here. Opportunity too. So rather than fool around reporting on yet another Professional Development “opportunity” that goes into the mental shredder, maybe I can start building a course in online teaching and design that makes no claim to proper anything?

To start, we can begin with the 4 questions below. 3 less than the 7 we were assigned to read about which is convenient and efficient, which seems to be important these days when kids are expected to be job-ready by the age of six.

I’ll take my cue from question 4. Why do we complicate people’s lives by ordering them to change and then dumping a bunch of requirements on the character and methods by which they are to change? Is there some sort of motivator hidden in in asking for input and then telling everyone to shut-up? What sort of complication draws cooperation as opposed to creating a barrier to cooperation?

More later.

From Stephen Downes: OL Daily mail out http://www.downes.ca/
PKM and Innovation
Harold Jarche, Weblog, September 25, 2012.
Harold Jarche writes: In the FastCoDesign article, How do you create a culture of innovation? the authors note four skills that most successful innovators exhibit:
•    Questioning: Asking probing questions that impose or remove constraints. Example: What if we were legally prohibited from selling to our current customer?
•    Networking: Interacting with people from different backgrounds who provide access to new ways of thinking.
•    Observing: Watching the world around them for surprising stimuli.
•    Experimenting: Consciously complicating their lives by trying new things or going to new places.

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  • Lisa M Lane  On September 26, 2012 at 10:38 AM

    I’m a bit unclear about what you’re doing. Are you being told you must take a class in online teaching for professional development, a class your admin prefers? If so, I’d love to know what class it is and who’s offering it.

    Is it these same people asking for input and then telling everyone to shut up? I was a little confused what that was referring to. Is that related to telling people they must take a class?

    • Scott Johnson  On September 26, 2012 at 11:42 AM

      Confusion is useful (still haven’t figured out how to hyperlink so see here: http://jennymackness.wordpress.com/2012/09/16/the-science-of-teaching/ )

      Its been suggested by our college president we take a course presented by Faculty Focus and we are awaiting approval from our PD department prior to checking it out. The history is most of our seasoned instructors have no desire to move on to online delivery of their courses. Many, many reasons for this that I won’t list beyond saying that no one has approached them in a respectful manner and they are doing just exactly what you would expect from committed professionals and telling management to blow-it.

      Fours ago I was tasked with finding an introductory training course that would help ease our instructors into the online delivery world. I even posted a request at a teachers association website. There was nothing like POTCERT that actually acknowledged the teachers as competent professionals–it was all tool based and gee-whiz technology tips. And that type of course has been the staple of PD training ever since. (This is how I discovered MOOCs).

      Since my position in the hierarchy is that of a minor functionary, all the research I’ve done has been disregarded or shelved and I suspect the Faculty Focus course will be the same. Rather than kvetch about it I thought maybe the course I worked on for POTCERT could be a more personalized work-up of of the Faculty Focus course at a personal, non-tool level.

      I’m not a teacher or a techie but am endearingly disorganized, always confused and considered safely marginal that I might be the person to get our teachers into online delivery. And yes, taking this course is as close to being a directive as we get around here. These PD things are not presented with bad intentions nor are they inherently useless. Only they go mostly unattended and I’m tired of hearing how this is evidence of teaching staff resisting change. That’s way too shallow an analysis of their behaviour. My father worked in advertising and if customers repeatedly don’t “buy” your product it’s important you know why–and act on it rather than repeat the same mistake.

      Nothing has been decided on the Faculty Focus course yet. If it goes I’ll blog about it. Our office is swamped with an unusual patch of mega-turmoil and it looks like my time-off order is to be rescinded. I like this course and want to continue though I think falling behind is in my future.

      Has this made anything clearer?

      • Lisa M Lane  On September 26, 2012 at 1:31 PM

        This is great information. So if you develop your own class and offer it, could you get it through your PD?

        As far as faculty resistance, there are many good reasons for not wanting take things online, but if no one is listening the mandatory training will not be helpful unless it’s with someone they trust and starts with that very issue, of why bother going online.

        The potcert class is available to all your faculty as well. You could run it as a cohort leader, or just steal our stuff.

      • scottx5  On September 26, 2012 at 3:47 PM

        Hi Lisa, did have one of our two instructional designers talked into taking your POTCERT class but a family emergency has taken her away for a bit. Maybe the next one I’ll have more people to bring along:-)

        My idea is to do a pre-professional development introduction to teaching online. We are in a small college in a small and isolated community. Some of our instructors feel they are too close to retirement to take on “new skills”, others are insulted by the implication that they could “do better” online, some don’t listen and most feel online will put (no pun intended) distance between them and “their” students. These are dedicated teachers who know their students–this is more than a job for them, it’s a relationship of mutual trust and you can feel it in the classroom. It’s even there in classes delivered by video conference (where a full class can’t be filled at our main campus, the instructors travel campus to campus so they get F2F time at least once every 2 – 3 weeks for twice a week classes).

        My hope is to get the message across that online can keep the connection alive and one way is to get the instructors to imagine themselves practicing what they do with the same caring as they evidence face to face.

        Ironic that I felt completely out of place in school and now in the thick of it. Part of the motivation here is based on the challenge this project represents. I wonder why others are taking this course?

  • Walter Muryasz  On September 27, 2012 at 3:34 PM


    As with all change, there will be resistance. We are experiencing the same at our group of colleges as we move to increase our online presents. Administration can sometimes be so far removed from the reality of the change as to lose touch with the process itself.

    I applaud your solution to the problem “I can start building a course in online teaching and design that makes no claim to proper anything?” Many discoveries and innovations have been made by individuals who were not experts in a particular field or even in the field.


    • scottx5  On September 27, 2012 at 6:03 PM

      Hi Walter,
      I sometimes wonder if people with expertise make mistakes because they are too familiar with the subject area and it takes “outsiders” to identify their blind spots? Having taught apprentices and having a wife who was a teacher for years I’m not entirely outside the field. Still, my main “qualification” comes from having gone through career changes that I was “ready for” but wasn’t. People become emotionally tied to their identities and often don’t realize the depth of their commitment to what they do until it is challenged by change. Usually the more dedicated are the ones who crash the hardest. Agree that managers are ofter short sighted in assuming people can be simply updated like machines.

      Where we are located there is a huge shortage of qualified teachers (and almost every other profession too). We can’t replace those that leave. More importantly though, previous attempts to recruit them to online have been handled poorly with an emphasis on what they don’t know as key to their moving on. It does seem logical to start training at the don’t know stage except most adults aren’t comfortable in that position and especially those who have built a profession around being the person in the room who does know.

      Guess what I’m attempting is a course in becoming reacquainted with what a business article on managing change called the “inner work lives” of our instructors. How do we “make” people tolerate change near the end of their careers like they did at the beginning? Maybe I’ll find out?

      Thanks for your comments.

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