Archive for the 'culture of love' Category

Feb 09 2016

If Teaching is Relational, How Does That Inform Online Teaching?

learningI was in my car the other day, thinking about all the workplace learning projects I’m currently involved in. At times, I feel like I’m moving a giant rock up a hill, with gravity being “lets push content to our learners.” I keep pointing to the importance of practice, context, reflection, informal learning. But I realize I have not sufficiently highlighted the importance  of teaching as a practice about relationships. About being human. About, liberation and yes,  about LOVE.

On our local public radio station, KUOW, ran a story about Nate Gibbs-Bowling reflecting on segregation in Washington state schools and what he is doing about it. At the core of his thesis was that teaching was relationship centric. His success with students of color was not dependent on his subject matter expertise, but his relationship with those students. If you have five minutes, take a listen: Washington Schools Are Segregated And That’s Not OK | KUOW News and Information

Nate’s experience in K-12 education rang a bell with me in my experience with workplace learning. To get the engagement that leads to gains in the application of learning, I use two things. The first is to work as hard as I can to make sure the learning offering has real, applicable relevance to the learner in doing their job. The second is to get to know them and use that relationship to engage with the learners to co-discover ways to liberate the application of the learning.

So if we believe (and hopefully can prove) that teaching is relational, what does that imply for online learning and teaching online, especially the proliferation of self paced, content centric elearning? Or worse, online teaching as enforcement and control.

It means we have to challenge the status quo of content-centricity! This does not mean throwing out content, but it means starting with relationship in the appropriate contexts.

My friend and colleague, educator Brad Beach of Australia and I have been having a years long, very slow conversation on what unlocks learner engagement online and if it varies by domain. I have changed a lot of my thinking about online interaction over time, both as I’ve learned and the environment has evolved, but one thing has always been central. Treat people like real, human beings. Use what the Dali Lama calls being “heard, seen and loved.” We may use the word “respected,” but I think it really is about love. But suit yourself! 🙂

A week ago during one of these conversations (they usually happen very early my Friday morning, Brad’s late Friday night) Brad came back again after working with some folks trying to do more vocational education online, with, as they call them in Australia, the “tradies.” He said “Nancy, you were right.” There had been a lot of push back that tradies don’t hew to this idea of relationship building online. Well heck, they do. It might look and sound different, that’s all.

I asked him, “so what does that say about the facilitation of online learning?” Brad, smart man that he is, answered “it is about good teaching. Period. Online or offline.” And together, our experience tells us that good teaching is, among other things, relationship centric.

handsRelationship Centric Practices in Online Teaching

So let’s name some of these practices. I’ll share a few of mine. Please share some of yours in the comments.

  1. Bring your whole self. A workplace learner is juggling many things. Compartmentalization takes more energy to maintain. Bring a little bit of who you are, and find out a little bit of who they are. This helps identify opportunities to liberate learning, often in unexpected ways. For me, a little goofiness goes a long way. Just a little bit.
  2. Bring your unknowingness and curiosity along with your knowledge. As adults, we are co-learners. We learn with and from each other through our conversations, activities and reflections. If we are “know it alls” we often block this co-learning.
  3. Bring human expression into all forms of communication. Use text based body language. (I’m jumping up and down in my chair as I read your response!) Add pictures and images (even silly little sketches) that not only contextualize the content, but our engagement with it and its application in our lives.
  4. Keep the content tap turned to low. This is really, really hard for me. Look at the length of this blog post. I’ll be working on this until the day I die. But pouring more on rarely is the key to engaged teaching and learning.

What do you suggest?

Edit on 2/11: Some related links:

7 responses so far

Apr 28 2015

Please Donate to Help Nepal’s Earthquake Victims

Give. Just sayin…

Next of course, my attention went to the question of “Where to donate?”   I received several emails from charities that I already support that do work in the area.   I donated to Save the Children.   On Facebook, I noticed a list of vetted charitiesshared by another trusted colleague who works in the nonprofit sector, Peggy Duvette.  I shared the article on my wall.   This sparked a few other recommendations from friends about where to donate.  Knowing that Robert Rosenthal had been working and living in Nepal, I was curious to see if he had any recommendations.  He posted a link to this Global Giving Fund, a giving network of charities in Nepal, vetted for impact.  In the thread was a comment from Nancy Schwartzsuggesting that we all share this wide and far.   So, I shared it on my wall tagging friends, many of whom re-shared the post, and made a donation.

via Please Donate to Help Nepal’s Earthquake Victims Now | Beth’s Blog.

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Feb 11 2015

Biscuits and Being Better Together

biscuittweetAll it takes is a tweet about grating frozen butter to make better biscuits to get me to click into a web page. And when I arrive, I find this most wonderful quote that can certainly apply to far more than biscuits. (Emphasis mine)

Sitting down to a plate of towering warm biscuits, with butter, sorghum and orange-blossom honey, we get philosophical on details, like placing biscuits so they’re touching.“When you’re touching, you lift each other up and you rise higher,”

Duvick agrees. But if they rise too high and slump over, they still taste good.

via What’s the secret to really tall biscuits? | CharlotteObserver.com.

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Jun 28 2013

Openness is Easy: Recipe Sharing, Knowledge Sharing

yummy - that's my pieceA while back someone wanted a copy of a recipe from me. I wanted to find (re-find!) a recipe. And I decided to create a little email group where I could email myself recipes, and then easily find them later. I shared with my sister and mom. A few others joined when they heard, but it has stayed a fairly small circle.

Today, in my typical Friday morning work avoidance, I was following links from Twitter to cooking blogs, copying recipes into the list and thought, HEY, I SHOULD SHARE THIS! After all, a bit part of my work is about knowledge sharing. So I went in and made the postings public. You can see them here:

99+ Recipe Circle – Google Groups.

The significance of these few, little clicks is that this sort of thing happens all the time. We have our private or small group piles of good stuff, of information, of knowledge, and yet we don’t even THINK of making it open. Hey, it is EASY. So just do it. Find one treasure you can make open today. Open it up. Let your friends, networks, even the world know about it.

I you would like to be added to the list, let me know (and what email address you’d like me to use). And maybe find one of these great recipes and cook up something loving and wonderful for friends and family this weekend!

One response so far

Apr 11 2013

Teaching Empathy: hey, that’s networked leadership!

IMGP3454I’m currently working with an intelligent and courageous core team working to implement a very different way of working in a very large bureaucracy. It is really HARD work, but these three people are showing energy, resilience and graceful humor. As I read this article on Forbes tonight, Teaching Empathy: The Ancient Way Is Now Cutting-Edge it struck me that the four things they suggest we teach for empathy also represent network leadership.

  1. Teach listening as a core skill and expect it as a cultural practice. Start by being an active listener yourself and give people the time they need to reflect. Time not made for someone is time wasted.
  2. Make dialogue a primary team, group or classroom practice. Dialogue opens the doors to exploration—what Peter Senge in his guide “The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook” calls “skillful discussion,” where thoughtful decisions can be made that honor all participants (or, in business, stakeholders).
  3. Identify roles, not organizational charts. When people are able to articulate their role, what they need to be successful and what gets in the way of their success, an empathic understanding is present and the beginnings of a healthy team, class or group takes shape.
  4. Lead with consistency, authenticity and honesty. Be clear as to why you are doing what you are doing. Do not lead or manage through personality but rather through articulation. To articulate is to clarify.

By networked leadership, I mean leading where you don’t always have authority. Where multiple reporting lines mess all the normal power plays up, rendering the old style of leading obsolete.

I see this team doing more and more active listening and they have refined their conversational skills to demonstrate both listening and bridge potential understanding gaps using the “what I heard you say is… ” before they add their thoughts. In an organization with a practice of “I win if I look smartest,” a lot of people’s attention is wrapped up in preparing their next statement, not listening.

In the formation of this big new plans, emphasis is placed not on large, plenary sessions to hash things out, but breaking into small conversations and building meaning outward. There is a strong invitation for others to describe what they understand and need about this big transition they are all navigating.

The new structure now distributes resources across divisional lines, so the idea of one’s formal boss is being tossed on the waves of change. The idea of roles, not organizational charts is one I want to bring up at our next meeting as a way to help with this.

Finally, this team is composed of a very senior leader, a senior researcher and a more junior staff member. I see them leading with honesty, authenticity and striving so hard for consistency. What I hope I will see soon is more and more people around them recognizing and appreciating this, so it will encourage more of the same.  I think it is possible. Hard work, but possible. And when it becomes more common, I suspect I’ll see both better results, and more joy.

I think these are four terrific things. What else do courageous, networked leaders need to know and do?

Edited PS: see also Eugene Eric Kim’s post on Balance Bikes for Changemakers. It’s all about the learning/experimenting!

2 responses so far

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.
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