Author Archives: Nancy Smith

Leadership Part 2 – Quotes that Resonated with Me.


Leadership, more or less? (Tourish, D. (2014))

"Leadership is less one person doing something to another (wih their more or less willing compliance).  Rather, it is a process whereby leaders and non-leaders accomplish each other through dynamics of interaction in which mutual influence is always present".

The team that I manage is very experienced and good at what they do.  In fact, most days I find I am learning new things from them rather than the traditional view that a leader should be the all-knowing master of all skills.  This quote resonates with me because it sheds light on the concept that there are two parts to the leadership equation.  

As an instructor, I was hired as a subject matter expert who could transfer my knowledge to my students with their compliance.  This is a more traditional role of leadership in the classroom.  I have been trying to find ways to increase learning opportunities and leverage the knowledge of the class by facilitating and guiding rather than traditional instruction.  It has been met with some resistance from some students who are typically older and not familiar with this "flipped" classroom approach.  


Critical and alternative approaches to leadership learning and development 

"One area that is being developed as an alternative view and that better appreciates context as well as emotions of becoming and being a leader is the move towards aesthetic and artistic methods of management and leadership learning"

 I was reminded of the work of Brene Brown when I read this article.  If you are not familiar with her work her writing is direct, no-nosense and can be applied in all areas of life.  In her book, Dare to Lead  she provider her thoughts and research on what an effective leader is.  And she challenges our traditional views and asks what we need to be doing now when “we’re faced with seemingly intractable challenges and an insatiable demand for innovation.” Truly daring leaders, she explains, are prepared to be vulnerable and listen without interrupting. They have empathy, connecting to emotions that underpin an experience, not just to the experience itself. They have self-awareness and self-love, because who we are is how we lead.” 

Her book explores the characteristics of brave leaders who are not afraid to demonstrate empathy, genuineness, corage, fear, shame and vulnerability.

If you haven't read this book yet, I encourage you to.  I really liked the behavioural insights that I think leaders should know about and practice.  It is something I am working on everyday...


Avoiding Repetitive Change Syndrome

"Repetitive change syndrome harms a company’s capacity to make further changes. That is, for every change initiative added, another one slows down or disappears".  

Eric Abrahamson

I love trying new things, finding new ways and approaches to try to continually improve our way of working.  However, I realize not everyone likes or reacts to change well.  This has been made more aparent during the past 19 months as we navigate living in a "new normal".  Recently, one of my team told me that they needed more structure, more clarity in our process than I have been encouraging.  "Maybe don't try to reinvent the wheel" was the advice offered.  And you know what?  I recognize that I could be more willing to work with tried and tested methods rather than finding new ways or tools to help.  I find that if I take the time to think about the problem, it can really help rather than react by implementing new changed ways to respond to the issue.


The Stupidity Paradox: The power and pitfalls of functional stupidity at work.


Like many others, I watched alot of television during the past year.  A highlight was re-watching all seasons of The Office, and as I read the article  by Alvesson & Spicer, many of the episodes would come to mind and bring the points to life for me.  Did that happen to you too?
"Functional stupidity is so widespread in most organisations that it is simply seen as normal."

The fictional character Michael Scott  seemed more interested in being seen as a the world's best boss.  He tried to hard to be popular and would bribe his staff with parties, liquor and more...

My takeaway is that I don't want to be "that boss" more concerned about being liked or the perception of doing the right things, than actually asking hard questions and engaging in tough conversations.  This is the least favourite part of my job as being a manager, but it is likely one of the most important aspects I need to do more of.


Cross Cultural Understandings of Leadership 

This article was intriguing for me to read.  I want to deepen my understanding and knowledge about other cultures, and had not thought about how I could apply this to the concepts of leadership.

The Six Leadership Themes in the article were interesting to learn more about.  

"Native Americans spoke of a different kind of leadership.  It was a leadership that is decentralized.  Every person has a role to play.  Each person's role is imporant to the whole.  No other person can make the exact same contribution.  The total contribution is an organic whole that can only be understood over life cycles."
As my team heads into another realignment/reorganization this fall, I would like to use this concept to help us organize and define ourselves.  I like how it places value on each individual and allows them to contribute in meaningful ways.  We have traditionally been defined in a more hierachiel structure, but I hope to incoporate this more wholistic and equal view. 


In Summary,

These readings are a good reminder to look beyond leadership resources that preach best practices or best in class advice on how to be the best leader.  Draw of different cultures, examples of failure and what to avoid as I build my personal leadership philosophy.  

I'll end with a quote that I like from one of my favourite authors in the marketing world, 





Current Leadership Style

 

This year I completed a Foundational Leadership Program offered through the City of Calgary and the University of Calgary.   This provided me the opportunity to learn more about leadership and define my leadership style.

At the beginning of the course, we completed an in-depth assessment of our personal strengths and development areas by Lumina Spark. This assessment tool is based on four principles that help bring awareness of areas of strength and how to build upon my challenges to build effective relationships and my leadership skills.

This tool is based on the Relationship/Transformational Theory in our course readings.    The Lumina Spark tool focuses on four key principles that when mastered, helps us "become truly transformational leaders capable of taking those we work with to higher levels of performance". (Lumina Spark, Personalized Portrait Workbook 2021)




1. Self Knowledge

2. Building Rapport

3. Valuing Diversity

4. Co-Creating Results 





My completed assessment highlighted that I really enjoy working collaboratively with others.  I relish opportunities to provide support to people and see them flourish.  My colleagues  can experience this as being very empowering; I am supportive of their goals and try not to interfere with their autonomy.   Working this way helps me stay connected and helps build trust and connection with my team.

During my career I have worked with many different styles of leaders, and as I read the course materials I could visualize examples - both good and bad of how these leadership approaches affected me.  One positive example that stood out for me was the first job I had after completing my undergraduate studies.  I moved to Calgary from Edmonton for the job, I didn't know anyone, and I was new to the tourism industry.  The General Manager of the organization took me under his wing, introduced me to many people within the community and provided me opportunities to contribute, and learn from him.  My biggest takeaway was the power of relationships.  He was masterful at being a connector of people, no matter the background or position, he could make anyone feel valued and appreciated.  He was a community builder and people loved to be around him. I am so grateful he invested his time in mentoring me until he passed away 2 years ago.  If you are interested in learning more about my mentor, this video highlights who he was and his leadership impact on our community


The leadership approaches that interest me the most from our readings this week are:

Participative Theory - A manager who uses participative leadership, rather than making all the decisions, seeks to involve other people, thus improving commitment and increasing collaboration, which leads to better quality decisions and a more successful business (Lamb, 2013).  This is the approach that most resonated with my current leadership role.

Democratic/Participative Leadership Style
As my organization is going through a realignment, how can I involve my team in the decision making so that they are active and feel like they are a part of the larger picture.  Sometimes, decisions have to be made as a leader, but I have found that generally I get better "buy in" when everyone feels they have been listened to and contributed to the final decision.

Creative Leadership Style 
"Leadership looks at the horizon and not just the bottom-line"  The concepts presented from Bennis about creating a compelling vision, meaning, healthy and empowering environment and success through a non bureaucratic system was intriguing and new to me.









ECI 833 Summary of Learning

Summary of Learning 


Here is my final summary of learning:


I summarized our semester into a narrative that synthesized my key learnings for our class.

Although many of the tools we explored are geared towards K-12, I found learning about how you are using technology in the classroom was inspiring.  


A Fresh Start

 This week I started teaching a new session of one of my social media classes at the University of Calgary, Social Media Essentials.  As part of this blog prompt, and to apply what we have been learning I decided to try some new assessment tools to improve my teaching and the class experience for my students.

There are some limitations on what I can use as per the University guidelines, for example, I have to use the D2L tool for the online course materials etc.  However, rather than stick to the traditional - "please go to the discussion board and write an brief introduction about yourself", I provided students with a Flipgrid introduction video exercise


I have just finished watching 9 of my students videos and already see so much value in using this tool.  The ability to connect with a video of what the student chooses to share with the other students is quite impactful, you can also see and hear what they are passionate about, what they are excited to learn, or what concerns they might have about the course.  

Putting a face and voice to a name creates more of a connection too - not just for me, but for the students who will be learning together in this course for the next 6 weeks.

Flipgrid is a tool I was introduced to by our instructor Dr. Couros.  It is an amazing resource that is free and allows teachers and students to record a short video to interact with one another and create a more engaging experience.  I think it is a great tool because it is very easy to use and effective in creating a short video that can be uploaded and viewed with minimal effort.  

Another assessment tool that I introduced is I created a Student Questionnaire based on the one we complete for Dr. Couros.  I used Google Forms to collect basic information from each student that will help me throughout the course for marking the assignments such as blog post writing and Twitter engagement.  


I asked two questions that have proven to be very informative and helpful to me as an instructor:

"How comfortable are you with social media? Do you use it personally?"

and

"Is there anything I should know about you as a learner?" 

BOTH of these questions have provided me with very specific examples of issues and concerns several students have had.  As a result, I have a better understanding of the unique needs of those students and how important it is for me to approach the content and materials in some different ways than I normally have when I taught this material in the past.  For example, one student expressed heightened concern over privacy and social media, so I have been able to respond with some facts and articles to address those concerns.  I have already had several very positive email discussions with this student who thanked me for being open to their concerns and addressing them.  Without the Google Form information questionnaire, I would have never known these potential issues.

Using these two insights have provided me with more information about my students, and have demonstrated to them that I am listening, and prepared to help their learning journey by responding in a personalized way.  This is exactly the outcome I wanted in building a stronger connection with my students.

Although the preparation that I have invested into this course has required more work as an instructor on the "up front work",  I can already tell that this time will be very well rewarded to improving the online course experience for this session.


My Dilemma with The Social Dilemma

I watched the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma at the start of this semester. And of course, I shared a post on social media with my opinion of the show.

The premise of the show is that social media companies manipulate the people who use the platforms with complicated and intentional algorithms and design.  The show suggests that there are many evils happening unbeknownst to the users including:

-  addiction to social media 
-  online privacy issues 
- monetization of personal data for advertisements
- concerns of an unregulated industry that has gone too far

Let's start with the positive aspects of the documentary.

Clearly, this show has created an awareness of some of the issues of social media and Web 2.0.  It has acted as a stimulus for conversations about digital citizenship, privacy, and personal data use with our online activities.  

Through the dramatization of the family in the show, it challenged how we are using technology and showed some of the issues of unhealthy habits and "addiction" to screens and social media.  Many families are concerned about how to best manage technology with their kids and the potential serious impacts of misinformation found online, unhealthy habits (lack of sleep, disconnection with "real world" friends and activities).  Personally, I really disliked this aspect of the documentary as I found it was over the top rather than factual.


I appreciated the information on the importance of finding a balance with technology and that it can not act as a substitute for in-person connection.  While our digital connection can help build and nuture relationships, it cannot be a substitution.

The information the documentary shared about political interference, misinformation and radicalization was very relevant as we approach the US election.  I have been delving more into this topic over the past few months as a personal interest, and because I have witnessed a rise in incivility and discourse since the start of the pandemic on the municipal government social media channels that I manage for my work.  These are serious and important issues that will need to be addressed in some way - either by government or managed by the social media platforms.

Spoiler Alert - I am not a fan.

Besides the over acting, which I am not a fan of, my issue with the documentary is that it did a great job of raising concerns and bringing to light many problems of the online world, but did not offer any substantial help. This was a missed opportunity to provide advice and options that can help families navigate these challenges and issues.  I did find some resources on their website on how to take action however most focus on advocacy rather than practical help.  Probably the best resource I found is a discussion guide that you can download to help facilitate constructive conversations at home and at school.  The site has a Bingo game 

Although I am not clear if it accomplishes what the heading suggests, "are you using technology or is it using you?"

I have read numerous reviews by others on this documentary that point to innaccurate use of statistics and research.  Many researchers commented that the current research shows a correlation NOT CAUSE as it relates to the impact of technology and social media on mental health issues.  Another pet peeve is the use of the term "addiction".  Excessive social media and technology use can be dangerous, but the use of the term addiction is irresponsible and only feeds the hype.  If you want a good read about this I suggest this link   

I was troubled with all of the people interviewed in the docudrama.  Many were responsible for the development of the technology that they are now condemning.  Ethically I questioned who they made their money, and are now attacking them. This presented a very unequal perspective.  I am not clear if the social media companies were invited to respond, but I did read the statement issued by Facebook (posted, where else, but on Facebook).

At the end of the day ...

I am pleased so many people are watching it (on Netflix, a paid platform that uses algorithms and paid advertising to determine what content to serve users, how ironic?!) because people are talking about it.  I am disappointed with the unbalanced and very narrow perspective that feeds on anxiety and fear.  But at least it is increasing awareness of the fact that we are living with technology and need to be aware of the challenges and issues that come with it.

What did you think of the docudrama?







Online Teaching and Higher Education

 

I currently teach online courses at two higher education institutions - Mount Royal University and the University of Calgary.  When I first started online teaching 7 years ago, I developed my course curriculum, added it to the LMS system and then did a synchronous session each semester with my students.  In other words, I followed the protocol outlined by both institutions.  I struggled with connecting with my students beyond the required responses on the discussion thread forums.


I was bored as an instructor and knew there had to be a better way to create a more engaging experience online like I had when I was in the classroom.  

I turned to tools I was familiar with like using Twitter to interact with the class.  Tweeting helpful resources and responding to students each week help establish more frequent connection.  Although each semester I will have at least a couple of students who are reluctant to try this tool, generally most are receptive to try using it since they are taking a course in social media! 

Another tool I have incorporated is Screencastify.  I used to simply upload my powerpoint presentation decks (like I was advised), but instead I have focused on creating weekly video lessons.  Although it has been a significant investment of my time to create the videos, I have had such positive feedback from my students that I am inspired to keep creating.  I cringe at some of my early videos but I prescribe to the saying "make progress not perfection".  

Both Universities are quite restrictive on using tools that must be approved by the institutions, so I try to push the boundaries a little and focus on how I can use those tools more effectively.  Unfortunately, in my opinion there is very little that can be done with the LMS Blackboard.  

I can use Youtube, and have been using the Creator Studio course and videos for inspiration.  I am also grateful for this course and love the format of learning from others about approaches, tools and technology.  Each week I have been motivated to try a new tool or have been inspired on how to apply for my courses.

My takeaway for this week is that having an open mind and willingness to learn is one of the best "tools" you can utilize.  If you have not watched this video of Carol Dueck and the Power of Yet, I highly recommend it





Let me edutain you.

 


Congratulations to my classmates Kaleigh, Lisa, Tammy and Tarina for presenting the first session.  I thought you did a very thorough job of sharing the history and use of AV (audio visual) aids in the classroom. 

The blog prompt for this week was to evaluate a statement made by Neil Postman  who was an American educator, prolific author and critic of technology and its role in education.

Postman was outspoken about the "corrosive effects of television on our politics and public discourse" in his 1985 book "Amusing Ourselves to Death". I read this book in 2016 during the months leading to the US election and was astounded at how prophetic his thinking was and how it applied to Donald Trump. I won't go further into this topic, because I don't want this to become a political post.... however, I would recommend this book if you are interested in how the internet is affecting politics.

Postman wrote: “…We now know that “Sesame Street” encourages children to love school only if school is like “Sesame Street.” Which is to say, we now know that “Sesame Street” undermines what the traditional idea of schooling represents.”

I think Postman is right, the idea of entertainment like Sesame Street has evolved and progressed how we approach new ways of engaging students vs the traditional way of schooling. But what I don't agree with is his thinking that TV is the wrong medium for learning and education. Can you imagine what Postman would think about the rise in popularity of Youtube and the endless hours of programming available on this platform?

In our class, many have shared examples of the best teachers they have had and how they used entertaining ways to impart their knowledge. The fact that we have countless resources/videos on a variety of platforms to help us understand complex and complicated lessons and make it easier to understand is truly amazing.

The newest trend is the rise of educators using TikTok as a platform to help. While normally used for videos of people dancing, sharing memes or other entertainment, there is a rapid uptake in the popularity of hashtags such as #algebra and #mathematics, boasting hundreds of millions of views.


Do you use resources like TikTok to help supplement your teaching?


Google Chrome Extensions

 



My knowledge of most of the tech tools I use have come from a dedicated Youtuber, Steve Dotto. If you are not familiar with Steve Dotto, he is a passionate tech advocate who used to have a tv show called "Dotto Tech" back in the early 2000's. I used to watch it then, and always appreciated his non-intimidating approach to technology. Steve evolved his program from television and has become a Youtuber, a podcaster, and speaker who provides great value in his learning sessions. I had the opportunity to see Steve speak at a conference in Ottawa a couple of years ago, and I was completely blown away at how much information he shared in such a practical and logical way in only 60 minutes. Each week he provides a free online webinar, and if you like his content, you can join his membership to have on-demand content for further training.

Here is an example of one of his helpful videos:






Here are some of my favourite Google Chrome Extensions:

LastPass - password management tool
LastPass allows me to create strong passwords for all of the sites I want, and be able to access them by only having to remember ONE password. LastPass has a Google Chrome extension which makes it easy to recall a very secure password vs. using the same password for all sites which many people do.

Privacy Badger
Privacy Badger is a browser extension that is compatible on all browsers, but I use on Chrome. This extension is the best of the privacy trackers I have tried (I have previously tried Disconnect, Adblock Plus, and Ghostery) because it does not require any extensive technical knowledge and you don't need to customize for it to be effective.

Privacy badger helps keep track of third-party domains that typically advertise on the websites that you visit. They often track you and can keep information on you, that you likely did not even realize.

If you are not familiar with what type of information is collected on you when you visit websites you need to STOP and spend the next 30 minutes listening to this podcast immediately.

IRL - Privacy or Profit Podcast which explains why we should all be aware and concerned about our privacy online.

Here is a nice explanation of what Privacy Badger


Knowing how to protect your browsing information is an important digital literacy skill that few people know how to do. Most digital citizenship teachings focus on never revealing personal information such as your address, phone number or school name etc. But, there is so much more we need to learn, and thankfully Common Sense Media has created age appropriate and grade level lesson plans to help

Is this something you are helping teach your students?