Innovation for Learning: Submit Your Ideas for the #OLCInnovate Solution Design Summit

I have been thinking about innovation for a while. What does innovation mean to you? How does “innovation” play into your world of work and learning? The word INNOVATE feels very much like a buzzword when it comes to learning. It may even be as a prime contender found on one of my #edtech bingo cards used for education meetings and conferences. Now the word, innovate, has been placed as a conference title and I agreed to support the planning for this event => Online Learning Consortium (OLC) Innovate. These facts only means I have been reading and reflecting even more about innovation and what this term means. Here are my current ponderings and ideas…


Flickr photo c/o Missy Scmidt

A number of organizations are increasingly being influenced or impacted the eagerness to “solve” problems with technology. Last year, George Steele suggested the book, The Innovators, in a conversation about the culture of change in higher education (a HUGE topic I will save for another blog post). This was a well-timed referral and read for me. Isaacson (2014) describes how groups of individuals ingeniously cooperated to innovate in the real world. Say what? Tell me more!

Thinking, designing, and employing innovation for learning is complicated. The story of the collective successes (and failures) of many innovators need to be shared, and continually drafted as there are “far fewer tales of collaborative creativity, which is actually more important in understanding…how today’s technology revolution was fashioned. It can also be more interesting” (Isaacson, 2014, p. 1)

Although The Innovators shares the history of computing, technology, and the Internet, and it really spoke to my inner collaborator and WHY I dabble in the applied inquiry to understand more about online/blended learning technologies and workplace L & D. The collaboration emphasis resonated throughout this text, and I do believe that “no one individual…has truly achieved anything alone.” I concur.

By definition, we always appear to be “innovating” in learning, right? With formal education institutions (K-12 and higher education), professional associations, and learning organizations there seems to be a tension of how to balance innovative ideas or approaches due to structural, pedagogical, and workforce challenges in the real world. We want to think innovatively, but sometimes our organizations or “the system” rarely allows this process to unfold with constrictions of our job portfolios/functions, institutional divides, or designated project timelines. As Martin Weller put aptly put it: “the rhetoric for the need for innovation is rarely backed up by practice that will encourage it.” Let’s change that narrative. Why don’t we try to play with a few innovative ideas and concepts together?

For OLC Innovate, there are a few new (I won’t say innovative, just yet) program features that are atypical of a traditional conference format. One of the goals the #OLCInnovate steering committee set out: Let’s have less “talking head” presentations (education sessions, lectures or plenary talks), and more conversations, fun social happenings, places to share, and opportunities to solve REAL problems for online/blended/F2F learning. <<Segue>> THAT being said, here’s a new feature of the #OLCInnovate program I hope you will consider:

The OLC Solution Design Summit (SDS)

Video trailer production credit to Kyle Johnson

The general call for program proposals is now closed (with the peer reviews completed, expect to see the full program online next week); however the call for TEAM Proposals is OPEN for the OLC SDS until February 10, 2016 [Deadline Updated to extend the call for proposals on 1/26/16]. Thanks to the 2015 #et4online unconference banter, the OLC SDS Team (Mike Goudzwaard, Patrice Torcivia, Kyle Johnson, Adam Croom, & Michael Atkisson) decided it was about time to offer a program feature that was less about product and more about process. Together we carved out space in the #OLCInnovate schedule to offer a space for design thinkers, tinkers, and leaders to assemble in order to propose and solve challenges we encounter in learning (in K-12, higher education, and industry-L & D), such as:

As we know innovation takes time and it is a team process. For this CFP we have a broader timeline for this program and we and different expectations for this call for submissions. We are not looking for an end solution. Our team is more interested in WHO is at your interdisciplinary team table and the potential problems you want to work on together. Solutions might appear, but regardless this will be shared opening before, during, and after the #OLCInnovate 2016 conference ends:

Before the Conference

  1. Prospective SDS participants submit a challenge proposal by February 10, 2016: Abstract about the problem, team, and potential solution.
  2. Acceptance notifications will be sent out to teams by February 16th. [Confirm acceptance of your team by 1/22]
  3. Those SDS teams with accepted challenges will submit a solution pitch video for public review on the OLC Innovate 2016 website, by March 11, 2016 (due March 4th).
  4. Experts and OLC Innovate attendees will be invited to view and comment online to provide feedback on the video pitches March 21 – April 1.
  5. SDS teams will meet via an online web conference for 30 minutes to debrief and plan before the with the SDS facilitators in early April, before the #OLCInnovate Conference.

During the Conference

  1. SDS teams participate in a two-part pre-conference workshop session the morning of April 20, 2016. This will involve sharing the challenge and potential solution.
  2. Building on the feedback from the pitch reviews before, the design-thinking workshop on day 1, and comments from the workshop (via educators, edtech experts, researchers, exhibitors, and other SDS teams), you will further develop your challenge statement and solution design “pitch” to present during a concurrent session.
  3. SDS teams will present their solution in a 15-minute (10-minute presentation & 5 minute Q & A) time slot during an OLC Innovate session for all conference attendees.

Post-Conference Winning Team Benefits

  1. The winning SDS team members will each receive a one-year OLC Professional Membership (limited to a maximum of 5 team members). Current OLC members would receive a 1-year extension to their existing OLC Professional Membership.
  2. The winning SDS team members will receive complimentary future OLC 2016 or 2017 conference registration (limited to a maximum of 5 team members, not applicable to OLC Innovate 2016).
  3. The OLC Team will engage the winning team in a conversation of how best to showcase their solution through OLC.  Examples may include a webinar, membership dashboard interaction, OLC social media promotion, etc.

Now that you know the details, I encourage and instigate ALL of you to REVIEW the Solution Design Summit CFP and SUBMIT your team application NOW! Please feel free to share with your colleagues, and instigate innovation among your peers as well. Do you have questions about the OLC SDS? Email our team: or follow up with either Mike or me. Thanks!


Isaacson, W. (2014). The innovators: How a group of hackers, geniuses, and geeks created the digital revolution. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Why Understanding Differences and Coming Together Matter

To say that this past week has been eventful, would be putting it mildly. If you were under a rock or disconnected from any media, then let me do a brief re-cap of a few events that occurred:

During the week’s happenings, many were tuned into the news and social media streams. An even larger percentage of people expressed their thoughts, feelings, and concerns in various social media outlets. As events unfolded in different geographic locations, it was amazing to see people come together to show support for one another. The power of the community and lending a hand has been seen widely in these shared spaces. For example, the #RunForBoston initiative and the Americans for Mariage Equality equal signs could not be missed. Social media affords individuals to get involved, speak up, and share their thoughts.  Both our mobile and connected technologies have the power to make our world smaller and unite a community.

Unfortunately, there is a double-edged sword for this social sharing. With the increase in open, public dialogue comes harsh comments and demonstrations of disrespect. I learned that few often considered other perspectives as social/media streams shared a number of incorrect and inappropriate assumptions, outbursts, accusations, and opinions. It saddened me a bit, and I often stepped away from the screen.

On Tuesday (4/16), I attended the Condoleezza Rice Distinguished Lecture hosted at UNT. My friend @brucebmann said it best when responding to this photo “No matter your politics, she is an amazing speaker.”

Screen Shot 2013-04-20 at 2.46.31 PMThis comment, and listening to the talk, made me think about my own perspectives and bias. How often do we challenge ourselves to think in a new way? How can listening to another perspective better inform our decisions? How is it possible to bring groups in conflict together?  I think it is possible, and I know that I am not alone.

Although “victory” has been seen this week, I don’t think that these events are really over. I challenge more of you to think about your influence and impact in social [media or not] spaces. What you say, tweet, blog, post, etc. influence the dialogue and community. It is easy to get [digital] high fives from friends and followers; however have you considered extending your reach to those you might not agree with? When is the last time you chatted with someone about the issues from this week who thinks differently than you do? Step away from the screen, and get to it.

How Do You Cultivate Mentoring Opportunities?

During our session at the #UNTAdv12  Conference last week, our panel hosted a discussion on the topic of mentoring in higher education. We talked about what formal and informal mentoring looks like on our college and university campuses, specifically to support our faculty, develop our staff members and engage our students students. Here are the key words that were shared during the discussion:

It is important for campus communities to consider the potential of mentoring. There are a number of benefits to supporting mentoring at a college or university. Some might be interested in connecting our students to their learning environment, while other institutions might be interested in helping new faculty transition. A number of mentoring programs provide return on investment for employees, which includes increased retention, career development, and professional engagement. By developing a culture of mentoring, organizations have the ability to increase collaborative learning and support sustainable leadership.

What sort of mentoring is happening on your campus or within your organization? Please feel free to add your mentoring program or resources to the open google doc:

Creating Digital Communities of Practice to Enhance #StudentAffairs & #HigherEd

Last year, I wrote a piece for the NASPA Technology Knowledge Community (TKC) after responding to a post made by the TKC Chair @JedCummins via the TKC Facebook Group. I was just noticing that the Summer 2012 call for submissions is coming up and Osvaldo is looking for submissions (due June 8/12 – see the Facebook Page for further details). Although the TKC publication is geared towards a newsletter format, I think it provides Student Affairs professionals an opportunity to write and share about their technology trials, tribulations, and accomplishments on campus.

Little did I know that my submission would go into the #NASPA12 Knowledge Communities publication (my piece can be found on pages 50 & 51) that was distributed at the conference. Thanks for sharing it beyond and sending me copies via “snail mail,” Jed! I appreciate it.

The overall just of this piece describes how the social web and emerging media is  coevolving with the changes and developments of higher education and the Student Affairs profession. New learning environments and networks allow higher education professionals and faculty to connect, curate, and collaborate beyond on our college campus. It is exciting to see how online networks afford new joiners in the field of student affairs, advising, and MORE to access information, contribute to the conversation, and develop a digital footprint. Whether you call it a PLN, PLE, hangout, community of practice, network, gathering space, or “water cooler” chat — there are great things happening in social, online spaces to enrich the work we do at our institutions with ourselves and our students. I like where this informal learning and development is going. This is probably also why @julieclarsen and I decided to share our “Developing Your Network” presentation one last time at today’s #UNTAdv12 Conference for the advising professionals as well:

There are amazing things that lie ahead for these informal networks in higher education. This is an exciting time. I look forward to participating and learning where these digital communities of practice, including as #SAchat, #SAtech (hoo-ray for the new chat!), #AcAdv Chat and others go. With this fine group of educators and practitioners, I am sure these networks have the potential to move mountains. I would challenge and encourage participants in these communities to use these spaces to think critically, solve problems, create innovative ideas, develop effective practices, share knowledge, and support one another.

Organizational Networks, Relationships & Sensemaking

In organizational life there are interpersonal networks, within and across organizations, and interorganizational networks, with exchanges of resources, alliances, and shared directors. Network thinking has a long history in sociology , such as the dynamics of triads and the “web of group affiliations.” New constructs such as resources dependence, institutional theory methodology, and computer power encouraged formal methods for network analysis, assessing relationships and structures, and testing new theories.

Networks provide a way to visualize and analyze patterns among relationships of the nodes (parts) and ties to determine distribution of information, resources, energy and authority. This type of network analysis has lead to further review of organization connectedness, including:

  • formal and informal networks among members and units
  • social network analysis to quantify position or importance of actors in the network
  • characterization of technology, industry and product space
  • types of ties among organizations
  • organizational alliances, partnerships & affiliations
  • review networks of organization distinct from functional, divisional or matrix form
  • hybrid of ties among organizational units
  • dynamic networks in industrial districts
  • networks structures and differences depending on economies and politics
  • cross-cultural comparisons of networks
 Practical applications for organizational networks and relationships include application of the following steps for both individuals and organizations:
  1. Setting up a personal learning network (PLN) – developing a PLN to meet your personal and professional goals
  2. Establishing a professional presence online –establishing you digital identity and presences online
  3. Selecting online networks & tools – where to start, tools, tips and social spaces
  4. Finding your voice – developing a sense of self in the community of practice and contributing to that shared community
  5. Network collaboration – being able to weave your online network to learn, grow, curate and contribute


Scott, R. W. & Davis, G. F. (2007). Networks in and around organizations. In Organizations and organizing: Rational, Natural and Open system perspectives, Chapter 11.

Further Readings

Borys, B. & Jemison, D. B. (1989) Hybrid arrangements as strategic alliances: theoretical issues in organizational combinations. Academy of Management Review, 14, 234-249.

Daft, R. & Weick, K. (1984).  Toward a model of organizations as interpretation systems.
Academy of Management Review, 284-295.

Granovetter, M. (1983). The Strength of Weak Ties: A Network Theory Revisited
Sociological Theory, Vol. 1, (1983), pp. 201-233.

Levine, S. and White, P.E. (1961) Exchange as a conceptual framework for the study of interorganizational relations. Administrative Science Quarterly,5: 583-601.

Milliken, F. J. (1990). Perceiving and Interpreting Environmental Change: An Examination of College Administrators’ Interpretation of changing demographics. Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 33, No. 1 (Mar., 1990), pp. 42-63

Park, S. H. (1996) Managing an Interorganizational Network: A Framework of the Institutional Mechanism for Network Control. Organization Studies, 17: 795-824.

Ring, P.S. & Van de Ven, A.H. (1994) Developmental process of cooperative interorganization relations. Academy of Management Review, 19, 90-118.

Salancik, G. R. (1995) Review: WANTED: A Good Network Theory of Organization
Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 40, No. 2 (Jun., 1995), pp. 345-349

Weick, K. ( 1993). The collapse of sensemaking in organizations: The Mann Gulch disaster. Administrative Science Quarterly, 38: 628-652

Weick, K., Sutcliffe, K., & Obstfeld, D. ( 2005). Organizing and the process of sensemaking. Organization Science, 16 (4): 409-421.

Why Networked Anything Matters…

Time sure flies when you are catching up from conferences and travel! October has been a very productive academic and professional month for me, which has left little time for blogging here. Let me re-cap the conference fun that has been happening & that I might have mentioned on Conference Review/Preview BreakDrink #CTCX show last week.

October kicked off with a bang as I discussed in previous blog post about the #NACADA11 Conference. The altitude and momentum was quite high in Denver for the advising group and it left me wheeling with some new ideas in my new gig with the Office for Exploring Majors. More to come on that end soon…

Mid-month I said aloha to a great group of advising/counseling professionals as I joined the University of Hawaii System Advising Workshop. This was my first keynote where I was wearing a lei, and I enjoyed discussing was the importance of holistic advising in order to support the needs of our students and the campus community.

Here the slides and the open Google doc of resources I shared:

The goal of this workshop was to introduce technological and systematic changes happening across the UH system and discuss how they can continue to connect across the many islands as counselors/advisors to support their student needs. I want to send a very big mahalo to the amazing group of advising professionals who invited me to speak, and who I have learned a great deal from during the conference and beyond. The friendly and welcoming attitudes there just might have me visiting the gorgeous state of Hawaii again.

My first visit to the state of Hawaii could not be complete with a few sight-seeing trips. I joined a moped tour to see some of the best waves, beaches and of course some adventure:

I could not leave the island without another professional development opportunity – the AACE E-Learn 2011 #elearnconf. I spent the next week connecting and learning about research, models and instructional design ideas from a wide variety of colleagues from around the globe. A big shout out to my adopted Australian/Kiwi/Dutch #elearnconf family from Deakin University. I think that Bosely knows how to effectively with his angels, and I hope to meet up with you all someday in Melbourne. Did someone say the PLE Conference might be there in 2012?!?!

I presented two best practices sessions that discussed the alternative professional development opportunities from and the connected and informal blended learning environments of FYE courses. Both are current chapters I’m working on for the upcoming IGI Publication “Cases on Formal, Non-Formal, and Informational Online Learning: Opportunities and Practices” book that will hit the presses in the near future. Kudos for all the hard work put in by a few of my co-authors and researchers that I have been collaborating with as of late – @KevinRGuidry, @mljohnson3 , @michellerodems & @jeffjackson. Thanks for your efforts and insights.

Finally, there was no better way to end the month than with the #NASPAtech conference last week. Unfortunately, my academic and professional obligations kept me grounded from being there IRL. I am grateful for the amazing backchannel of conversation and my excellent co-facilitators @jeffjackson and @lesliedareNCSU to have me hangout in a couple of Unsessions via Google Plus Hangouts with extras.

I hope that both Unsession conversations about #AltProDev and #SAmobile [both open & shared Google docs] will continue long past this conference. I look forward to joining the next #NASPAtech, since I think this one sounded like it was such a success. High five @NASPAtweets & everyone who brought their #SAtech ideas/thoughts to the conference and backchannel. 

Collaboration Required: #CTCX Discuss How Tech Can Support the Evolution of #HigherEd

In a recent broadcast on NPR, Don Tapscott shared his ideas on Rethinking How We Teach the ‘Net Generation’. Education models in higher education to meet the needs of today’s learner. A chapter in his latest book, Macrowikinomics, is dedicated to how higher education institutions need to change, specifically with regards to learning pedagogy and content creation. 

Flickr photo c/o kjiersten

In thinking about how the future of higher education will evolve beyond the classroom, I was wondering how Student Affairs and other Higher Education professionals can best support today’s learner. Higher education has been recently challenged with economic crisis, accountability questions and increased demands the employment market. It is important that higher education professionals consider the new dimensions and requirements to support our students, distribute information and organize services on campus. In a recent BreakDrink Snackable Session, @suebecks presented an idea on collaborating on a global level to swap ideas, share resources, answer questions and engage in a broad conversation that needs to occur in #HigherEd:

After this mini presentation, there was a thoughtful online dialogue with participants who shared their thoughts and perspectives on the issue. Many agreed that higher education could be better supported and improve through a global network for collaboration. There are many easy and accessible tools to drive this momentum and manage knowledge. After this session BreakDrink created a wiki to continue the conversation and collaboration of ideas:

HE Wiki 

“With such a networked approach to work and leisure time, traditional university classroom is starting to feel less appropriate.” ~Don Tapscott

  • What does this mean for #StudentAffairs & #HigherEd professionals who support student development?
  • How can SA & HE consider a collaborative approach for student development & student services?
  • Is it the evolution of the #StudentAffairs or #HigherEd professional or the student that needs to change for effective campus engagement?
  • Are there any examples of institutions and campus environments who best support students online or digitally?

Join us on Monday (7/18) at 7 pm CT as the BreakDrink Campus Tech Connection (#CTCX) talks LIVE about collaboration in higher education & how tech tools can support this evolution. We will also welcome @KMcCarthy8185 onto the show to discuss her #52in52 project for our NEW show segment called, The 15 Minute #SAtech Share.

Join the #CTCX gang with your thoughts, questions & ideas:

  • Listen to the show LIVE 
  • Tweet your thoughts using the hashtag #CTCX 
  • Call or Skype during the show: (646) 652-2342 or breakdrink
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