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Increasing the visibility and impact of our work

[Every week a ‘Monday Morning Message (MMM)’ email goes out to all doctoral students from a faculty or staff member in the CU Denver School of Education and Human Development. Here’s mine, slated for tomorrow.]

Social media higher ed

If you ask them, many faculty members and staff will admit that they wish that their work was more visible. They feel that they are making solid contributions to the field, and they wish that their work had a larger impact on other scholars, policymakers, and practitioners in their discipline. Unfortunately, traditional mechanisms for getting the word out about our work limit our overall visibility and impact. For instance, publishing an article in a peer-reviewed journal may move us closer to tenure and promotion but prevents most practitioners from accessing our work because of paywall and other barriers. Similarly, presenting at conferences may bump up our visibility and standing with colleagues but has little to no impact on policymaking or practice outside of that event or our closely-defined academic realm. For those staff who are doing great work but are not publishing or presenting, the opportunities to have a larger impact may seem few and far between.

Fortunately, we now live in an era where anyone can have a voice. We are no longer constrained by the whims and dictates of editors, broadcasters, governments, and other information gatekeepers. If you have a computer or a smartphone, the costs of creating one’s own newspaper, radio station, TV broadcast, photography studio, or other publishing channel are essentially zero. They just take new forms: blogs, podcasts, YouTube channels, Instagram and Snapchat accounts, and so on. But two decades after the Internet became accessible to the masses, we still are slow to realize the possibilities that accompany our new digital tools and online environments. As a faculty member who has an outsized social media presence (53,000+ Twitter followers; video series with 100+ million views; one of the more visible education blogs in the world, etc.), I thought that I would follow up Dr. Verma’s February 2018 MMM contribution with a few thoughts of my own. 

First, recognize the tremendous power that is at our fingertips if we choose to take advantage. A few minutes of our time, a few clicks of the mouse, and we have the ability to potentially reach many thousands or millions of people. Few journals or newsletters can make that claim. Instead of wondering why the work that we do never impacts practice, or wishing that our work translated better into policy- and decision-making, we can put our work in places where professionals and legislators can find it, learn from it, and use it. My blog posts and tweets, for instance, reach audiences that dwarf my readership in academic journals, often by factors of a thousand or more.

Second, this work doesn’t have to take a lot of our time. The traditional path of publishing in a research journal and then reworking it for a practitioner magazine can be re-envisioned. As we do our day-to-day research and professional preparation work, we come across and create resources that would be immensely helpful to others. That amazing article that you just read? Hit the tweet button and share it with others, preferably using a few key hashtags. That new protocol or resource document that you just created? Hit the record button and give us a several-minute audio overview – along with a download link – that explains how we might use it in our practice. You have expertise and experience in a particular area and hope to influence policy and organizational decision-making? Push that button on your smartphone and make a short video that helps us think about that issue in more robust ways. As we do this work, we become a trusted voice, accessible to others who care about the things that we do. Oh, and by the way, publishing to multiple platforms can be automated, saving you time and energy that can be better spent in other areas. 

Third, realize that there can be incredible worth in publishing our thoughts in less formal ways. Shorter sound bites, smaller blocks of text that focus on a particular idea or resource, a quick reflection on a reading or an experience, using non-academic voice to explain complex topics… all of these can help us refine our own thinking but also impact and influence the thinking of others. For example, the most valuable aspect of my blog is that it gives me a place to wrestle with ideas, reflect, try out thoughts, and attempt to make meaning. But the second most valuable aspect of my blog is that it is public, allowing others to see my thinking and offer resources, suggestions, critique, and dialogue that extend my work in new directions and make it better. That interactivity – that ability to work together to create value – creates nearly-unlimited potential as we tap into our collective experience and expertise. Rather than being a one-person idea transmission platform, my blog instead becomes a learning and dialogue space for a global community. 

Finally, note that the barriers to this work usually are neither technical nor organizational. Instead, it is simply a matter of us choosing to share our thoughts, our expertise, and our resources in places other than age-old publishing outlets. There are people all around the world who are eager to interact with us and to learn with and from us if we shift our mindsets a smidge and give them the opportunity. When we push out helpful resources on our Twitter feed, when we connect people to ideas through our videos, when we shape people’s thinking through our podcasts and other conversation outlets, we move beyond our small, local, disciplinary communities and join the global community of people who are trying to make the world a better place. That sounds pretty good to me. How about you?

Image credit: Social media class, mkhmarketing

Blogging: What matters is the metacognition

Seth Godin and Tom Peters on blogging. Yeah, this is pretty much why I blog (and maybe why you should too)…

Time to get back at it…

Folks say that when you haven’t been blogging for a while, you shouldn’t explain or apologize, you should just get back at it. So I’ll do just that, beginning tomorrow. I could make lots of excuses related to our move from Iowa to Colorado: a new home, a new community, new schools, a new job, and a new educational policy environment. But the bottom line is that I’ve dropped the ball. Instead of blogging nearly every single day, I’ve only posted 10 times in the last 5 months and that’s not okay with me. I didn’t start this blog and maintain it for 10 years just to let it fizzle out. If I’m going to shut this thing down, you’ll know!

So get ready. I’m back…

Visibility and reach: Journal articles v. blog posts

Back in 2008 I raised the questions:

Why would anyone who wishes to actually reach educators and hopefully influence change in schools not be blogging?

Also… why haven’t more faculty caught on to this?

Eight years later, I thought that I would share a couple of recent tables that I made in order to illustrate this point further. The first table is the number of academic citations that I have received on the top 20 things that I have written or created (according to Google Scholar). My citation numbers are decent if not spectacular; they’ve been enough to get me tenure at several of our nation’s top research institutions.

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The second table shows the number of page views and comments that I have received on my top 20 blog posts.

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No comparison in terms of reach, visibility, interaction, and (hopefully) impact. The percentage of university faculty members who are blogging – although better than it was 8 years ago – is still incredibly low. We pay the price in terms of public and policymaker awareness of and attention to our work.

Happy 10th birthday, Dangerously Irrelevant!

10th birthday cake

Today is the 10th birthday of Dangerously Irrelevant. I can’t believe that I’ve been blogging for an entire decade. It seems like just yesterday that I was at the University of Minnesota and considering whether a blog might be a good idea (it was). Although I still feel young (‘I’m not dead yet!’), I believe that a decade of continuous blogging may make me one of the elders of the edublogosphere (for example, using the word ‘edublogosphere’ most definitely dates me!).

A huge thank you to everyone who is a loyal reader and to all of you who have been willing to engage with what I share. I have learned an incredible amount due to your willingness to leave comments, extend conversations, suggest resources, connect me with others, tell me that what I just wrote was stupid, and so on. Together we are amazingly powerful. I am greatly appreciative of my last ten years of learning with you.

Although it’s been a quiet summer here as I have navigated selling a home, buying a home, relocating my family, starting a new job, and sending my oldest child off to her first year at college, you better believe that I will be ramping up here again in the next week or so. Looking forward to the next decade of blogging!

Some shout-outs this year

Onalytica

A few shout-outs that this blog has gotten this year…

  1. Onalytica calculated Dangerously Irrelevant to be the 5th-most influential educational technology and e-learning blog in the world.
  2. EdTech magazine named Dangerously Irrelevant as one of its ‘must read’ K-12 IT blogs for 2015.
  3. Getting Smart included Dangerously Irrelevant as one of its 55+ ‘great blogs and blasts’ and also was kind enough to put me on its list of 50 people shaping the future of K-12 education.

Thanks, everyone, for the recognitions. Much appreciated!

Happy 9th birthday! (a few thoughts on blogging and online learning)

9th birthday cake

Today is Dangerously Irrelevant’s 9th birthday. That’s a long time in blogging years (sometimes I feel ancient even though I’m not that old yet). Most of the educators whose amazing voices inspired me in those early days are no longer blogging. A few of us continue to write and, of course, new voices have joined us. And left us.

Over the past nine years I’ve learned some things about blogging specifically and about social media generally. Here are a few random thoughts that strike me this morning…

  • The death of the comment. Blog comments used to be the ties that bound us together. It was not uncommon for us early education bloggers to receive dozens – and occasionally hundreds – of comments. That deep, rich discussion was exhilarating and spurred us to think and write even more. Today we’re lucky to get a few tweets. The growth of different writing and sharing outlets (Facebook, Twitter, Medium, tumblr, YouTube, etc.), the overall greater number of voices that have diffused online mindshare, and the rise of both shorter-form feedback mechanisms (likes, tweets, shares) and large, well-funded corporate and/or group blogs all have reduced the on-blog interactivity that many of us individuals used to see. I don’t lament this state of affairs since my work is arguably shared more than ever but I confess that I remain extremely grateful for every comment that I receive and do my best to respond to as many as possible.
  • Lack of attribution. My stuff gets ‘stolen’ all the time. I had a dustup last year with a very prominent writer / speaker whom I discovered had used my material almost-verbatim in numerous paid presentations and a published book, including proprietary material for which I had gotten special copyright permission to use. There was no possible way for the use to be accidental since it was clearly modified ‘just enough’ in a few places to be slightly different. We had a few exchanges on the matter and I moved on. On a smaller scale, I see things that I have said or written all over the place, often without attribution or credit. So I was sympathetic to Shelly Sanchez Terrell’s recent post calling out a prominent online educational leader for improper attribution (and Doug Peterson’s excellent concurrence). This individual is fairly notorious for playing fast and loose with attribution so it was good to see the person being called to account. Shelly was kind enough to do it anonymously – even though the person didn’t necessarily deserve it – and I’ve already seen some attempts by this individual to both remedy the specific instance in question as well as be more thoughtful in general. Personally, I decided long ago not to worry too much about this (with the exception noted above), figuring that I had bigger things to worry about than whether a few of my ideas and statements – which I want out there floating around – were properly attributed. That’s a personal decision and I completely understand others’ desire to take a different stance. Hopefully we all will remember the importance of proper attribution and will model for other educators and students this important linchpin of the Internet. 
  • What’s important. Voice is important. Passion is important. Authenticity is important. Helpfulness is important. Trust is important.
  • Kindness. Despite almost a decade in this social media space, I continue to be astounded by the kindnesses that educators extend to each other on a daily basis. Our sharing, our support, our willingness to lend a helpful hand or a critical eye or a sympathetic shoulder… all are commendable. Despite the occasional hiccups and bumps in the road that inevitably occur, our online sharing and connection spaces generally are serving us well. Keep learning from, helping, and encouraging each other!
  • Refusal. Numerous educators still refuse to participate in our online, networked communities of practice, even as lurkers. The belief that one can be an adequate educator these days without tapping into the vast resources that are being shared by role-alike peers continues to confound me. A few magazine subscriptions that rarely get read, the occasional conference, and usually-useless professional development sessions are insufficient for the demands of our times. We must do better at getting our refusenik peers on board.

I continue to be grateful daily for this blog. It has opened up uncountable opportunities and I have learned incredible amounts from our dialogues and resource sharing. Thanks for all that you contribute to this online space. Thanks for being loyal readers. And loyal commenters.  😉

Image credit: Cake, The Parasite

Day 3 and 4: The End.

As Worlds came to end, I realized something: experience is everything. In your life you will feel an endless amount of emotion and all of it will have been caused by the experience. We ended up only winning two matches and loosing the rest. The floor mats were squishy because they were new and so the wheels on our robot would sink into the ground. There was a team (The Pandas) and a group that was there (a sponsor) who let us borrow their wheels so that we could drive a little bit better. The rest was just being paired against teams who were better than us, and that’s completely okay. Robotics and the FIRST program isn’t about winning. Yes, it is nice to get an award for being the best but there is so much more to it.

Aside from the arena, there is also the pit area. Think of it like NASCAR for a minute and you will understand. In between matches, if something really bad happens to the robot (Linda,) she will come to the pit to get fixed…and quickly. The pit area is also a place for judges to come talk to us and a place for us to present ourselves to the general public/other teams. We decorate our pit area pretty heavily like many other teams there. It attracts many little kids and a lot of adults too… our theme is pretty much “any-age-friendly.” Gillian and I decided to mix things up this time and we would dance and sing for teams along with statue standing. We had stamps, buttons, key chains, stickers and pamphlets to give out. The team was interviewed twice while down there. Once by the people of FIRST and another time by Student News Net! The FTC played our interview on the live stream and Student News Net will publish our story tomorrow (Monday!)

At closing cerimonies Dean Kamen, Woodie Flowers, and many others gave speeches, handed out awards and introduced new technology to us. They gave a senior recognition and a small speech to all of us…we got to stand up. In a stadium of thousands it was intimidating. It was exciting and made everyone jittery for the next couple of years. It got me pumped up for the next couple of years. After that, we had the “after party.” We got to hear Christina Grimmie perorm along with BoysLikeGirls a pop punk band. We didn’t end up getting back to the hotel until around 11 PM-ish and I got home about 5 minutes about (6:00 PM.) It’s really nice to be back in Iowa around familiar things…like my bed. It has been a long but extremely successful week for the Sock Monkeys. We hope to do this all over again next year-even though I nor Logan, Caleb, and Giovanni will be there.

A HUGE thank you to Scott McLeod for letting me share the experiences of FIRST again and a HUGE thank you to my community/school for helping us get to where we are now!P1080582 P1080590 P1080581 P1080582 P1080583 P1080584 P1080585 P1080586 P1080587 P1080588 P1080590 P1080589 P1080592fP1080603P1080613P1080616Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 9.08.28 PM P1080626 P1080627 P1080628 P1080629 P1080630

Day 2: The Feeling of Greatness Has Returned

Hey guys (and gals!) As the day began, we did A LOT of exciting things. But…before we begin, lets talk about the bad things that happened first:

1. We lost two of our matches today due to physical problems/changes on the robot and just because we were against a better alliance team. That’s okay though, because we have plenty of matches to go tomorrow to make up for it!

2. We didn’t stay for opening ceremonies tonight…just due to fatigue after a 12 hour day the majority of the team wanted to come back to the hotel and get some sleep. We will for sure be going to closing ceremonies so I will take pictures there!

3. The fatigue is setting in. I think everyone is tired because we aren’t used to sleeping somewhere new for this long, but that’s okay! After about an hour after waking up we are all awake!

NOW FOR THE GOOD:
1. Our gracious professionalism today was on point! We were more talkative and willing to say “Hey” to the community and the people working/competing there! The whole team was pretty awake and alert today, so it was nice to teach them our motivational songs and how to get the public pumped up! We got a lot of “You guys just made my day betters” or “This made my day” from people!

2. We had two groups of judges come and talk to us today! The first group were only two and one of them was our actually judge yesterday in judging. They had questions about our robot during the game and the second set was a larger number..if I recall correctly it was 4-6. They were interested in our autonomous and how it worked.

3. We got to go to the dome today to see FRC and FLL! Their games this year are amazing! The pits were in a giant warehouse-essue area, with both FRC and FLL practice fields. Seeing the FRC teams’ robots made ours seem really small, and the FLL practice fields could be taken up by two of our robots. Going to see the other leagues let us see the other sides of FIRST. But going into the main hall where the FRC had their matches… It was intense. And extremely fast; they had the teams in and out really quickly getting the arena setup with amazing speed! There we a lot of volunteer’s everywhere all of the time more than welcome to help you. The FRC game this year seems to really intense and the FLL kids as always: are super cute and really amazing for being so young and making it into the top 3% of teams around the world.

4. We get to go to the City Museum tomorrow evening! I am really excited for that because I have been there before…a couple of times. Basically what it is, is a giant warehouse FULL of toys. You can touch anything and there are walls, literal walls, made out of bread pans or stamps or old glass soda bottles. There is a 7 story slide, a giant organ, the worlds largest pencil and a food shop! I am SOOOO excited to take the team there and get our heads out of the game for awhile.

The FRC game for this season can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mAN1B7oKDXE

The FLL game for this season can be found at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=po9j6vpuW7A

5. I got to meet an inventor today and talk to a lot of colleges who are interested in engineers, and people wanting to go into business.

6. My face was drawn today by an NXT powered lego robot. The inventor who designed these things was: Danny. He is Italian, married, and internet famous! Google him you guys. “Danny from Lego”

7. I got my makeup done by: Jane! Google “Jane Makeup” The woman is amazing!

8. I got to eat liquid nitrogen cookies ‘n cream ice cream and graham crackers dipped in liquid nitrogen! It was awesome. 😀

On another side note: I forget to mention that Gillian and I went to a team social for a little bit yesterday. The founding fathers of the FTC were there and the actual game designers of this years FTC Cascade Effect were there answering any questions that we had. I was the first person to go up and I asked them: “What was that “ah-ha” moment when you both equally said: We HAVE to make this our game?” They both looked at each other for about 30 seconds and then sighed. They looked old in that moment, but it was okay because I would have let them take all the time they needed. Then they answered: “Long nights.” It was a joke but they continued with: “Last year when we announced Block Party we had two games developing at once. We chose to present Block Party to you last year because it seemed like a lot of fun. So when this year rolled around, we wanted to give all of you something harder because of how smart you are. We were visiting a company this year and learning how they manufacture their product and for some reason, that is when we said yes. After a lot of game rules a set up and a show off, it went through successfully and now all of you FTC teams are in the top 3% of all of the FTC….which is saying a lot because the FTC is the largest growing program at FIRST.” I was completely amazed. Just two guys created this idea…it was a spark, which turned to a flame, and ignited the fire.

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Worlds Day 1 Part 2: Sock Monkeys

As the day continued, they started matches. If you were watching on the live stream, you would have seen us in action! If not: You will see photos at the bottom and I will start to explain. The pit area is set up and ready to go! We will take some video tomorrow of what will be happening and why. It will you guys a more “behinds the scene” look of how much work it actually takes!P1080588(in the photo to the left, we are talking to Dark Matter…one the three teams from our Iowa Trio at the North Super Regionals. The three teams together were Finalist Alliance Award)

Our Qualification Matches are: 9, 25, 47, 57, 78, 91, 101, 122, and 132. Tune in tomorrow to the live stream. ‪#‎Support‬ Lets do this!

We only got to play the first two with the time allotted and we are currently in 8th place! We are 2-0 and extremely excited for tomorrow. Tomorrow will consist of many more matches, scouting, and going to the big dome (we are currently at Union Station)! At the  Edwards Jones Dome we will have opening ceremonies, a college/scholarship row, and we will be able to see the FRC (First Robotics Competition) and the FLL (First Lego League)… We will also be able to see the companies who helped sponsor this event and get a lot of one on one information from them.

I don’t really have a lot of information except for good news. The robot is still working great as well as the team members. Just remember: Gracious Professionalism and Continuous Improvement!

Thank you so much to the community/business’s who helped get us here! You guys mean SO much to us! #MonkeySwag #WorldChampionship #International #SUPERCOOLP1080583P1080584P1080586P1080587P1080589