[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 my second one, which came out today.]
In my previous MMM, I noted the power of having an active and visible online presence as part of our professional and scholarly work. In this MMM, I want to follow up on some of the ideas that I articulated in my previous message.
I had an opportunity recently to participate in a gathering of CU Denver faculty and staff at which we discussed and debated the merits of including our digital work in our tenure and promotion portfolios. I advocated strongly for the idea that the more visible we are, the more impact we can have. Not every scholar or educator wants to be a public intellectual. But for those of us who want our ideas to spread and who actually want to influence practicing educators and educational systems, participating in these online spaces is critically important.
Unfortunately, two decades after the Internet became accessible to the masses, many educators 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 top education blogs in the world, etc.), I can attest that there is great power in being engaged in relevant online communities. Every day I learn with P-12 and postsecondary educators who are doing amazing things in their domains.
One of the reasons that I think many educators and faculty are hesitant to participate in social media spaces is that we incessantly hear about the negative aspects of those platforms. Tales of “Bad Twitter” are legion, for example. We hear less often about the numerous ways to use “Good Twitter,” professional blogs, YouTube channels, Instagram accounts, Pinterest boards, Facebook groups, and other platforms in ways that are productive and empowering. There always will be those who engage with our work in negative ways, but we can utilize a variety of strategies and techniques to manage our networks, decrease our exposure to bad actors, and engage with the audiences that we are trying to reach in order to share ideas and resources and have productive conversations.
I would encourage you to see how the following scholars are engaging online. They are great models for how to use social media in empowered ways for research dissemination, policy advocacy, and educational impact.
What these postsecondary educators recognize is that if we don’t engage online, we cede conversational ground, policymaking influence, and mindshare around good educational practices to others who ARE willing to chime in, regardless of how inaccurate or harmful their contributions are. That’s the ultimate point of this week’s MMM. Are we just going to sit back while others offer misinformation and educationally-unsound practices or are we ready to engage?
Learning math by building bridges or designing aircraft wings is inspiring. Chugging through the odd-numbered practice problems at the end of the chapter is not.
Improving our community by collecting data and investigating the causes of local environmental challenges is inspiring. Participating in artificial, recipe-like science ‘experiments’ from a publishing company is not.
Wrestling with controversial but important political issues is inspiring. Regurgitating decontextualized historical names, dates, and places is not.
Writing for and advocating to authentic audiences around societal issues that we’re passionate about is inspiring. Writing 5-paragraph essays about books that we don’t care about is not.
Investigating our own questions about the world and how it works is inspiring. Spitting back the ‘right answer’ to someone else’s low-level questions is not.
Finding areas of interest and passion is inspiring. Slogging through a lifeless textbook is not.
Active, energetic, enthusiastic, maybe messy, and probably noisy collaboration is inspiring. Working in isolation and sitting quietly in rows and columns are not.
Using technology to learn with and from students in other parts of the world is inspiring. Using technology to complete digital worksheets is not.
Interdisciplinary learning that is seen by students as meaningful, authentic, and connected to the real world is inspiring. Subject-siloed, isolated, disconnected learning is not.
Internships and community partnerships and impactful service learning opportunities are inspiring. Pretend word problems and scenarios are not.
Learning spaces that honor children’s dignity and value their worth are inspiring. Learning spaces that are overwhelmingly focused on compliance are not.
And so on…
Inspiring… or not. What vision are we selling to our students, parents, and communities?
The St. Vrain Valley School District is arguably the most innovative school district here in Colorado. And I’m incredibly excited to lead their next principal licensure cohort starting in January 2019. Woo hoo!
[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.]
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?
This is a great way for principals to share what they’re doing in schools. If you’re a school administrator, follow the hashtag to get ideas from your peers. And, of course, also share out your own awesomeness!
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!f
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.
Hey guys, it’s Molly again! And for those of you who don’t know who I am…well, I am Molly. I am a senior in high school this year (12th grade.) I am a part of Team 4443: Sock Monkeys and we are a robotics team through the FTC.
What does FTC stand for/mean? The acronym FTC stands for First Tech Challenge, which is part of the FIRST program. FTC consists of students grades 8-12 and allows students to experience parts – small or large – of the engineering world. Robotics teams start the competition season by learning what that year’s challenge is; they then immediately get to work on designing and building a robot that is best suited to that year’s challenge. The robot also has certain limitations, in parameters such as size, materials, and shape. There are also other regulations that must be followed, like certain restrictions on modifications to parts and rules in the competition. Teams have a lot of freedom with their designs, and many teams use 3D printed parts designed using programs like Creo or AutoCad. In addition to the physical aspect of building the robot, participants also sharpen their minds by solving the problems presented to them (both in robot design and during competition matches) and by building relations with other teams and their community. The core principle of FTC is “Gracious Professionalism” – giving respect and help in order to make the FTC program fair and fun, while bettering all those involved. FTC and FIRST provide participants with the tools they need to build useful skills that will help them succeed, whether they pursue engineering or any other path in life.
Why are we blogging? We are blogging because we sent an email to Scott McLeod (who talked to us last year when we went to Worlds the first time) and he asked us to post updates on how we’re doing. We also update our adventures on our website and other social media:
Facebook: search “Sock Monkeys”
If you have any personal questions, email us at
How did we get here? We got here (to the World Championship) because we qualified at the FTC North Super Regional competition, but our story stretches back further than that. We hosted a competition at our high school on November 15th, where I was volunteer coordinator. We qualified for the State competition at our league championship on January 10th, and this meant that we were moving on to the big leagues. From there we competed at State (March 6-7) and moved on to the North Super Regional (March 26-28). There, we qualified and moved on to the World Championship!
Where are we right now? Right now, we are at the FTC World Championship in St. Louis, Missouri getting ready to compete with 128 teams from countries around the world. Between April 22nd and 25th, we’ll compete like we have all year, but we’ll be with (and against) the best FTC teams across the globe.
What is the game this year? The 2014-2015 season FTC game is called “Cascade Effect.” Robots drop different sized whiffle balls into tubes of varying heights to score points. Two alliances of two teams each have 2 1/2 minutes to score the balls, move the goals, and overall try to outperform the other team. Here’s a link to the full explanation of the game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABmBxCwHV94
What are some accomplishments we have made this season other than in competitions? FIRST is much more than just building a robot and competing in matches. Teams also build lasting friendships with other teams and help out their community. The Sock Monkeys have an address book containing many of the teams that we’ve met, which allows us to keep in contact with them throughout the season and help them with any problems they may have. We have also featured as stories on several different news outlets, one being CRI (here’s a link to the video! ) and the other being the Oskaloosa Herald, our town newspaper (here’s an article they wrote about us ) We have also done a lot of outreach!