Daniel Stanford

Intercultural Empathy in Class and at Work: Practical Tips from the Ashoka Exchange Conference

In 2016 I learned about a conference hosted by Ashoka U, an organization that supports universities in fostering “social innovation” and “changemaking” on their campuses. It sounded fascinating despite the fact that I had no idea what these terms meant. After reading a bit further, I learned that these are relatively new umbrella terms that include elements of social justice and social entrepreneurship. In a nutshell, social innovation in higher education can include any initiative that exposes students to social justice, intercultural collaboration, and concepts like design thinking and business/nonprofit management.

I wasn’t quite sure how all of this might relate to instructional technology, but I had a feeling it could be relevant to the type of online international collaborations we’re establishing at DePaul through our Global Learning Experience (GLE) program. In GLE projects, our students collaborate online with faculty and students at foreign universities, and I’m always on the lookout for ways to help our students collaborate more effectively with peers from different cultural backgrounds. While I can’t fit everything I learned at the conference in a single blog post, I’ve included a few of my favorite lessons below.

Building Empathy for Speakers of Other Languages

 At the start of a session titled, “Using Human-Centered Design to Encourage Inclusive, Globally Aware Education,” the presenters asked attendees to introduce themselves to and learn a bit about the person sitting next to them. It seemed like a perfectly ordinary way to start a conference workshop until the presenters added that we’d be doing these introductions without using our native languages.

After taking a few seconds to process this limitation, my neighbor and I began searching for a common language. None of the foreign languages we’d studied overlapped, so we quickly jumped to pen and paper and began drawing. As we drew, each of us spoke in a language that was not native for the speaker and almost completely unknown to the listener.

This simple exercise was a great reminder of the struggles students face when they attempt to collaborate across language barriers. It’s particularly difficult for some American students to imagine what it would be like to communicate without relying on English as a universal language, and I love the idea of having DePaul students engage in this sort of exercise with their classmates before beginning a collaboration with students who don’t speak English as a native language.

Fostering Introvert-Friendly Spaces

I’d describe myself as relatively extroverted, but I also love having an hour or two each day when I can close my office and enjoy focused, quiet time to work alone. During a session on collaborating with introverts, I made note of several practical tips that I’m planning to put to use and share with my colleagues. Some of these tips should also come in handy in the classroom by helping students appreciate their classmates’ unique strengths.

  1. Cluster meeting times in the morning or at the end of the day. This helps ensure longer periods focused work time with minimal interruptions.
  1. Don’t neglect one-on-one meetings. As our schedules fill up, it’s easy to cancel one-on-one meetings to make room for things that seem more pressing. It’s important to avoid this temptation because private meetings give introverts a chance to share insights and ask questions they might be reluctant to address in group settings.
  1. Give everyone time to reflect and prepare before meetings. Large meetings can be stressful and frustrating for everyone, but they’re especially challenging for introverts. Share an agenda and key questions in advance so that attendees have time to collect their thoughts and do their homework beforehand. For many introverts, being asked to respond to a complex question or make a sensitive decision without warning (and in front of an audience) is a waking nightmare.
  1. Agree on “do not disturb” signs or visual cues everyone can recognize. For instance, how much someone’s door is open might have a specific meaning in your office. Fully open means anyone is welcome to drop in for any reason, nearly closed means please don’t enter if your question can wait until later, and closed means do not disturb unless there’s an emergency. For employees who don’t have private offices, they might wear large headphones to signal that they need time to focus. (Providing noise-cancelling headphones can be a great perk for any employee, especially introverts.)
  1. Establishing do-not-disturb etiquette and ground rules is a big help for online collaboration, too. If you use online chat and video conferencing tools such as Slack or Skype, take advantage of the settings in these tools that let others know more about your availability. Your status on these systems can often be customized so that collaborators know if you’re available for impromptu meetings, if you’re only chatting with people by appointment, or if you’re only available for urgent questions.
  1. Take time to validate what introverts do well. In Western culture, we don’t often think of introverts as leaders, but they bring skills to the table that others might lack. For instance, they can:
    1. listen actively and deeply when others might become bored or try to dominate the conversation
    2. encourage reflection and generative conversations when others might be too hasty
    3. co-create long-term solutions rather than focusing on reactive problem solving and dictatorial decision-making

While it’s great to praise all types of students and coworkers for a job well done, extroverts often get more feedback and recognition because they’re more vocal and harder to overlook. Taking time to acknowledge introverts’ strengths does more than simply boost their morale. It can also remind more extroverted members of the value of diversity in collaborative work.

Cari Vos

What Does Your Home Screen Say About What You Value ?

iPhone Home ScreenI’ve always been research-oriented, and I’d like to believe that I’m a curious soul. I love asking questions, often with little hope of finding a definitive answer. One thing I’ve always wondered is how we think about the things we hold important. It started with what apps I keep on my phone’s home screen. I was looking at the difference between the home screen on my phone versus the home screen on my boyfriend’s phone. He had folders on the front; I put folders on the other pages. I kept a lot of the “pre-installed” apps on my home screen; he just had one or two.

So I started to think about what my home screen might say about what I value and what I use a lot. In this search, I noticed quite a bit about myself:

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Kevin Lyon

Raspberry Pi and the Benefits of Diving into the Deep End

Raspberry Pi logoRecently, on “Pi Day” (3.14, or March 14 for the non-nerds out there) I was reading an article about the benefits of learning programming on the Raspberry Pi, a micro-computer that costs only $35 dollars, and all the ways that it helps tinkerers learn programming and solve obscure issues by creating their own software and hardware solutions. I had recently fallen into the trap of tech lust—the feeling nerds get when they suddenly want to buy some piece of technology they may or may not really need—and decided that I wanted to buy a Pi device and get back into programming, having not written a line of code since high school.

That last bit presented a bit of an issue for me, however. Learning to code was always easiest for me when I had a specific issue to solve, since it helped me predict what kind of code I needed to learn, while also making the motivational factor much easier to maintain. It’s this feeling of not knowing where to start that I often see students struggle with as well.

Facing this issue myself, before I decide which Pi to purchase I’ll look online for specific Pi projects that others have done, to see what solutions I may be able to integrate into my own network and test bench at home. At the same time, I think it is helpful to consider the different pedagogical approaches available to instructors to naturally integrate problems into the assignments we give, in order to help students learn to solve them.

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Melissa Koenig

Collaborative Learning Experiences: Lessons from Dr. Seuss and the World University Games

Book cover for The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. SeussAs a child one of my favorite stories was The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss. I have since learned that many have never heard of this wonderful story about Sneetches with stars and those with none. Seuss intended the story to be a satire of race discrimination—in particular antisemitism.

I always loved the message of The Sneetches, especially the fact that by the end “neither the Plain nor the Star-Bellies knew whether this one was that one… or that one was this one…or which one was what one…or what one was who.” I loved this idea of the world, a world where it didn’t matter where you were from (or whether or not you had a star on your belly). This world view is one I think you achieve by being exposed to many different cultures.

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Sonya Ratliff

Are You A Lifelong Learner? Living In An Age Of Acceleration!

While I was watching TV a couple of weeks ago, I came across NYT columnist Thomas L. Friedman discussing his new book, Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations. The interview was very short, but provided an interesting insight into how people, regardless of age, have to become lifelong learners in order to survive in the global market. I am sure we have all thought, at some point or another, that if I can just get this undergraduate degree, or this masters degree, or terminal degree, I’d be free to having never to attend a formal educational institution ever again. My how things have changes!

Fifty or sixty years ago, you could finish college and you’d have all the education you needed for the rest of your career. You don’t have that luxury in today’s job market. Skills that were cutting edge five years ago are likely out of date, and the jobs that we will perform in the next decade or two probably don’t even exist yet. If you want to stay competitive in today’s job market and potentially earn more money, you need to become a lifelong learner.

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Sharon Guan

Designing an Instructor-Agnostic Course with a Sense of Instructor Presence

If you think the title of this blog is too complicated to understand, you can use an analogy, such as eating candy without a sweet taste, or drinking water to booze up, or anything that sounds oxymoronic, self-contradictory, and illogical.

If instructor-agnostic means removing the trace of any specific instructor, how could you create a sense of instructor presence in the same course? And why would you want to do it? Have you ever seen a course like that?

Before answering these questions, let me share a personal story with you. Two weeks ago, I received news that my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Devastated by the phone call from her primary care physician’s office, which offered nothing but a quick read of the final diagnose, I struggled to find out anything about breast cancer—the causes, the symptoms, the types, the treatment, the chance of spreading. Yet none of the information on the Internet could put me at ease or  tell me how to deal with this life-threatening illness. I was overwhelmed by feelings of fear and helplessness until I received the phone call from Beth, a nurse from the pathology department of the hospital.

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Elisabeth Ramos-Torrescano

A “Wicked Difficult” Challenge: Managing the Obsolescence of Human Knowledge

The New Media Consortium recently released the 2017 Horizon Report. First launched in 2003, the annual report taps into a panel of higher education experts to identify emerging technologies and trends that will impact the industry near term (one year), mid-term (three to five years), and long term (over five years). In addition, the Report identifies six major challenges to the implementation or adoption of education technology. The first two were deemed “wicked difficult” challenges.

Oh my! What could these be? The first is managing the obsolescence of human knowledge and the second is the changing role of the educator. Let’s leave the second on the table for now, and just deal with the thorny first wicked challenge.

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Erin Kasprzak

Give the Students What They Want

Getting good feedback from students can be a challenge. Gone are the days where someone from the academic department came into your class and distributed paper course evaluations to every student. Response rates for online course evaluations are abysmal, and the students who respond usually represent the extremes—they either tend to be really happy with the course or decidedly unhappy. So what to do?

Recently the college I support conducted two focus groups for our online students. I didn’t facilitate the focus groups; I have to give credit here to our great online operations team and the researchers who support the college Teaching, Learning and Assessment committee. In these focus groups, our adult students were asked “If you had the opportunity to design your ideal online course experience, what are the features you would include?”

So what did they tell us?

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Lori Zalivansky

Is There an Age Limit on Technology?

About a year ago, my father came up to my mother and me during breakfast, saying he wanted to upgrade his very old Nokia phone to a smartphone. Our reactions to this confession weren’t kind. My father—who was 61—had almost zero experience with technology at the time. Also, my parents are both from Minsk, Belarus, so English is a second language for them. Going from an old Nokia phone to something that many consider to be a pocket computer was a big leap. I hate to admit that although I’m in the business of introducing new technology to everyone, when my father asked for my help I told him he was too old to be diving into technology. Continue reading

Alex Joppie

Building in Revision: Five Tips for Building New Courses That Will Make Re-Offers Easier

When you’re developing a new online or hybrid course, it’s hard to look beyond the first course offering. After all, there might not be a second offering if you don’t focus your attention on making sure the course goes well the first time around, and developing the course always seems to take more time than you think it will. It’s hard to put much attention into making the course workable for future offerings. So here are some quick tips to keep in mind when developing a course to make life easier on yourself when you offer it the next time. Follow these tips, and your future self will thank you.

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