Category Archives: Digital Living

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.

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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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

Veronica Johnson

Organization or Bust? Project Management Tools for Success

Have you ever had a million and one things to do and so you write reminders to yourself—preferably on sticky notes—so that you won’t forget? Have you ever opened up your emails and wanted to scream because you were being asked to execute so many tasks? Have you ever just decided to step away from a certain situation because the information was so overwhelming and you needed to collect your thoughts?


Well, if you have answered yes to any of these questions, then you will find this post very useful. Continue reading

Sarah Brown

Happy New Year. Here’s 15 Hours.

A new year is a good time to press the reset button on many things, and I like a healthy, rigorous technology and technology-centric practice clean-out. You may already be using some of the tools I’ve listed below, but a new year is a good time to revisit those spaces, tweak your practices, or delete items that you’re no longer using.

But! If you’re new to all of these items and you integrate them in 2017, you’ve just earned yourself 15.65 (approximately) hours. You’re welcome. Continue reading

Melissa Koenig

Exercise Your Body and Mind with Pokémon Go

I have a confession to make. I confess that I jumped on the Pokémon Go bandwagon—and I am still riding it.

My first introduction to Pokémon was when my son was little. He had a collection of cards, carefully curated in protective binders. He spent hours reading the cards and developing the perfect deck to defeat his father—not an insignificant feat.   For a child who was a “reluctant” reader these cards were one of the first times that he read for pleasure. He spent hours reading each card to learn the strengths and weaknesses of these unique creatures.

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Ashanti Morgan

Get in Sync! 5 Tips to Better Domestic and International Collaborations

Collaborating across the globe is gaining much-needed traction thanks to the access we have to technology tools and internet connectivity. While there are some countries that still suffer from digital inadequacies, the proliferation of mobile device and tablet accessibility is changing the game and thankfully, beginning to level the playing field.

Social media and other mediums have shown the humanizing impact that integrating video into a conversation can have that somehow, makes us feel connected to those that we haven’t seen in years and/or live thousands of miles away. And now, other industries are starting to take notice.

The academic and business world as we knew it decades ago is evolving to new heights. With more online courses at the collegiate level increasing to the exponential growth of global virtual conferencing in the workforce, our brothers and sisters around the world are much easier to engage on a regular and consistent basis.

Make no mistake, if you’re going to connect sizeable groups of college students or colleagues in a meaningful and engaging way, it takes time and strategic planning. Unlike social media, in academia, business corporations, healthcare, and other industries, structured and formal real-time (live) video interactions can take weeks, maybe even a month, to execute flawlessly. Continue reading

Sarah Brown

On School Supplies

This year, I missed shopping for school supplies.

(If you’re a parent, you can stop reading here. I get it. The journey to procure the specific list of items denoted by your child’s teacher seems horrific. A colleague was just telling me about how her child’s school decided to go to a color-coding system, where each student needs to have a specifically colored folder for each subject [orange for Social Studies, blue for Math, etc.], along with other color-coded items. This sounds miserable. This is not the experience I was feeling fun heart flutters about.)

When I was a high-school teacher, shopping for school supplies was the exciting part of back-to-school time; you know, before the panic-inducing part where you have to think about an entire year’s worth of curriculum that you need to plan. School supply shopping was also a space to see what new, unblemished organizational items I could use in my classroom.

In an effort to recapture that feeling, I went to one of the traditional office supply chains to see what new “technologies” they’re peddling (because, of course, even the pencil is technically a technology). My findings: 

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Alex Joppie

The Year of Virtual Reality

If you haven’t ever had a virtual reality experience before, you probably will in the next twelve months.

Virtual reality is coming online in a big way. VR headsets for high-end gaming PCs started shipping this past spring. This fall, Sony is launching a VR headset for its PlayStation 4 game console. Beyond gaming, Google has been experimenting with VR for two years, using phones and a cardboard holder. The low-tech, low-cost solution was designed to get VR into the hands of as many people as possible, and Google has already managed to get many developers on board with cardboard, creating games, simulations, and more. Google has created K12-focused Expeditions, where users can get the full 3D and 360-degree experience of being somewhere very few could ever go–like the Great Wall of China, the Great Barrier Reef, and even the surface of Mars. YouTube is also filling up with 360-degree 3D videos that are meant to be consumed with virtual reality devices. But VR isn’t always just consumptive–apps like Tilt Brush allow users to create 3D paintings in midair. And Google is getting ready to launch a more sophisticated VR platform with its next Android release in a few months, to build on and enhance their Cardboard platform. 2016 is the year of virtual reality.

As an instructional technologist, my natural tendency is to get excited about new technology and its potential in higher education. My instinct is to imagine all the possibilities that the next big thing affords for our classes and to push for the rapid adoption of the latest and greatest tech. But in the case of virtual reality, I’m a little skeptical that it’s going to be a true transformative technology for a couple reasons.

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Jan Costenbader

Face-to-Face, Blended or Online – No significant difference, but…

The growth of online and blended offerings, nationwide, continues at a steady pace. Although this data is several years old, the trend, especially at our institution, continues on the same path.


Source: Babson Survey Research Group, Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States ©, January 2014.

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