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Between the Chapters: A Podcast Book Club for the 25 @YearsEd of #EdTech

It all started with a Twitter DM on June 10, 2020. Contrary to popular belief, this social media platform does have the power to unite and bring folks together. Clint Lalonde reached out to inquire to a group of us to ask if we’d like to narrate the 25 Years of Ed Tech book written by Martin Weller and published by Athabasca University Press. With a Google doc and an interested community, multiple messages on this group thread helped to weave what would be an audiobook version for this text. As I saw a number of volunteers to voice each chapter, I chimed in to ask how we could bring other voices who weren’t in this thread to discuss the book itself (typo of Martin’s name included):

I’m grateful for Martin’s willingness to be such an open educator with how this book is published AND his encouragement for the audiobook + book club podcast. Additionally, I was thrilled to play in the audio sandbox with Clint, who is stellar in his radio-style production, wrangling of audio chapters, and ideas for enhancing the behind the pod project (e.g. “how to” guidelines narration, keeping me on task/schedule, finding guests to chat with about each chapter, etc.). My sincere gratitude goes out to all of the people and processes required to execute this pandemic podcast project. I am learning so much from y’all during every conversation. Whether it’s our recorded chat or the post-production editing, I can honestly say that working on these episodes really brightens my work week. I am honoured to spend some time with some brilliant, funny, and thoughtful members of the ed tech community. I am learning so much and love digging into what is and is not in each chapter. Some people bake bread, I make podcasts (and, okay, bake bread) in lock down.

Thanks to many of you who have and who will continue to contribute to the 25 Years of Ed Tech podcast serves as a serialized audio version of the book 25 Years of Ed Tech. The @YearsEd podcast is our gift that keeps on giving, as there will be 2 episodes released each week from November 2020 through May 2021. Every Monday you will hear a new chapter of the book that follows the written text — read along! Then on Thursday, you will find bonus episodes in the same podcast feed I host, called “Between the Chapters.” These “book club” episodes allow us to bring other folx on to discuss the chapter topic, ideas, the year, and what was happening around these issues for teaching, learning, and technology at the time. 

Follow @YearsEd & Subscribe/Listen: https://25years.opened.ca/

X-Ray Specs Montage

Attributions

It has been a delight to catch up with the “Between the Chapters” guests — some of which I’ve grown up with in ed tech and learning design — and others I am just getting to dialog with for the first time. As of now, I have just over half of these bonus episodes recorded and/or scheduled — and more are to come. I have been talking with Clint for how to bring additional voices into this audio project — so I am open to suggestions and hearing from you, if you want to offer some audio reflections. Finally, a BIG THANKS goes out to everyone who has contributed to this audio adventure overall: book chapter narrators, guests for the book club discussions, X-ray Specs remixed art creators, your blogged reflections, promotional publications, tweeting out episodes, and those of you digitally cheering us on!

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On Being an Outsider

Over a year ago I quit my job. I left higher education and my non-tenure faculty position. As an early career academic, I loved research, teaching and digital learning design, but the things I was doing in my actual position was leaving me feeling bored and burned out. I was not interested in fitting into a typical academic role or career, and I never really cared much for the elitist hierarchy at a university/college campus. Titles, degrees, and status seemed less interesting… and rather petty to me. As I said before, I’m more interested in the verbs and not the nouns for my professional path.

During the last few months of 2019, I was fortunate to partner with few great companies adjacent to higher ed as a faculty coach, research consultant, and learning design architect. Although it was interesting work, I soon realized I really missed being part of a team who were contributing to a shared vision and goals. In looking back, part of my job search was really to find the space and place for me to work outside academia, challenge what I know, and apply my experiences as I explore the unknown in a new field. This time spent researching professional roles require me to identify my strengths (literally, below is a screening for a healthcare L&D role) and figure out where I could use these superpowers for the next organization I worked at.

It was time to look outside the industry of postsecondary education (yes, it IS an industry as well) to see what was out there, and identify what new career opportunity I could match my purpose or my WHY:

To connect people and community, so that I can support life-long learning and career development.

Job hunts and employment applications take a while — regardless of who you are and when you are applying. I quit my job knowing I would need to dedicate some serious time (like a job) to this process instead of being distracted by what I was doing (e.g. online teaching, grading, writing, research, etc.) I kept an open mind and I was persistent as I explored a of employment opportunities from the top training organizations, and other companies I knew would present a number of job options for me now and in the future. In connecting to friends/peers, I made sure to find contacts within the companies to get feedback on my CV which brought my 18 pages down to 1. And, I also began to target roles that seemed more interesting beyond a title or rank, by reaching out to recruiters, head hunters, and hiring managers on LinkedIn to learn more about where my own talents best fit. Between November and December, I had a series of phone/Zoom interviews and on-site interview cycles for a variety of roles: marketing researcher, training manager, instructional designer, and organizational development consultant. These jobs were situated in personal law, finance, insurance, airlines, retail, hotels, and more. [Note: 2019 Laura did not move forward by choice or HR decision for jobs at American Airlines, Hilton, etc. In hindsight, that was probably a good thing.] All of this sounds quick, but the decision to leave and search was probably in incubation for 6-9 months prior to me accepting a new job. Additionally, this quick synopsis does not include the conversations, informational interviews, employment/org research, and reflection I put into before I went on the job market by choice.

Last December, I celebrated a milestone birthday by packing up to have a 18-day adventure to explore New Zealand. All of this was planned prior to this career crisis/job search, so I had the time and space to go off on one my last EPIC travels. Our departure to NZ had a layer in LAX where I received a call to offer me the job I wanted, and that I am currently in. For those of you who know me, I do like to take leaps (literally), but from the stellar interview experience, meeting the team I’d be working with, and getting to know the cool things I would get to be a part of — I was really excited for my new job! I’m a Sr. Instructional Designer on a global learning experience design (LXD) team, which means I am a program manager who supports learning/training design for technicians and associates in customer service at the “Smile” company. Our team trains associates on troubleshooting to support customers with their devices (e.g. Kindles, Fire tablets, Echo-family), digital products (e.g. Amazon Music, Appstore, Twitch, Games & Software Downloads), and, of course, Alexa.

This original blog post was going to describe more “about my job” — what I do and how I work with my LXD team — however, that isn’t really possible as it has been evolving over the past 9 months, and I suspect it will continue to change. I have focused on a few specific areas, but really, I support the focus and needs for how we are designing learning to improve customer service. Period. We’ve had to be agile to meet all that 2020 has tossed us and be flexible enough to adapt both on our team and within the larger organization. As they say, it is always Day 1. I believe it, as I am still learning and figuring out how to do what I do better — while jumping in to do all the things — those verbs — that I really enjoy:

  • Create training curriculum & think deeply about learning design
  • Offer and get peer review for projects
  • Ask questions to get to root problems and deep dive into issues
  • Identifying gaps or needs for our own standard of practice
  • Develop mechanisms improving our LXD
  • Support professional/career development to engage our larger team
  • Wrangle a program team for an internal conference
  • Supporting training delivery in various worldwide sites– in virtual instructor-led sessions
  • Produce a new LXD podcast to understand how learning design happens in the org
  • Localization (beyond translation) across a number of geographic regions for learners
  • Implement changes needed for accessibility and universal design for learning & training
  • Identify ways for inclusion & equity in remote teams and virtual collaboration
  • Consult with product teams, program managers, UX designers, content creators & more!
  • Tinker/Test new devices & digital products to enhance the customer service experience
  • Pilot new platforms & LX experiences with research and learning delivery experiments
  • Project management — seriously, I love a good sprint & checking off a “to do” list
  • Always be learning: SO MANY ways to add to my skill stack to “learn and be curious”

There is probably more — but that’s my quick list. You might hear me say on the regular that “I’m not really sure what I’m doing…” or “I don’t know…” — which is often true. I’ve learned that failure is probably a great teachable experience, and probably going to happen. It’s not the flaws, but what we have learned, especially if what you are working on is only 70% finished before you launch it. Everything I do is not always my favorite, but I am being challenged to think beyond what is required in my job. And, I’m grateful to be surrounded by some brilliant and thoughtful professionals who I am constantly learning from and with — seriously, everyone has a variety of education, professional, and work experience in LXD. So, I can always find someone who can compliment my own skills and knowledge when I need to complete a project or reach a goal.

That being said, this past year I have felt like an “outsider” from academia and higher education. I was not sure how or if I could contribute to (or influence?) my community of online learning, open, students support, and ed tech peers. This disconnect was more in my head, or at least it was until now. I was trying to sort out how my past professional identity and experiences connects to what I am doing now. Beyond the defined roles or rank in formal education (e.g. K-12 & Higher Ed), I was “othering” the contributions learning professionals who fall outside the formal education system. Learning design between higher ed and other industries does not have to be two rival gangs. The expertise and experiences are less binary and more complimentary than you might think.

“They grew up on the outside of society. They weren’t looking for a fight. They were looking to belong.” – The Outsiders

Really, there is so much we can learn when these LXD communities come together. Although my learning design is outside a postsecondary institution, there is so much more knowledge and applied skills we need to swap, share, and compare. I know that 2020 has brought all the weirds, and I’ve personally felt very remote from y’all, but I’m slowing coming out of my solitude/isolation incubation time. I hope to share more about what I am working on in my job and the other projects that I have been tending to this year, as it is relevant for my community in higher ed, ed tech, student affairs/advising, and online learning.

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On Being Remote…

I’ve been thinking about being remote for a while. Not in the way you think. This blog post is not advice on “how to” work remotely or thrive from the home office. It’s a reckoning about what I have been thinking about over the last 9 months. The feeling of being remote is real. It starts with feeling so very far away from the things we know and love. Distant from close family, friends, and peers. Away from the concept of schedules and calendars. Time is moving along at a pace — and standing still. Sometimes months feel like years. Sometimes a day feels like a week. It feels like we have live a few lives and aged a bit in 2020.

Home has become a multipurpose space where we go to school, sit in “the office,” and find leisure time — if we can. Learning, working, and living are a blend and exist in a blur making things feel like we are living on a loop, often in the same location. With no boundaries comes uncertainty and awareness of the limitations in perpetual life cycle. And although the plant/fur/real kids help us remember to take a break, I often wonder if they are thinking, “Don’t you have somewhere to go?”

I used to be productive in my WFH office, but motivation fights with grief and bouts of guilt often pull my focus regularly. The shoulds got mixed with the coulds, with little being accomplished personally or professionally. How can I find some headspace when there is social inequity, increasing racial unrest, and health disparities wrapped in an economic divide? How small are my concerns and work, when there are larger issues looming?

Whether its Zoom rooms, virtual Teams, Twitter threads, or Instagram tales — there seems to be more technology to bring us our of isolation, yet there’s widening gap to easily disconnect. The infusion of the being wired for our waking life has us “always on” and it is emotionally and physically exhausting. Although these devices and platforms have the potential to bring us together, they seem to be pulling us further apart in thoughts, ideologies, and a common sense humanity. Always together, but often alone.

We morn the loss of our social selves. The festivals, concerts, celebrations, events, meetings, and reunions that once gathered us — are no more. Travel is a faint, distant memory only replaced by voice mails, FaceTime calls, and group text messages for/by those we love and miss. With this pivot to online the personal is on a choppy WiFi connection, and our professional identities are in a Zoom waiting room, asking, “Is this really what I want to be doing with my life?”

Transitions through turmoil and trauma persist. The always evolving issues wash over the relentless news cycles and challenge what actual community and civic responsibility means. The awakening of our fragile social structures were no fault of the pandemic, Black Lives Matter, or other issues of today — but rather a slow reveal of what is needed to confront, breakdown, and rebuild. Other already felt this, the rest of us are just realizing. Returning to what was is no longer possible, nor should we want to go there. It’s time to invent what will be .

History is told by those who tell it. The power of the narrative now, is that it can be drafted and retold in a collaborative, open shared doc — by many, and not just a select few. What are the stories we should be sharing and amplifying today? How will we write ourselves into a future that actually improves how we live, work, and learn? From our educational institutions to corporate entities, we can no longer rest on our laurels to sit silently when our practices and positions have not called into question the policies and system injustices of an inexcusable status quo. This is not a time to be remote anymore. This remoteness comes from a point of privilege, and silence shows your complacency on issues that need to be addressed.

I’m sorry for being so remote. I’m back. The revolution won’t be blogged, but I hope to poke holes at things I am learning/unlearning, ways we can take action for impact, and how it is critical to be less remote and more of an ally for the change we need in the world. Let’s go on this foggy journey out of remoteness together…

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Learn/Perform Mixtape Podcast

As I mentioned, I am actively reviewing all things learning and performance to prepare for the first Certified Professional in Learning & Performance (CPLP) exams. As I apply and interview for new opportunities, it has been fun to refresh and review theories, models, and concepts I studied in my PhD program. The CPLP shows up on a number of jobs descriptions and it seems to be sought after within industry for a number of learning design, organizational change management, and other talent development roles. To help me review all the Areas of Expertise (AOE) and sub-topics in the Association for Talent Development Competency Model, I decided to create a new podcast that focuses on workplace learning and performance called the Learn/Perform Mixtape.

Learn/Perform Mixtape – Podcast Trailer
Podcast Art for the Learn/Perform Mixtape

LISTEN & SUBSCRIBE to the Learn/Perform Mixtape podcast: https://learnperform.transistor.fm/subscribe

FFor the 80+ hours of prep, I will be preparing for these exams “out loud” by writing study notes and audio commentary about what I’m reading and reviewing. Processing the concepts and concepts from the ATD Learning System: CPLP Edition + reviewing books and journals in my own library, notes, and experience as individual podcast episodes has been very helpful for me. As a podcast host/producer, I always learn so much recording, editing, reviewing, and writing up the show notes for podcast episode. Since I use Transistor.fm to host my current podcasts, I thought why not share what I’m reviewing about learning and performance for others to hear? [FYI: A subscription to the Transistor podcast hosting platform allows you to to create and manage multiple podcasts with their own RSS feeds from one single account.]

There are a number of suggestions for how to prepare for the CPLP, like in-person workshops, online courses, and creating a local CPLP study group. Knowing myself and the time that is left, I thought the best accountability for me would be to document my progress as I prepare for the CPLP Knowledge and Skills exams. I am a voracious reader and avid podcast listener, because I just I love to learn! As self-directed learner and somewhat of an autodidact, I figured it would be fun to pull back the curtain on my study techniques to share what I am learning and how I am thinking about learning/performance today. I am less concerned about how many downloads or subscribers of the pod I have. Really, the Learn/Perform Mixtape is designed to map out the 99+ sub-sections of the 10 AOE and the Foundational Global Competencies. Also, it offers me another study tool to make these concepts and topics portable and accessible later — in both audio and written format.

Are you studying for the CPLP exams? Let’s Connect! Maybe you can join me to chat about how you are preparing or even discuss one of the AOE topics for a podcast episode. If you are listening to the podcast — thanks! Let me know what you think and share some love by posting a rating/review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you subscribe! If you are getting some value or it’s helping you to improve learning and performance for your work, I also welcome gratitude/donations as this podcast is self-sponsored labor of love. Thanks!