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Thinking in Public and Private Spaces

“I share, therefore I am.”

Sherry Turkle, Reclaiming Conversations: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age

Does always sharing with friends and peers have a cost? Does blogging make me conform to the values and opinions of my readers? Do I only tweet ideas that fit a particular “brand” or tone?  Is crowdsourcing my reading practices make me conform to popular books? Are my podcast ponderings helping me voice out ideas or does it detract from my own introspection?

For a while now, I’ve been thinking more about where I am putting ideas and how they are shared. Is it true — if we are always on and being “social” digitally — are we ever alone? I truly value the alone time to think, write, draft, and ruminate. For example, this very blog post was probably sitting in my draft post folder for over 18 months. Maybe forgotten, or just marinating — as this concept continues to creep into my mind a lot. I’ve been teasing out what could and should change about my public (online) and private (offline) self. These tensions are more fluid and complex these days. There’s value in not being connected or feeling that you need to be “on” — from the digital realm. And, I’ve found great benefits for the analog life: reading a real book, doodling images, playing my ukulele, and paper-to-pen writing. All of this helps with a reset and encourages me to be more mindful of things around me.

Thinking in Public Spaces… Literally

This concept of public vs. private has impacted how I show up online from Turkle’s (2016) and other works. And, I know that I’m not the only one who has been thinking about disconnecting — even before this pandemic. I saw a number of folks within my personal and professional network have dropping offline over the past 5 years. Whether it’s the scale of the platforms we found each other on or the cost of connectivity with online harassment. My digital community and personal learning networks feels very different now. It’s not that I can’t catch a glimpse of banter, fun chat, and comrade on social media spaces, like Twitter or Instagram. It’s rather how these type of spaces prop up — power, privilege, consumerism, and promotion — rather than being a shared commons it once was. I miss hearing voices that should and could be amplified — and those who have muted themselves out of safety, well-being, or just, life. I get that.

So, all of this to say is I have been trying to carve out some quiet contemplation time each day — to make room for free thoughts and really, create a space for random ideas to percolate. The practice of disconnecting is not to do away with a networked life — but more to to offer ways to focus on purposeful possibilities. I will note that I used the word “practice” as it doesn’t always work out. I too can get sucked back into the quick buzz of the likes, RTs, and short interactions.

That being said, I have been shifting my “social” participation online to be a space where I work out more things — sometimes on this blog and rarely on Twitter — but more so, in audio format. Podcasting has been an interesting way to think in public for me. I’ve been doing it for over a decade, but this last year I found it to be a refreshing reprieve from all the things. I might have a podcast problem (here are a few podcasts that I host/produce/create), but I’m not ready for a pod intervention just yet! I think what I have enjoyed most is the long tail reward for this type of audio project.

Visual Podcast Reflections

For me, podcasting and audio production is less about the end product and more about the process. By shifting my streams of thoughts into audio waves, that requires intention with preparation, recording, editing and post-production. In this workflow, I have been able to linger with with topics and ideas, plus I get to learn with/from those who join me in conversation. Podcasting has allowed me to have some amazing chats and ask deep questions, while also offering me a space to talk out what I’m exploring and learning (e.g. test prep or coach training). There are episodes, I can go back to reflect on and smile at when I am cutting audio tape and curating links.

To be a solid podcast host, I really have to be there, be present, and be in the moment. This sustained practice has afforded me some great friendships, allowed me to practice a number of skills, and gain so much knowledge and insights from anyone who has joined me on my podcasting journey — thank you dear listeners, guests, and co-hosts! I love digging into real-life issues about work, learning, family, friendships, coaching, politics, technology, future life, and more. Podcasting has given me ways to hold space for authentic conversations that have only helped me (and I hope others) learn and grow. In reclaiming conversation, Turkle (2016) identifies three key aspects that resonates with my love of podcasting:

  1. Think time. Slowing down with audio technology, allows me to intentionally hold space by dedicating time for conversation, reflection, and really give pause for how we communicate; we’re not cogs in the machine.
  2. Being quiet. I’ve created a podcast zone/booth in my office closet. By designing an environment to lock in, listen, chat, and learn, I have to remove all the distractions when I sit down to record a podcast. Once the headphones are on to record or edit, I’m in the flow of this work to focus my attention fully.
  3. Uni-tasking. I prep my podcast with run of show notes and questions with a single document or with a single tab, and then it’s go time. I usually have a pen and notebook to jot down ideas, questions, or interesting points that might come up — but really, my attention is all on the recording in progress.

In many ways, this type of thinking is public and perhaps even more vulnerable. I’m less interested in the instant response — or really, any response at all. As I am finding meaning in podcasting process and I continue to value the learning that happens in the post-production review. If you like the show notes shared in each episode or even the artwork drawn for the pod, that’s great. But I’ll have you know, it’s really for my own thinking, learning, and pondering as I take in these audio ideas and conversations. AND what’s on the cutting tape floor for audio and my own journal reflections — that’s for me to hold onto and smile knowingly.

What has changed with your online sharing habits? How do you think in public and private spaces? What digital and/or offline spaces do you value now?

References:

Turkle, S. (2016). Reclaiming Conversations: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age. New York, NY: Penguin Random House LLC.

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Understanding Leadership & Executive Presence

Leaders are faced with dealing with change and transition ahead in our workplace. For those folks who manage people and supervise others, how you show up and lead your teams impacts performance and outcomes in your organization. Regardless of where you work or who you lead, there comes a point in where you need to stop and evaluate if how you are leading is effective or if your leadership style needs to change.

Future success is rarely built on the same platform as one’s past accomplishments.”

Su & Wilkins, Own the Room: Discover Your Signature Voice to Master Your Leadership Presence.

As I begin to work with executive coaching clients, it’s been helpful to tap into coaching+leadership resources (Note: I recommend the Coaching Real Leaders podcast to coaches & leaders) to learn more about what it means to bring coaching skills to the workplace.

Image by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pixabay

In thinking about presence and voice, I was really struck by the value proposition concepts and finding your signature voice exercises Amy Jen Su and Muriel Wilkins share Own the Room. As a leader in any organization and at any level, I think this book looks at leadership as a supervisor, mentor, and/or a peer.

Do you know how to own a room?

This might involve the energy and viewpoint you bring, to the perceptions and realities of how others see you. Ownership of your own skills really show up in terms of how we think, act, and poise. Su and Wilkins (2013) identify ways to “own the room” by examining your own mindset, skills, and body language represented by a leader’s:

  • Assumptions
  • Communication Strategies
  • Energy

As a manager or supervisor, it is important to ask your team members questions as you listen and learn about their needs; however, it is also, critical that you ask yourself a few coaching questions to understand how you are showing up at work (Su & Wilkins, 2013):

  1. What message are you sending with your current presence?
  2. How can you improve your leadership presence in an authentic way?
  3. What should you do first?
  4. How do you deal with specific situations where (when) your presence is being challenged?
  5. How do you know if you are making any progress?

By assessing your own presence as a leader first, you are able to identify how your skills support others and get feedback for what might be missing with your approach. You are not “born with it” — as presence for any leader can and should be developed. In coaching leaders, we begin to unpack communication and understand more about how they show up to their team, supervisor, and within the organization. What is most critical for this reflection and introspection is to identify what a leader believes to be true in contrast to how others perceive the leader’s actions and attitudes — really to understand the balance between these two perspectives. What is good to know is, there is not a single way to show up as a leader. Executive presence should be defined and grown by each leader. It’s really about asking:

How are you assessing your own leadership style? In what ways are you developing and growing your executive presence? How do you want to “own the room” at work?

Reference: Su, A. J., & Wilkins, M. M. (2013). Own the room: Discover your signature voice to master your leadership presence. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

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Return to the Office: How are you Supporting this Transition?

These four words are starting to enter into our working vernacular in the US, as we inch towards herd immunity. I know this brings up so many feelings and thoughts for those who transitioned their office job to a remote set up over a year ago. There is uncertainty and excitement with a dash of anxiety sprinkled in. Last week, I spent some time with an organization to think about and discuss what they would want to design for their future work life.

Transitions are…

In this workshop, I was very intentional to hold space for folks talk about their future transition, specifically to look at what they have accomplished this year at work and to design the work space they want to return on campus. Unlike change, that is situational; transitions are psychological (Bridges, 2017). For any transition we encounter, there is an opportunity for making meaning and identity development if there is a shared sense of agency, belonging, and cause (Feiler, 2020). We are not going to return the office life we once knew — as so much has changed. In this transition back to campus/office/physical workspace, I ask you:

What is the work life you want to lead? How do you want to work? What actions can you do to support transition back to the workplace?

For those of you who are managing a new beginning and thinking about these transitions from your WFH (work from home) life to the office, I adopted some of Bridges (2017) questions to support your management and planning of transitions back to campus/office life:

  • What ways are you preparing your team(s) for the upcoming transition back to campus?
  • How are you bringing others into the organization process to support transition planning?
  • What issues do you need to address from this past year of remote work that might come up in the pending transition back to the office?
  • What ways have you clarified and given purpose to the upcoming changes at work?
  • How have you involved all stakeholders in the transition process, related to their role and function in your organization?
  • In what ways have you communicated your plan? What methods have you outlined and visualized the phases for transition?
  • Beyond change management plan, what issues or questions will you need to address as your team(s) transition back to campus/office life?
  • How will you reward and recognize your team(s) as they contribute to this transition?
  • What policies, procedures, and processes need to be in place as you make this transition to prevent any inconsistencies?
  • In what ways do you need to model transition as a leader within or for the team(s) you support?
  • How will you celebrate the transition back to the workplace to mark the journey and accomplishments?

The initial part of this session started by giving back a voice and getting input from individuals within the division, beyond their own teams. The insights and ideas shared by a number of folks across functions and roles helped to expand the possibilities of what future campus life might look like. By starting from a curious place of “what could my work life be?” instead of “we’re returning back to the office that was” — you are able to shift the mindset and be open to new ways to design your work life. Additionally, it takes more than just one team or one single leader to make any transition at work, actually work. It’s moving from individual, units, and departments, to thinking about the community you are building in your organization with this new transition. To establish a “community” and move beyond the team, Hoefling (2017) identified the following attributes you want members in a community to share:

  1. Kindred Purpose: Healthy communities are about something — not just getting together to get together. ASK: Why are we here? What’s our purpose.
  2. Meets Regularly: Gather frequently enough to sustain a consistent, ongoing conversation in which the members can pick up where they left off last time without starting all over again and again; participation in the community becomes a practice in and of itself. ASK: What are we doing when we meet or gather?
  3. Shared Ground: The values or point of view; explicit shared vision keeps the group together, keeps the conversation going, and acts as a means of establishing priorities and mediating issues as the group journeys together. ASK: What are our community values and focus?
  4. To Know and Be Known: It’s about the people — not the content or the process. There should be some level of personal connection and understanding of who people are, what they are working on, and building of personal rapport. ASK: What do you want your community to be known for? What’s your legacy?

What is it time to let go of? How will you spend time with your community to design a better workplace? What will this new way of working require of you and your organization?

References:

Bridges, W. (2017). Managing transitions: Making the most of the change.  Boston, MA: Da Capo Press

Feiler, B. (2020). Life is in the transitions: Mastering change at any age. New York, NY: Penguin.

Hoefling, T. (2017). Working virtually: Transforming the mobile workplace, 2nd Edition. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, LLC.

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#25YearsOfEdTech: Call for Audio Reflections

Call for Community Voices: BONUS “Between the Chapters” episode for the 25 Years of Ed Tech book

  1. READ a chapter (or the whole book) to find a topic/year/idea that interests you. You can also get meta to audio reflect on one of the “Between the Chapters” episodes too!
  2. REFLECT & SHARE YOUR AUDIO THOUGHTS via Vocaroo or your own recording device you can send us via a URL (e.g. blog post, website, Dropbox link, etc.)
  3. SEND us the link to your recording so we can add your voice to the podcast! You can do this via the website contact form or DM @YearsEd or laurapasquini on Twitter.

Audio reflection questions/prompts:

  • How are you involved with this ______ topic/chapter/year?
  • What were your reflections back to a particular year in the book?
  • Share your experience with this particular technology, practice, or ed tech topic. 
  • What ideas and concepts most interested you from a specific chapter?
  • What is missing from a specific chapter or the book that we should talk about now? 
  • What questions do you have for the author, Martin Weller? And/Or what questions or thoughts do you want to pose to the @YearsEd community?

Deadline: Open — but we wrap up the last of the chapters on May 6th — so reflections by or before May 1st should post to the feed shortly after. 🙂

techKNOWtools

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So, I’ve been helping with a fun audio project to fill the gaps in my social schedule during the pandemic. #25YearsOfEdTech has been a fun way to connect, learn, and share with a community of brilliant professionals — so here’s our reflection as we get meta to podcast about the podcast.

We are about halfway through this audio book club project now that chapter 12 is out. In this bonus episode of “Between the Chapters” Martin, Clint, and I take a pause to get meta — it’s a podcast about the podcast. We share about our audio labour of love, specifically as we discover what it means to augment text to audio and how to share an aural history of ed tech through these episodic personal/professional reflections.

X-Ray Specs by @visualthinkery is licenced under CC-BY-SA & Remix by Laura Pasquini.

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Asking Powerful Questions: Using Coaching Skills in Learning Design

Here is my lightning talk presented at LXDCon 2021 conference last month. I often use “how” and “what” questions for the sticky problems I’m trying to solve with learning design. Besides asking short, direct questions — the key is to WAIT and listen as either someone or a team figures out the next best direction to take. Although this animation focuses on how coaching skills can be utilized for learning experience design, I know that powerful questions have the power to unlock meaningful answers and better solutions in a number of workplaces — so I hope you find this applicable to the work you do as well. Enjoy!

How will powerful questions show up in your work? What powerful questions will you ask next?
Created by Laura Pasquini

TRANSCRIPT FOR TALK:

Asking Powerful Questions: Using Coaching Skills in Learning Design

What is your past experience with coaching? One of my early coaching memories was being part of a swim team. To be competitive, my coach was a guide on the side to:

  • Improve stroke techniques;
  • Offer feedback on flip turns and starts;
  • Motivate me to get into the pool at 5 am; and
  • Provide focus before each swim heat on race day.

partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

The International Coaching Federation (or ICF) definition of coaching

Now that I am beginning to coach professionals to find meaningful career pathways that align with their talents and skills, a number of these early coaching experiences and skills related to coaching show up in my daily work as a learning designer.

In LXD, we are always working to solve problems with learning solutions. Coaching skills are critical for training development because:

“How we solve the problem is just as important as the solution.”

One key coaching skill I bring to my own learning design work is – asking powerful questions. Powerful questions help us “Dive Deep” and empower “Ownership” as we find clarity around any issue, problem, or challenging topic.

Here are 5 elements that make up a Powerful Question:

  1. Short and Direct – to get to the point as quickly as possible with minimal context or rambling questions
  2. Open-ended– to encourage detailed, reflective responses on any issue; they often start with a “what?” or “how?” stem; avoid the “why” questions, as others might feel you’re challenging their motives
  3. Curious & Non-Judgmental – originating from a true place of inquiry; so, avoid any leading or interpretive questions that reflect your opinion or biases – show that you’re curious
  4. Focused – on the other person’s perspective and contributions; these questions are directed to reach a specific goal or outcome from the person you’re talking to
  5. Followed by Silence – avoid offering your solution – pause and WAIT to listen to the response. W.A.I.T. is also an acronym for “Why Am I Talking?”

In LX work we are asked to design and develop with and for our stakeholders. To truly partner and collaborate, it is important to address both the need and clarify the solution before starting any project. But remember NOT to ask a solution-oriented question – that is a piece of advice with a question mark pasted on the end of it – you know you’re heard or used these ones before: Should you; could you; will you; don’t you; can you; are you.

If the second word in the question is “YOU” you’re in trouble. Instead, think of these questions as an open door, that invites everyone into the conversation. Powerful questions can:

  • Kickstart a meeting, by asking “What’s on your mind?”
  • Unpack a root problem not shared, by asking “What’s the real challenge here?”
  • And reveal an idea that was never even considered, by asking “And what else?”

Powerful questions can help our teams reach our shared goals and surface issues or ideas early on in the project planning process. We often offer solutions, but perhaps a powerful question will unlock more answers and offer incredible insights to how we work backwards for learning design. When you ask others coaching questions first it:

  • Reveals all the information that is going on
  • Creates buy-in to get results
  • Develops leadership capacity and responsibility
  • Empowers others to take action and be accountable
  • Offers authentic ways to build trust and transparency between colleagues

Consider the next time you meet with someone on your team or involved in a learning design project to enter into a coaching conversation as an exploration adventure.

Identify the goal or purpose of the meeting, and then allow for exploration questions such as “Tell me more…” or “What’s behind that?”

Next time a sticky problem comes up, don’t let your advice monster appear before asking a few powerful questions, like:

  • What do you want?
  • What do you need?

This way you can moving into lets you brainstorm questions by asking “How do we remove this barrier?” or “What have you done in similar situations?” or “What options do you suggest?”

Before moving towards making a decision and the follow-up actions, you will want others to be accountable for their next steps:

  • What was most useful to you?
  • How can I help you achieve your goals?
  • What are you taking away from this conversation?

Now that you know this, my coaching challenge for you, and you’re learning design work:

  • How will powerful questions show up in your work?
  • What powerful questions will you ask next?

Learn more at:

This video features the song Drops of H20 (The Filtered Water Treatment) by J. Lang available under a Creative Commons Attribution license.