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2017

Post #3. Get ready for action!

 

I am not alone!! There are former teachers here with me.    SHAMELESS WORK ENVIRONMENT PLUG: It was refreshing to see that Blackboard saw the value in hiring educators to help steer their product development and communications. Also, everyone here is super positive (I mean for the most part, humans do work here after all). Best internship ever.

Anyways, back to the matter at hand. Working for an edtech company after having been in the classroom gave me the opportunity to talk to my former self from a product marketing perspective. What message would Jake the Teacher relate to? What kind of engagement would I have found most useful? This was really cool! I went into marketing not to create an industry (looking at you De Beers), but to connect quality products with consumers. #nosnakeoil

 

At Blackboard I was given the opportunity to do just that! I came in bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, nervous and excited. This was my first internship (student teaching hardly counts), and really my first experience in “business”; sadly, Flight of the Concord videos were little help. I was expecting a big project with an end deliverable. What I got was much more valuable. I was thrust into a team with Susan Patton, Francesca Monaco, and Vivek Ramgopal where I was expected to contribute as if I was a new hire, not an intern. I updated our user personas, involved myself in focus groups at BbWorld, and interviewed customers for testimonials. Oh, and in case you missed it the first time…I attended BbWorld16 in Vegas    (The fanciest trip I was on in NC was a shared motel room for a conference in Raleigh #lesigh).

I was also prompted to involve myself in the Community Site (yes, I’ve been lurking in the shadows for quite some time now). I found that the Community Site was a wonderfully organic way to drive deeper adoption through peer to peer interactions, and I applaud the groundswell effort tremendously.

 

When I left my school, we had begun a similar endeavor to drive deeper technological adoption in the classroom with the creation of a technology team named iInnovate (we were a mac based system, so yeah, that’s how cool we were). This small group was tasked with learning new technologies and putting them to work in our lessons. We would report back on successes and failures to the team, and then hold training workshops for the rest of the staff based on our recommendations. I have seen the BUGs in the Community Site operate in much the same way. Convincing teachers to change what they’ve been doing is HARD work and I can’t wait to elaborate on this point in my next post. I can only imagine how much more effective our team would have been if we had access to a larger network like a BUG site; kudos to Marissa Dimino for managing a great site.

 

I have spent a significant amount of my time at Blackboard getting to know a side of education I didn’t know was so robust. I’m touched at the level of thought that goes into supporting educators and am glad to have been part of it. Like I said in my first post, I won’t be here forever, so I’ll also take some time to give you all a proper send off in my next (last) post, which will focus on the role of technology in the classroom.

Discussions are an effective pedagogical tool in just about any classroom. They force students to think, ask questions, provide examples and analogies, and critique opposing points of view. When we lead discussions in a face-to-face classroom, we have a variety of tools at our disposal to encourage thoughtful participation from our students. We walk around the room, read body language, ask leading questions, and sometimes even wait out an "awkward silence" to draw out an idea that we can tell a student is sitting on. Unfortunately, many of these traditional strategies don't work in an asynchronous, online environment. However, as an online instructor, you still need to be able to create the same kind of environment for your students in an online discussion forum. Online students still need to "see" that you're part of the discussion. You still need to be able to take the pulse of your students, encourage thoughtful participation, and draw out the responses of the "social loafers" that are often slow to get involved. But how do you do it?

 

In the final What's Your Problem? episode of the Winter 2017 semester, Jason Kane, Kaylynn Mortensen, and I provide a few strategies for encouraging meaningful online discussions. Check it out below:

 

What's Your Problem? Season 2, Episode 4: Lackluster Online Discussions

 

We'll be back with Season 3 beginning in August. In the meantime, don't forget to subscribe to the What's Your Problem? YouTube Channel to catch up on past episodes.

 

Enjoy!

Post #2 as promised Community!

 

Leaving a stable career to pursue an advanced degree, in a new field, in an ever-increasingly shaky economy…what could go wrong?!?! I did not make this decision lightly; however, I was confident that the skills I had gained in the classroom were transferable (confidence from an MBA, shocking I know). But in all honesty, no one works harder than a teacher who is invested in their school; you can work AS hard to be fair, but not harder (right kids?).

These are the skills I honed teaching that were relevant to my MBA program. I’m sure I’ve missed something (attention to detail?):

 

  • Communication: In person, over the phone, through email, notes home, I communicated in a variety of formats. Verbal and written communication skills cannot be understated in an MBA program. First-year teams are formed at random, and most programs include many international students (my class was split about 50/50). This makes effective communication a little tricky, but honestly, the trick is to over communicate effectively.
  • Cultural Sensitivity: Like communication, having worked with many different cultures, teachers have a “below the iceberg” understanding of how important flexibility is, and more importantly, when it is important (sometimes your teammates need tough love). This played a big factor into declaring one of my concentrations, Global Management.

When in Croatia you wear a Cravat and post with Drazen

  • Presentations Skills: Being comfortable in front of an audience comes (almost) naturally after 6 years in front of a classroom, not to mention coaching speeches on awards night. Prep is still needed to really nail it, and nerves do happen, but all my previous exposure was a huge asset in this ever-important MBA category.
  • Organization & Time Management: Lesson planning FTW!!! Using these skills to breakdown projects and assignments, all while keeping track of due dates, basically made me a rockstar. Planning unit after unit really gives “big picture” views that become second nature when looking at the scope of work in a course syllabus.
  • Work Ethic: Working hours as an educator are long. Because of this I had the confidence to jump into a program that involved working with vastly more quantitative objectives than I had ever been exposed to. I’ve treated my time in the MBA like a job and I owe the work ethic I gained in education some big thanks for this ability.

After 6 years in the Education Industry I surely have my 10,000 hours to qualify me as an expert in some things; and to all you “Outlier” naysayers, let me assure you that these were quality hours. I was lucky enough to have the support of my friends, family, and mentors throughout my application process, along with an understanding Principal who gave me his blessing. Telling my students I was leaving was one of the more challenging moments in my career and I appreciate their understanding (my Facebook has since been flooded with friend requests).

 

Next up I’d like to make a similar post about transitioning from teaching in the classroom to working at Blackboard. Of course there will be some parallels, but I promise to keep it as Bb specific as possible.