Monday, June 30, 2008

Gotta Love Apple and AppleCare...

Just a quick post to thank Apple Canada and AppleCare for some amazing customer support. On my recent trip to Omaha, the battery in my MacBook Pro (personally speaking the best laptop out there...) started to fail. It shut down my laptop even though the charge indicator showe hours of charge left.

When I got home yesterday, I called AppleCare - the customer service rep was excellent. She really knew her stuff, walking me through some trouble-shooting steps that I had already done myself, and she did it in a very professsional, non-condescending manner - a pleasant change from some of the tech support out there. She quickly resolved the issue, made arrangements for a new battery to be shipped to me free of charge (and I return the old battery the same way).

It was such a pleasure dealing with such a professional, engaged, and interested person. If you own a Mac and do not have AppleCare - go get, it's worth the money.

Thanks Apple Canada and you all have a Happy Canada Day! Bring on the iPhone!...

(Photo - Apple Logo from Apple Web site)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Building A Strengths-Based Campus Conference - Day One...

A great opening session - led by Idahlynn Karre - it was a conversation and a "River Walk" about strengths - you picked a "buddy" from the audience and went for a "walk" with them talking about strengths and how you handled the bends in the river, the smooth water, rapids, waterfalls, and tributaries in the river of your life - very cool - a great exercise that really started the conversations about strengths and their application.

The AHA! moment that I had is that tying strengths in with the development of learning environments and other engagement and retention practices could lead to better retention. Have learners do Strengths Quest as part of the initial advisement and enrollment process and then engage them throughout their stay at the college by getting them to reflect and confirm their strengths - maybe that way they would make a more informed decision on what programme best fits, they select a programme that works for them, and attrition drops. We could include strengths as a portfolio learning opportunity - have learners (and faculty and staff) reflect on how their strengths impact their learning, and their learning environments. This could help us identify early those learners at risk or in need of supports, advisement or other tools and resources that would enhance their lerning experience. Hmmm...

Breakout sessions start tomorrow - lots on engagement and retention (I sense a theme - it's what is really important to me right now as an educator) and how to implement Strengths Quest with faculty and learners...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Building A Strengths-Based Campus Conference - Strengths School...

Those of you who have followed my blog for any length of time know that I am a big proponent and fan of all things Web 2.0 and social networking as they relate to adult education. One of my favourite Web 2.0/social networking sites is Ning. At Ning you create your own social networks - it has amazing potential for setting up networks for programmes or courses.

One of the best uses of Ning that I have seen is the "virtualizing" of the Strengths-Based Campus conference that I will be attending starting tomorrow until Friday (I am currently in Omaha after a 12 hour travel day - OMG O'Hare is a zoo!). For those who cannot attend the conference in person, they can join Strengths School, a Ning network setup for the conference. Presentations, comments, feedback and conference notes will be posted to Strength School for all to see. So, if you cannot be here in Omaha, I highly recommend that you "attend" the conference by joining Strengths School.

Now THAT is social networking at its best...

Building A Strengths-Based Campus Conference...

I'm off in the morning to Omaha Nebraska to attend the Building A Strengths-Based Campus conference at Gallup University.

The research behind the strengths-based movement is the Strengths-Finder research developed by Donald O. Clifton. Srength Finders takes a positive approach to employee (or student) success - identifying your strengths and helping you identify strengths in others to help build optimal team and collaborative expeiences.

The actual Strengths Finders 2.0 instrument is a series of questions that ask you to choose from one of two possible answers. the scored instrument then returns your top five of a total of thirty-four identified strengths. My top five strengths are:
  1. Learner
  2. Intellection
  3. Input
  4. Developer
  5. Responsibility
Over the years I have taken a lot of tests to evaluate my personaity, tendencies and other aspects of my personality, aptitudes, and performance. I cam honsetly say that Strengths Finder has come the closest to describing who I think I am and who others think I am. The strengths listed here support my current job as an academic chair to a tee.

Over the three days of the conference I hope to learn how others have implemented the Strength-based approach at their institutions for both employee and learner success. We are in the process of adopting this approach at NSCC and I look forward to finding out the good, the bad, and the ugly of this success approach. I am a believer in its potential - I like its positivity and the approach of looking at strengths in people not of looking at what people do not do well. Let's focus on success...

(Photo from Strengths Finder 2.0 Web site)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Conference Prep - What A Concept

We've been sending faculty and staff to the STLHE (Society For Teaching and Learning In Higher Education) annual conference for three years now and NSCC is a STLHE institutional member. This year's conference is at the University of Windsor in Windsor, Ontario. I attended STLHE 2007 last year at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

The STLHE conference celebrates teaching and learning at the university and college level in Canada and attracts presenters and attendees from all over Canada and the world. It is a jammed-packed conference, like most, and for many the hardest thing is how to "attack" it and get the most out of the conference.

For the past two years we have taken an interesting approach to preparing our attendees before they attend STLHE. Current attendees along with past attendees are brought together off campus in a hotel meeting room to have a conversation and a meal - the conversation is "How to get the most out of STLHE (all of the attendees at STLHE (and any conference that we send people to) must prepare a report on their return to share what they have experienced and learned with the larger College community). the conversation strats with everyone introducing themselves and for the previous attendees adding what one thing they got the most of at STLHE.

We then talk about tips and hints - how to select what to see, how to "translate" the abstracts in the programme to get a quick understanding of the presentations, how to work together to maximize learning, what works and doesn't work while attending the conference and any other thoughts that come to mind. It gives the new attendees a sense of comfoert as they head off and builds our "STLHE alumni" community within the college.

As our president, Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair says, it's "a community of learners supporting a community of learners". What a great way to share knowledge and to ensure that learning opportunities are maximized - thanks very much to our Organizational Learning stff for including me in the process - it was a great way to reflect back on STLHE 2007 and to lok forward to hearing about what was learned at STLHE 2008...

STLHE 2008 logo from the conference Web site

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

History Happened And I Watched...

Last night history was made in the U.S. and I watched. Barack Obama won the Democratic presidential nomination after a long and hard campaign against Hillary Clinton in the prmary season, becoming the first person of colour to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. The political face of the the country changed last night and I think it changed for the better. The world-wide reputation of America is a little better this morning.

But will it stay that way? Now that the campaign will switch to a national campaign, the attention of the U.S. electorate will switch to McCain and Obama. Here is Senator McCain's speech from last night in New Orleans - the first shots of the national campaign have been fired and they were awkward at least in my mind:

Senator McCain's speech was a one of "I am good and my opponent is wrong and has crazy ideas", a typical old-style political speech, the same old, same old. He praised Hillary Clinton and took shots at Obama, a blatant attempt to win over disgruntled Clinton voters. Looks like the gloves are off. Now for something completely different - Barack Obama's victory speech from last night - it was conciliatory, upbeat, focussed on his new approach and started the national campaign off on a positive note:

But for me the last word, and the one that highlights for me what U.S. politics are all about is Hillary Clinton's speech from last night - she does not concede and say she will carry on. Is it to be part of the "dream" Obama/Clinton ticket? Is it because she says she won the popular vote even if she didn't win the most delegates (a system that I have always found odd), or is there another motivation? Either way, it is time for the Democrats to figure out that Obama is their nominee and that they need to get behind him if they hope to win the White House in the general election.

It's going to an interesting time from now until November, for the USA and the world...

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

NISOD 2008 - A Few Days On...

I've been home from NISOD 2008 now for six days now and I've had some time to reflect on the experience. What did NISOD 2008 do for me? What did I get out of attending NISOD 2008 and how will it influence me and how I do my job over the next few months?

All great questions that I need to answer in order to take in the NISOD experience. I'd like to compare it to my attendance at STLHE 2007, a very similar conference focussed on teaching and learning being held this year at the University of Windsor.

Both conferences were about teaching and learning - at NISOD 2008 I got to see the issues and concerns of the U.S. community colleges and realized that we share many of the same issues with engagement and retention, with literacy and numeracy, and with reaching our current generations of learners. I also came to see that there are many differences between us and the U.S. based community colleges - teaching chairs, more adjunct faculty, less learning and teaching resources and that we are doing a good job at NSCC meeting the needs of our learners and supporting faculty and staff. I saw many of the exact same issues at STLHE, so these issues are not isolated or restricted to one country - they are in many ways systemic issues that we all must address.

At NISOD I got to listen to, meet, and talk with (briefly) to Vincent Tinto, who is to me the expert on engaging and retaining learners, particularly in that critical first semester of their college experience. I will take away a lot of what he presented and incorporate it in my practice. If you are an educator who is at all concerned about engagement and retention take a look at Tinto's work.

I got to spend a great two hours listening to Ron Berk talk about and demonstrate the use of humour and multimedia in the millennial classroom - check out his work too - it will add a lot to what you can do in your classrooms and online spaces.

I got to sit in on other good presentations that I have already posted about, all of which have given me ideas that should make me better at what I do. I met some amazing people, go to hang out with several colleagues from NSCC, and even got some shopping and sight-seeing in!

I have taken away from NISOD that we are doing a good job at NSCC and that we need to celebrate that more - one way that I can do that is to go back to conferences like NISOD and STLHE, but the next time go back as a presenter, sharing what it is that makes us who we are at NSCC...

NISOD 2008 - Closing Session And Excellence Awards...

This being my first NISOD conference I was not sure what to expect at the closing general session. It was very well done. For the past 20 years NISOD has been awarding excellence awards to educators (faculty, staff, administrators and others) from member institutions. the member institutions develop their own criteria and nominate their employees. the employees who attend NISOD are identified by the medals they wear around their necks for the duration of the conference (and quite possibly beyond - who knows?)

One of the coolest part of the closing ceremony was asking the award winners to take off their medals and to hand it to a friend, loved one or the person next to them. This person was then asked to ceremoniously place the medal around the neck of the award winner - a very nice touch.

NISOD 2008 was a very interesting conference with a lot of great ideas and discussions. I'll wrap it up in my next post...

NISOD 2008 - Getting To The Collaboration Zone - Professional Development That Results In Action...

The last breakout session that I attended was presented by two colleagues of mine from NSCC, Shelley Zwicker and Todd Verge. There presentation was about a faculty self-developed and self-directed professional development programme known as the Faculty Learning College Portfolio or FLCP. the FLCP is a five-year plan with significant reviews built in that upon successful completion adds $5,000.00 to the faculty member's salary.

The began by reviewing the FLCP which is a self-defined and self-determining PD programme. It is based upon the idea of Significant Learning espoused by Dee Fink. One of the big issue of developing the FLCP is determining what is needed - what is significant learning? I know that when I developed my own FLCP plan that I spent a lot of time figuring this out only to realize that a lot of my significant learning, being IT faculty (at the time) was simply staying current in my field, so that became one of the learning activities of my plan.

Another key element of the FLCP is aligning it with NSCC's strategic plan, mission and vision. there are four currencies that need to be addressed in the plan as well:
  • Teaching/Facilitating Learning - Includes activities that support faculty efforts to acquire, enhance, and continuously update and demonstrate understanding of learning theories and innovative practices.
  • Occupational/Professional - Includes activities that support faculty efforts to maintain and continually update the relevancy of their occupational and professional skills and knowledge
  • Organizational - includes activities that support faculty efforts to sustain awareness, support, and promote the strategic directions of the College and its values.
  • Portfolio - Incorporates all the learning achieved throughout the Faculty Learning College Portfolio experience.
Each learning activity developed for your FLC must address each of these currencies.

The presentation ended with some of the issues that occurred while going through the FLCP planning process. Creating an appropriate scope and depth is important to the success of your FLCP as is managing the scope through the life of the plan. Several challenges were also pointed out by Todd and Shelley:
  • Getting buy-in - believing in the value of the FLCP is important
  • Midway changes in direction - not a bad thing s many fields will change significantly over a five year period, but one that needs to be addressed
  • Intellectual property - needs to be clarified to the satisfaction of all
  • Culture of trust and sharing - a big part of the FLCP is the portfolio - the sharing of what you have learned with your colleagues and the body of knowledge of the college.
The FLCP is a great PD opportunity that wold work at any college focussed on being learning centred...