Innovation

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The title of this blog is one of my favorite lines from a classic Mike Meyers movie, “So I Married An Axe Murderer.”  It’s said, in the comedian’s signature Scottish accent from a drunken father to his son, as a cynical good-bye.  It’s dripping with context and meaning far beyond the words.  And I think I’ve finally reached the point at Saint Leo where it applies to me…

TampaRadiusSee, I finally experienced a famous quote about experts in education.  Perhaps you’ve heard it?  It goes like this, “In order to be an educational expert, you have to come from at least 50 miles away…” or something like that.  Have you heard it?  Because it’s now hit me right between the eyes over the past few weeks.  I’ll try to show you how.  Take heart as the next few paragraphs are not meant to brag, but to lay the foundation for the juxtaposition thereafter.  Read on and you’ll see…

Let me paint the picture of Yin and Yang for you.  I’ll start with 3 comments from 3 separate speaking engagements – one in Canada, one in Connecticut, and one in Orlando, about a 90 minute drive from my current location.  All three presentations were given to audiences of Higher Education  and two of them were for audiences of around 500.  Let me start with the farthest distance and work my way home.

Canada produced the following Twitter responses during my keynote & workshops on Education 3.0, learning innovation, and learning design:  “@bordenj raised the roof at #LCmobile!”; “@bordenj gave the wake up call that’s finally been reverberating thru education halls in the last few years”; and “Wow…best plenary session I’ve ever been to…”  Not bad, right?  I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that I connected some important educational points for the audience, do you?

Let me head south to Connecticut, where I received one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received.  A former professor turned entrepreneur came up after the presentation and said emphatically, “If you are really creating teaching and learning like this (Education 3.0) at Saint Leo, you are not only giving your school an edge like no other, but you’re actually fixing higher ed…”  Again, this seems like a connection to important progress from a source I consider reliable.

Finally, just a little over 100 miles to the East, I gave the keynote talk (almost 2 full hours) for the faculty development day at a state college.  The packed room erupted into a standing ovation.  The participants explained that they would make changes to their teaching immediately and sent emails to their administrators stating the same thing.  It was hands down the best reaction I’ve ever gotten from an audience in 20 years of speaking.

LikeDislikeAll in all, not bad, right?  3 sessions in less than 3 weeks seemed to show that my message of Education 3.0 is not only on-target, but both inspiring and applicable.

So, let’s now go back to the saying from above.  Let me tell you about a few more interactions, this time at my own school.

Do you know the app “Yik Yak?”  It’s an anonymous posting app that creates a real-time feed during live events for anyone on the social media platform.  I’ve discovered in my short time at Saint Leo that the instructors don’t like it very much as the students can say some pretty rude, crude, and out-of-control things through the back-channel.  But I soon discovered it isn’t only students who actually use Yik Yak….professors do too.

Go to mid-May, the last week of faculty being on campus before the summer break.  I’ve been asked to explain some of the Learning Innovation elements I’m spearheading to the professoriate prior to dismissal.  I stand up to deliver my 7 minute message and the Yik Yak posts begin.  (I would later find out.)  “Oh, here we go!” was the first post during my message.  It was followed by, “Here come the buzz words!”  I believe someone then stated, “Somebody shoot me now!”  And it went on from there.  Wow.  And you thought students were brutal!

Fast forward about a week.  I’m talking with another VP with whom I have become very good friends.  He is a straight shooter, extremely analytical, and very funny to boot.  So, he sits me down to explain that I’m “scaring” some faculty with my initiatives and my words.  “How so?” I ask.  He then explains that some of the faculty are frustrated that during my talks, I mention other countries.  Wait, what?  I ask for further explanation.  He goes on to say that whenever I am in front of a group at Saint Leo, I let them know that I’ve spoken with educators (faculty and administrators) from multiple states and many countries about innovations and ideas.  I try to emphasize that I’ve seen other people and other schools both win and lose in regard to various innovations, and then I try to illustrate that we should follow some paths while avoiding others.  But apparently, my attempt to illustrate credibility – the kind of persuasion and argumentation training I was given and that I also give to students – is off putting to my colleagues.  They don’t care about work done elsewhere, nor do they seem to feel problems or victories at other Universities might apply to them.

LoveHateDo you see my dilemma?  Forget the success I had with these same professors for years prior to coming to Saint Leo.  Now, I am a person who represents possible change, perceived power, and an agenda.  My message is not as inspiring as it is frightening.

Look, I get it.  Change is hard under almost any circumstance with almost any organization.  Especially hard is when there is simply a suggestion that change “might be coming” and not overt.  But this isn’t really a surprise to me.  I’ve seen it throughout my entire career, both in the first as well as the third person.

It’s also important to know that this is not prolific.  I have already made some tremendous faculty partnerships and even a few friends along the way at Saint Leo.  I continue to meet and work with new people every week.  I know for some this is simply a matter of time.  After two years, some will trust me just…well, just because.  I had a Chair whom I have come to respect tremendously say it this way, “It’s a shame that everyone has to come to any University automatically suspect, but I suppose it will always be that way…”

So, as we start down the road of Education 3.0, Learning Innovation, and Learning Design, I’ll make friends and win champions along the way.  I’ll likely make a few people frustrated too – it’s inevitable really.  But what got me to come to Saint Leo in the first place has not changed.  I am laser focused on improving student learning and Saint Leo represents the most fertile ground I’ve seen at any University to make that stick.  The culture is driven to innovate and do better.  The majority of faculty are ready to try new things and change the measurement paradigm from things that are easy to things that are important, even if that means they require a bit more effort.

That is my remit, my passion, and my effort right now.  (And yes, I know I talk in edu-speak sometimes…it’s likely a condition from my previous employment as well as the copious reading I do around transforming education…I’m trying to quit, but my wife would tell you, it’s how I talk!)  So I hope you’ll all stay tuned as we start making headway.  We’ve already started to tackle the transformation.  The infrastructure is being set.  The right technology is being integrated.  The innovations have begun.  And the culture is primed for movement (thank you to ALL who helped create a culture like this…)

Good luck and good learning my friends.

Dr. Jeff D Borden
Chief Innovation Officer

About Jeff Borden

My title at work is ‘Chief Innovation Officer.’ So I'm trying to transform teaching and learning at scale. How do I do that? Through my "life" jobs. Primarily, I'm a dad and husband. But I'm also a professor, writer, professional speaker, comedian, researcher, lifelong learner, musician, dog-owner, and even a ranked disc golfer... I've spoken to, trained, or consulted with hundreds of thousands of educators at all levels, in numerous countries, K-20, about how to teach and learn effectively in the 21st Century.

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