Innovation

Is Lions SHARE Truly Disruptive?

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I’m fat. 

No, this isn’t a cry for help, nor is it a cute trick to get your attention.  It’s a fact to say that I’m overweight.  Actually, according to any organization using the BMI (like the Government or my insurance company), I’m technically obese.

I try to take solace in knowing that Evander Holyfield, one time heavyweight champion of the world, has always been classified as obese, since the number is solely about weight and height, taking into consideration nothing about muscle mass, etc.

Two identical BMI imagesBut I also know that I’m no Evander Holyfield.  Yes, I’ve always been “big boned” and at 6’5” I’ve always been a “big guy.”  And while some people (like my loving wife) tell me I’m “proportionate”, I know I am heavier than I should be.  To put it as bluntly, but delicately as possible – clothing does great things for me.  So when my life insurance moved into a higher bracket solely because of my BMI number….it was disappointing, but expected.  Forget my heart health, digestive health, exercise habits, etc.  It would take losing a leg to make my numbers work for me.  Sigh.

You might wonder if I’m possibly depressed or simply trying to be over the top for the purpose of gaining your attention.  Nope.  I’m trying to show you that I know what I know.  It used to drive my parents crazy.  I can honestly and (seemingly) correctly diagnose myself, my family, a person, or an organization where they are lacking pretty easily.  Even recently I had both my DISC and Myers-Briggs profiles evaluted again and two different practitioners explained that I have a keen sense of what is actual, while maintaining an understanding of what is possible.  This skill has essentially been used to promote a lot of ideas over time and when added to an understanding of effective public speaking, seems to have helped me get in front of more than 200, large audiences as a keynote speaker over the past 25 years.

Now you may think I’m bragging.  Fair enough.  The book “Nudge” (2008) tells us that just about everyone over-exaggerates their abilities and capabilities in most facets of life.  (This can’t possibly apply to educators!  See: Dunning–Kruger Effect.)  Most people believe themselves to be “better than average” at their job, at parenting, at being a spouse, at driving…at just about everything.  But obviously that’s impossible.  Average is average and there has to be a number above average and a number below.

Jeff playing the trumpet in high school

Jeff as a high school trumpet player

But part of what I’m talking about here is that I don’t actually believe myself to be better than average at most things.  I got a full ride scholarship in college as a trumpet major because I was probably one of the 5 best, high school horn players in Denver, CO.  Then I got to college and realized I wasn’t even close to great, especially compared to all Colorado musicians, let alone the world.  I took 18th in the Disc Golf World Championships in 2005, but I did so at one of two venues where I had a distinct (possibly unfair) advantage.  Flagstaff, Arizona is at the same elevation as Denver and throwing discs at altitude is monumentally different than just about anywhere else.  I try and likely struggle to be a good husband and decent father…but actually, I have no idea how I stack up to other people there.  See, when it comes to what I’m “better than average” at, I can only point to a few things.  And like an idiot, years ago I picked things that have so much subjectivity to them, it’s almost impossible to accurately tell anyway.  I have read about, practiced, evaluated, and thoroughly studied Human CommunicationBut just about everyone thinks they can do that.  (I actually had the husband of a peer during our Master’s program say, “Communication?  They actually have to teach that?”)  I’ve dedicated 25-30,000 hours studying methods, theories, and practicing teaching.  But just about everyone thinks they can do that too.  Give them a classroom and subject matter they connect with and many believe the rest is easy.

But those two things likely deserve their own blogs.  I’m digressing and having a hard time getting back to my point.  (Thereby suggesting that I may also not be the world’s best blogger…)

My point is that when it comes to accurately assessing people, processes, and skills, I’m pretty objective.  It’s lead to trouble for sure.  (Try telling a motivational speaker or a life-long teacher that their career path was not a good choice…)  BUT, I’ve been hired, given raises, and asked to both write and speak about that very ability by others, so I don’t think it’s just my own ego at work.  And all of that is to say this:  Saint Leo has just done something remarkable that I’ve never seen a university or college do before…Introducing: Lions SHARE!

lions-share-connecting-experiences-logoYep.  No hype, no over-exaggerating, and no spin.  After traveling the globe looking at how other universities operate, at the strategic initiatives, and at the “innovation” they all claim to have, I can say with tremendous confidence that we are now poised to transform teaching and learning, at scale.

How?  Well, for starters, I have been allowed to manage 8 different streams coming together so as to holistically transform the experience for both students and faculty at Saint Leo.  (Think of 8 different offices at most schools…or better yet, 8 different silos!)  But the cross-functional team of people I’ve been working with for the past 18 months have done….well, more than I could have imagined.

In my previous job, I was known as the busiest guy at the company.  My calendar was always packed and my inbox saw 200-250 emails per day.  Well, I’m busier than ever before.  I think I need to now add “jam” to the “packed” notion.  I mean, looking over the past 3 months, I only found 5 slots of 30 minutes without a meeting.  Why?  Because all of the initiatives, integrations, and strategies coming together required us to work hard, smart, and together.

In my global travels, I have seen some uninspiring things touted as learning innovation.  I saw one-off classes trying to bring technology to bear or a single professor attempting to pilot a methodology with 25 of his students…no consideration for replicability at all!  Not to mention the research schools who were so busy worrying about statistical significance that they couldn’t make anything transformative happen at scale if they wanted to. Instead, we’re rolling out transformative tools, processes, and using people to better the experience for all 15,000 Saint Leo students.  It’s a multi-pronged, multi-phased, and multi-modal approach that rips apart some of the old, adds in some new, maintains some of the excellent, and fixes some of the problems along the way.  It’s ed tech, for sure, but it’s not just about the tools – (and that’s all they really are) – it’s about empowering over 1100 professors to employ best practices while maintaining a consistency of excellence for all of our students.  It’s about helping motivate students, not just informing them.  It’s about ensuring “best” instruction and assessment.  It’s about dousing the process with strategies from Dweck and Medina, all the while adding tools that give us learning analytics with legitimate (hand to God) artificial intelligence.

You should be skeptical.  I would be.  People have been seeking out this “white whale” for a long time.  But I believe we’ve captured it.  I believe we’ll see quick gains and improve mightily and consistently over time.  Will it be perfect?  Never.  Will we have some people who just don’t get it or whom we need to ask to take their particular brand of education elsewhere?  Sure.  But part of the reason I came to Saint Leo in the first place is the overabundance of good people.  More than any other University I’ve ever seen, a greater percentage of professors really want to do right by students and are willing to learn new ways and see new ideas.  More administrators are willing to take risks with innovative concepts, backing experimental models.  More staff are interested in doing what it takes to fix the problems of old.

I’m telling you…we haven’t yet jumped from US News & World Report’s, “Best Value Schools” (#26) to the “Most Innovative Schools” list yet.  The Chronicle may not report on this disruption tomorrow, as we don’t have a billion-dollar endowment and they aren’t trolling our website.  But regardless of any press we may or may not get, this is happening.  And soon enough, people are going to stand up and take notice.

How do I know?  Because spotting disruptive learning innovation is one of the few things I’m good at.  Now I’m going to go eat a rice cake and call my insurance agent again…

Good luck and good learning.

Dr. Jeff D Borden
Chief Innovation Officer
Saint Leo University – Home of the new Lions SHARE learning ecosystem…

 

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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