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Monday, January 21, 2019

Online Collaboration Opens the World for Introverts

I am currently facilitating a teacher professional development class on Office 365.  The thrust of the professional development isn't so much how to actually use Office 365, but how and why to integrate these tools in instruction.

A participant recently analyzed a lesson plan on Virtual Field trips.  She commented that Skype for Business would enhance the lesson by allowing students in small groups to communicate with different classrooms in different countries throughout the world.  She stated her belief that this type of activity would engage the child in the back of the room.  Her goal is to make "everyone feel needed and allow all children to collaborate."

That, of course, made me think about the children in the back of the room and the pop culture interest in the Meyers-Briggs personality profiles.  I was that kid, if not in the back of the room, that seldom engaged.  I am an INTJ or an INFJ, depending on what day I take the assessment.  (Actually, in one assessment where I saw a map of my answers, I found I was near the middle in most categories except for being strongly introvert.)  Here is my response to her post, from the prospective of an introvert who may have never contributed in an academic setting were it not for online learning.

It's interesting that you mentioned the kid in the back of the class.  I felt more connected to the instructor and other class members during my distance education masters program than I did in any of my face-to-face undergrad classes at WVU.  I had a hard time speaking up.  I think basically it was the competition for attention.  I was never inclined to compete.
My masters program from the University of South Carolina was delivered via satellite and telephone connection. One-way video and two-way audio connected my class at the public library to the instructor at USC.  We communicated outside of class via email.  Three to five people attended the classes in Morgantown with me, although there were many other sites throughout the state.  
It was very easy for me to communicate and collaborate in this setting.  Maybe it was the visual anonymity, or perhaps it was the collegial nature of the small group that encouraged me to participate.  All I can say for sure is that the experience sold me on distance education.  Those were the pioneer days; look what it's become now.  It's as common as washing your hands.
I hope you are able to incorporate as many of these experiences as possible.  The introverts in your room will love you even more."
While Meyers-Briggs itself may be a passing fad, I believe the benefits on small groups and online learning for introverts are very real.  We all can shine on a small stage, but all these stages combine to create learning of global significance. 

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Dear President Bush 43

Dear President Bush (43)n and family:

Along with the nation, I mourn the loss of your father, grandfather and great-grandfather. While their is more than ample tributes written to George H. W. by those who knew him well, I offer one from a person who never had same opportunity.

I wish I had met your dad.  I would have loved to have sat down with him, have an iced tea, and listen to his perspective on government today.  I would like to hear his thoughts on the Middle East, North Korea, China.  I want to know his ideas about breaking the racial, religious and ideological divides that are wrecking our country.  I want to know how he thinks we can bring people together.

I want to hear of his adventures as a fighter pilot through his own voice.  My dad's first cousin was shot down over Formosa.  Maybe their paths crossed.  What future leaders did he encounter in his military career? 

I would love to have heard of his work with the CIA, but I am sure he would not be permitted to disclose any pertinent information.  I would love to have known how he feels about social media and the attacks on the free press.  I would love to know how he would deal with the Khashoggi incident, but being a gentleman and true patriot, he would decline answering this question, lest he might impose upon President Trump's authority.

He would have been an excellent professor.  He has seen the world through the lenses of poverty and wealth, freedom and fascism, communism and democracy and all points between these continua. Students would never miss a class.

I am certain he was the perfect patriarch.  I know his loss to your family cannot be measured in words or tears.  I know this is just one of the many condolences being written.  I know you will be flooded with condolences.  I hope you find time to read them all.

Once again, with the rest of America, I am sorry for your loss.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Negotiating Our Self-Perceptions

It's a shame we rely on tests and quizzes to determine who we are.

I am a self-pr0fessed Facebook quiz junkie.  "What Color is My Aura?"  "Which great queen was I in a past life?"  "What state do you live in?"  "Can you identify these 60s TV shows?"  If the topic is something I can relate to in the slightest, I take the quiz, even though most of the questions have little relevance to my life.

Incidentally, my aura is green, I live in Texas (I have never been), I scored 49/50 on the 60s TV shows, and I was England's Elizabeth  I in a past life.  I feel bad for Good Queen Bess; imagine how fractured her soul must be with the millions of people taking this quiz!

My most recent obsession has been all the Meyers-Briggs inventories and how those results affect our daily lives.  "How do you handle stress based on your Meyers-Briggs type?"  You get the idea

The interesting thing is that I am pretty confident who I am.  At least I ought to be.  A week away from my 59th birthday, I am the most at peace as I have ever been in my life.  Sure, there are trifles, but overall I have been very lucky, or as I prefer to think, blessed.  For the most part, I am not too worried about what the masses think of me, and I seldom am concerned with making a good impression on strangers.  It's not that I don't care about what people think of me; it's just that I am general not in a place in life where the people I meet will affect my livlihood, or for the most part, my social life.  I am enjoy talking to people, but that's about it.

What brings me to this post is a blog post by Dr. Tasha Eurich on Dr. Eurich has a doctorate in organization psychology. She is an author, motivational speaker and consultant that works with career growing and corporate culture.  The post I read on Medium involves the value of first-impressions and how we as humans self-condition to expect rejection.  According to the research, people generally have higher opinions of us than we do of ourselves.  Ironically, according to Eurich, we almost all also tend to believe we are above average in many areas.  

" Most of us hold statistically impossible beliefs that we are above average in everything, from intelligence to attractiveness toacademic aptitude to job performance to driving ability."

 The contradictions both confound and amuse me.  While I don't think people will dislike me, I worry about not receiving the respect I feel is due, maybe because of gender or weight, past employment, or even my Appalachian heritage.  Hubris gets the better of me every time I meet people who convey the impression of superiority.  I don't feel inferior, but I worry folks will think I am.  The desire to make a supreme impression often tends to make one look like a jerk. If I meet Joe Average on the street, I have no preconceived notions of their expectations and come off like the friendly person I think I am.  

As I have become older, I have become more humble.  I realize more shortcomings.  As certain skills decrease I curse, but ultimately, I can laugh at myself.

Humility is an acquired attribute, one that comes with age and human experience. Soon I may not care in the least about respect or lack thereof.  I get closer each day.  Eurich"s research and skills are meant for the young that are still making their mark on the world.  Hopefully many young people will listen to her words.  They will be better, happier sooner if they do.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Professionalism Coming to the Trump Cabinet

Breaking with Tradition

No longer in keeping with the tradition that everyday is "Take Your Child to Work Day," President Trump has appointed four-star general John Abizaid to be the new ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Abizaid has great experience with Middle East relations, including working for the Bush Administration.  According to, diplomatic relations with the Saudi government was previously handled by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Experience Beyond Cabinet Level'

Those who may question the political viewpoint  of a former Bush Administration appointee may find relevant and reassuring information about Abizaid in his Department of Defense biography.  There one will find a variety of commands and qualifications, including:
General Abizaid commanded the 3rd Battalion, 325th Airborne Battalion combat Team in Vicenza, Italy, during the Gulf crisis and deployed with the battalion to Kurdistan in Northern Iraq. His brigade command was the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division. He served as the Assistant Division Commander, 1st Armored Division, in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Following that tour, he served as the 66th Commandant at West Point. Later, he commanded 1st Infantry Division, the “Big Red One,” in Wurzburg which provided our first ground forces into Kosovo. He served as the Deputy Commander (Forward), Combined Forces Command, US Central Command during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.

In addition, according to CNN, Abizaid speaks Arabic fluently.  It would be difficult to find someone with more complete qualifications.

 Does This Mean Our President is Growing Up?

Let's not get too excited.  While this and other recent appointments do show some thought to outcomes, it is too early to make huge predictions.   Trump, in a more recent interview with Chris Wallace, called the media "enemies of the public" that are responsible for widespread violence in our country.  Wallace reminded him that he does not get to decide what is true or fake for the American people.

Time will tell if Trump continues to make rational qualified appointments.  Let's hope so.