Today is Earth Day. So What?! Foster an Elephant!

SiangikiToday, April 22, is Earth Day, “a day to honor the Earth and the concept of peace.” While there are lots of ways to think of today, which just happens to be a beautiful spring day in New York City where I am, the Earth Day Network offers lots of suggestions for calls to action.

Sure, we can promote laws to help reduce the impact of climate change, plant trees, or volunteer to clean parks. All worthy projects on their own and all of which help us to get out of our offices, homes, and routines to interact with nature in some way.

Or, we can foster an elephant orphan.

This is what I did, fostering Siangiki, a little baby elephant … 


2013 Has Come and Gone; How Did I Do?

The end of 2013 has come and gone, and no better time than the present to consider how I did with my 2013 Intentions for the year. I posted these on the top of my site so they would always be at the ready.

Let’s review what I intended and how well I did.

  1. I Will Finish My Doctoral Thesis (Dissertation) — I passed and was awarded my PhD forthwith on March 25, 2013. I then walked in the graduation ceremony on December 11, 2013.
  2. I will Publish an Article — I have it drafted and am planning to submit it within 2 weeks. Fingers crossed!
  3. I will Build a Consistent Online Presence [Twitter, LinkedIn,, ResearchGate and my own professional website — I have revised 75% of my site (most of it on the back-end with template and hosting), and am 80% completed with being consistent across my online life. Once the website is completed, I will take that consistency and apply it to the other social media and networking sites.
  4. I will drink 2 liters of Water Each Day — my dislike of measuring and numbers-without-context means that I have successfully increased my daily water consumption.

Given all this, my verdict is that I am happy with my progress, though not fully satisfied. Perhaps in this the notion of onward and upward, making progress along the way and keeping focused on moving forward is what is most important? To be fair, I am not sure I could ever be fully satisfied, even if I did complete each of the goals / intentions I set. I believe that is the point with these things, they give us something to strive toward.

Some progress is better than none at all!


Does Collective Learning = Organizational Exploitation? #change11

I had a really interesting comment from Allison Littlejohn in reaction to the Week 4 #change11 MOOC discussion on Collective Learning we are having this week. In her examples about collective learning in organizations or the workplace (or even academia), they all involve crowdsourcing or wisdom of crowds or greater learning by the collective than individually. That is wonderful for the development of large ideas or to solve seemingly inflexible problems, but what happens in the process to the individual?

Sure, the individual can relish in the personal learning, the sense of being part of something much larger, and the experience. However, who owns the product, or the solution? Whose value increases as a result of all that individual work? Yes, the organization or the corporation or the government. Perhaps the shareholders or owners or leadership? Ultimately, the collective benefits those who control it, while the individual components to the collective get swept up into the final product with the individual having little to tangibly show for the efforts. Without a vested interest on the individual level, the collective could probably not be effective.

Now, I have worked in nonprofits and academic institutions for years, and believe in the mission and vision of those organizations where I spend much of my time. I know that when I contribute to the collective, some aspect of society (and not shareholders) get the value of those efforts. However, can’t collective learning be leveraged to exploit the individual members by not giving them credit, or reward, or acknowledgment for their contributions? Can “doing thing for the common good” be said for the benefit of the few, and not necessarily of the many? Thinking in the context of WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?), what is my WIIFM for participating in any formal or organized collective learning experience, if I will not in some way benefit from all my efforts?

Outside of my personal and informal reasons for engaging in collective learning, what is my WIIFM for doing it when others will leverage (exploit?) the results? I am not asking this in a greedy or selfish way, but there is only so much time and energy, and I have to wonder how easily (cf. hegemony) it is to work together, with only a few reaping the significant benefits. Are individuals exploited under the guise of corporate or organizational collective learning?

Goodness, I am now wondering about a potential connection between collective learning and critical management studies!


Ken Robinson: Changing Education Paradigms & #change11

I just came across this thought-provoking video Ken Robinson: Changing Education Paradigms, and thought others who may have missed it may find the visualization of the TED talk engaging. It does certainly resonate with the collective learning work of Allison Littlejohn in this week’s #change11 MOOC course!


Twenty-First Century Community Education: Using Web-Based Tools to Build on Horton’s Legacy

I clapped when Joyce S. McKnight, the presenter, said that she was not planning to use PowerPoint. She is at Empire State College (in NY) in the Center for Distance Learning. She coordinates community and human services. She is an advocate of the Highlander Model (cf. Myles Horton). She focuses on narratives, as life is a story. I like her approach already.

I remember the first time I read Freire (and then Horton)—it blew my mind. I never considered education as a political topic, but the more I think about how those in power continue to teach the structures that maintain the power relationships and often the status quo (though veiled as change).

Oh, we are introducing ourselves (so fitting for a session on Horton) and mentioning what we hope to get out of this session. I am starting to get concerned, now that we are 15 minutes into the 45 minutes session, and we have only 1/2 of us introduced thus far. Looking out the window now (we are an inside-the-courtyard-facing room), I am noticing how some of the bricks on the inside look like they are going to need significant reconstruction. Ouch.

Ohh, just heard Vygotsky. Sweet. Another author who books adorn my shelves that have never been read.

Empire State College in NY college is exploding in the size of their Center for Distance Education.

Joyce is speaking about Horton, who speaks about community / labor organizer. Joyce is not about organizing communities—she is about helping others learn how to learn and do it.

Oooh, she is using the white board to show the model she developed and is using. First time I have seen this done here in the conference. Nicely refreshing . . . Now, the problem is I cannot read her writing on the board.

She is now speaking about one of her students who offered to have a community meeting online at his site, Having 2 pugs myself, and I am now fully riveted. Having a set time online allows for more flexibility (with children, travel, etc.).

How do what Horton did in a F2F setting in an online context?

The course includes a process of thinking, which has a research agenda. This has a space

I am now getting lost with the drawing on the board, and while I like seeing how this develops, I think it could have been shown much more clearly using a PowerPoint build into the model, as that would allow her to still have the same discussion but for us to also see what she is writing (in a somewhat confusing graphical way) on the board. As Joyce has mentioned now more than once that she is having trouble reading her own writing, need I say more . . .

So, how can we do something online in the same way that Highlander did under Horton. How can we make a space, enhance the spirit of working together and social action, in a place that is virtual (and how we can understand this as a process). ARRRRRRGGGHHHHHHHH! Another drawing on the board . . .

This model should also include (as per Highlander):

  • self-directed
  • connection / collaboration
  • peaceful
  • interactive
  • reflective
  • safe space
  • transcendental
  • energy

She is using Elluminate, Facebook, and other tools like this.

I think there are a lot  of interesting things she is doing, and am a little disappointed that she has not gotten to the point that she wanted to get to (as she acknowledged), as we are out of time and she mentioned that she is out of time because she did not know what time the session ended. It is unfortunate that she is continuing to present, acknowledging that the time has ended, though now half the people have left the session.

I think Joyce probably has a lot of amazing things to share about community organizing and how to teach it, though the information somehow did not fully come across. I want to read her paper and speak with her more about this as I am very interested in the work of Horton and how to bring it into an online world.

I wonder what Joyce’s work at Empire State (my home state) College is all about? Sounds like a very interesting program . . .


Expecations and Barack Obama

Tomorrow is the day when the 8 years of the second Bush administration finally comes to an end. The torture, elimination of civil rights and privacy, unfocused war on 2 fronts, banking and economic meltdown, increasing global climatic change, systematic elimination of ecological habitats, lack of international respect and pride, increase in reliance on imported oil and countless other products, increase in unemployment, explosion in debt, larger government than we have had in generations, and more disatrous social policies to name, will not be a quick or easy fix for the next administration.

Nevertheless, Barack Obama is more popular than any incoming president in years.

Moreover, there are almost impossibly high hopes for him to affect the very change he has promised.

Will Obama’s “Hope We Can Believe In” live up to expectations? Perhaps the question should instead be reveresed–how horrible if it cannot.

I wonder if the consensus is so dire that any improvement will be welcome, even if only a few minor steps? I wonder if things have gotten so bad that the American people will forgive Obama for taking longer on fixing the nation than we would with others, partly because he seems to be such a good person, partly because we have so far to climb, and partly because everything seems so broken that where else can we go but up?

This may be a singulalry unique political opportunity, one that we may not see again for some time. Whatever the case, my experience shows it is easier to get into debt than out of it, easier to put on weight than take it off, easier to become self-righteous and intollerant than to collaborate and focus on inclusion. I wonder if the same may be true for this large and complex country?

Barack, we do put our hope and trust in you. At this point, we are nearly out of any other options, and only hope it is not to late.

Then again, by the fact that I am freely writing and publishing this blog post, it seems hope may still be alive.


Director of Strategic Reflection

I attended an online book discussion within my organization recently, and there was a very interesting question the class facilitator ended the session with. He asked:

If we were to write our own ideal job title, what would it be? 

I thought that was the grandest thought-provoking question I have encountered in some time, and came up with “Director of Strategic Reflection.”

As a proponent of reflective practice within an ongoing learning organization, I think those of us within human resource development, adult education, communication, and organizational development would greatly benefit from more active (both structured and unstructured) reflection. How else can we identify the assumptions and patterns of behavior that stifle us from moving forward to create a more just and aware organizational structure and society itself? We who engage in organizational, management, and leadership studies know that when people within an organization are more aligned within one another and with the mission and vision, then the organization itself is stronger and healthier.

What would your ideal job title be, and what impact would it have?