Tag Archive: Innovation


Innovation, Adaptation, and Change

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Our students maneuver the world in ways that are astonishing.  Rapid innovation that allows them to access, share, store, and manipulate information with increasing speed has been almost dizzying for digital immigrants who must be intentional about adapting these changes to the learning environment.  Electronic modes of communication have evolved from the time of Samuel Morse and Alexander Graham Bell to now with individual and group texting for students who prefer to text rather than talk; Morse would probably be happier about this than Bell.  Further, increased bandwidth has allowed the evolution of video conversations to multiple people participating from a distance with near-in-person communication; imagine what Bell would have thought about this!

In education, we organize educational material in course management systems with increasing bells and whistles and even adapt the learning environment by engaging students in classes with thoughtful use of the technology they carry to access the world.  Increasing access to information and the cost of higher education have resulted in many of our students coming to SUNY Plattsburgh with a significant number of college credits they earned through dual enrollment programs; some of the courses were taken online.

We are challenged with the need to innovate, adapt, and change as many students come to us with increasing technological skills and with curricular needs that may fit into a three-year model rather than a four-year model.  We must remain intentional about adapting ways students access the world into our pedagogy.  We also must be aware of gaps that result from overuse of technology and help our students develop good interpersonal skills that occur face-to-face, especially when it comes to managing conflict.

All of this provides context for a few questions that can be framed in our shared values:

Excellence in Teaching

  • Given our commitment to academic quality, what ways must we innovate, adapt and change to meet the educational needs of our current students?
  • As more students come to college with greater numbers of general education credits, how do we adapt our traditional curricular models to ensure students leave with what we value in a college education given our commitment to liberal arts?
  • What are the best approaches for supporting students who have not had the privilege of AP courses, especially those who need some remedial support, graduate from college in four years?

Professionalism

  • How do we build stronger bridges between Academic Affairs and Student Affairs to collaborate in a whole-person approach to students’ development?
  • What are the best approaches to strengthening face-to-face communication skills across the curriculum?

Inclusion/Culturally Responsive

  • With increasing numbers of racially diverse students who enrich the academic learning environment, how do we as individuals and members of a complex system need to adapt to improve communication, pedagogy, and an overall supportive campus culture/climate/community?
  • With appreciation for cultural differences in family involvement, what are the best ways to improve communication with families of our students?

Our ability to innovate, adapt, and change will chart a successful course for our future and the future for our students.  Exploring creative approaches together is exciting and focuses our energies in the right places.

Bonus:

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First image (September 27, 2016). Retrieved on April 23, 2017 from: https://m.yourstory.com/2016/09/book-review-innovation-is-a-state-of-mind-innovation-is-good-business-but-it-can-also-be-good-life-new-book-gives-creative-tips/

Second image (March 11, 2009). Retrieved on April 23, 2017 from: https://www.slideshare.net/mobile/hblowers/innovation-quotes

The Potter’s Perspective

 

 

Pot 1

During my last semester of college at Phillips University in Enid, Oklahoma, I took a studio course in pottery.  I fell in love working with clay.  The class was over too quickly and I graduated.  Several years later, after earning a Master’s degree at Wichita State University, I went back to Oklahoma to work as a Speech-Language Pathologist at a community clinic that was next to Phillips University.  I did this so I could study pottery with my previous professor, Dr. Paul Denny.  Over time, I became a night assistant in the studio and helped others learn how to throw and construct with clay.  As payment, I had access to all the clay I could use, glazes and multiple firing techniques.   My art was only limited by my imagination.  I sold items at art shows and many believed I would be a professional potter.

When teaching students to throw clay on a wheel, they must first learn to center the clay as the wheel spins; this is harder than it looks, particularly with larger amounts of clay.  Once centered, there is a process called “coning” where the potter raises and lowers the centered clay.  This process aligns the platelets in the clay.  The clay body is only about 50% clay; the rest is made up of other materials like flint, grog, sand, and feldspar.  These particles are large relative to the size of clay particles. Coning the clay by raising and lowering it three or four times aligns the particles in a spiral pattern.  When the potter creates a vessel, alignment of the particles allows for increased stability as the clay is raised and allows the potter to create a taller vessel that can be shaped well.

Throwing Clay 1

Coning the clay

I have often thought back to the days of throwing clay and the importance of aligning the particles within it before throwing a large vessel when contemplating shared values and their importance in an organization.  Just as alignment of the particles allows the potter to throw a more substantial vessel, alignment of shared values allows an organization to achieve bigger goals.  While creativity will define the legacy of a potter’s work, innovation will define the legacy of an organization.

The School of Education, Health, and Human services at SUNY Plattsburgh has had its shared values in place for five years.  Please take a few moments to read through the shared values again and find ways to honor them as we progress through the semester.  As we have matured with these values, one thing we have been able to do is develop many new academic programs.  Our vessel is larger than it used to be with the addition and revision of numerous undergraduate and graduate programs.  A mindful alignment of shared values and a pursuit of innovation will provide amazing opportunities for all of us and our students as we engage in our mission of helping students to be successful.  Let me know if you need any help with centering and coning.

Bonus:

Below is one of my favorite pieces.  It is an abstract representation of a mountain range.  The base was thrown on the wheel and represent layers of the earth.  The rough area above the layers represents uplifting forces that create mountains.  The clay above the rough area was hand-constructed with veins and holes that represent veins of minerals and caves.  The clay was rolled with burlap and strings to add texture.  You can see the mountain range on top of the vessel.  This piece was covered in iron oxide rather than glaze and fired at cone 8 (2,305 F) .  It is 26 inches high with a base that is 35 inches in circumference.  The first one of these I tried to make exploded in the kiln, but that is another story.

Mountain Pot

creative thinking (1)

 

“Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said. ‘One can’t believe impossible things.’
‘I dare say you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”  Lewis Carroll

What improvements need to occur to strengthen current programs and attract students to our college?  What new programs do we need to create, especially given that many of the programs in our division are at or above maximum capacity?  What is the best way to do the thinking that will answer these questions?  Do you have some ideas that seem impossible?

There were several interesting articles in the media recently.  One was entitled, “McDonald’s new menu item hints at new strategy” by Dan Moskowitz.  He said, “McDonald’s is slowly moving toward becoming a coffee shop. This might sound ludicrous to those who grew up while eating burgers and fries at McDonald’s, but any company that wants to succeed will implement initiatives that match industry trends or find itself dying a slow and painful death.” This almost seems like an impossible thought, but with current health trends, the author said the future is not in burgers and fries; of course, McDonalds will always sell hamburgers and fries.  There also are many conversations across the county about the future of colleges/universities.  What changes will we need to make to our curriculum (our menu) and what programs do we need to develop to meet the needs of our future students and the needs of society?

I used the Lewis Carroll quote and the McDonald’s article to make the point about the importance of having a creative vision to ensure a strong future.  I have discussed the type of thinking in previous blogs that will help provide answers.   I remind you of Tim Hurson’s (2007) concept of “reproductive thinking” and “productive thinking” from my 2011 blog entitled, “A Penny for Your Thoughts”:

Reproductive thinking is seen when a question is asked and the conditioned response answers are given.  These are answers that may have been used in the past, ones that people grab onto quickly because they are comfortable or familiar (they worked in the past).  Unfortunately, while the problem may seemingly be “solved,” the familiar solution leads to the end of thinking and better approaches are never discovered.

Productive thinking comes after all of the conditioned response answers are given.  Tim writes about breaking deep-thinking sessions into thirds when seeking solutions to problems.  The first third usually contains reproductive thinking, the second third might have some good ideas in it, but the final third is where you find the gold.  Creative, out-of-the-box thinking only comes after reproductive thinking is out of the way.  Tim once said, “The questions from which you learn the most are the ones you don’t know the answers to.”

Tim Hurson also advocates using a process for proposing ideas, even if they seem impossible, without making any positive or negative judgments about them as they are being proposed; judgments shut down creative thinking.  Critical thinking about what gets proposed comes later.  Tim sent me his newest book last week that will be published this July.  He and his co-author, Tim Dunne, addressed the process of developing ideas by saying, “…don’t take the first right answer.  Wait until you’ve been able to generate lots of answers and then decide which one[s] might be the most useful” (p. 13).  I think it would be fascinating for everyone in various programs in our Division and for groups in the college to go through this process.

The answers to our future around program improvement and around the development of new programs and services are within everyone who works at and attends our college.  Margaret Wheatley said, “We need each other’s best thinking and most courageous experiments if we are to create a future worth wanting” (p. 99).  She also said, “…we can’t design anything that works without the involvement of all those it affects” (p. 110).   Some of our best thinking and answers have already been revealed in action plans that accompany the new Campus Plan, but there is more gold to be mined.  What questions did we not ask in when developing the Campus Plan and action plans that need answers?

Be assured, some things will not change drastically in the future.  Another interesting article I read recently was entitled, “Future economy: Many will lose jobs to computers” by John Shinal.  He said:

The jobs that will persist in the future include those that either take advantage of uniquely-human traits – such as manual dexterity, creativity and emotional intelligence – or that improve the lives of other humans directly in a face-to-face setting.

For example, dentists, nutritionists, athletic trainers, podiatrists, elementary school teachers and occupational, recreational and mental health therapists all have a less than 1 percent chance of being replaced by computer software, say Frey and Osborne (2013; click here for the paper; see the appendix).

We clearly have many professions within our Division that capitalize on improving people’s lives in face-to-face settings.  It seems imperative that we be the best at what we do in preparing students for helping professions; thus, there is always room for improvement.  The better we do our jobs, the better our graduates will be at providing service to others; our mission of preparing students for academic, professional and personal success will be achieved.

It is important to think creatively and to understand the most productive process for getting results from creative thinking.  It also is important to understand those things that will not change due to the necessity of face-to-face interactions, but can still be improved.  As we do this work together, the power of positive relationships cannot be underestimated in the overall context of creating a powerful, positive future.  In the spirit of Margaret Wheatley, as we look to the future, I know it is the strength of our relationships and the number, variety, and strength of our connections that will create a motivating and meaningful present.

Bonus: Click here to watch Tim Hurson’s Ted Talk entitled, “The shock of the possible

Shared Values Highlighted in this blog: Broad-mindedness and Creativity

Carroll, L. (1865). Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. London: MacMillan Publishing Co.

Frey, C.B. & Osborne, M. (2013). The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerization?  Oxford, UK: Academic Publication.

Hurson, T. (2007). Think Better: An innovator’s guide to productive thinking. New York: McGraw Hill.

Hurson, T., & Donne, T. (July 2014). Never be closing: How to sell better without screwing your clients, your colleagues, or yourself. Taylor Fleming Portfolio/Penguin Group USA.

Image (n.d.). Retrieved March 23, 2014 from:  http://smart-decisions.net/articles/things-you-didnt-know-about-yourself-12-facts-about-your-creativity

Moskowitz, D. (2014, March 21). McDonald’s new menu item hints at new strategy. USA Today. Retrieved from: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/03/21/mcdonalds-new-menu-item/6705499/

Shinal, J. (2014, March 21). Future economy: Many will lose jobs to computers. USA Today. Retrieved from: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/columnist/2014/03/21/software-tech-economy-work/6707457/

Wheatley, M.J. (2005). Finding our way: Leadership for and uncertain time. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

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