Doris did a masterful job of writing about her insights from the IFWE conference. I too have been reflecting on my conference learning; here are some additional insights I have. Some are definitely BFO’s (Brilliant Flashes of the Obvious – courtesy of Katie Blott – see Doris’s blog)!
Attending a Woman’s Conference is a Great Experience
I was a little unsure of what an all women’s conference on e-learning would be like, and discovered that at least at IFWE, it was a freeing and wonderful opportunity. The conference theme was: IFWE Walk in Her Shoes. The conference brochure states: “….share best practices, establish valuable relationships, and explore ways to be effective leaders. This year’s theme takes us a little deeper into what it means to work as a team in a diverse world. Sessions and speakers will push participants to consider how others tackle life’s problems both personally and professionally, understand what it means to be a strong but empathetic leader, and move forward in their own E-learning career path……IFWE is about sharing and learning information, but it’s also about rejuvenating the spirit.”
The conference walked the walk (not just San Antonio’s River Walk) and not just talked the talk. The women I met were smart and accomplished, but also open, generous, and came to the conference in the spirit of sharing learning and experiences as opposed to being competitive. It was a spirit of sisterhood, and both Doris and I felt welcomed, valued, and included from the first encounter. From the keynote speakers to the workshops to the frequent and sustained laughter in the hallways, it modeled how the personal and professional can and should walk side by side in our lives. The conference did walk in all our different sized and styled shoes.
Pay Attention to the Mind/Body Connection
Here at the Women’s Learning Studio we always begin our E-vents and Learning Labs with a focusing activity to engage our bodies, clear our minds, and be ready to learn together. The holistic approach to the conference included sessions on wellness and well-being as part of the marriage between our work and personal persona. In her presentation, Holistic Support for Online Learning, Jacklyn Thompson provided several BFO moments for me.
- BFO 1: Although we want to continue to practice our focusing exercises, why stop there? I asked myself: Why aren’t we providing Studio members with ergonomic tips, research and practice on the benefits of the mind/body connection, and simple ways to work towards changing behaviors and habits to achieve a better balance?
- BFO 2: Have a few dedicated pages on setting up your workstation, home office, desk so you avoid repetitive motion injuries, eye strain, and other computer-related ailments, such as this Cornell University page on ergonomic ways of working: ergo.human.cornell.edu/ergoguide.html
- BFO 3: Provide some wellness links that include breathing exercises (ex: the Breathe of Joy video Jacklyn used in the workshop), activities to get everyone up and moving, as well as eye health tips. Research shows that those who move, do better, achieve more, and feel better and more satisfied.
Toronto Life Coach Linda Kaban and actress Meghan Marie McClenaghan demonstrate yogic breathing techniques to combat stress and panic attacks. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DVdmSa9nMc
Be Aware of Diversity and Identity Factors
In both the design workshops and diversity workshops I attended, cultural, gender, geographic and other factors impact how people interact with sites, other participants, and the content. Also be aware of the personal and cultural identity of participants or students, and make them aware of their own identity both on and offline. Do your homework and learn about the cultural norms of your students or participants from them and other reliable sources.
- A well designed site crosses diversity issues. Aside from color choices (contrary to some merchandizers, pink does not work for women, and certain colors have specific meaning in certain cultures or regions), most factors can be overcome with simple, clear, and elegant design.
- Respecting cultural norms increases participation and creates a safe place for learning for all students.
Find Ways to Support Relationships that Increase Learning
Whether through mentoring, work groups or teams, creating ways to support learning for personal and professional growth is key. For example, Kaplan University is using Google apps to create a mentoring program for the many geographically diverse part-time as well as full time faculty they employ. Learning groups, organized online synchronous and asynchronous events, open forums, and book clubs are some of the ways they are connecting faculty in addition to pushing out curricula and other university-wide policies and procedures. Other workshops covered team building exercises, how to find a mentor or be one. All stressed the importance of relationships in building learning communities, peer groups, and community ownership. Creating structures in a classroom (online or blended), across campuses, or across the country to support relationship building leads to successful learning outcomes.
Laugh Along the Way
As Doris pointed out in her last point about her IFWE experience, there is always time for fun, and especially laughter. A good laugh, or many good ones, helps with the mind/body connection, increases your breathing, and exercises your muscles. In other words, it is good for you! Whether in higher ed, private business, or some other capacity, laughing together at IFWE created new connections that our diverse views of e-learning might not have otherwise. Laughter crosses diversity divides, and strengthens relationships. Perhaps it should be: IFWE Walk and Laugh in Her Shoes! Another BFO!
Here is my photo as Mona Lisa. Please laugh!