Category Archives: Management

Women, STEM, and the Breaking of Stereotypes

In the last several weeks there has been a lot of media coverage regarding women in technology and girls’ dissatisfaction with gender stereotyping in consumer products.

stem1As a female Information Technology Manager, I’ve had several years experience working within Information Technology and online departments. My colleagues have been mostly men (very supportive men). At times, my “customers” don’t believe what I say about their computers. Only after they sought additional help, would they come back and say, “Julie, you were right after all!” My response is typically to smile and say, “I’m glad it has been resolved for you.” When in reality I’d love to thank them for wasting both their time and my time. I’m not right all the time, and I’ll be the first to admit when I need to confer with another colleague to resolve an issue. However, I was hired for my specific skills, knowledge, and expertise. Just because you don’t like what I’m saying, doesn’t mean I’m incorrect.

Too frequent are women in technology judged not by their actual skills but by their gender.

Some recent examples include Goldman Sach’s swag at a Harvard hackathon event for women. The biggest sponsor of the WEcode (Women Engineers Code) event handed out cosmetic mirrors and nail files to the attendees. They’ve since apologized, but what does this message send to young females? “You can code and make cool things, as long as you are pretty when you do it”?  Would Goldman Sach’s have provided deodorant and razors to a men’s hackathon?

When women are brave enough to display their STEM skills, they are often “thanked” with comments about their looks or sexuality. Emily Graslie discusses natural history, science, and the artifacts found at the Field Museum (Chicago) on her YouTube channel, “The Brain Scoop“. In her November 27, 2013 post, Where My Ladies At?”, she discusses how her comment feed is flooded with inappropriate innuendos and statements about her physical appearance. She also states that there are very few women on YouTube who discuss STEM. Women fear being judged on ridiculous irrelevant topics (ie their looks), instead of their expertise. Therefore, many women opt out of making their knowledge public. The problem with this is that it shows the younger generation of females to hide their skills and to be ashamed of their abilities. 

nintendoGender stereotypes are also played out in consumer products. The Nintendo Girls Channel on YouTube was recently launched and was very much a disappointment to female gamers. The channel is clad in pink and contain gaming mods that take girls on shopping sprees and spa makeover adventures. Pink is definitely for girls, and I have purchased quite a few pink items in my day. But that’ a strategic move– if I had a pink travel coffee mug or a pink baseball mitt, it was guaranteed it would remain mine and not confiscated by my brothers.

Girls are seeing beyond the pink and asking to break the stereotypes. A young girl recently wrote to Lego asking why there are not more Lego Girls with cool jobs. She was very aware that Lego boy characters had many more adventurous careers and wanted the company to rectify this inequality. A teenager also wrote to Disney, petitioning that they design their Princesses with more diverse body shapes. It’s uplifting to see the younger generation speaking out about gender stereotypes and their discontent for the world as designed by adults.

And there’s still more hope. “Hello Ruby” by Linda Liukas succeeded in funding her children’s book on kickstarter. Her goal is to teach children about programming. The use of a female main character, Ruby, positively encourages girls to pursue an interest in technology and programming. Another company, GoldieBlox, encourages girls to build and pursue an interest in inventing and engineering. The company has turned “construction toys” from boys toys to a gender neutral toy. In the process GoldieBlox has introduced the fun of engineering and problem solving to girls. If I could, I would work for GoldieBlox.

 GoldieBlox  Hello-Ruby-tech-book

Another uplifting story is the recent report by TechCrunch that Berkeley’s Intro to Computer Science course now has more women than men enrolled. Granted, there are only two more women than men, but it’s still progress. This progress was attributed to a change in the curriculum that included team projects, open-source resources, and opportunities to become teaching assistants.

It’s important to continue to encourage young girls and women to pursue STEM classes. To continue to question a company’s idea for girls’ toys. And for those of us who are currently pursuing STEM careers, to be forthright in our skills and to publicize the benefits of pursuing challenging careers. In doing so, we can encourage youth to pursue their interests in STEM without fear of judgement. 


How Rude! Talk Over the Presenter

With the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic games underway, you’ve probably noticed a lot of people “live tweeting” and “live blogging” about the activities and events.

backchanelWhat is live tweeting and live blogging? It’s a synchronous broadcast of events in written word (and pictures/video) via Social Media Internet sites such as Twitter and Blogs. It’s a way for anyone with a computer, smart phone, or tablet to create their own “news”.

Live tweeting and live blogging is also applicable in the learning environment. At the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, students participate in “backchannel” dialogue. Backchannel is when computers are used to have a real-time online conversation alongside the primary group activity or lecture. The graduate students in the Interactive Media & Games major contribute to the live lecture discussion at the same time by commenting on a WordPress blog page.  The constant stream of comments assures that all opinions are documented.

The use of backchannel in the classroom encourages student participation when the class is too large for everyone to speak (100-200 student lecture hall). If the comments are made anonymously, it also allows students to freely speak their mind and contribute without the fear of “getting it wrong”. I particularly like the use of backchannel during live lectures because it promotes community building. Not only are students learning from their instructor, but they are able to share their opinions with others and continue the discussion even after the lecture concludes. In some instances, instructors are unaware of backchannel discussions taking place, opening up the possibly of uncensored opinions and thoughts of the subject matter.

hashtagIn the professional environment, people live blog conference events. This gives attendees a chance to get an inside look of conference sessions and workshops they are unable to attend. Using tagging features, such as hashtags (#), guarantees that similar topics are grouped together and easier to find on the Internet. Anyone can run a Twitter or Internet search for a hashtag to review all backchannel communications on a given topic, thus opening conference proceedings up to the entire Internet community.

It’s not a test! Assessing Learning.

"The Melting Clock" by Salvador Dali

“The Melting Clock” by Salvador Dali

Previously, I’ve discussed the importance of evaluating training in the context of Kirkpatrick’s Evaluation Model. Many people neglect the evaluation process because they are either  on a very strict schedule (analysis is usually neglected, too) or they just don’t see how administering tests can work in the training.

The latter is a major misconception. Assessment is not about giving graded tests.

Tools: Assessment can be accomplished in several different ways. Some examples include:

Exams Non-graded quizzes
Rubrics Course Evaluation
Classroom Dialogue Polling/Clickers
Poster Presentations Oral Presentations
Portfolios Peer Review
Case Studies Written Reports
Fill In The Blanks State Examinations or Certifications
Publication  Observing Student Reactions

Simple Process: If creating assessment methods is daunting, I recommend starting simple.

  1. Select a training objective.
  2. Pair the objective with an activity.
  3. Create a rubric for evaluation.
  4. Review each student’s completed activity compared to the rubric to see if it aligns with the objective.
  5. Create a snapshot of your overall

Grading: Assessing your learners does not mean you need to change your grading structure or even give a grade at all. However, if learners believe that they are receiving something in return, they may give more effort when completing the assessment. Case in point: if you’ve been asked to complete a survey, you may have given up half way through if you didn’t see a personal benefit in completing it.

Cost: Evaluating learning does not have to be costly endeavor. Although there are many different software and hardware options to aid in assessing learning outcomes (such as PollEverywhere, TurningPoint, ExamSoft, and PearsonVue), assessment can be accomplished without purchasing third-party products. If assessment is a new goal for your organization, I recommend working through some of the simpler assessment strategies and tools before deciding on an external assessment product.

Not Just a Game

The video game culture is no longer about staying up all night playing games alone. In fact,  this is a major misconception of what it means to be a gamer. This definition is the most basic bare bones description of what it means to be a gamer; it’s reminiscent of your parents and grandparents saying, “it’s just a game”.

The truth is, it’s never just a game.

It’s a form of art.

It’s a story.

It’s a technical holy grail, created by skilled programmers that pour their heart and soul into developing a smooth playing, glitch-free, creative world.

LANTo me, gaming is about the shared experience, the connection to your friends near and far. I play video games to share experiences with my friends who live far away. We can play sitting right next to each other or we can play together even when we’re in different time zones. My favorite is when we have a LAN party with friends located in the same room and others located far away, all playing the same game, at the same time, collaboratively.

I play co-op games because I love working with teams to accomplish goals and I get a thrill from a virtual fist-bump. I may be a newbie player compared to my friends, but they never leave me behind. They share in my excitement when I get my first kill and they watch my back as my health declines, often warning me to get out before I get killed.

I also play battle and first person shooter games to relieve stress. I can rage out, curse like a sailor, and destroy things without the social repercussions– well, sometimes I get laughed at by friends who don’t usually hear me swear.

I play world-building games, like Minecraft, to stimulate my curiosity and creativity. I envision structures and landscapes and make them in the game. I plant crops, hunt, and fish to survive. I build fences to prevent creepers from attacking me.

Gaming is good, it’s an active activity (unlike passive television watching) that encourages teamwork, collaboration, and creativity.

Games I’m currently obsessed about: Minecraft, Team Fortress 2, League of Legends, Words with Friends, NBA Jam, Orcs Must Die 2, NBA 2K13, Super Monkey Ball (Monkey Flight).

Why– 3D — oh Why? Using Tech for Tech’s Sake

I love technology. I love how it can make our life easier. I love how it expands our reach by opening communication across the globe and aids in learning no matter where you are.

What I don’t love is using technology just because you can. Why write 10,000 words when 100 will suffice? Why take a zillion photos of the same thing? Over consumption and overuse of technology is not always a good thing.

glasses3D movies are just one example of why technology should be considered before use. I’m all for great cinematography, in fact, that’s my number one criteria for a good movie. But when you have a bunch of stuff flying at me just because 3D is “cool”, I’m not impressed. I think it’s a money-making scheme and a waste of imagination and talent. However, if 3D is used to express emotion- such as in Disney’s “Up” where Carl and Russel trek to Paradise Falls on foot and the 3D adds so much dimension to the path that you feel despair and begin to wonder if they’ll ever reach the Falls- that feeling makes 3D worth it.

So, from the educational technologist’s viewpoint, I urge you this:

Think Before You Tech!

Make sound decisions about the technology’s goal. If it can’t aid in the communication process, add value to the class objectives, or enhance a learner’s experience, take a step back and rethink the use of the technology.

Flipped on a Budget

My article on the Flipped classroom in Legal Education was published by EdTech Magazine and received so many comments that I wanted to talk about the major aspects that prevent people from making Flipped Classes.

Cost and time.

If you’re new to making flipped classroom videos or don’t have the support from your administration, you may find that you have to choose between quality, cost, and time. The old Project Management adage is that each project takes Time, Quality, and Cost, but the paradigm states that you can only truly focus on two of these values.

I recommend focusing on the Quality of Content:

Low Production Value-

Use a Webcam and headset with a lecture capture system to record your lessons. Your school  may already have access to Web conferencing or lecture capture systems such as Panopto, Wimba, ATT Connect, Blackboard Collaborate, or any Web conferencing system that records.

Focus on Content-

Spend your time working through your lectures and creating visual graphs and illustration of the ideas you plan to present during your recording. Remember, if the content is worthwhile, your students will be willing to watch it. Remember to leave all dates and times out of the script so that you can reuse the videos for future classes, doing so will save you valuable time in the future.


Make sure your voice is being recorded clearly. Mute all telephones in your office. Turn off or mute all other applications that may make noise through your computer speakers, and hang a sign on your door stating that recording is in progress.Testing the audio and minimizing interruptions will reduce recording time.

No Post-Production-

Save time and cut costs by eliminating post-production. As long as the content is clear and can be understood by your audience, don’t worry about editing. Your learners will understand that the message is what’s important, not the quality of the video.

Once you find the value in flipped classes and are comfortable with this teaching pedagogy, you can spend more time and money creating professional videos. But I recommend that you take a low-cost approach to create flipped classrooms in order to mitigate the risk. You can also convince your administration to fund future high value video production projects if they see a pilot flipped class has succeeded.

Start somewhere- start with a low budget and great content!

Accountability is A-Okay!

goalHave you ever set a goal for yourself– learn something new, exercise more, eat better– then fail? We’ve all been there. I have the problem of creating a long “wish list” of things to learn. But then I have trouble starting the learning the process. What’s the idiom? Starting is half the battle? That’s me in a nutshell.

I was lucky enough to be approached by a former student who asked for suggested resources and guides to learn a computer software that just happened to be on my wish list.

After a short twitter conversation, we decided to be “study buddies”, compiling lists of resources and helping each other through tutorials for Adobe Captivate.

Since we live in different cities (he’s in NY, I’m in LA), we’re using Google Drive to track our progress and share notes and tips. We created a list of resources and then chose a book and video tutorials to read through. We’ve created a timeline in Google Spreadsheet to schedule out when to complete each book chapter. We each contribute and share tips on a Google Document. We each have a separate font color to distinguish our notes from the others text.

So far, our communication has been asynchronous, but if we needed to talk “live”, I’m sure we’d call each other or use a chat or video chat client to discuss our Captivate issues.

It’s going well so far, I’m more encouraged to open up Captivate when I get home from work because I know Jonathan is relying on me. With this, I feel accountable to completing my goal. In similar ways, this is why people join group exercise programs or enroll in classes and seminars– so they have someone to report their progress to.


The Mini Flip

A New Approach to the Flipped Classroom

Flipped classroom is a trending pedagogy in classroom instruction. Flipped classroom has two essential components. The first component is pre-recording a class lecture in its entirety for students to listen to before they attend class. The second component, an in-class activity and discussion, takes places during normal class meeting times. The idea is to let students complete their homework during class time so that instructors can address any difficulties and questions in person. It also allows more time for discussion and debate; students contribute to the conversation instead of being passive listeners.

A similar approach was studied at Pepperdine University School of Law (Malibu, CA). The law school recently conducted a study to determine if anxiety felt by first-year law students was reduced if the students knew what to expect before attending each class.

The goal was to provide each first year law student with a pre-recorded video “primer” that briefly outlined the upcoming class meeting, including the class meeting’s learning objectives. The primer highlighted how the student should prepare, what is expected of the student, and what the student can expect to achieve from the class meeting.

The video primers were recorded by a small group of law school faculty members with the lecture capture recording software, Panopto. Faculty recorded the primers in their offices using a webcam and microphone. The software captured the desktop applications, audio, and Webcam. I provided faculty with an Instructional Design Document (view pdf here), a storyboard document, and a scripting document to help create the primers. These documents were used as templates to guide the recording process. No post production was used, so faculty scripted what they wanted to say. If they were not satisfied with the recording, they re-recorded.

An example was also created to show the faculty what they needed to create:

It was important that the primers were short, visual, and specific. The primers were three to fifteen minutes long. The primers included PowerPoint screens with specific keywords transitioning across the video to provide specific information in a visually appealing way. In addition, the primers included a thumbnail image of the faculty as a subset of the main screen. Capturing the faculty provided a personal touch to the primer; students who viewed the primers recognized their professor and started a friendly rapport even before classes began.

The primers were disseminated before each of the first five (5) classes.  Students viewed the short primers before preparing for each class and completed a series of survey questions to provide feedback regarding the usefulness of these primers.

Of surveyed students, 61.5% believed that not knowing what to expect from the course causes anxiety. During the primer video program, 72.3% of students believed that knowing what to expect from the course reduced anxiety and 63.3% thought the primers were useful in preparing for their classes. 55.4% of students would have liked primers for every class meeting, not just the initial five and 64.1% said the primers would be useful for every course.

The study results and video recording process were shared with Pepperdine University’s School of Law Faculty. Since the student survey results were average, the decision to create video primers will be on a case by case basis decided by the faculty member and department.

I applied this approach to the class I personally teach by creating a video syllabus for my online students:

This article was also published by EdTech Magazine.

Virtual Reality is a go!


I’m super excited to be attending the meet & greet launch event of Survios! The company is one of the first to make Virtual Reality… well, a reality! The company is formerly known as Project Holodeck, which created the games Wild Skies and Zombies on the Holodeck on it’s initial VR platform. I can’t wait to see what they’ve been up to recently.

According to the invite, I’ll be “meeting the entire team of Survios ninjas and learning about all things virtual reality! I’ll be joined by gaming executives, tech and gaming media, and virtual reality luminaries and enthusiasts.”

I hope to talk to gaming developers on how they think this technology can impact education. See my thoughts on this idea here.

Check back here for updates, and if you want me to ask any specific questions of the founders and team, tweet me @julietausend until November 6, 2013 at 8:30 pm PST.

You can Follow Survios on Twitter @survios and #survios.

The Tech Launch

This article, also published by EdTech Magazine and co-written by Vanessa Bravo,  specifically details the launch of the Clickers Program (TurningPoint audience response system); however, the phases described can be used as best practices in initiating almost any technology program:

Phase One: Determine Faculty Technology Use & Interest
Phase Two: Cultivate Faculty Buy-In
Phase Three: Training
Phase Four:  Installation/Dissemination
Phase Five: Implementation
Phase Six: Addressing Challenges

TPPepperdine University School of Law uses Turning Technologies’ audience response system TurningPoint (AKA clickers) to poll its students. Since the clicker program’s inauguration in 2012, over one third of the faculty have adopted clickers.

Faculty create questions within PowerPoint. A USB receiver plugged into the computer receives the answer responses submitted by students when they push the answer on their clicker. Results, including the correct answers and bar graphs showing the audience responses, are displayed.

Pepperdine University School of Law’s Manager of Instructional Technology, Vanessa Bravo, initiated the clicker program and cultivated faculty buy-in of the technology’s use. The SOL Information Services team continues to maintain the clickers and make adjustments to the program to address challenges.

Phase One: Determine Faculty Technology Use & Interest

Gather information about faculty’s current use and gauge the level of interest in learning more about clickers.

Phase Two: Cultivate Faculty Buy-In

Develop an engaging and effective Lunch-N-Learn to show how the clickers can be used, and allow faculty to install and use clickers. Invite champions of technology to share their experiences.

Professor Gregory McNeal showed how clickers act as an extension of the hand raise. McNeal stated, “instead of calling on a few students during class, where there’s only a one in 70 chance of being called on without clickers, all students participate. Using clickers forces students to pay attention to content and their notes in order to participate and receive an assessment grade.” McNeal also described how he asks students why they aren’t getting the correct answer and then walks them through the thought process. In some cases, he adjusts his pedagogy to better improve classes. These examples helped faculty to understand clicker usage is not just another technology, but one that can aid student retention.

Stimulate further interest by demonstrating clickers in applicable settings. Pepperdine used clickers during voting meetings; as a result, faculty saw how easy it was to participate in polls.

Recommend clickers as a resolution to classroom challenges such as attendance, student participation, and content review. Faculty may not know how technology is applicable to instruction; therefore, communicating the benefits can cultivate buy-in.

Phase Three: Clicker Training

One-on-one sessions taught faculty how to use the clickers and set up their PowerPoint slides.

Phase Four: Student Clicker Dissemination

Order clickers and disseminate them to students. Students check out clickers from the library.  In addition, a clicker assigned to each new student was placed in the tote bag they received during Orientation. This reduced library traffic and ensured all new students would have clickers on day one.

Phase Five: Implementation
During the first weeks of classes, Information Services was present to help setup and register students’ clickers, which took about 15 minutes per class. By registering their clickers, the professors were able to associate specific students with their answers and take attendance.

Phase Six: Addressing Challenges

Initially, McNeal had students buy their clickers from the bookstore, which caused pushback since students do not pay a technology fee. To resolve this conflict, the Information Services team procured a grant from the Chief Information Officer to “buyback” the clickers. Currently, students are not charged up front for the clicker, but are assessed a fee for unreturned clickers.

Students also didn’t like the clickers because they were judged on attendance even if they forgot it. Students quickly learned that to succeed in the professional world, they would need to ensure they had working tools. Expressing course participation requirements at the start of term in the syllabus mitigates student concerns about attendance.

Originally, faculty had to bring a receiver to plug into the computer and students needed to change their clicker channel accordingly. If a receiver was forgotten or students didn’t remember the channel, responses went unrecorded. Now, a receiver is permanently installed and a sign posted at the front of each room reminds students to change their clicker channel.

Students frequently delayed class by approaching faculty about broken clickers or questions. To limit these questions, students now receive an FAQ card that addresses major concerns.

A concern of faculty was the amount of time registering student clicker at the start of classes. Information Services decided to pre-register the student clickers by adding the identification number to a roster before students check out clickers. The rosters are then saved to each computer before the semester begins.

The effort of Information Services to make clicker usage smooth for faculty coupled with word of mouth promotion from their faculty colleagues have increased the number of users at Pepperdine University School of Law.

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