3 Things I Learned From My Mom About EdTech

A Mother's Day special.

May 12, 2013

Dear edtech Mom's and Mom's of edtechies.  Happy Mother's Day.

On this Mother's Day I have been thinking about what I learned from my own Mom about edtech.    

1. EdTech Is Really About Relationships:

Mom is a therapist. Recently retired from a long and distinguished career in private practice. Dinner conversation was often a master class in therapeutic interaction and family dynamics (her clients, not ours). Mom was always scrupulous in protecting her clients privacy, so these lessons were phrased as general experiences and universal lessons.

The main thing that I learned in all these years listening to my Mom talk about her career as a therapist is that everything comes down to quality of our relationships. I've found this wisdom to be particularly true in the context of educational technology. There is literally nothing that I do in my career that does not involve partnership and collaboration.  

Success in our efforts to contribute to student learning depends completely on how well we collaborate with instructors, librarians, media specialists, technologists, and the other professionals that contribute to the development and running of a course. The team approach to education is particularly apparent in a blended or online course, as these technology enabled classes require the efforts of many "non-traditional" educators to support the faculty member in meeting her teaching goals.  

An educational technologist or learning designer is particularly dependent on the quality of their relationships as they seldom can rely on organizational authority. We are persuaders and project managers, partners and collaborators, but we are not bosses. In the matrix structure that is the university an educational technologist without good relationships across campus will get very little accomplished.

2. Even the Best EdTech Relationships are Complicated:

Another thing that my Mom has taught me is that relationships are constructed from complicated and conflicting stuff. Even our best relationships are ambivalent. At some points we will fee great about our colleagues and partners, other times not so much.  What is important to remember is that valleys are as normal as the peaks. It is unrealistic and counterproductive to expect that our relationships with our co-workers and with the companies that we work with will always be in a honeymoon phase.   

A related point is that we are almost always better off assuming that the folks that we work with have positive intent. That, as a rule, people want to do the right thing. Actions that we often interpret as negativity or obstructionism are actually undertaken out of best intentions and concern for the common work that we are doing. Assuming good intent on the part of our colleagues makes it easier to listen, even when our first response is to argue and disagree.

3. Relationships Translate Into Networks:

Back in the 1970s my Mom started a peer supervision group for therapists in the Boston area. Every couple of months of so her peer supervision group would meet in our living room, and I got to watch her interact with her colleagues. Over the years these collegial relationships have sometimes grown into personal relationships, with the families of these therapists having opportunities to socialize.

What I learned from Mom is that individual collegial relationships aggregate up to a professional network. One cannot simply "make" a professional network. Rather, a professional network needs to be nurtured over many years through mutually beneficial interactions.

Our world of educational technology is amazingly small. We run into each other at conferences and online.   We hire each other.  We write articles together.  Together, we serve on committees, give presentations, and sit on panels. We buy each others products and services.  We recommend each other for jobs.  Each of these interactions strengthens our individual relationships and builds our professional networks.

So on this Mother's Day I'd like to say thank you to my Mom for teaching me these (and many more) valuable lessons.

What have you learned from your Mom about edtech?


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