Networks, Trust, and the Conduits of Connection – A #SquadGoalsNetwork Reflection from Taylor Kendal

Networks, Trust, and the Conduits of Connection – A #SquadGoalsNetwork Reflection from Taylor Kendal

A reflection by Taylor Kendal on the power of personal learning networks.

ACCESS – Does regular access to other individuals from other institutions and institutional perspectives challenge your definition of access and what it means? If so, how?

I’m always searching for the right definition and cadence with regards to access (a term as troublesome and infinitely interpretable as innovation or disruption). The more context I gather from my peers at other institutions (i.e. my PLN), the more comfortable I become in understanding my place within the broader education ecosystem (professional identity matters, like a lot). That said, having a supportive PLN (e.g. #SquadGoalsNetwork) to lean on is a double-edged sword. The more I learn from, and connect with, my network of peers, the more I’m reminded of my professional privilege…my undeniable access. The opportunities I’ve been granted (from family, friends, colleagues, etc.) creates an ever-present sense of responsibility. The more often I’m reminded of the ridiculous amounts of access I’ve been afforded, the more I feel responsible for sharing and distributing that access among others who I know to be less fortunate. Discovering the perfect balance between network cultivation and facilitating access to others is a lifelong pursuit; one I’m happy to admit will/should never be final or perfected.

FACULTY SATISFACTION – How has your participation in the PLN benefitted faculty and colleagues at your home institution?

Trust is the conduit for influence; it’s the medium through which ideas travel.  ~Amy Cuddy

I’ve never seen my work as existing within a silo or in any way disconnected from the reality around me. The connections I make, the friends I meet, the ideas I’m exposed to, are all connected to and constantly affecting MSU Denver, CU Denver, and the city I call home. My PLN is dynamic and ever-evolving, and with each new branch that grows comes a new opportunity to positively affect those around me. It’s very likely that I’m blind to many of the residual benefits of a PLN like the #SquadGoalsNetwork, but with trust as the conduit, I’m free to charge ahead, unburdened by any anxiety of the unknown.

LEARNING EFFECTIVENESS – When you reflect on your work, how has meeting and learning from individuals from other institutions and institutional perspectives helped you to clarify or re-define what it means for learning to be effective?

Learning is, and has always been, contextual. Intentionally exposing myself to a variety of perspectives is the only reason I’ve ever felt effective as a designer and educator. Changing a mind (i.e. learning) is a dynamic process requiring a constant re-definition of what we think is effective at every moment (the minute we settle on a single stance is the minute we know it’s time to reevaluate our assumptions). As I’ve been exposed to other institutions, strategies, processes, cultures, etc. my reliance on any single approach has slowly dissolved. Empathy and analysis are dramatically undervalued, especially in my work as a learning experience designer. A truly ego-free interest in learning from/about the “other” will always lead to a more meaningful connection to those we know well.

SCALE – Is the PLN scalable and/or replicable by others at other institutions/organizations? If so, how? What challenges do you encounter?

I’m honestly not sure that a PLN should be intentionally scaled or replicated (and perhaps that view comes from the inherent business-baggage that accompanies a term like “scale”). The networks I trust (whether they consist of humans, machines, information, or some combination of all three) are more often decentralized and formed organically. The challenge with introducing intention is the often unavoidable byproduct of exclusion. A PLN, like any other network, should be flexible and capable of responding to a variety of internal and external influences. The unburdened PLN that slowly grows around an important idea or vision towards positively impacting others often scale without that ever having been the intention.

STUDENT SATISFACTION – Do you feel that your involvement and/or collaboration with the PLN has helped you create better student experiences at at your institution?

The institutional hierarchy of impact is one of the most challenging aspects of my work in higher education. I can assume that my pursuit of open faculty collaboration, student-centered design, and attention to cultivating a strong PLN has a positive downstream effect, but this truth isn’t always explicit or obvious. I’ll often rely on anecdotes or a “cultural vibe” on campus to validate my work. While this reality can be frustrating, it only reinforces the importance of PLNs and groups like the #SquadGoalsNetwork. It’s authentic connections with peers and colleagues that provide me with the inspiration and reassurance needed to keep pushing forward. Keep learning, laughing, and inspiring. As educators, we are all meaningful conduits of connection.

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