A lesson in tagging & Creative CommonsErik stopped me this morning and said “hey, did you know there is a picture of you sticking your tongue out when you search for “MSU” on Haiku Deck.” No, no I did not know this.

Sure enough, Haiku pulls from Creative Commons images on Flickr. I have been using Flickr for over 10 years and I’m a big supporter and contributor to the Creative Commons (it’s one of the main reasons I use Flickr for my social photo sharing!) I frequently tailgate, and, post pictures from MSU tailgates.  Thus, a few years back I posted this picture (and a few others) of the fun, with the tags MSU, Tailgate, spartans, gogreen.

Fast forward 7 years and Erik is searching for a nice picture of MSU for his presentation, and here I am, sticking my tongue out at him and who knows how many other Haiku/CC users.  It’s not the worst thing that could happen in terms of a digital footprint, but, it did make me take another look at my Flickr tags.  It also makes me think about Flickr’s auto-tagging feature and how they might influence my photo showing up on a CC search.  Just spent some time going through my Flickr tags and cleaning things up a bit. Thanks Erik!


I was fortunate to have the opportunity to facilitate a QuickFire challenge with the MSUrbanSTEM fellows last weekend. It has been a quite a while since I’ve facilitated a QuickFire challenge (thought it has been amazing to watch them spread!) and it was clear I was slightly out of practice. Things didn’t go completely off the rails, but I did want to take a moment to reflect here, just in case anyone wanted to take this idea and run with it in another context.

My challenge:

Our MSUrbanSTEM fellows have been reading Rocking the Boat and we needed an activity to bridge a discussion of Rocking the Boat with another discussion focused on teaching in urban contexts.  One thing I have learned in coming up with QuickFire challenges is that there is no need to reinvent the wheel – a lot of great content exists in the world – so I searched for an activity and came across this “Build a Boat” activity from Elmer’s Glue Teacher’s Club.

On the surface it may seem like we’re “just” building a boat to float on water and carry pennies (which, has lots of great connections to science and physics) but – the way the challenge had the added twist of calculating the cost of the materials made it extra intriguing.  Not only did this activity encapsulate all the individual letters in STEM, it had the interdisciplinary and interconnected components I seek out when looking for a QuickFire. For example, we could change the evaluation measures (what makes a “good” boat) which allowed the connection not only to the Rocking the Boat book but to our conversation about teaching in urban contexts.

To start, I edited the challenge a bit to resonate with our class:

Build a boat challenge instructions

The activity was relatively inexpensive to pull together (this was for 50 people, 10 teams of 5):

  • Popsicle Sticks (200) = 4.99
  • Roll of Aluminum Foil = 3.99
  • Straws (100) = .99
  • 12 School Glue Pens = 10.49
  • Corks (30) = 11.40 (purchased at hardware store, though probably could have found these cheaper at homebrew store)
  • Masking Tape = 5.00
  • 6 rolls of pennies = 3.00
  • Total = 39.86

You could easily swap out items to make things a little less expensive, you could leave out the corks, change masking for scotch tape, etc.  I repurposed two clear plastic containers from home to represent Lake Michigan – and we’re good to go, right?

Not quite – a QuickFire requires intense attention to detail. How will the groups be divided? (We had 10 teams of 5, split into our two classrooms.) What if we run out of materials? (I put in some material constraints.)  What if their boats are bigger than the “lake”? (They were shown the lake so they knew it had to fit.) I thought through all of these logistics and put constraints in place to account for everything that could happen – so I thought.

On the day of class, we decided to change the evaluation measure to “The boat which has the least cost per teacher (penny) is the winner.” We don’t have a printer in class and print our materials ahead of time, so, we dutifully crossed our our original evaluation measure and wrote in the new one, no big deal.

Teams were given 10 minutes to create the boats – which, after an initial panic moment (which is intentional in a QuickFire) teams got to work and created some amazing boats.

Here’s where the challenge needs revision for the next iteration. I should not have left the pennies out as teams started opening the rolls and testing the boats as they were developing.  Testing is ok, but, I hadn’t planned for it (and was afraid of losing track of all the pennies.) Next time, I will hide the pennies. Also, a few groups stacked the entire rolls on the boats when they were testing and they subsequently got wet. This made me panic, did I have enough pennies?? I honestly thought I had plenty of pennies….

Additionally, I didn’t take into account that it would take quite a while for me to float 10 boats and stack/measure pennies on the boats.  Our instructional days are tightly timed, so, I had to pivot and the team was gracious enough to move time around in the afternoon – so we delayed the “reveal” to the end of the day.  This was a let-down as a QuickFire usually is a contained experience. Delaying the conclusion takes away from the in-the-moment excitement.

A few hours later during some in-between time in the instructional day we carefully arranged the boats in front of the lecture hall with the two “lakes” ready to float the boats.  With the time re-arrangement, I would have about 5 minutes to float the boats and stack pennies – in front of everyone. Luckily I had the boat cost tallies up on the board and a colleague to help with the math as I would announce how many pennies each boat would hold and she would calculate the cost/penny on each boat. This is where (to me) everything really started to fall apart.  Some boats could hold 3 entire rolls of pennies (I did not think this would happen) and I panicked a bit and started with the boats that would hold the most.  I also did not take into account that taking the boats in and out of the water would be — messy.  As you can see in the pictures and video below, I did not have the most calm/serene look on my face! Unfortunately, it was a bit rushed – but – we did the best we could and declared a winner based upon the calculations.  Because of the rush – we didn’t have time to deconstruct/discuss how people made the boats and how we could have changed our evaluation metrics.

If I had to do it all over again, it would need a minimum of 45 minutes from start to finish.  I don’t think splitting into two periods (construction and floating) was necessarily a bad idea – especially since it gave time for glue to dry. If we went with this configuration I would budget 20 minutes for construction and 30 minutes for floating/calculating/discussing.

So, some big lessons (re)learned:

  • things always take longer than you think they will
  • when you’re out of practice, you forget how important every, single, detail is to orchestrate a smooth experience
  • don’t panic
  • a trial run would have revealed a lot of the flaws in my plan.

In reflecting, I didn’t feel it was all a disaster as several teachers commented to me that they found the activity worthwhile and were interested in taking this challenge to their class (thus the motivation to write this post so others can learn from my mistakes!)


Calendar Conundrums – #protip from @BeckyMatz1

On February 22, 2017, in random, by Leigh Graves Wolf

doodle pollThe other day our team was lamenting that a magic app has not yet been invented that would access all calendars, across platforms & domains to easily schedule meetings.  You know, that feeling of dread when a doodle poll with 50 options pops into your inbox?

One of the great things about working in an open office is that you, by chance, hear helpful things – and I heard a great tip/hack from Dr. Becky Matz!

When you’re limited to only a few meeting slots – use Doodle

When, you have 5-zillion (my words, not Becky’s) options (like trying to schedule a standing semester long meeting) – use WhenisGood

Simple, but SO SMART! Thanks Becky!


Last week I was very lucky to visit Galway and the School of Education at NUI Galway and St. Angela’s College, Sligo (via zoom link!) I was asked to talk about the emerging work of the Hub, specifically our adaptation of Scrum to guide and share our project work.  Below you will find the slides & abstract from the talk.  It was absolutely wonderful to reconnect with all of my dear friends in Galway and to meet new colleagues in Sligo. I sincerely appreciated the invitation and I hope we can continue the dialogue via twitter – or another Zoom session!


One year ago, Michigan State University (MSU) started a new campus initiative: The Hub for Innovation in Teaching & Learning (“The Hub”). The Hub’s mission is to “facilitate the passion and inventiveness of students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders both inside and outside of MSU to create, identify, and accelerate new ways to collaborate, learn, research, and deliver instruction.” While the core staff of The Hub is quite small, many on campus are working with and through the Hub. To facilitate this campus change, the Hub leadership team has anchored much of its “getting started” work and processes to sound design theories and processes. One technique which has proven successful in sharing our work openly and strategically is “scrum” – a framework for project development. In this session, I will share the scrum process along with other lessons learned from our first year as a campus entity.



It’s always fun to see your name and hard work in print! Sincerely thankful to Drs. Ann Marcus-Quinn & Tríona Hourigan at the University of Limerick for the opportunity to contribute to the handbook and to my wonderful and amazing collaborators!

Heintz, A., Hagerman, M.S., Boltz, L.O., & Wolf, L.G. (2017). Teacher awarenesses and blended
instruction practices: Interview research with K-12 teachers. Handbook for Digital Learning in K-12 Schools. Springer.


In our research, we talked to four early-career teachers who have adopted blended instruction practices for their classrooms. Through systems-based thinking that held in view awareness of self, learners, context, pedagogy, and interaction, these teachers established a blended classroom driven by a consistent vision and manifested through complex and diverse means.

For friends at MSU, here is the direct link to the eBook through the library:


One of the tenants of the MSU Hub is “Collective Power.”  As a Hub we “leverage, coordinate and scale MSU’s existing energies and creativity by connecting people, designing opportunities and facilitating innovation.”

On November 11th, the collective power was summoned to the Hub by gathering campus stakeholders involved in online or hybrid MA & Graduate Certificate/Specialization programs at MSU. This is the first time this group has been intentionally gathered. The purpose of this meeting was to make connections and have guided discussions to share strategies for advising, program development, curriculum development, marketing, economics, program data & reporting and to generate questions and possible innovations to serve our students and programs.

The invitation was intentionally inclusive – we wanted to invite/anyone who would have insight into programs (graduate TAs, administrative assistants, department chairs, etc.) or people who are considering developing online MA or certificate/specialization programs. We did not include current students in this invitation as we were focused on inward facing issues (we plan to include students in the future!)  The list of invitations was gathered by researching programs listed here: https://reg.msu.edu/ucc/onlineprograms.aspx

The structured portion of the meeting was kept simple – we divided the participants into 4 tables for a modified SWAT discussion focused on:

Table 1: Finance & Marketing
Table 2: Admissions & Registrar office
Table 3: Curriculum Development & Technology
Table 4: Advising & Student Experience

SWOT usually stands for Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats – we substituted Tensions for Threats.


A rich (and rapid!) discussion ensued as we had 20 minutes at the first table (then 10 minutes at subsequent tables) to discuss each issue.  The groups moved from table to table so everyone had the change to air out their SWOTs.

After the SWOT participants had a chance to network.  It was fantastic to see the cross collaboration & discussions happening.  I witnessed relief that others were struggling with similar tensions and joy to find immediate solutions to some challenges. Immediate feedback from participants was overwhelmingly positive and appreciative of the chance to simply take time to meet and talk.

We ended the meeting by using the large whiteboards in the Hub and asked the following:

  • Did you know ……
  • I wish we could……
  • Help!!!!

More connections were made and the following comment in response to I wish made me very happy to have had the opportunity to facilitate the experience:

Response to "I wish" prompt

Looking forward into 2017 – more meetings will be facilitated and small working groups organized to discuss issues surfaced during the SWOT.


Working hardWell, it has been a few weeks since I’ve posted about our Online Presence and Public Scholarship Working Group.  From a meta perspective, have already learned some personal lessons about realistic expectations and time management. Time is always a struggle – which, we’re learning from the group. Dedicating the time alone to the group for 1 1/2 hours a week eats away at other things. While involved in helping/talking with others, that does not leave much additional time for me/us to reflect on the process! I am still going to do my best to blog on a weekly basis, but, will not beat myself up if I don’t achieve that goal as the primary objective of the process is to support and assist the faculty in the working group.

Initial feedback from participants has been very positive.  While attendance has dropped a bit due to fall conference season, we still have steady attendance and engagement.

Our discussions (as we had hoped) vary from philosophical to technical.  One hot topic of discussion has been the use of sites like Academica.edu or ResearchGate.  I had a chance to talk to Dean Long at the MSU Hub open house last week and he suggested these two pieces on Academia.edu which can provide insight into the complexities of using the site (something we have informally discussed):

On a technical standpoint, we’re digging into WordPress and discussing affordances and constraints of certain themes, the benefits of paying for cool ones, the use of tags & categories, how to integrate workflows with tools like IFTTT.

We are at a point (just past the half-way point) where we are recognizing a need to more thoughtfully work on enabling our participants to google the answers to some of their technical questions.  As an example – last week, one of the participants remarked that he watched a screencast that was created, but, he would prefer a hand out with step-by-step instructions on how to create a new blog post. I quickly pulled up WordPress.org support  and google and in about 1 minute had the step-by-step hand-out he was looking for.  As facilitators we’re trying to model how we solve problems and enable our participants to know where to seek help for the “easy” step-by-step type questions.  We don’t need to recreate wheels, SO much documentation exists online – however, I think the instinct to Google is a skill that is often taken for granted and needs to be coached.

On that point – we have had some requests for a curated list of helpful wordpress plug-ins, widgets & themes – any suggestions?!


UntitledWe are living in our new Hub space in Wells Hall.  For such a big shift of space and place, it has been (in my opinion) a very smooth transition. Our physical space is deliberately open and meant to be a co-working space.  People are coming in and out, working together, having chance collaborations and meetings or and getting work done and finding places to settle.

I seek out co-work spaces when I travel. I find them friendly, lively and conducive to collaboration or for productively working alone in a “nook and cranny.” When I was working at MYR Co-work (in Myrtle Beach) they had a great electronic check in system where you indicated your status when you checked in – open to collaboration, working alone, etc.  In the first few days of working together in The Hub, it quickly became apparent that we needed this messaging system. We may be in a group meeting, in the open, and focused – not wanting to be disrupted. Or, we could be working on a project independently and in desperate need for a collaborator or someone to bounce ideas off of (that’s why we are in this space!)  Co-work cups to the rescue!

This is not a new concept – I have seen this system used in classrooms and computer labs for students to indicate they need help. It’s a great way to make sure all students get help or to send signals without having to keep their hands raised.  To make our space accessible and conducive to all modes of work, we’re going to give the cups a try using this system:

G or Green = Open to collaboration & discussion
Y or Yellow = Working independently, but can be interrupted if necessary
R or Red = Please do not disturb

If you stop by to work with us, the cups can be found along the windows to your left when you walk in!




Thank you Dr. Sue Black @dr_black & Mary Carty @marycarty #ald16

On October 11, 2016, in Web/Tech, by Leigh Graves Wolf

It’s my 7th year blogging for Ada Lovelace Day! It’s one of my favorite days to blog & celebrate amazing women. This year I would like to thank Dr. Sue Black AND the amazing Mary Carty who introduced me to Dr. Black!

Dr. Sue Black is simply incredible – and generous of her time on social media and an inspiration to me! Dr. Black OBE FBCS FRSA (born 1962) is a British computer scientist, academic and social entrepreneur. She has been instrumental in saving Bletchley Park, the World War II codebreaking site. (wikipedia) She wrote Saving Bletchley Park.  You can find all ways to engage and connect with her here: https://about.me/sueblack

Mary Carty is also simply incredible.  Mary is Executive Director , CoFounder , Advisor , , speaker, author (twitter). The MAET program was extremely lucky to work with Mary & the LaunchPad team in Galway this summer and I was extremely lucky to gain a mentor, friend and champion.  My mind is constantly running with ways to continue collaborations and support in formal and informal ways.

Follow Dr. Black & Mary to be inspired to action!


Add your story!

On October 11th, 2016 write a blog post about your STEM heroine and add it to our collection: Just follow these simple steps:

  1. Write about a woman in science, technology, engineering or maths whose achievements you admire.
  2. Publish your story online.
  3. Add your story to our collection.
  4. Tell your friends!

2015 Post – Thank you Kimberly Bryant
2014 Post – Thank you MSU Women in Computing (WIC)
2013 Post – Thank you Dr. Kyla McMullen
2012 Post – Thank you Mary, Pam & Catherine
2011 Post – Thank you Dr. Caroline Haythornthwaite
2010 Post – Thank you Dr. Catherine Mohr


Working groupIn committing co-facilitating the Online Presence and Public Scholarship Working Group, I’ve also committed to meta & in-process reflection on the process so we can gather data and evidence to provide to the MSU Academic Advancement Network nodes as they’re engaged in finding ways to develop communities of practice that integrate across related disciplinary clusters in novel ways.

To start, I think Week 1 went well – kicking things off with Dean Long‘s workshop (link below) was a great conversation starter and I think helped to contextualize things to a wider university/academic audience, then, our smaller group can dig into their own goals.  The 1-hour and 15 minute cowork sessions were very well attended on Wednesday and Thursday and participants were engaged in the “digital hub visualization” activity (details below in slide deck.) I am hoping to foster more discussion in the coming weeks and I know one of our tricky spots as facilitators will be scaffolding these discussions – not everyone cares about say, Twitter, so how can we organize our coworking time to maximize benefits to all? We’re gathering some data from participation over the weekend and hope to use that to build a “schedule” for upcoming discussions. I put the word schedule in quotes because we are really trying hard to push against this being sit-and-get, we really want to create an organic responsive environment. I’m so excited to be working with Scott & Stephen on this because we have very different sets of skills and strengths and I think this will come in very handy as we flex and respond to requests from our 20 participants. (We also have a close eye at scaling this beyond 20.)  We all have networks we can rely on that we can bring into the conversation — which — leads me to my request to you, my network, this week:

The majority of participants are tenure stream faculty and we are talking about the use of social media (and blogging in particular) to help with the promotion and tenure process.  They have heard a lot about it can be useful, but, mentor texts would be very helpful in concretizing the benefits.  I provided this example from my own use of blogging to support my annual review process as an academic specialist.  Because I blog about every presentation, workshop, paper, etc. I’m able to gather evidence and artifacts quickly and easily and THEN take the time to do the reflection on those pieces (or just copy/paste from reflections I did on the blog.) Tenure stream friends – how do you do this? Do you have any suggestions? Tips? Tricks? Struggles?

Finally, we (Scott, Stephen and I) have decided to send out a weekly email on Fridays to recap the cowork sessions.  (Copy/pasted for you below with some of the internal links redacted.) We are offering two meeting times/week and need to find a way to connect the two groups.  We want to keep this fairly low stakes/tech right now – so we’re choosing to use email and a shared Google folder to serve as our main connection points.  Down the road a hashtag may develop or other collaboration platforms may emerge as being useful.

Happy Friday!


Good afternoon –

It was wonderful meeting all of you this week. We started our working group with an excellent kickoff on Tuesday by Chris Long, Dean of the College of Arts and Letters, which helped showcase different faculty approaches to digital identities and scholarship. His blog about the workshop can be found here: http://www.cplong.org/2016/09/bringing-your-cv-to-life/ and the Storify of the tweets from the session can be found here: https://storify.com/cplong11/bringing-your-cv-to-life.

For those that were unable to attend, Scott has the recording and will be posting it soon.  We will be keeping an archive of all the weekly email/links/notes/recordings and meeting times and locations here: [internal link]

In this first week of cowork sessions we used post-it notes to visualize our academic products and piled & reorganized, sorted & interpreted them to make maps and visualizations for our scholarly presence plans. In short we tackled:

  1. How public or private you would like those artifacts to be and
  2. Types of tools that might prove useful in displaying and connecting those artifacts

Here is a link to the slide deck that guided our discussion:

We heard lots of questions arise across the two days– around sharing journal articles (should we use Academia.edu?), our existing presence (who is in control of what is already out there?), what tools should I use? How are issues of accessibility addressed in our discussion? Should I start over with my web presence? Who “owns” your URL or web address? We will be using these questions to shape future discussions.

Finally, we promise not to survey you too much, but, we do have one quick survey for you. In the early stages of our planning your responses to this survey are very helpful in shaping the experience & people/experts we ask to engage with our group over the next few weeks. If you can fill this out by Tuesday, October 11, we would greatly appreciate it: [ internal link to survey ]

Have a great weekend –

Leigh, Stephen and Scott