Monday, September 22, 2014

My activist heart

I was Worship Associate at the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara yesterday and as part of the service, I not only got to be the voice of Mother Earth (!), but I also delivered this reflection on the tension of wanting to devote your life to making the world a better place and the daily demands of life.
You might not think by looking at me that I am an activist.

In college I worked in inner city schools in Lansing, Michigan to try to prepare the kids they deemed “disadvantaged” to go to college. Later, after grad school, I quit my corporate Training Manager job and helped start a charter school in Philadelphia based on the radical constructivist educational beliefs of Paolo Freire. I’ve participated in pro-choice rallies and I even got to sit in the office of the Deputy Governor of Pennsylvania and explain how the legislation they were passing to heavily regulate women’s health facilities would impact the women of Pennsylvania.  I financially support several grassroots and lobbying organizations that support movements like equality, clean water and climate change.  On Martin Luther King Day, I take my children to work on projects in the community.

I’m proud to be a Unitarian Universalist, in part, because of our history and beliefs rooted in social justice. I am an activist in the deepest part of my being, wanting to change the world, leaving it better than when I came into it.

There’s another side to the story, though. I don’t know what happened to those kids I tutored in Lansing…I graduated before most of them would have ever even applied to college. Two years after helping start Freire Charter School, I had to leave and get a “real job” because I couldn’t afford my student loan payments. That legislation in Pennsylvania passed and many, many clinics that had provided abortion services were forced to close their doors. By that time, I was accepting the job that moved me here to Carpinteria.

I want to be an activist, I want to stand up for my liberal beliefs, I want to make the world better, and yet the demands of daily life: my financial obligations, the things I want to be able to provide to my children and the things that simply bring me joy…these things are in constant competition with this feeling that I can, and should, make a difference.

I feel this most acutely when I see the phenomenal work and effort of others. Becca Claassen, one of our own congregation, has dedicated her time, energy…her life…to her passion: protecting our water in Santa Barbara county and working against climate change. I cannot tell you how much I admire her and the work that she is doing, standing up for what she believes in. Her passion and commitment is inspiring as an example of living our principles.
Watching Becca and others who live their values makes me deeply consider if I’m practicing what I preach. We all have our unique passions that drive us, and mine is gender equality. As a woman in the tech and gaming industries, I’ve faced more bias, discrimination and harassment than even those closest to me will probably ever know. I’m not alone and gender discrimination in the workplace is just the tip of the iceberg. Recent public conversations about street harassment, rape culture in schools and college campuses and the heightened focus on domestic violence prompted by arrests and indictments of NFL players, fuel my passion to work toward gender equality. When I see the work of Wendy Davis in Texas, I long to join the cause that seeks to make this country, this world, just as safe and full of opportunity for my daughters as it is for my sons.

There is a tension. I’m not in a position that I could quit my job and dedicate my time to gender equality, even if that’s where my activist heart is. I have bills and kids and a house to take care of and commitments to honor to my family and to myself.

What can I do? For me, the sentiment “Think global, act local” rings true. Maybe today isn’t my day to change the world in a big, public way. Maybe there will never be that day. But today is the day that I can teach my children about gender bias and discrimination. It IS the day that I can raise issues in my workplace that level the playing field. It IS the day I can write blog posts, post articles via social media. It IS the day that I can offer financial support to those who are dedicating their lives to the causes I believe in. It IS the day that I can jump in when I can, to march in a rally or make canvasing calls.

Today is the day that I have shared my passions with all of you. Maybe you are a passionate feminist too…maybe there are ways we can work together and support each other. Maybe today is the day that you share what you’re passionate about with someone after the service and you make a connection that leads to action that really does make the world better.

Maybe I don’t have to be an army of one to change the world. Maybe we are the army already.

Friday, September 19, 2014

My littlest teacher

My youngest daughter, Sallie Rose, is 8 years old today.

Have you ever met someone who, as soon as you talk to them, warms your heart? Who when they listen to you, really listens and understands? Who knows just when you need a hug, or a word of encouragement? Who has an infectious and totally unselfconscious giggle? Who is wise, insightful and mature beyond her years?

I gave birth to one of those people. I wasn't sure I wanted more children after I had settled in with my two older boys (funny, now that we have six...) and I was pretty sure I was a "boy-mom." As we like to say, she snuck in there. I cried when I found out at my first ultrasound that she was a girl; I didn't think I'd know how to raise a girl.

It didn't matter what I thought I knew, or what I didn't know...Sallie has taught me. She has a heart so big it can't be contained in her little body and you can sense it whenever you are near her. She makes life better for everyone around her. I admire her strength and wisdom and most of all, her radiating love.

We find many teachers in our lives and learn different things from these people that help us grow and evolve. My daughter has been one of my greatest teachers. She gives me strength and perspective and courage.

Happy birthday, Sallie Rose. And no, you don't have to ride in your booster seat anymore :)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Immerse yourself in learning at #DevLearn 2014

It's almost DevLearn season! A few weeks ago, I wrote a reflection on why I go to DevLearn each year that was posted by the eLearning Guild, "Something New."

DevLearn 2013
This will be my 7th DevLearn in a row. Wow. My first year, in 2008, my fledgling company Tandem Learning attended as a new vendor. The conference was in San Jose and we had a booth out in the hallway, showing off 3D immersive environments for learning and our demo of a Virtual Territory for pharma sales training. We also hosted a wine reception, and it was there that I met many of the people in the learning industry that I call friends today. 

Over the years, I ran ARGs at DevLearn, hosted the Emerging Tech stage for a couple years, did pre-conference sessions, concurrent sessions, and even did the closing Ignite! keynote wearing a fabulous fascinator (the conference had moved to Vegas by then and I wanted to channel my inner showgirl).
DevLearn 2009: Dr Strangelearn ARG
I'm particularly excited about DevLearn this year. While there are lots of reasons, not least of which are getting to see Neil Tyson Degrasse keynote and the new location at the Bellagio, the main reason I'm excited about DevLearn 2014 is because this is the first year I'll be attending as an author. It was a long road to publishing my first book, Immersive Learning, and I'm really proud and excited to share the key themes of the book at DevLearn this year. 

Ignite! Closing keynote 2011
There's a few ways you can join me in exploring immersive design at DevLearn this year. First I'm hosting a concurrent session on Thurs, Oct 30th at 10:30 am to share real-world examples of how organizations are using immersive learning to improve performance. If you're attending DevLearn, I hope to see you there!

If you REALLY want to immerse yourself in immersive learning, please join me on Tuesday, October 28th for a full-day pre-conference workshop. We'll spend the day digging in to the immersive design process and you'll leave with an actionable design document. You'll learn how to do a thorough analysis which is critical and serves as the basis for your design, we'll walk through how to make decisions on theme, character development, storyline structure, feedback and scoring. 
We'll explore all of the different technologies available to deliver your immersive training. I'm really excited about this session, and hope you'll join me!

Other places I'll be at DevLearn? Look for me signing books on Thursday after my concurrent session (time tentatively set for 12:30pm) and maybe even a Morning Buzz session? Otherwise, I'll be attending sessions and looking forward to opportunities to connect with all of the brilliant people congregating at DevLearn this year. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

#draw21days Day 18: Cardboard doodles

Despite my solo-parenting weekend, I'm actually finding quite a bit of time to catch up on my drawing. As I'm getting to the end of the challenges, I'm starting to wonder what's next and how I can keep this practice going. I've never thought of myself as an artist, but I'm starting to not be able to picture NOT drawing. Maybe it's time for some art lessons? Maybe I should check out the other courses on :)

Last night I was checking in with the littlest Pagano and my husband before their bedtime. The little guy was describing his "invisible friend" who lives in California while he's away. His name is Burn and he has a fiery tail and likes to give you sunburns. Doesn't sound like a very nice guy, but I decided to try to draw what he might looks like for my Day 18 challenge. Here's Burn:

I still had a lot of cardboard left and time to kill while I worked with my 6th grader on math homework, so I also drew Burn's nemesis, Cooly McFishy.

I've also decided that I'm not that excited by doodling, but at least this was a chance for me to practice the graphical/cartoon style that I've been struggling with.

I did like working on the thicker cardboard as opposed to paper, and working with pen instead of pencil was a little unnerving...I'm still not that confident! But at least I'm taking chances!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

#draw21days Day 16: Drawing design & Day 17: Window to the soul

I'm back in it!

After getting past the dinosaurs on Day 15, I broke out my new sketch pad and pencils and worked on the next two challenges this morning.

Day 16's challenge is to draw an iconic image of an owl, using photo references to guide your drawing. Graphical style drawings are not my strong suit, or at least I don't feel super confident in those drawings. I took a couple passes to try to get more "logo-like" but I also wanted to take my new pencils for a spin, so I still did some shading.


This is one that I might come back to and try to get more graphical, but I do like how my owls turned out.

Day 17...eyes! Yay!

I used to doodle eyes constantly, so the biggest challenge with this challenge was not falling into my old doodling patterns. The challenge was to do 2 drawings, 1 realistic and 1 graphical. I used a photo of John and I as a reference and drew John's left eye. I really like how it turned out.

Coming off the realistic eye, I had to do a couple "in between" drawings before I got more graphical. One of the things I was thinking of was how difficult being a cartoonist would be for me, as I really struggle with simplicity and consistency of shapes. This is definitely something to work on!

A few more challenges to go...I'm already wondering what to do once the 21 challenges are complete.

Friday, September 12, 2014

#draw21days: Day 15: Boxing Dinosaurs

It's been well over 21 days, but I'm not giving up on the drawing challenge! I could tell you all about how busy I've been (true), but the abbreviated story is: :)

Tonight my house is full of teenagers and I'm down a spouse, so while I chaperone, I'm drawing. 

AND! I got myself actual drawing supplies! Nice art pencils, colored pencils, and an honest to goodness sketch pad. I don't think they will help my drawing skills much, but since I've really started to like drawing, I wanted to get some supplies better than whatever I could scrounge from my kids' school supplies.

A confession: I haven't wanted to do the Day 15 Challenge. Like, I REALLY didn't want to do it. I don't even know why. I don't have anything against dinosaurs, and it didn't seem that hard. Still, every time I thought about completing the challenge, I'd think, "no." I even considered just skipping it and going on to the next challenge, but I'm stubborn and wanted to do the challenge in order. 

So here it is. I drew dinosaurs in boxes, and one having tea. The T-Rex is sitting at my 8th grader's request, who told me as I was finishing up the brontosaurus that he always pictures T-Rexs sitting (he doesn't know why).

Now that I've broken the Day 15 barrier, I'm hoping the rest of the 21 days come more easily. 


Monday, September 8, 2014

Learning by trying

Even though I wrote a book on immersive learning, one of the main premises of which is that failure is an excellent and meaningful way to learn, I still hate failing. Hate it.

I mean, come on, who likes failing? We like to win. We like to do well. We want praise and accolades and admiration, not a side-long glance that screams "do better next time" or being dismissed or worse, pitied.  Failing sucks, the consequences of failing suck, and all the "we learn the most from our mistakes" reassurances in the world don't really soothe the sting of failure. 

At the same time, we know on some level that it's true. We DO learn a lot when we fail. It makes us reflect, take stock. It makes us really look at and question our own behaviors. It makes us re-evaluate our decisions. Failure is without a doubt a teachable moment. 

I'm not talking about passive failure here. It doesn't count if you didn't actually try or if you quit. Failure without effort only teaches you that if you don't try, you can't succeed. Quitting is a completely different dynamic than failing and influenced by a number of things...quitting is a teachable moment on it's own and should supercede the associated failure. 

I'm talking about good old-fashioned "I gave it my all and it still wasn't good enough" failure. I've had a few of these in my life, as most of us have. Some of these failures taught me things about myself, some have taught me things about others, some about human nature. Some of the lessons were tough ones. 

I'm in the reflection phase of a big failure right now. This time it wasn't a personal failure; this was a process failure, a failure of a system...specifically, the legal system. 

I firmly believe you have to do what's right, even when you know you're up against the odds, even with high cost and high risk. When you know you're doing what's right, it makes the decision to try easy even if the task isn't easy. Sometimes you just have to tell the truth, even when no one believes you and even when it doesn't make things better. Sometimes you just have to jump in, try, and do your best.

This summer, my family made a decision to trust the legal system and confront a terrible situation. We knew what we were doing was right. We knew we'd have to listen to lies and that ultimately, someone who doesn't know us or anything about the situation would make a judgment. We lost. And it sucked. I want to wallow. I want to fight back. I want to scream at the universe and shake my fist in anger. I don't understand how liars win. I've spent so much time thinking about what we could have done differently. The truth is, we did our best. 

So what am I learning from this failure? I've dealt with liars and manipulators before, so charming and convincing that they were able to maintain their lies for years, hurting everyone around them. I've believed lies with all of my heart. Each time I finally realized the truth in those situations, I'd swear that I'd never be duped again. But never is a mighty long time and one thing I know I don't want to learn is to become so cynical and distrusting that I close myself off to hope, love and wonder. 

I'm seeing a similar situation here in Santa Barbara county. My dear friend Becca Claassen is fighting to make fracking illegal and she is up against the oil companies who have more money, more resources and some really charming lawyers. She's fighting against their lies; she's fight for what's right. She's fought hard and got Measure P on the ballot for November to let the voters choose. I'm so proud of her. It's hard to face the opposition every day, especially ones who have the advantage. It's hard going into a situation knowing that the odds are against you. It's hard to try when failure is likely. Even though we want to believe the David vs Goliath stories, the reason why that story is so compelling is that it's rare. 

The hard truth, the one I haven't wanted to accept, is that there are people out there who lie. Worse, a lot of those liars are so convincing that other people believe them. And truly horrifying is that people will lie to their own advantage, even when it hurts everyone around them and the people they love most. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't tell the truth. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't try, shouldn't stand up for ourselves, shouldn't do what we know is right. Even if David had been defeated, he was still better than Goliath. 

Sometimes it's not even about telling the truth or triumphing over lies. Last May, my then 6th grader Jackson participated in the Santa Barbara Math Super Bowl. Saying this kid loves math is an understatement, and it was his last year of being able to participate. The previous year, he had went with his team but didn't receive any awards. This year he was confident and excited; he had been practicing extensively for the entire year in preparation. During the awards ceremony, as they listed the 6th-1st place winners first in 4th grade, then 5th grade, and finally the 6th graders, my anxiety was growing. What if he didn't get an award? How would he feel about the effort he had put in? What would the lesson be if he had done his best and it wasn't good enough? As the names were read, I could feel his anxiety too. I'm proud to say our nervousness was for nothing; he ended up winning with a perfect score, the last name read. But it could have gone the other way, and what if it had? He would have been crushed and defeated and sad and angry. I'm sure he would have looked back on his efforts all year and questioned if he should have tried at all if the end result wasn't a victory medal around his neck. Some of his teammates, and surely most of the kids in that conference hall, had to face that reflection. I hope they learned from their efforts, not just from the end result. 

When I started Tandem Learning in 2008, the odds were against me succeeding. I knew it, but I felt like we could be successful and more importantly that I had to try. There were ups and downs and successes and failures, and ultimately with our acquisition 4 years later, I closed that chapter thankful for the journey. And I got a tattoo, a modified quote from Teddy Roosevelt

if she fails, at least she fails while daring greatly

We have to try. We have to risk failure. We have to know, on some deep level, that life is a marathon, not a sprint. We have to know that we can lose a battle and still win the war. We have to learn that sometimes, it's the trying, not the failure or success, that defines a person. It is in the trying and risking that we learn, not just in the success or failure. It's in the trying that we learn who we are.