Episode 4: Innovation & Creativity with Meredith Carpenter
5:38PM Mar 15, 2021
In today's innovation studio podcast, we're talking with Meredith carpenter, who teaches business and economics with a specialty in small business. She is also the co author of innovation and creativity, which is a textbook being used in western North Carolina. Hi, Meredith. Thanks for being with us.
Thank you for having me.
So we're going to talk today a little more about value, and how value drives innovation, rather than innovation, driving value. And I know that you have a really interesting perspective about value due to your discipline. So we are just going to jump right in, because I want to hear what you have to say, rather than people hearing what I have to say. So Meredith, when you hear the word value, just generally outside of education, what do you think about?
Oh, my goodness, um, you know, I think we all wear a lot of different hats in our lives. And so as a mom, when I hear the word value, I'm thinking of a good bargain. As a professional in the business sector, when I hear the word value, I think of value added, which is a term that is thrown around a lot for production, or if you're trying to make a business decision. You know, it's kind of the why behind what you're doing. What is my What is my purpose for, for offering this product or the service? Or what is my purpose for opening the second location, so your value added, there would be the justification for why it's worth taking the risk. And, you know, that might be a good definition for for all of our lives, but I think there's value and as in monetary value, and then there's value as in maybe your, your personal values, or morals or self standing. But I think in this perspective, I would probably lean more towards the value added conversation. And surprisingly, I think we see it more in education than we realize.
So that was my next question. When you hear the word paired with education, what do you think about in terms of value?
Um, I think we, we have to think about all sides, we need to realize that, you know, there's value to us as content creators, and there's value to the people who are absorbing the content. And we have to be very careful as we do this, that we are creating content that students are receptive to, and that we are not assuming that our value is their value. And I think a lot of times, as educators, you know, we put our heart and soul into what we are doing, and every single one of us are in this field, because we are passionate about helping others. But I think it's, it's easy to get caught up into that and to want to create the best content that you can. And it's very easy to get caught up in bells and whistles, and trends and fads. I think we need to be really, really careful with that. I mean, I think we've got to find that sweet spot between staying true to, you know, the the main stream of information that we want to be in the course, but also not being afraid to try new things to increase student engagement and to reach students. And, you know, it's it's interesting, that first comment that you made about value, driving innovation versus innovation driving value, and, you know, which should come first and what's the difference. So, if you define creativity as the generation or expression of meaningful ideas, then you can then say that innovation is individuals and organizations implementing new ideas that create value. So you know, not being afraid to use creativity in your courses, not being afraid to ask students to be creative, and try new things, you know, do not get stuck in the mud on this is how I build courses. This is how I've always built courses. And this is how I'm always going to build courses. If that were the case, we'd still be using, you know, the dancing bunny rabbits from the gifts from the 90s. I think having this conversation about implementing new ideas that create value is important. If it doesn't create value, don't bother, but you might need to try it. You might need a petri dish, a place where you can try out a new type of assignment. And don't be afraid to get feedback.
So that makes me think of what our production vacuolar pitfalls when you are trying something new? What are things that get in the way? What can you trip over? I'd like to hear what you think about that.
I know that I have made the mistake of trying to do too many new things at one time. You know, teaching in general, when I, when I first started teaching, a mentor of mine told me they said, teaching is 25% dissemination of information and 75% Entertainment. And that was in high school and in, in a physical classroom, of course, so they were absolutely spot on. And then as I started teaching online over the years, in the collegiate setting, realizing, you know, how does, how does that need to keep people's attention? And how does that transfer in the online setting. And I think it's, it's like a good recipe, you know, and if, if you know what works, but you want to try something different, you know, maybe it's best to keep, keep the main dish the same, and try one new side dish at a time, so to speak. Don't throw out what works just to try a bunch of new stuff, I think you'll end up in a really precarious situation. So, you know, don't be afraid to test the waters on things. Don't be afraid to be honest with your students. You know, I've done that before, say, you know, there's a new type of assignment available in Moodle. I've never used this particular submission format. So we're going to try it, I look forward to hearing what you think about it. And, and asking for grace from your students in that process and, and providing grace for your students in that process, realizing they might get hung up on something. But that has been such a rewarding experience for me too, is that as I take risks, and try new things in my online classes, students really like hearing that you are human to, they like being reminded, you know, because there's already this disconnect, and this barrier between the computers. So anything you can do to, to bring a sense of normality. But also, warmth to the class, I think is something that we should all seek. And so if you're going to try new things, don't be afraid to try new things. But don't be Don't be afraid to be honest with the students about that process, or what that might look like.
It's a great analogy about the main course and the side dishes. Yeah, thank you like that. That's great. What about technology, and assessing value in use of technology, or especially in the creative process, I'd love to hear your your thoughts on that technological innovation and how it can either boost or hinder the learning process.
So many thoughts here. So many thoughts on this subject? I think that you need to, you need to ask yourself a couple of questions. We should all be asking ourselves these questions, which are, you know, what is the purpose of the technology? Again, we go back to the value discussion, right? Does does it add value? does it create value for my students? Or can I just say, I did this thing over here, I wave the carrot, you know, move the shiny object back and forth. That's not really helping anybody else. Everyone gets technology fatigue. There. Yeah. And there is comfort in a little bit of repetition like that. With technology. There's got to be and maybe even this is a more coarse design comment. But there's there's got to be enough repetition so that students don't feel lost. But there can't be so much repetition that students get disengaged from the course. So you got to mix it up a little bit. Technology is a great way to mix things up. But keep in mind, how comfortable you are with technology versus how comfortable others are with technology. And this is this has been a really interesting spot for me the last couple of years and through the pandemic as well because I think when you serve in the community college system that is such a unique population in that it is incredibly mixed. And you could just as easily have a 16 year old high school student who is duly enrolled in your class, as you could have a 45 year old single mom who's coming back to school. Goal, you know, to hit the restart button on some things. And they might both be familiar with technology and comfortable with technology in completely different ways. And I think also, it's a, it's a misconception to assume that young people are, you know, you hear the term digital natives, I think it can be a misconception to assume that they are super comfortable with technology, because the type of technology that they are comfortable with, is not the type of technology that's used in a professional setting. The technology that they are used to using is incredibly intuitive. Everything's done in, you know, I wouldn't even say three clicks or less, I'd say, a click and a half or less, you know, limited limited options, limited features, super streamlined, you don't even need instructions, you just hop on and click around and figure it out. They have not been given the skill set to troubleshoot and problem solve within technology. So we need to be careful of what we're asking our students to do. But we need to realize the tremendous opportunities that technology can provide.
Great. So Marybeth, how do you how do you measure value in your classes?
You know, value is really an intangible concept. And it's incredibly subjective, I think, which makes it incredibly difficult to measure. And I think the proof is in the pudding, so to speak. I think if you continue to have students re enrolling in your courses, I think if you if you get positive feedback, or even positive? Well, even if you get feedback that is, like constructive criticism, but with the best of intentions. So I don't worry too much about the assessments that come from the college at the end of the year. I think they have their place, I think they're useful. But I, I myself put something at the end of the semester. You know, it's it's 100. If you do it, it's zero. If you don't, it doesn't matter what you put in there. It's it's a pass fail situation. And I just want to know, what did you think what worked for you? What didn't work for you? Would you recommend this textbook for next year, and I frame it with a sense of responsibility to the students, you know, you have been through this course, and the people before you helped make your experience better. And it's up to you to help make the students behind you to make their experience better. So tell me now, and you're not going to hurt my feelings. I mean, don't tell me something, I have no control over like you don't like the color of the textbook or something. But you know, if it's something that I can be used, like, I really liked the weekly format. But it would have been more helpful if this, you know, those are things that I can look at and consider doesn't mean I'll do every single little thing. But I think some of my best course design. It comes from the students, it doesn't come from me, I'm just listening to my customers. They'll tell you what they want. People are not shy these days about giving feedback.
Now, that's also very empowering to for the student to say you're part of this process, you're connected, not just as a, a participant in the course. But in defining what happens next in the course and for for future future students. So that seems like a very relational type of value. cycle or structure, exactly the word I'm looking for, but as a symbiotic relationship there. Yes. Yeah, very good. Well, let's think about your class, one of your classes, and maybe walk us through a module or a section and help us to to understand where the value is, where do you see the value in in that module? Or in that, in that setup? How do you how do you lay it out? And what, what value do you perceive as is does it have for your students?
Wow, that's a huge responsibility. I, you know, something that has really come to me in the last few years is, you know, I've been teaching for about 15 years now. And that has been long enough to really watch some things ebb and flow, it's been long enough to watch technology change. Student preferences have changed, the LMS has them set well we've changed LMS is but then versions of the LMS is what they can and can't do. accessibility requirements, really stepping up. And so meeting all of those challenges over and over and over again, has taught me that courses absolutely cannot be stagnant. That is just not an option. But there can be a framework, there can be a natural framework that exudes your personality and the way that you teach. And for me, that has been to have no surprises or as few surprises as possible for students, I, that's how I teach in the physical classroom. And that's how I teach online. And while you cannot take the way you teach the physical course, and just simply do that online, but that's not how it works. You can take your essence as a teacher, and put it online, because that's what people connect to in the classroom. And that's what they're going to connect to in an online environment as well. And that's what they need from you. So I'm really, really big on no surprises I'm really big on, here's what you can expect out of this class, here's what you can expect from me, I will always let you know, in advance as much as I can, if something's going to change, and I try as hard as I can to stick to the one week rule. So everything is open for one week, no matter what. And that means, if I, you know, mess up and don't get something opened when I was hoping to get it open, if it doesn't open on Monday, and it's Tuesday before I can open it. Well, if that Monday thing was going to be due Sunday, now the Tuesday thing is going to be due Monday, you know, I guarantee them seven days. And that has worked really well for me. Because seven days is more than enough time for them to be checking into the course on a regular basis and planning ahead. So as far as layout goes that all of that led me to this place have a few basic rules that I feel like are my kind of go to that I do not deviate from. And the first thing and perhaps the most important thing is I think students should hear from you. every single week, or whatever your module is, I like weekly modules, I open everything on Monday, I close it on Sunday, that that gives people the weekend to procrastinate too. And it also kind of forces them to realize if I want help, I need to reach out and be proactive instead of reactive, because I know she's not going to answer me on a Sunday evening. So your students need to hear from you. And so that is one of two things. For me, that's either going to be a video of me talking to them. And you know, I try to keep it under five minutes. It's not a lecture, it's just me saying, Hey, this is what we're doing this week, this is what you can expect. This is why we're covering this information, you know, giving them an on ramp to that week's module. And if I don't make a video, because sometimes it just doesn't happen, I make a little voice message. And sometimes I just do a voice message just to change it up a little bit. So we use Moodle. And they have this fantastic little feature where you can record a voice message and it limits you to two minutes. And I'm a talker, I love to talk, I can't believe I get paid to talk for a living. And so, you know, sometimes it's good for me to be cut off at two minutes. And I'll do seven takes to try because it keeps cutting me off and start over again. So they need to they need to hear your voice every single week, they need to be reminded that there's a real person on the other end of the computer. And video is just where the expectations are these days. That's that's how people consume information. So and they want it in small, you know, small bits, small chunks. So always an introduction video or an introduction message. And then I try to have a video lecture for the course content.
I typically tend to do this with voiceover PowerPoints. I know that might not be the most enthralling thing, but I personally am. Don't feel like I'm at my best standing in front of a camera in front of a blank wall, trying to talk with my hands inside. I'm just I don't think it's good for me. I don't think it's good for my students. So voiceover PowerPoint has actually been very effective for my auditory learners. And then for the people that don't love it, they're, they're happier reading chapter anyway. And I'm always very careful to say, you know, this, this video lecture is not a replacement for reading the chapter. So that's the second time that they hear my voice. And then, of course, their reading assignment. And then I tried to do a series of different types of engagements. If I can include a study tool, I do that I like to throw in current events, every, every week or every other week. And then, of course, the typical testbank type stuff that you might see with a textbook package. I do not believe in busy work, that does not add value to your course, you know, if a good course design and a good way to deliver value to students should be explaining the why behind why you're asking them to do this, you know, and if you pull up Bloom's, you know what I don't, I don't just want you to memorize information that's not going to assume I'm going to help you after graduation. And yeah, you can you can memorize it, you can answer the multiple choice questions, and you can pass the class. I'm more interested in how well you do, you know, in the future with employment, when your boss comes to you and says, I need you to solve this problem, and there is no ABCD there's no answer, you need critical thinking skills. How do we teach that that's the value that we need to be focusing on delivering our students because there's no way that we can prepare them now for the jobs, they're going to have 10 years from now, because those jobs probably don't even exist yet.
Your approach to design though, though, I think it's it's learned through experience, is still it's very textbook, universal design for learning. So I commend you for your, for your processing your thinking behind it, and in why you do what you do. Sounds like you, you have pretty good reactions, and from students and pretty decent outcomes, generally speaking,
thank you. I hope so.
Just as a final, final couple of thoughts on looking toward the future. Are there? Are there things you want to explore other areas to look for value? In maybe designing for class in the in the near future? I know that you I know you spend a lot of time on design, and you probably get text new textbooks often. So So how do you how do you go about, you know, looking for that, that value in your design, when you've got multiple preps?
I don't think we have enough conversations about curriculum mapping. I think that is something that we really need to be taking more Have a look at. in the future. I mean, maybe you know, maybe some places are absolutely rocking it. But I don't know that we are having the conversation we need to have about curriculum mapping, as it relates to online instructional design. Because, you know, as a kind of jack of all trades and Master of None, instructor at a small rural college. It, it's my standard load is five to six preps. And so it is impossible, or at least is not fun to have semesters where you are trying to upgrade and redesign every single thing. So you kind of need to have kind of have a schedule, like a rotating schedule of when you're going to do major revamps. And sometimes that's working with publishers to know when the new version of the textbook is going to come out. Sometimes it's it's just giving yourself permission to say this one's gonna get micro tweaks this semester, this one's gonna get macro tweaks. Because you should always be in a state of continuous improvement. The question is just you know, how much and and sometimes it's okay for it to just be a little bit. Sometimes it's okay to just be stay on top of current events and, and keeping the framework largely the same. But um, I myself, that's an area that I really want to grow in is curriculum mapping. Again, being able to defend why the content that's in my courses is there. So that and that's not for from myself or an accrediting body so much as it is for my students. I want to be able to say to them, it's important to learn this now in this intro level course. So that when you go take this 200 level course, you know, we can work on mastery of the concept and I think we all just need wise, I know I'm a white person I can't just push the red button because I'm told to push the red button, I want to know why to push the red button. And what happens when I push the red button? And who invented the red button? And why is it there? I want to know all these things, you know, I want to I want to learn as much as possible, I think in education is is powerful. And I think it empowers people. And I think it is important for our society. And I just I don't think that can ever go. You know, without saying but I really, really, really think we're seeing a shift in why people choose to learn. And I think we as educators need to be very, very aware that the value that we deliver to students is why they choose us and not someone else, because it's too It's too easy for them to switch the the barriers to students to switch colleges, if we're looking at it from a business perspective is so low, so we don't give them the value that they're looking for. They're going to go somewhere else to get it. Because they're doing it from their living room anyway. And you know, I want to be a beacon for for students, I want people who want to study business to say, you should really go check out Meredith Carpenter's class. It's, it's legitimate. And it's fun. And you're going to walk away knowing a lot. And you're going to get your money's worth. So whatever kind of value we're defining, go there, because that's where you'll get it.
That's the ultimate compliment, right? When somebody says take, take, so it says class. Yeah. So I'm tempted to ask what you would say to a new faculty member. But what I really want to ask is, what would you say to a veteran faculty member who, who might not be thinking about the wise and might not be thinking about value? They're just trying to do what they did in a walled classroom. Now online? Do you think it's a matter of prompting them to define or redefine value?
Yes. And you know what, I don't even think it's a redefine value, because I don't think we were having the value conversation 20 years ago.
yeah, so as a person who is literally mid career as middle of the road as you can get in, in my career. I'm, like, I'm not exactly a newbie anymore. But I'm not exactly a veteran anymore. I mean, I don't know, maybe I am, maybe I'm not, but I feel very much like I'm in this kind of, kind of midpoint. And so to the to the newbies, I would say buckle up. Because No two days are going to be the same. And that's okay, give yourself permission, for no two days to be the same, no two semesters are going to be the same, you're not going to run the class the same way twice, there's a there's this quote or whatever in the movie Pocahontas. And they say you can never step in the same river twice. Because the river is always changing the waters always flowing a pebble turns over a fish swims by, you are never stepping in the same river twice. And you are never stepping into the same classroom twice. And I think just knowing that from the onset would have been very empowering for me as a new teacher, and then to, you know, to the folks who have been doing this a long time and who are struggling with just the the pace at which we are experiencing change. Or maybe you were thrown into online teaching due to the pandemic, first of all, thank you to everybody for all that you are doing. I mean, each and every one of you are superheroes in your own way. And you are out there making a difference in somebody's life. And and that's a big deal. But to the veteran teachers who are just not sure how to approach this thing, I would say don't forget that you are in education. Because you love to help people learn. And it's okay to be the one doing the learning.
it's still it is the very essence of what you do. It's it's still the thing that you are in. It's just it's okay to not be in the driver's seat. Cuz I think 2030 years ago as a teacher you got in the driver's seat, and, and you drove for 30 years the whole time. And you went to a workshop here and you went to work. out there and you learn the latest lingo or the next initiative. And you kind of did that for a little while. But as far as like how you taught the technique, the expectations, I don't think it really changed. But I think now it is, it is changing on a regular basis. So don't be afraid to hop out of the driver's seat and learn some new things. But also be be wary of, of change fatigue, I think we all need to be wary of of change fatigue for ourselves and for our students, because that does not add value.
we all struggle when that happens.
Well, Meredith, thank you so much for being with us today. And I've been with Meredith carpenter, who teaches Business and Economics, and she is the co author of innovation and creativity. Meredith resides in western North Carolina. Thank you, Meredith.
Thank you so much for having me. It's been an absolute pleasure.