Activities and experiences in the classroom.

“Disability is in fact the inability to make progress and achievements. The achievements that people of determination have made in various spheres over the past years are proof that determination and strong will can do the impossible and encourage people to counter challenges and difficult circumstances while firmly achieving their goals.”

HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai

On Sunday, October 6, 2019 I engaged my tolerance and diversity students at the American University in the Emirates (AUE) in an exercise about disability which I adapted from an activity from my Bryan School of Business & Economics at UNCG PhD orientation program in July 2019.

In the exercise, which was designed to simulate communication and confusion within an organization, there are typically three roles (I added a fourth to facilitate the exercise in my classroom):

  1. The CEO (who can see, but not talk).
  2. The Manager (who can talk, but cannot see).
  3. The Employee (who is blindfolded).
  4. The Goalie (who holds an object that will be retrieved or interacted with; in this case, it was a service bell you would find on a desk).

The participants are situated as follows:

  • The CEO is facing the manager and the employee (who is placed at some point behind the manager).
  • The manager is directly in front of the CEO, facing him or her with their back to the employee.
  • The employee is behind the manager, blindfolded, but able to move freely in response to instructions from the manager to find it.
  • The Goalie is positioned somewhere in the room; either in a fixed location or is instructed to move at will.

Ideally, the CEO and the manager will develop a way to communicate with each other; the manager also needs to think about how to translate the CEO’s nonverbal communication to the employee. This gets especially confusing when the issue of who’s left or right comes into play. The employee is blindfolded and must listen to the voice of the manager to know where and how to move.

When I participated in this exercise as part of the orientation program for my PhD in Business Administration at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, I was outdoors with my 17 cohort members at the university’s Piney Lake recreational area. We conducted this experiment with several teams going at the same time, creating further confusion and misunderstanding.

In my tolerance and diversity class, we conducted the exercise twice with two different sets of students (who volunteered and agreed to allow themselves to be video recorded).  Both versions are included in this video, one after the other. For the first group the Goalie did not move and remained in the same position; for the second group I instructed the Goalie to move evasively as the Employee got closer to her — thus creating further confusion and frustration.

Following the exercise, we discussed what the experience was like for those who participated (and later, for those in the class who were observing). We then bridged that exercise into a conversation about individuals with disabilities in the workplace or at our university. Students shared their experiences either as an individual with a disability or their interactions with people of determination in their personal or professional lives.

After this, I introduced an article analysis assignment of a Harvard Business Review article titled, “The Case for Improving Work for People with Disabilities Goes Way Beyond Compliance.” The assignment asked them to do three things:

  1. Summarize the main idea of the article.
  2. Identify and Paraphrase the four ways a company can create a culture of support and inclusion.
  3. Propose how you can personally create a culture of support and inclusion in your organization.

During our next class we then discussed their insights and ideas from the article while engaging in a thoughtful dialogue about the topic.

On Tuesday, September 24, 2019 I gave the first public presentation of my Dr. Seuss style poem “The Ball and The Wall: A Tale of Tolerance,” to my Tolerance and Diversity class at the American University in the Emirates (AUE).

The poem shares the story of a grandfather who, while fishing with his grandson, uses an unexpected encounter to tackle a teachable moment concerning compassion for others in addition to accepting people with different perspectives.

In invite you to watch a slightly edited version below (via YouTube) of the original Facebook Live video I broadcast while performing the poem; you can watch the original recording here.

I was first inspired to write this poem during the last meeting of my History 4C class at UC Santa Barbara in March 1996. At the conclusion of the class, the professor, Harold Marcuse, PhD, invited his teaching assistants to share any closing remarks. My teaching assistant, Kimber M. Quinney, PhD, asked us all to imagine that a large ball was floating over the lecture hall in the Isla Vista Theater (where the lectures for our class took place).

Encouraging us to accept that people have different perspectives, she explained how one side saw that the ball was red and the other side of the class saw that the ball was blue. Moving forward she asked us to accept that a perception that was not the same as our wasn’t necessarily better or worse, but that it was just different, and that was perfectly acceptable.

That last lesson stuck with me and marinated in my mind until 2003 when I wrote the first draft of what would become “The Ball and The Wall.” It has undergone edits and updates since, and will likely continue to be refined, but overall the intent and the idea are intact. It is my plan to publish this as an illustrated children’s book — for adults.

I hope you enjoy this spoken word performance and welcome any ideas it might inspire!

I am proud to announce that I have been selected by Education Influence as one of the education influencers in the United Arab Emirates.  I join the ranks of one hundred other professionals around the world in a virtual collaborative community of practice. If you are you a parent, teacher or school in UAE needing guidance on education, I am in an ideal position to be of service to you.

Founded by Gavin McCormack, principal at Farmhouse Montessori School, Education Influence is a non-profit community of practice that connects teachers from all walks of life to resources, courses, and each other to bring about educational change on a global scale. The organization acknowledges those who are making innovations in the classroom and beyond to provide a network of highly accomplished teachers who can pave the way for others.

Each country has a highly skilled representative willing to go that extra mile to bring high quality education to those who need it. All influencers have access to a huge database of resources for teachers and schools. Educators need help, assistance, and resources; we want them to get answers. Equality in education for everyone is the greatest gift we can offer the future of the world; together we can make this dream a reality. If you need help or you know someone who does, please contact your nearest influencer.

The organization just launched a robust website to provide teachers, schools and parents a place to find support and help. As teachers we are all striving for the best foundations for the children in our care, but do we all have the resources to make this happen? We do now! Many months were spent building the site so that others can find assistance easily. When you visit the website, you can:

There is a revolution happening in the field of education and Education Influence is here to help make positive change happen. The organization unites teachers, schools and parents from all corners of the earth to find resources, advice and support as they strive for equality in education.

I invite you to join us on this journey and encourage you to visit EducationInfluence.com for free teaching information, advice, and resources!

Innovation is the engine of opportunity. At its core is a commitment to experiential learning that encourages critical thinking and creative problem-solving while also engaging soft skills.

uae_innovates_qrThis mindset is fundamental to the future of the United Arab Emirates. So much so that, it is part of the ‘United in Knowledge’ pillar of Vision 2021 which focuses on innovative Emiratis building a competitive economy.

Emphasizing it’s importance, H.H Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum explained, “Innovation is not an option, but a necessity. It is not a culture, but work style, and governments and companies that do not innovate risk losing their competitiveness and falling far behind.”

Having taught INV 300, Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the American University in the Emirates since 2018, I am fortunate to actively participate in this process. In support of my engagement in entrepreneurship education, on May 31, 2018 I was selected as one of 30 educators from a pool of more than 400 by the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Education to join “Cohort 3″ of the “UAE Innovation and Entrepreneurship Education Program.”

Some background on the program:

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What is design thinking?  According to Coe Leta Stafford, Managing Director of IDEO U, “design thinking is a process for creative problem solving.” Fundamentally human-centric, it encourages organizations to focus on their customers first; this leads to the development of human-centered goods, services, and processes.

Design thinking is about solving problems for people by asking questions differently. Essentially, it provides a pathway through which you can improve your creative process — and turn an idea into action.  The entire design thinking process is comprised of five stages: 1. Empathize, 2. Define, 3. Ideate, 4. Prototype, 5. Test.

According to the Stanford d.school publication. “An Introduction to Design Thinking: PROCESS GUIDE,” the five stages of the design thinking process can be explained as follows:

1. Empathize: Learn about the audience for whom you are designing. Empathy is the centerpiece of a human-centered design process; it is the work you do to understand people, within the context of your design challenge. It is your effort to understand the way they do things and why, their physical and emotional needs, how they think about world, and what is meaningful to them.

2. Define: Construct a point of view that is based on user needs and insights. The Define mode of the design process is all about bringing clarity and focus to the design space. It is your chance, and responsibility, as a design thinker to define the challenge you are taking on, based on what you have learned about your user and about the context. After becoming an instant-expert on the subject and gaining invaluable empathy for the person you are designing for, this stage is about making sense of the widespread information you have gathered. In a word, the Define mode is sensemaking.

Ideate: Brainstorm and come up with creative solutions. Ideate is the mode of the design process in which you concentrate on idea generation. Mentally it represents a process of “going wide” in terms of concepts and outcomes. Ideation provides both the fuel and also the source material for building prototypes and getting innovative solutions into the hands of your users.

3. Prototype: Build a representation of one or more of your ideas to show to others.The Prototype mode is the iterative generation of artifacts intended to answer questions that get you closer to your final solution. In the early stages of a project that question may be broad – such as “do my users enjoy cooking in a competitive manner?”

In these early stages, you should create low-resolution prototypes that are quick and cheap to make (think minutes and cents) but can elicit useful feedback from users and colleagues. In later stages both your prototype and question may get a little more refined. For example, you may create a later stage prototype for the cooking project that aims to find out: “do my users enjoy cooking with voice commands or visual commands”.

A prototype can be anything that a user can interact with – be it a wall of post-it notes, a gadget you put together, a role-playing activity, or even a storyboard. Ideally you bias toward something a user can experience. Walking someone through a scenario with a storyboard is good, but having them role-play through a physical environment that you have created will likely bring out more emotions and responses from that person.

4. Test: Return to your original user group and testing your ideas for feedback. Test mode is when you solicit feedback about your prototypes from your users and have another opportunity to gain empathy for the people you are designing for.

Testing is another opportunity to understand your user, but unlike your initial empathy mode, you have now likely done more framing of the problem and created prototypes to test. Both these things tend to focus the interaction with users, but don’t reduce your “testing” work to asking whether or not people like your solution. Instead, continue to ask “Why?”, and focus on what you can learn about the person and the problem as well as your potential solutions.

Ideally you can test within a real context of the user’s life. For a physical object, ask people to take it with them and use it within their normal routines. For an experience, try to create a scenario in a location that would capture the real situation. If testing a prototype is not possible, frame a more realistic situation by having users take on a role or task when approaching your prototype. A rule of thumb: always prototype as if you know you’re right, but test as if you know you’re wrong—testing is the chance to refine your solutions and make them better.

To further understand design thinking I invite you to view the following video, “The Design Thinking Process;” it cleverly and clearly explains the five stages in just under four minutes.

The main priority of the Year 3 project is to ensure the sustainability of the innovation and entrepreneurship curriculum in the UAE, with an additional focus on developing a core group of Program Ambassadors to deepen the impact of innovation and entrepreneurship education in the UAE. Year 3 program components are organized into 3 categories:

  1. Create and Develop an I&E Curriculum
  2. Support the Teaching of the I&E Curriculum
  3. Facilitate the Growth of the I&E Ecosystem

It is my honor to represent the American University in the Emirates as a pivotal part of this initiative and I am excited to contribute to innovation and entrepreneurship educational efforts in the UAE!

Teaching is a profession that can be as challenging as it is rewarding, but every now and then I am reminded why I chose this professional path.

In May I received a kind and heartfelt email from Omran Al Farsi, a human resources student at the American University in the Emirates. He had been  a student in my Principles of Management class during the spring semester which had recently concluded. 

The students in Omran’s class, which was one of my smallest at AUE, were uniquely mature and engaged; it felt more like a masters degree class than an undergraduate one.  We spent many of our class periods in the food court discussing management articles from the Harvard Business Review. It was refreshing and revitalizing.

And so, in some ways, I wasn’t surprised to receive a message from a student in that class. However, I was nevertheless surprised, inspired, and energized by Omran’s email; it was exceptionally thoughtful and sincere. The text of his message follows.

It is my pleasure to share it with you below:

“If my educational journey taught me two things, it would be the importance of knowledge and the person who is giving you that knowledge. Thus, I am forever grateful to you and appreciative for your mentoring throughout the course. You have taught me so many things academic related and in leadership on a personal level. I never heard your name mentioned without students and instructors complimenting you as a person and instructor. I found out why when I first attended your class. You have one of the most pure and kind hearts I have ever encountered in my life.” — Omran Al Farsi, Human Resource Management Student at American University in the Emirates

“To be a teacher in the right sense is to be a learner. I am not a teacher, only a fellow student.” — Søren Kierkegaard

Inspired by the quote above (which is the anchor of my teaching philosophy), I have been learning while teaching for a decade. Ten years ago today — on Monday, June 18, 2007 — I began my career in academia when I started teaching COM 120, Effective Persuasive Writing online at what was then called Axia College (University of Phoenix‘s online junior college).

It’s hard to believe that much time has passed; it feels like just yesterday when I began my career in academia after having previously consulted and worked in marketing. Technically I started teaching on September 2, 2006 when I taught my first traffic school class, but this was my first academic course. Since that first step I have embarked on a much longer journey. I have had the opportunity to teach and learn with more than 4,500 students in over 80 classes — in the United States, the United Arab Emirates, and online.

Acting as a “guide on the side” and not a “sage on the stage,” I combine learning with laughter and encourage students to pursue their individual ideas. Having taught students of various ages, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds, I am especially sensitive to the diverse challenges with which my students might be contending.

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I join with my students on a journey of generative learning. Sensitive to the unique experiences, challenges, and learning styles of adult learners, I assign projects relevant to their personal and professional perspectives. Believing education should create community, not competition, I combine learning with laughter to construct a collaborative classroom. Interdisciplinary, I welcome varied viewpoints and encourage my students to own their education.

I have been fortunate to have taught for numerous notable educational institutions including American University in the Emirates (AUE), Jumeira University, Musicians InstituteNational University, Strayer University, UCLA Extension. and UC Santa Barbara Extension. Actively involving myself in higher education, I have embraced academia as both my vocation and avocation.

I have spoken at academic conferences; written a book, a book chapter, and several scholarly papers; conducted corporate training seminars; appeared on three podcasts; and made a 1.5 second appearance in Star Trek Beyond as an extra! I was also honored with an award from AUE recognizing my program development efforts for the College of Business Administration.

The past 10 years have been filled with personal growth and professional development; I have improved as an individual just as I have expanded my abilities as an educator. I look forward to many more years of continuous improvement in both areas.

These years have not been without their challenges and setbacks, but I remain grateful to my colleagues, friends, family, mentors, and students for the chance to help shape the lives of others, while giving my life greater meaning.

According to a quote attributed to Confucius, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Given that my personal motto is “learn continuously, live generatively,” teaching and training are a fitting profession for me: I learn something every day about myself, the people in my life, the world in which I live, and the subjects in which I am interested.

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Learning isn’t always easy, but it is always rewarding intrinsically. It is for that reason that, when asked why teaching is my tenure, I explain, “I embrace education as my profession because it empowers me to help shape the lives of others, while giving my own life greater meaning.”

Occasionally, however, teaching is extrinsically rewarding as well: On Thursday, February 23, 2017 it was announced that I had won the “College of Business Administration (COBA) Program Development Award” for the 2015 to 2016 school year at the American University in the Emirates (AUE).

Notably, I was personally selected to receive this award by Professor Muthanna G. Abdul Razzaq, President and CEO of the American University in the Emirates (AUE).

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Reasons for my having been chosen for this honor include:

  • Contributing my editing, writing, and organizational abilities to COBA’s accreditation efforts with the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).
  • Designing “INV 300, Innovation and Entrepreneurship,” a new compulsory undergraduate course in compliance with Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MOHESR) requirements.
  • Developing the syllabus for a proposed new Mobile Marketing course for our MBA program.
  • Editing a 300 page report for the reaccreditation of College of the Business Administration (COBA) with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Commission for Academic Accreditation (CAA).
  • Enhancing my classes with interactive exercises, class discussions, and worksheets that challenge students to actively engage the course curriculum.
  • Launching two university level guest speaker series, “The Business of Marketing” and “Management Matters,” — and inviting other speakers to my COBA classes.
  • Managing large undergraduate classes of up to 49 students efficiently and effectively.
  • Reviewing and revising syllabi for undergraduate management and marketing courses every semester to ensure they present the most current and useful information.
  • Suggesting improvements to COBA policies and procedures, along with overall enhancements to the student experience.

I am thankful to have received such an honor and am grateful for the opportunity to have made the above contributions to AUE, COBA, and, most of all, my students.

“It’s the teacher that makes the difference, not the classroom.” — Michael Morpurgo

On Monday, February 13, 2017 I invited the world to join my MKT 200, Principles of Marketing class at American University in the Emirates via a Facebook Live broadcast.  Watching the video — which, for some reason, is unfortunately a low quality — you can get a feel for how I teach along with the way I manage my classroom and students, both engaged and disruptive.

There is even a related discussion about product design and human-computer interaction in addition to some real-world examples of my younger years playing Pong and an early version of Castle Wolfenstein with a friend!

I invite you to watch the video below via YouTube (it was originally streamed live to my Facebook page); you can also watch me lecturing about value in another marketing class via YouTube.

Primarily this class was a review for a quiz that I gave to my students two days later, but it also offers an overview of foundational marketing concepts, including the following:

  • Core Beliefs and Values: persistent and are passed on from parents to children and are reinforced by schools, churches, businesses, and government.
  • Customer Lifetime Value: the value of the entire stream of purchases that the customer would make over a lifetime of patronage.
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM): the overall process of building and maintaining profitable customer relationships by delivering superior customer value and satisfaction.
  • Demands: Wants backed by buying power.
  • Exchange: the act of obtaining a desired object from someone by offering something in return.
  • Macroenvironment: consists of the larger societal forces that affect the microenvironment—demographic, economic, natural, technological, political, and cultural forces.
  • Market Offerings: some combination of products, services, information, or experiences offered to a market to satisfy a need or want.
  • Market Positioning: the arranging for a product to occupy a clear, distinctive, and desirable place relative to competing products in the minds of target consumers.
  • Market Segment: a group of consumers who respond in a similar way to a given set of marketing efforts.
  • Market Segmentation: the division of a market into distinct groups of buyers who have different needs, characteristics, or behaviors and who might require separate products or marketing mixes.
  • Market Targeting: the process of evaluating each market segment’s attractiveness and selecting one or more segments to enter.
  • Marketing Environment: includes the actors and forces outside marketing that affect marketing management’s ability to build and maintain successful relationships with target customers.
  • Marketing Management: The art and science of choosing target markets and building profitable relationships with them.
  • Marketing Mix: the set of tools (four Ps) the firm uses to implement its marketing strategy. This set includes product, price, promotion, and place.
  • Marketing Strategy: the marketing logic by which the company hopes to create customer value and achieve profitable customer relationships.
  • Marketing: a process by which companies create value for customers and build strong customer relationships in order to capture value from customers in return.
  • Microenvironment: consists of the actors close to the company that affect its ability to serve its customers—the company, suppliers, marketing intermediaries, customer markets, competitors, and publics.
  • Needs: States of deprivation.
  • Target Marketing: Which segments to go after.
  • Value Proposition: the set of benefits or values it promises to deliver to customers to satisfy their needs.
  • Wants: The form that needs take.

Arrr Matey!

talk_like_a_pirate_dayToday is International Talk Like a Pirate Day! Launched in 1995 by John Baur (Ol’ Chumbucket) and Mark Summers (Cap’n Slappy), the pair proclaimed September 19 as the day when everyone should talk like a pirate.

It was initially an inside joke between the friends, but grew when American syndicated humor columnist Dave Barry promoted it in 2002.

But, beyond tales of pirates, it’s also the 9th anniversary of this blog. That’s right, September 19, 2007 was the first post here on Doctorious!  What is this blog about? To quote the “About” page:

This blog celebrates my adventures in academia while revealing my in-class, on-the-road, and at-home experiences; topics tackled include business, education, technology and a personal focus on Autism.

Some things haven’t changed since then, including the focus of this blog; I am even still using the Neat! theme (which has since retired by WordPress).

However, almost everything else in my life has changed, both personally and professionally.  Most notably, since September 8, 2014 this blog has primarily focused a on my experience as an expat in Dubai, UAE.

In addition, here are some fast facts about Doctorious in:

  • 142 Posts (including this one)
  • 14 Pages (static informational pages)
  • 245 Comments (mostly tags to posts)

I haven’t been as prolific as I planned to be, but I have been writing more in recent months. I appreciate those of you who have read this blog and hope you find it interesting, informative, and entertaining. Here’s to the next nine years, matey!