Digital Reflection

Self-differentiated Leadership

Self-differentiated Leadership

Reading “A Failure of Nerve” made me realize that a lot of the concepts I believe in are the very things that allow anxiety and chaos to take hold. I love Friedman’s comparisons between single cells and how they self-differentiate to people in an organization, or even a nation. His analogies between the immune system as a leader vs.  a virus or cancer cell and a trouble-making co-worker are genius. He explains in the book his perception of America, despite its technological advances, as being more like Old World Europe than the Renaissance; this is due to a chronic anxiety that has infected our nation. He emphasizes the importance of focusing on responsibility instead of empathy and rewarding strength over weakness. There are several things I need to work on if I want to emerge as a self-differentiated leader.

Friedman explains that, “…the crucial issue of leadership in democratic societies may not be how much power they exercise but how well their presence is able to preserve that society’s integrity” (Friedman, 2007, pg. 17). He describes this presence as a sense of self that he elaborates on throughout the book. As a self-differentiated leader, I will need to stop putting so much emphasis on motivating others, and instead work on myself to cultivate a “presence”. This idea of focusing on the self is almost counter-intuitive to me because I’ve been raised to think of others first. My trade as a dental hygienist focuses on service to others, so it seems that he is saying to be selfish, a word with a very negative connotation. That is not what he means at all. In chapter five, he discusses the fallacies of “self”, breaking down the meaning and explaining it as actually conducive to togetherness.

In my journey to becoming a self-differentiated leader, I will need to address my preference for “peace over progress”. I tend to avoid conflict. I use empathy to try to connect with others, but this ideology is debunked with Friedman’s explanation of what happens when we empathize rather than cultivate responsibility. Empathy is a symptom of the herding force of a chronically anxious society. I like the analogy of the organ cells that start to empathize with the rogue cancer cell, “we were watching it swim all alone out there. It just seemed so lonely, and well- we just started to feel sorry for it.” (Friedman, 2007, pg. 151). This reminds me of the terrorism that has resulted after refugees have been allowed to enter European countries recently. I’m not saying that all refugees are trouble, but when we have empathy for trouble-makers, it can have disastrous consequences. Look at the recent attacks in France. If Friedman were alive today, he would probably nod his head and think, “I could have predicted this…”

A self-differentiated leader is able to manage his own anxiety. I cannot allow myself to get caught up in the emotional triangles that form at work. It can be tempting to join the group as they are complaining and venting about management or changes in the company. I can achieve a balance between individuality and togetherness by setting boundaries and not allowing others’ problems to influence how I feel.

I think the most difficult thing for me is the idea of being able to take stands at the risk of displeasing (Friedman, 2007, pg. 14). Avoiding conflict is woven into my nature and I will need to work hard to change that. I think it begins with a strong direction and having clarity in regards to goals and aspirations. The scary part is bracing for sabotage, but at least I know that it means I am on the right track!

My plan for increasing collaboration between hygienists and other healthcare providers is a change that will affect our entire department. I believe that nearly everyone will like the “big picture” idea, but will likely resist some of the changes necessary because it will mean extra work for them and they are already bombarded with a whirlwind or two. I will begin with clear goals, as stated in my “Why” assignment. My Influencer Strategy will help overcome emotional hurdles by using personal, social, and structural motivation. The second part is making tools available to give the instructors the ability to implement the changes. For some instructors, the idea of blended learning and iPad use will be foreign and scary to them. I want to emphasize that the technology is never the focus of the plan; it is a tool to achieve our goals. The 4DX Plan will help execute the steps to achieve our goal and keep it alive amidst the whirlwinds of work and daily life that always steal our immediate attention. I need to remember that the WIG will take on new forms as we collaborate as a team. The ideas need to be ours, not just mine. Otherwise, there will be no cadence of accountability and no progress.

Following are the links to my plan: the “Why”, my Influencer Strategy, and 4DX.


Friedman, E. H. (2007). A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the age of the quick fix. Church Publishing, Inc. ISBN B009VHSBYK

Encouraging Interprofessional Collaboration

WHY:  We believe that by encouraging collaboration between hygienists and healthcare professionals we can close the gap between oral health and total health.

HOW: Teaching dental hygiene students to think critically, we will encourage collaboration with other healthcare specialists. We will give them a skillset necessary for intelligent communication: knowledge of common diseases and how they may have a reciprocal effect on oral health, verbal skills to communicate professionally with other members of the healthcare team, and digital skills to enhance communication and sharing of pertinent information.

WHAT: We teach the future oral health care specialists with a focus on total health that will significantly impact the healthcare industry and the people it serves.

The future of dental hygiene is bright- if we see the opportunities in front of us. Several studies are showing links between oral health and systemic health, yet most of the dental hygiene workforce remains in dental offices, separated from the rest of the healthcare system. Periodontal disease is linked to heart disease, diabetes, and other inflammatory illnesses. We have known about these links for quite some time, yet the traditional role of hygienists has remained virtually unchanged since the early 20th century.

The western world is getting heavier and sicker. The healthcare system is becoming overwhelmed with costly diseases that are largely preventable. People lingering in hospitals and nursing homes remain largely unaware that their poor oral health could be contributing to their conditions. Doctors, nurses, and caregivers are burdened with the tasks of treating too many patients, with little time to spare. They usually understand the oral-systemic links, but have no training in oral care and oral disease prevention.

Hygienists are knowledgeable professionals, trained in preventive health. In addition to courses related to dentistry, we take courses in Anatomy, Physiology, Pathology, Nutrition, and Pharmacology. Why don’t we use this knowledge to its full capacity?

My goal as a dental hygiene instructor is to train our future hygienists to think more broadly. They need to be critical thinkers, putting their skills of disease prevention together with their knowledge of health promotion. With our traditional curriculum, this connection isn’t happening. Change needs to occur, and at the rate of disease our country is experiencing, it needs to occur now.

Our school can promote a curriculum that encourages deeper understanding of the material. By using a blended learning model, students can study the foundational knowledge at home while focusing on deeper learning in the classroom.

By participating in group activities and online discussions, they will learn the value of collaboration with others; this will help build the skills of working with other healthcare professionals. The digital skills they will obtain will also prepare them for the paperless offices and electronic claims and communications they will be expected to use.

We can lead the way by preparing our students for opportunities that may seem unimaginable at the moment. Let’s help our students make the connection between oral health and systemic health by showing them the possibilities. The future of dental hygiene is bright- can you see it?



Abiodun O. Arigbede, B. Osagbemiro Babatope, and M. Kolude Bamidele. (2012). Periodontitia and systemic diseases: A literature review. J Indian Soc Periodontol, vol 16. Retrieved from

Blaizot A1, Vergnes JN, Nuwwareh S, Amar J, Sixou M. (2009). Periodontal diseases and cardiovascular events: meta-analysis of observational studies. Int Dent J., vol 59. Retrieved from

Braun, P.A., Cusick, A. (2016). Collaboration Between Medical Providers and Dental Hygienists in Pediatric Health Care. J Evid Based Dent Pract, June Suppl:59-67. Retrieved from

Engebretson, S. and Kocher, T. (2013). Evidence that periodontal treatment improves diabetes outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Periodontology, vol 40. Retrieved from

Fried, J. (2013). Interprofessional Collaboration: If Not Now, When? Journal of Dental Hygiene, vol. 87. Retreived from

Hutsaya Tantipong, MD; Chantana Morkchareonpong, MD; Songyod Jaiyindee, MD; Visanu Thamlikitkul, MD. (2008). Randomized Controlled Trial and Meta-analysis of Oral Decontamination with 2% Chlorhexidine Solution for the Prevention of Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia. Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, vol 29. Retrieved from

Moore, T. (2015). Improve Outcomes with Interprofessional Collaboration. Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. Retrieved from

Strange, M. (n.d.). The need for interdisciplinary collaboration to ensure dental hygiene is present in hospitals. RDH. Retrieved from


How to Bring Blended Learning to my Organization

Reflecting on what I’ve learned about disruptive innovation, I have decided to work toward implementing a blended learning model in my classroom. There are countless benefits to blended learning; it really is the best of both worlds: online and in-class instruction. I began my journey with a literature review to gain a thorough understanding of what blended learning is. My research proved that blended learning is an exciting way to engage learners when done correctly, and can lead to deeper learning and better grades.

Even though I’m already convinced that blended learning would be an asset to our school, I need to discuss my plan with my program director and academic dean before I can implement any changes to our current curriculum. I created a short video that highlights the advantages of blended learning. I also developed a Power Point presentation to elaborate more on what blended learning is and what it can do for our students and our dental hygiene program.

Any successful change needs to be planned carefully, so it was crucial to construct a plan with a timeline to guide my steps toward implementation. It will be flexible, to allow for changes to the plan as needed. It’s exciting to think about the way this plan can impact our organization for the better, but I expect there will be some pushback in the beginning from administration and maybe even some students. I believe that after they see the benefits, all the naysayers will become believers! 3-reasons-blended-learning

As new ideas and new research emerges, I will continue to explore other ways to bring innovation and change that will benefit our students. I will stay current with my edWeb membership so I can network with other educators and take CE regarding digital resources for education. I will also continue my membership with the American Dental Educators Association, and attend workshops and webinars regarding dental education. As digital technology continues to explode with new applications for education, the need to stay current will be imperative.


For further information, here is a list of resources for blended learning:

Blended Learning Implementation Guide.

Christensen, C., Horn, M., Soares, L., & Caldera, L. (2011). Disrupting College. Retrieved from

Christensen, Clayton M.; Horn, Michael (2008), Disrupting class: how disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns, New York, New York, USA: McGraw-Hill, ISBN 978-0-07-159206-2.

 Christensen, Clayton M.; Raynor, Michael E. (2003), The innovator’s solution: creating and sustaining successful growth. Boston, Massachusetts, USA: Harvard Business School Press, ISBN 978-1-57851-852-4.

 Horizon Report. (2016). Higher Education Edition. Retrieved from

Horn, M. & Staker, H. (2014). Blended. Jossey-Bass, ISBN 1118955153

Morrison, D. (2013). Is Blended Learning the Best of Both Worlds? Retrieved from               https://onlinelearninginsights.wordpres

Michael Horn: Benefits of Online and Blended Learning Models.

Michael Horn- Blended and Disrupted, How to Make Blended Learning Work for Students and Teachers.

Vander Ark, T. (2014). Blended: A Conversation with Michael Horn and Heather Staker. Retrieved from



A Plan to Implement Blended Learning


I.                   First Year  blended%20learning%20header-01-01-01

A.                 Gather as much supportive information as possible for blended learning models.

B.                  Survey my students on their needs and wants regarding a blended learning environment.

C.                  Discuss the results of my survey and the benefits of blended learning with the Program Director and Academic Dean. Request permission to restructure my classes as a pilot study for our DH program.

D.                 Courses will be restructured with half of learning occurring online and the other half in the classroom. I will plan my courses one at a time in the following order beginning with Cohort 8:

1.                  Radiography                                                           3-reasons-blended-learning

2.                  Embryology and Histology

3.                  Oral Pathology

4.                  Ethics and Law in Dental Hygiene

5.                  National Board Review

D.  Provide ongoing feedback to PD and Academic Dean regarding progress

II.                 Second Year

A.                 Implement the changes for my first class: Radiography

1.                  Evaluate student outcomes by comparing previous class averages for quizzes and exams

2.                  Survey student satisfaction

3.                  Request suggestions for improvement from students

4.                  Make changes as needed

B.                  Report outcomes to PD and Academic Dean

C.                  Implement the changes for Embryology and Histology

1.                  Begin with making adjustments based on results from Radiography

2.                  Evaluate student outcomes by comparing previous class averages for quizzes and exams

3.                  Survey student satisfaction

4.                  Request suggestions for improvement from students

5.                  Make changes as needed

D.                 Continue the process for the other classes, carefully tracking student outcomes and student satisfaction

E.                  Assess any differences in achievement for my subjects on the DH National Board Exam for Cohort 8. Compare scores from previous Cohorts with Cohort 8 and also assess performance in my subjects vs. other subjects taught the traditional way

III.              Third Year

A.                 Assemble a report with my findings for each class and the National Board Exam results. Include feedback from students. Share report with the PD and Academic Dean

B.                  Convince PD and Dean to encourage other instructors to adopt a blended learning approach, based on the success of my courses using a blended approach

C.                  Continue evaluating and improving teaching methods, materials and outcomes for my blended learning courses for Cohort 9

Further reading:



My Personal Learning Manifesto

My Personal Learning Manifesto

            When I was a child, I was constantly praised by my teachers. My parents proudly told everyone about my straight A report cards, and that I was in the GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) program. The school system worked for me. I quickly figured out how everything works: study the material, listen, follow directions. It was practically a matter of figuring out the teacher and their expectations, then delivering what they wanted. I’m naturally a visual and audial learner, so lectures are actually enjoyable for me. I’ve always loved listening to other people talk, soaking in their ideas.

Nicole 2015 221 The system worked for me. I excelled at test-taking. It’s practically a game: figure out what the wrong answers are and           deduce from there. Remember the material for a couple weeks until it all gets dumped out of your head. It’s really no wonder I became a teacher. I fell in love with the game of school because I was good at it.

Don’t get me wrong. I love learning- true learning. I love the type of learning that ignites those pleasure sensors in my brain. I would rather watch a documentary or the History Channel than an episode of Friends (although those are good sometimes too).

Some of the documentaries I like to watch are on scientific topics. Before I went into dental hygiene, I was a Biology major at San Diego State University. One of the things that I find fascinating is how organisms are wired to seek out pleasure. It truly drives our behavior. Eating is pleasurable, so we seek food. Sex is pleasurable so species can continue. John Stuart Mill, a philosopher and proponent of Utilitarianism, argued that there are biological pleasures like those previously mentioned, and higher pleasures that have even more value for humanity (Beemsterbauer, 2010). Learning is one of the higher pleasures. I would argue that winning is one too. Reflecting on my past, it’s possible that school was often a place where the prize wasn’t always learning; it was winning.

Sir Ken Robinson explains in his video the original intent of modern-day education. In the Industrial Age, factory workers were in demand, so schools focused on creating them. The goal was to create workers who respected authority (TED, 2007). Seth Grogin makes the same argument. Education today breeds conformity, not innovation. The question really is “what is the purpose of education?” (TEDxYouth, 2012). Is it learning or conformity?

If learning is the prize, then everyone should be able to succeed. Children naturally want to learn everything they can about the world around them; it’s part of our DNA. If learning is the prize, then everyone wins. If winning is the prize, there will always be losers. Tests are designed to categorize us. We are constantly comparing ourselves to others, and if a student receives a bad grade, he feels like he lost. There’s no pleasure in losing, so for those who can’t win at the game of school, there’s little incentive to continue.

This assignment really made me question what I’m doing right now as a teacher vs. what I should be doing. I want to improve how I deliver the material I teach in ways that spark questions and creativity. I want to understand my students better and figure out how they learn best. I’m fortunate in the fact that I teach dental hygiene. My students already have an interest in what they’re learning, so the motivation is there initially. My goal is to capture that motivation and encourage it, get them engaged in what they’re learning so they can connect all the dots and apply the information.

I’ve seen students become discouraged with the program many times. The material is difficult, and it’s fast paced. CODA (The Commission on Dental Accreditation) decides what the curriculum consists of. In order to become a hygienist, the students have to achieve three accomplishments: graduate from the program, pass the National Board Exam, and pass a clinical exam. So often, the focus is on those exams. When I began teaching, I was told to “teach to the tests”.

I understand the importance of teaching the material they’ll see on their Boards. I don’t agree with forcing them to memorize information so they can pass a multiple-choice test. What I really want is for them to keep the passion for the profession that I love.

One of the ways that I can ignite their passion for dentistry is to give them more choices and freedom with their assignments. I could allow them more avenues to explore and express their chosen topics, such as video, writing, or presentations with Prezi or Powtoon, etc. I can use technology for formative assessments to evaluate who needs more help. I can encourage them to keep digital journals of their experiences as hygiene students that they could share with subsequent cohorts. Some of them may want to create blogs or websites for dental hygiene students. I should encourage them to express their creativity in ways that suit them.

The flipped classroom approach is something I would also like to try. Instead of listening to myself talk for 30 minutes, the students could spend that time discussing the information in small groups. When I do need to lecture in class, I could use technology to present more appealing visuals and sounds. I’ve learned from this class how valuable personalized feedback is, and I like the idea of providing video feedback for assignments.

I feel that very often, the kinesthetic learners are the ones who suffer most in a traditional classroom environment. For the kinesthetic learners, taking notes on their laptops while I talk would help them absorb the information better. Getting them to answer questions on their phones or laptops would engage the kinesthetic learners, as would using Aurasma while they walk around the class, scanning pictures and objects. Technology has appeal to almost everyone, and I believe it’s a great tool to engage students and get them excited about learning.

The main goal of education should be learning, not conforming. I’m not a dictator at the front of the classroom, judging who makes it and who doesn’t. All my students deserve to learn everything they can about their passion for dentistry. The last thing I want to do is kill their passion. I will be approachable, empathetic, patient, kind, and inspiring. I will be a role model for them, and encourage them to learn in ways that work for them. When we expect everyone to conform to one way of learning, some will lose. If we help them along their journey with support so they truly learn, everyone will win. This is the way education should be.





Beemsterbauer, P. (2010). Ethics and Law in Dental Hygiene. United States: Saunders.

TEDxYouth. (2012, October 16). Stop Stealing Dreams|Seth Godin|TED Talks [Video file]. Retrieved from

TED. (2007, January 6). Do schools kill creativity|Sir Ken Robinson|TED Talks [Video file]. Retrieved from