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Posts Tagged ‘Edcamp’

Ignite-The-Fire-Within

The idea of affiliation in education is shifting.  While we still connect to traditional structures by role (unions, associations, etc.) and by where we work (schools, districts, etc.) the digital world is challenging these traditional associations as being paramount and this may be necessary to build the coalition to bring about the shifts many are looking for in our education system.  I am convinced that we need a third point of reference to bring about education transformation.

In the BC context, transformation will never take hold if it is seen to belong to the Ministry of Education, the BC Teachers Federation, the BC Superintendents, BC Principals, or any one district.  We do need another space where people from all groups can come together and work together.  What does this look like?  For a couple of decades we have seen the power of how the Network of Performance Based Schools in BC has been an amazing influence over what happens in classrooms.  The group is not seen as being owned by anyone or any group — the group belongs to the group and it is guided by the work.  Somehow, we need something similar given the larger shifts currently happening in education in BC.

And, I am thinking about this idea of affiliation because of my participation this past week in Ignite Your Passion for Discovery — the brain child of Dean Shareski. Last Wednesday night about eighty-five people, passionate about education, gathered at Relish GastroPub & Bar from 7 to 10 pm to talk about passion in education. There were 14 presenters who had exactly five minutes (20 slides/15 seconds each ) to share their passion.  In between presentations there were exchanges for great networking.  You could walk around the room, and it had a greater sense of community and was more connected than any staff meeting I have ever been a part of.  Almost everyone knew each other from Twitter  — some had met in person, but for many it was a first meeting.  This is the new world of affiliation — people connected not by role, not by location, but by passion.  It is these types of coalitions that are going to bring about shifts and change in education.  People were inspired and also reminded they are not alone — others are trying to do similar things.  The digital space is still so young, but what I saw were people picking up their digital relationships face-to-face and then were almost eager to get home and continue digitally; the digital and the face-to-face interactions had each enhanced the quality, depth and care of the connections.

Our profession will not be mandated into meeting the needs of modern learners but the power of networks and new thinking around affiliation can help diffuse the work.

I had the real pleasure of being one of the speakers last Wednesday.  I have shared by slides and the video of my presentation below.  This will give you a sense of the event.  My presentation is based on a blog post that I wrote a couple of years ago about swimming.

Slides (thanks to Bob Frid who took many of the amazing photos I used):

 

Video (thanks Craig Cantlie for videoing the event):

I had recently attended a conference – the kind where a ballroom of people listen to a keynote for an hour – and do that over and over.  Comparing the two events I know which was more influential in moving the conversation forward.  We need to find new ways to affiliate – more Ignites, more TEDx Events, more EdCamps.  The future of changing education is through networks.

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Growth

I have written a fair bit about how my teaching has changed.  The post I wrote earlier this year generally described three basic stages.  At the start of my career I saw myself as a content provider and storyteller. When I became more comfortable with the craft I gave more ownership to students over their learning, which created a range of simulations and role-playing opportunities.  More recently, I have searched for more ways on how to do give students ownership and, now, opportunities for real world experiences as well.

Just as my teaching has evolved and changed, so has my learning. Early in my career I was hungry for any and all professional opportunities.  This was pre-social media and during the early days of the Internet.  I wasn’t that selective, but I did know I wanted to know more and improve.  I would read any article or book I was given. I would take gently read copies of Educational Leadership from my principal and vice-principal, and attend any opportunity offered for professional learning — from classroom management strategies and instructional design, to creating a democratic classroom.

As I moved into school administration I loved the big names and the big conferences. It truly was exciting to see and hear the big thinkers on education around the world. And, truth be known, there was something thrilling and honouring in attending these big conferences; the kind where thousands are in the room together — and I was one of them!  I sat at tables with some of the key leaders in my district, the province, and the world.  We all heard the same message from Michael Fullan to Sir Ken Robinson and had perspectives on where key leaders in our educational world thought we should go. I was sharing the room with edu-celebrities (I liked this word that Chris Wejr used recently, and committed to using it in a blog post).

Having recently attended two well-run, high-profile conferences, I realize these events with the speaker at the front of the room with all of us listening to the same message, no longer really works for me.  They are still great events, but I don’t feel they are actually pushing my learning.  What I need now is a chance to spend time making sense of what I am hearing — I crave the opportunity to engage with the smart people who are with me in the room.  I like Rebecca Rosen’s notion that “The smartest person in the room is no longer a person but the room itself.”  I have seen what is possible in the social media era. If I want to watch a speaker deliver a keynote I can watch it on YouTube. If I am going to see that keynote in person, I need to have some focussed engagement with others on what is being said.  If I am going to travel to conferences, then I need it to add value — not only to come away with new ideas, but new tools that I have had the chance to try, and the experience I couldn’t have had if I were not there.

I don’t mean to criticize the traditional conference because it DOES have value and there IS something powerful about being in a room of people hearing a similar message. Personally, however, I have moved past the learning options that were available to me a decade ago.  So, having also recently attended an EdCamp, I can say there is something between that and a traditional conference that would be best for how I want to learn.  And, I am okay with giving up a Saturday (with the promise of a bagged lunch) to sit in a high school to talk teaching and learning.

A couple of TEDx events I attended were also closer to hitting my learning mark, with shorter times for the keynotes and longer times for participant interaction. I am also finding events that bring people together from outside education, other government sectors, non-for-profits, or the corporate world, to be valuable in adding a range of views and perspectives to conversations.

And what else do I find is making a difference?  Focussed visits to districts, schools and classes are very powerful, with specific objectives and learning in action and not only in a presentation.  I also find the traditional ‘study group’ to continue to have a huge impact on my learning.  My first principal, Gail Sumanik, would bring donuts and coffee an hour before school started on Wednesday morning when interested staff would discuss an article, a strategy or part of a book.  I have carried this simple structure forward to other roles and find these conversations to be extremely valuable.  Another structure that I find valuable is some sort of networked learning – the kind that Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser have led so well in BC for well over a decade.

And yes, I find the ongoing engagement on my blog, the dozens of others I regularly read and other ways I connect in social media, to be very powerful on my learning.  I love the opportunities, both face-to-face and virtual, that are about sharing and learning together.

Last, but by no means least, I guess what I want for my learning is what I want for my kids, some form of personalized learning.  And, I am realizing my learning has changed, and that I have become a different learner than I was even five years ago.

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Right or wrong, the word “coalition” carries with it sinister connotations these days in our run-up to the May 2nd Federal Election, but taken to its true definition, the concept of a coalition has enormous potential for all of us connecting here in the digital space. I feel part of a digital community that has dozens of regular contributors and, from time to time, swells to hundreds and even thousands of people who are passionate about education.

Speaking from the standpoint of my own learning network, we are an eclectic mix. We are students, teachers, school-based administrators, district administrators, elected officials, ministry personnel, parents and others in the community. The core group of my network is based in British Columbia, but it also draws on expertise from across Canada and around the world. Within the group are some who are very connected to formal structures of influence (union leadership, parent council chairs, etc.), yet it also includes others who provide valued insights from the viewpoint of unrelated fields. Our group has both public and private school staff working side-by-side to improve our system. We also have the attention of traditional media outlets which follow our thoughts and discussions. We are quite a group!

Nevertheless, as we have all mused about the system over the last several months, I realize how much we do have in common in our thinking. While we disagree around the edges of some issues, we have much more that unites us than divides us.

So, I have been wondering:

How do we move from being a connected network to becoming a group of influence?

How can we aggregate our thinking in a way that has influence in the larger community?

A couple posts related to this have struck me lately. I loved reading the inaugural post from 4 moms 1 dream; a great example of a grass-roots movement to help rethink schooling. I was also struck by Jason Leslie’s recent post where he pondered  the kind of education he wants for his children. Pretty exciting stuff.

I do worry, at times, that the digital space tends to reassure the engaged and converted rather than expanding and recruiting new input for our group.

Of course, there are efforts to do just what I am writing about. This summer, I am planning to participate in  Unplug’d – The Canadian Education Summit which examines this issue from a Canadian perspective. Many reading this will also likely be attending Edcamp Vancouver which is a great bypass of traditional structures and hierarchies.

I just think there is more we can be doing to take advantage of our group on a provincial or more local stage. We have all the traditional partners represented in our community, we are supported by outside experts and we are passionate and committed to a great system.

So, instead of waiting for someone else to produce something that we respond to, how can we take the lead?

I don’t think we realize how powerful our digital coalition is or can be.

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