Watershed Moments of Learning

I was chatting with someone the other day and the idea of watershed moments came up. Specifically, we reflected on watershed moments in our own learning and careers. Watershed moments are those occasions where there the lightbulb came on or something profound was shared or understood. They happen in various contexts no doubt. As I thought about my own I was instantly curious about other people’s experiences.

A few years ago I shared what about believe were seminal moments in edtech history but this is a more personal look at important events that transform my thinking and practices. I thought I’d share my watershed moments in the following format. Professional Learning event or conference, speaker or presentation, book, tool, and person.

PD/Conference:
I go to a lot of conferences and can be pretty critical. It’s a challenge to try and make an event have the kind of impact organizations plan. I’ve been to a number of really good events but the one that stands out is Un’Plugd. It took place in the summer of 2011 and was a one of a kind event. 40 educators from across Canada gathered for a weekend in northern Ontario to spend time writing a manifest of sorts around what matters in education. A unique setting with a mix of familiar and new people with time to reflect and unplug from technology. We canoed, sat around the campfire, went for walks and had some of the best conversations with some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. I’ve never had a better experience of collaborative writing and helped set me on a continuing journey of speaking and writing about joy. Coming a close to this is the DEN Summer Institute which brings together a larger group and continues to be instrumental in changing practice and lives.

Presentation:
Again, I’ve seen more presentations that most people but the one that comes to mind as one that impacted me the most was from ISTE 2005, known back then as NECC. I actually didn’t attend the conference but watched the stream of the event. Dave Weinberger gave an extraordinary talk on The New Shape of Knowledge. I probably watched it 3 or 4 times. The ideas and his delivery provided one of the most thought provocating presentation I’d ever seen. Since then I’ve used many of his ideas, read his books and continue to explore how knowledge is changing and what that means for us as educators. That talk from 2005 isn’t online but this is a very similar talk that he gave at google.

Book:
The book that has most influenced my thinking is The Book of Learning and Forgetting. A short book that suggests that learning is essentially a social and natural act and that our efforts are best spent in making schools understand these important truths.

Tool:
I could have listed a few but I suppose the watershed tool for me is the blog. Having spent years learning html and ftp in order to create webpages and get them online, the blog allowed me to do this with a simplicity that soon became a gateway to connected learning. A close second would be video editing software.

Person:
So this is extremely difficult to nail down to one person but I suppose I would give this moniker to Will Richardson. Will has often been referred to as the godfather of educational blogging. Will is someone that consistently taught me through is blog and the number of personal interactions I’ve had with him over the years.

Back in the days of ping backs and tagging, bloggers often posted something and encouraged or invited others to write a response. This is my request to ask you to do the same. Don’t feel compelled to respond to all five of my categories but I’d really love to hear about your watershed moments of learning. Feel free to respond in the comments or write your own post and link to mine so I’ll be notified. By the way, that person I was talking with about watershed moments was Stephen Hurley. I wrote about his moment too.

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