Lessons From 70+ Ignites

Over the past 18 months, I’ve hosted 8 Ignite Events as part of my role as Community Manager for Discovery Education. If you’re not familiar with these events, here’s a brief invitation I created for our upcoming event in Vancouver.

I’ve heard superintendents, principals, teachers, community members and students share over 70 of these talks. Mostly hosted in pubs or restaurants, there are several factors that make this one of the best networking/learning events I’ve been a part of.

  • Location: The fact we hold them in a pub is important. It’s purposely not in a school and not just because people can drink, although that can helpful. 😉 An offsite location immediately relaxes people, let’s them know this isn’t necessarily work related as well it represents a neutral meeting space. In addition, the less fancy, the better. Each location has had its challenges in terms of viewing screens and hearing speakers but those constraints actually make people work harder to support one another.
  • Social first, learning second: The order is important. In most professional learning environments, social is at best acknowledged, at worst ignored. Our focus is on the networking. We create time and space to have conversations. For many participants,
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Professional Learning is Messy

Many people say learning is messy. But is professional learning messy?

There seems to be an ongoing search by districts and teachers for the best kind of professional learning. That’s a bit like searching for the best kind of food. I appreciate the need to provide better learning opportunities but like food, there is a wide range of learning that is essential or preferred depending on the learning and the learner.

When it comes to student learning, we often hear, “hands-on” or active learning is the best. If we’re talking about professional learning, it’s similar but now we might hear about job-embedded learning as being a preferred or optimal type. Job-embedded learning is associated with results. Results are important but they aren’t the only outcomes we should be seeking in our learning. Or at least, we shouldn’t ignore that many kinds of learning occurs before results might ever be considered.

This recent  quote from Will Richardson about learning makes me think:

if learning is measured by a desire to learn more, to continue learning, then the focus is on creating the conditions for that to happen

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Those conditions are created in a variety of ways and indeed the new role of … Read the rest

Encouraging Ownership

After every course I teach I receive an evaluation from my students. Typically 80% or higher provide with highly positive feedback. 10% are indifferent and 10% are less than satisfied. Most of the dissatisfaction revolves around lack of structure and and timelines. This is partly my personal flaws and partly student preference and partly a communication failure. I take these evaluations seriously and don’t dismiss these critiques but really do try to improve. I need to get better. But….

As I try and create more ownership and agency for students, my efforts to empower them is the thing I need to really work on. How do I get my students to “own their learning”? Consider what ownership means. When you own your house, you can complain about the manufacturers of your home for its flaws but ultimately you’ll need to consider and act upon things that aren’t working. Sometimes you do it yourself, sometimes you ask for help, but either way as an owner you take action. Even if you ask for help, you are responsible they do the work and do it well.

Today I saw this tweet:

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“I Couldn’t Agree More” is Meh.

First off, if you rarely read the comments in a blog, you ignore the fact that some of the best learning comes from those who respond and contribute additional ideas, perspectives and insights. Grant it, many spaces, like news sites and youtube are often places where civil discourse is difficult to find. But many blogs, particularly educational blogs offer some of the best places for conversation. Blogs are by nature conversational. Posts are meant to be reviewed, discusses and challenged in the same spaces.

agreeYet, perhaps it’s the overly kind nature of many educators or a fear to engage in meaningful debate, it’s amazing how often I read a blog with some interesting ideas and the comments are filled with replies beginning with “I couldn’t agree more.” Now certainly there are many times when that’s exactly how you feel and so you post with enthusiasm the joy of finding a kindred spirit, I’m not here to criticize you if you’ve ever began a comment like that. Well, maybe a little criticism. 😉

I’m here to suggest that if you only leave those kind of comments then maybe you aren’t putting yourself in a position to think critically or maybe you … Read the rest

Sustaining Digital Literacy

I’m excited to be teaching a course in a few weeks for Wilkes University called “Sustaining Digital Literacy” as part of the new EDGE offering. Essentially this is a great way to quickly get yourself up to speed with emerging technologies.

The course I’m offering focuses on a few things:

  • Finding trusted people who are doing the heavy lifting of research and implementation

This is more than about a Personal Learning Network but a more focused look at how to find people who doing interesting work and sharing it in such a way that one can not only tap into their research but also view issues from multiple perspectives. Today’s challenge is the traditional research is often difficult to find. A shift to participating and observing action research that is less formal is critical. We can’t, and don’t need to wait till the white paper is published.

  • Understanding and valuing civil discourse

5848124488_6a726f3535_mCivil discourse is something I’m highly cognizant about and when it works, it’s a powerful thing. Case in point this recent discussion on Google Glass. You don’t need to know much about Glass but you really get two distinct perspectives, some you may not have considered. You … Read the rest