So I started this google doc..

That’s a joke that many of us who know Alec Couros use to describe a number of experiences he shares as part of being a network learner and crowd sourcing.

That become the intro to this video I put together along with the help of about 75 others.

The Learning Stuff

These 75 people contributed about 5-60 seconds of video. While I know that it may have been a little more time the idea that cumulative of all this content could be pieced together for something of value and meaning is non-trivial.

I wonder if the more difficult the question the greater the strength and/or structure of the organizing principle required to make the results intelligible/useful? Meredith Stewart

in this case, Alec is a compelling personality that has made huge contributions to many. I could have easily found another 75 people and likely could have made 10 videos given his network. But we can certainly come up with compelling ideas that would benefit greatly from the contributions of others. This is why having and building a network, while not easy and magic, offers new possibilities for learning and change.

The Technical Stuff

A few people have asked about how I put this all together so here goes:

1. Jon Becker sends out a tweet suggesting I do something for Alec

2. I create this google form.

3. I waited until I had about 70 entries. I’m not sure why I choose that number because as it turned out I had to do some fancy stickhandling to make everyone’s part fit.

4. I send out this email:

5. I was careful not to ask people to submit in a specific format since it may be another barrier for some. As entries came in I used MPEG Streamclip to convert any weird files (Windows type files) I used for people to send their video clips. This is linked to my dropbox account and was a very efficient way to gather the clips. They ranged in size from 989k to 70MB. Dropittome has a limit of 75 MB which was sufficient even for HD submissions of only a few seconds.

6. I began inserting video as it came in except for the parts with multiple videos.

7. By Saturday night I had most of the videos and went at creating the final product in Final Cut Express.

8. I again used MPEG Streamclip to take the full Quicktime video to a more youtube friendly mp4 format.

That’s it. I’d really like some more thoughts on the big picture part but I am happy to answer questions or discuss the little picture part too.

Becoming Narrative Champions

Dean and AlecCross posted on TechLearning
I talk about sharing a lot. It’s a pretty big word that means many things to many people. This past weekend my colleague Alec Couros and I had the chance to lead a conversation at Educon at Philadelphia’s Science Leadership Academy. We asked people to explore the meanings of words like sharing, transparency, copyright and openness. It’s important to have these discussions as those words are used differently and mean very different things. Unwrapping these terms led to some powerful insights for me.

Steven Berlin Johnson’s recent book Where Good Ideas Come From talks about the value of sharing and how ideas emerge not always from singular moments but from stitching together the collective ideas that we get from others. The chaotic nature of these discussions means we need to make meaning and connections on our own. As Johnson says, good ideas are rarely eureka moments but rather take a long time to incubate and mature.

So the idea that really resonated for me was re-imagining leaders as storytellers. As we discussed the barriers of sharing and telling the stories of great learning and great teaching, time and humility seem to be the two significant barriers. As leaders we can help overcome this by telling the stories of those around us. Shelley Paul helped me think through this concept and used the term “narrative champions”. I like that. We can model the kind of sharing we want for our work places by becoming narrative champions. I’ve been doing this in one form or another for many years but I think I need to be more explicit about it and show others what that might look like.

Here are a few ways I’ve tried to be a narrative champion:

Subscribe. If you have teachers and schools that have a web presence subscribe. Subscribe to them all. I have a folder in my RSS reader for our schools and one for our teachers. Whenever they post something I’m notified. While I’m not likely to comment on very many, simply being in the know helps. Leaving a comment is easy and powerful.

Retell their stories. We use our district webpage to repurpose stories from schools, students and teachers. Not only does this give them validation for their work but provides a larger audience that includes parents and other educators. Schools and teachers don’t see their spaces as anything more than informing parents and the community. When you post it in other spaces like your district page or your personal blog, they begin to see that their work has meaning and value even though their original intent was simply informing parents. I use the examples of teachers in my district all the time in presentations, conversations and postings. Point to their success and they become more willing to share.

Record their stories. For those who don’t have a web presence but are doing great work, capture it. The best way is to grab a camera and record them. For many teachers, they will fight you and suggest they don’t like cameras or aren’t doing anything special. Fight them on this one. Let them know their work needs to be shared even if it’s just locally at a workshop or meeting. We’ve been diligent as a curriculum team to fire up the camera anytime the slightest bit of goodness is occurring in classrooms. Even if nothing is published, the fact that someone thinks good work is happening lets teachers know they are appreciated.

I’m sure there are other things you do that makes you a narrative champion. What are they?

Photo by Kevin Jarrett

Playing with ideas at Educon

I don't go to conferences to get new ideas. I've been down that road. That's not to say that there's nothing for me to learn but as connected as I and many others are, it's rare that something will be shared that is completely new. I attend conferences to play with ideas. That's why Educon is a great conference. It fosters and encourages playing with ideas. 

I was involved in leading 2 conversations and both were learning experiences for me. Darren Kuropatwa and I led a session called "What's Wrong with This Picture?" I learned a lot during our planning stages and since Darren and I have never presented together before, it took some time to get our cadence and feel. We both felt there were some good things we did and also some things we would change if we were to present this again. Educon sessions generally focus around rich conversations using a variety of formats and strategies but the idea is for as many as possible to participate. Darren and I wanted to see if we could get our participants to play and explore with ideas around imagery. We were a little concerned it may not work due to time constraints, equipment and simply because it's not normally the format at the conference. We were both blown away with the quality, imagination and thinking that went into their work. Take a look. Upon return the conversation about critical thinking, media literacy, quantity vs quality emerged. The strong takeaway for me was that a little play can lead to important conversations. While I know that part of the Educon mantra is about moving away from shiny tools and discuss the big questions about school and learning, I think we do both. I'm going to be sure to incorporate that more into my work.

Darren and Shelley

I've had the privilege of working with Alec Couros on many occasions.  In our session about an "Obligation to Share" we really wanted to drill deeper into the terminology, have folks share some of their stories and then discuss cultural shifts and barriers. I've had this on my mind for quite a while so I thought it would be a great opportunity to see if others were having similar conversations in their local situations. The stories that were shared were quite amazing in themselves. The lasting idea that came out of this was in various conversations with Shelley Paul. These conversations were a mix of face to face, blog posts and tweets. As Shelley and I talked it became clear to me that as leaders we need to be storytellers and help others begin sharing and see that sharing is just what we do. I'll blog more about this idea later but it was Shelley who helped flesh out this idea much more clearly than I had before. 

Educon is a great way to spend a few days. Thanks to Chris and crew for once again doing an outstanding job. There's lots of time and opportunity to gather and connect. I'm blessed that so many people are willing to spend time with me and connect personally and professionally. For me it's equal parts learning and party. Which is nice. 

Photo of Darren and Shelley by Kevin Jarrett

Photo of knowledge isn't in our heads by Darren Kuropatwa

TEDx Saskatoon

Given I’m married to an educator, have a daughter just beginning her teaching career interesting in talking shop and spending a good chunk of time online with educators it’s no surprise that a day learning and in conversation with many folks outside of education is a breath of fresh air.

I was honored to be part of TEDx Saskatoon. I spent the last week engrossed in trying not to suck and I think I at least accomplished that goal. I was also happy to give my talk in the first set which allowed me to totally focus on the ideas and talks of the other speakers as well as engage in some pretty interesting conversations with strangers. I heart strangers.

The organizers put on a first class day. All the Stage equipment rentals and details were covered by the organizers and they represented TED and Saskatoon extremely well. The volunteer hours to put on an event like this is pretty significant and you can’t help but be impressed with the dedication.

While all the talks offered something, let me share a few highlights.

Ainsley Robertson is a young women who co-founded The Princess Shop.

The Princess Shop creates an enhanced graduation experience for female students in need, and provides them with mentorship, support, and the tools to pursue success after graduation. Princess Graduates have the opportunity to be lent a graduation dress, accessories, shoes, etc. donated by members of our community.

Ainsley¬†told her story as a fairy tale and her own humility, energy and determination shone through and creating an inspiring talk. This was a story that celebrated community and proved that a good idea, compassion and support can change people’s lives.

Probably my favorite talk was from Jeff Nachtigall. Jeff is currently artist in residence at the Sherbourne¬†Community Centre. Jeff’s ideas about creativity align pretty closed with Sir Ken Robinson‘s and he extended the ideas in his work with people with disabilities. Jeff’s stories were stories of hope, heartbreak and offered some powerful lessons for everyone including educators. His open studio, facilitation approach allowed people to discover latent gifts, stories and as a result not only offered therapy for themselves but encouragement to others. The National Film Board of Canada has been shooting a documentary on this work. I’ll be excited to watch that.

I should also mention Alec Couros‘ talk. Alec’s talk of change certainly was important for that crowd to hear and he did a nice job of taking his usual 60 minute talks down to 18. Alec remains an educational leader in both Saskatchewan and Canada and I’m proud to be associated with him and his work.

All the talks offered me something new, something to consider beyond my fairly centric interactions. It’s funny because in many schools and districts, ours included, there is a very strong resistance to paying for PD that is not directly related to a teachers’ work. At one point I thought that was a fair policy. I think I have to disagree with that. In fact, I’m wondering if teachers should be encouraged to attend conferences that have seemingly nothing to do with education or at least their area of teaching. What if every teacher was required to attend something totally unrelated to the current job. Simply ask them to make a connection back to teaching. Maybe it’s just me but I can’t help that nearly everything I see, read or hear about usually has me wondering about the implications for teaching and learning.

Thanks TEDx Saskatoon for a fantastic PD experience.

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EdTech Posse 6.4 “Drill Down Baby Drill”


With some heavy, late night editing, Rob was able to get our last night's podcast posted. Nice job Rob.


Show notes:

School reform: The “Waiting for Superman” media circus

Technology issues for post-secondary faculty (informal research for Alec’s discussion with University of Regina faculty)

We can haz prizes?

Thanks to edublogs (especially Sue Waters) for sponsoring the prize for the show. Listen to the show for details on how you can win.

Creative commons music

Opening theme: Creative Commons License nervoso con las guitarras by norelpref is licensed under a Attribution Noncommercial

Closing theme:Creative Commons License (©urve) Music LatinSaint Style by LatinSaint is licensed under a Attribution Noncommercial (3.0)

Enjoy the show: