The Social Nature of the High Performance Worklplace

An interesting article that was forwarded to me today. Written in 2009, it offers an interesting look at how important it is for individuals to feel socially valued in today’s workplace. Lots to digest, but I wonder what role Social Media and Networks could play in helping create environments that promote status, certainty, autonomy and fairness. What are your thoughts?

Managing With Brain In Mind

 

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ConnectEd 2013: A Reflection

I have had the privilege of attending both Connected Conferences, last year’s event was an eye opener for me and really highlighted the fact that there was a real community of educators out there looking to make school the best 6 hours of a kid’s day. The conference was unlike anything I had been to and it served as the inspiration for EdCamp YYC. What strikes me about these events is how powerful a room full of passionate people can be. As a participant of ConnectEd 2013, one was part of the teaching. There were often times, no expert at the front of the room, but simply a group of teachers trying to develop their own understanding of a topic, issue, problem, etc… that they have encountered in their own practice. There is something to be said about this model and the impact it has had on many of it’s participants. For me personally it serves as an excellent model to bring back to the classroom, as it provided the following:

  1. An opportunity to pursue a topic of personal inquiry.
  2. An opportunity to collaborate and later reflect.
  3. Allowed for individuals to reach their own understanding on a common topic.ConnectEd

I really enjoyed all of my sessions and I gained a lot of insight from each of them, whether it was “Thinking Like and Engineer” or “Creating a Culture of Inquiry” I came away motivated and with new ideas for the classroom and my practice. With that being said, there were two sessions that really stood out. They were the “Digital Portfolios” session with Neil Stephenson and “Yeah and, not Yeah but” with Michelle Baldwin and Dean Shareski. In both of these sessions,the facilitators got out of the way and allowed the room to take over. They posed excellent guiding questions that allowed participants to construct their own understanding as it fit in their individual situation. Whether one was looking at having a class start blogging or an entire school district, the room as a group attempted to identify “What would be your ideal tool for documenting student learning?” and “What would your ideal school look like?” It is impossible to distill everything gained from such a weekend, but I will try to end this with a response to two key questions that were posed by Dean Shareski and questions that we could easily ask out students every day.

  1. What did you learn from others?
  2. How did you contribute to other’s learning?

The first one is an easy one to answer. I learned about the importance of not only documenting learning, but documenting the struggles as much as the successes. There is a lot to learn from the process and documenting and sharing this invites more people into the classroom. Connections and technology obviously play a huge role in facilitating this. I also learned from others that while there are often obstacles to the things we wish to do, there are small steps that we can take within our own classroom that can help foster intellectual engagement in our students.

As for the second question, I would like to think that this year I came as an active participant and shared my views and experiences. I hope that others learned from me in much the same way I learned from them. I hope to continue to honour this by sharing my success and struggles through this blog, while also documenting the learning at our school more regularly and visually.

I have no doubt that the success of ConnectEd and the EdCamp movement will only lead to more “UnConfrences” where teachers will come together to have a discussion and work towards deepening their understanding, make new connections, and develop solutions much more regularly. The word cloud above (courtesy of ConnectedCanada.org) just begins to show the reach of this movement and how teachers continue to seek out meaningful PD opportunities on their own time. A special thanks to everyone involved, but namely Dan McWilliam and Erin Couillard for all their hard work in the planning and running of this hugely successful event.

Maintaining the Conversation

I recently came across this article. In the article a cafe/lounge was built in Bangalore exclusively for entrepreneurs. It was a place where budding business owners could come, network, hash out ideas, and access expertise. I immediately began thinking whether the same principle could be applied to education?

One of the goals of EdCamp YYC was to begin the process of creating a collaborative community of educators. While a good first step, the thing we heard time and time again was “now what?” it was a good question and a question that I couldn’t really answer. Instinctively I leaned towards the need to create some online space where everyone could come together and continue the discussion, but for some reason that platform seemed inauthentic. The beauty of EdCamp was that you had teachers face to face, interacting and sharing. This is not to say that Twitter, blogs and other mediums cannot provide the same experience, but I personally believe that there is no substitute for face to face contact.

Reading about the initiative in Bangalore led me to the following questions.

  1. Could a cafe/lounge catered to educators flourish, when we all know how busy teachers can get?
  2. Would a cafe/lounge like this even be beneficial to educators?
  3. How could you leverage such a space and use it to engage the larger community?
  4. While education centred how do you ensure that it is inclusive of all (avoiding the echo chamber)?

I don’t believe that a cafe is a silver bullet to creating a more collaborative community of educators, but when I begin to think about the possibilities I get excited about what such a space could be.

  • Tables filled with teachers discussing issues in education.
  • Teachers coming and experimenting with the latest technology and tools.
  • Impromptu EdCamps.
  • Community engagement surrounding transformation.

Perhaps a dedicated space is not the answer, but regular (monthly, weekly, etc…) where teachers get together to discuss a particular topic. What I do believe though is that it is essential that we build on the momentum of things like EdCamps and conferences like ConnectEd where discussions are started, but cannot be completed in 45-90 minutes. What do you think? Is there an appetite for such a thing? Does it become just another “thing” for teachers? Does face to face contact even matter in today’s technological age?

Can We Teach Adaptability?

The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.

– Albert Einstein

I have recently had the opportunity to sit down with many different stakeholders and discuss the future of education. The thing that struck me the most, was how we appeared to all be speaking the same language. Whether it be students, business leaders, teachers or parents, one common theme continued to present itself, adaptation is essential.

Everyone seems to agree that the world we are preparing our students for will not resemble the world we live in today. It is fair to say that has probably always been the case, but the pace of change today seems to be more rapid and the advances more pronounced. With this in mind, all stakeholders appear to agree that it is critical that our students demonstrate the ability to adapt and prepare for a world that one cannot prepare for.

I find it crazy to think that it was only 6 years ago that my board was Introducing 1:1 Teacher Laptops and today those same laptops seem archaic. Students are coming to class with the ability that was unimaginable 5 years ago. How important is it for us to adapt as teachers in order to help prepare our students for their future?

I don’t really know what the future holds and while I feel like I am knowledgable in regards to the transformation in education under way, I struggle to predict what school will look like in 5,10, 20 years from now. Some questions I wrestle with.

1. Is adaptability the most essential skill for today’s students?
2. Is it possible to teach adaptability?
3. What are we doing currently to help students develop this skill?
4. To what degree do teachers need to adapt?