A gentle nudge…slowing down #SAVMP

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Sometimes inspiration comes at just the right moment. Lately, I have been moving at warp speed.  At times, I get so caught up in the “doing” that it is difficult to slow down and reflect.

Earlier this school year, I signed up to participate in an innovative program launched by George Couros (@gcouros), the School Administrator Virtual Mentor Program (#SAVMP). I have been fortunate to connect and learn with committed educators who are sorting through how to lead the way forward to innovative learning in our schools and communities. And, I have had a tough time juggling the competing demands of doing the work and reflecting on the work. I tend to lean more in the direction of the “doing” part (the slowing down part, not so much).

So, this week when George provided a “gentle nudge” to program participants to take time to stop and reflect and share our learning through blogging and tweeting, I was inspired to take stock. In his blog post, You can Close the Door (Sometimes), George offers a timely reminder that it is “high priority work” for educational leaders to stop and reflect and share as a key component of creating an open culture of learning among educators.

At first his post struck me as an interesting counterpoint to my recent post on the power of connections by “opening our doors” by sharing our professional practices.  The juxtaposition of open and closed doors made me think — both are necessary to our continued growth and learning.

It is only by closing our door (sometimes) that we are able to truly reflect on not only what we’re doing, but why it is important to our larger purpose. Running on empty does not really promote deep thinking or learning. Without our best thinking, it is virtually impossible to focus our energy on taking the next right steps to move forward. Taking the time to reflect enhances our ability to engage more meaningfully with others. It seems to me that both are essential to building a collaborative culture that promotes deeper learning and purposeful action toward our common goal.

What are your thoughts on how to slow down and take time for deeper reflection?

Getting Started: Connected Educator Month #CE13

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photo credit: pobre.ch via photopin cc

Meaningful change ain’t gonna happen for our kids if we’re not willing to invest in it for ourselves first. At the heart, it’s not about schools…it’s about us.” — Will Richardson

Many educators see Twitter, in particular, and social media, in general, as frivolous wastes of time. I mean, who really cares what Honey Boo Boo is up to? Who cares what J.T. had for breakfast? Or any other celebrity gossip, really? But, being connected isn’t about Justin, or Kim, or any of the residents of the Jersey Shore. It is about investing in our own learning to make meaningful change for our students.

This week I had the opportunity to talk with educational leaders in Sonoma County about how we can use Twitter to connect and learn and lead in the 21st Century (#scoe21c). During the session, we explored why being connected is important and how it can help us invest in our learning and growth. I shared my own journey from my initial trepidation, to piqued curiosity, to active seeking, to a deeper understanding of the significance of sharing with other educators. It was my hope to provide a little nudge and inspiration for other educators to “get connected” and pursue their own passions and learning.

With Connected Educator Month right around the corner, it seems like the perfect time to stop and reflect on the “why” — “why connect”? and how to get started. Continue reading

Why I Lead… #SAVMP

Lead and learn photo credit: AnsonLu

I am excited about the opportunity to participate in an innovative program launched by George Couros  (@gcouros), The School Administrators Virtual Mentorship Program (#SAVMP). The idea behind the program is “to help develop administrators to lead innovative school environments that meet the needs of students today.” Leading innovation begins with our own learning.

As a starting point for thinking about our own practices, George has asked us to reflect on our “why” — why we lead. I have to admit that when I began my career as an educator, I never envisioned myself as a leader. Early on, I saw myself as a learner and a teacher, guiding and facilitating the learning of my students. Inspired by my own teachers who saw me — as a person and a learner — I wanted to follow in their footsteps and give back the life-changing gift that they gave me.

As a teacher, the connections I made with students — getting to know their strengths, their passions, their challenges and their dreams — gave me a genuine sense of purpose and meaning. Seeing the spark in a student as they discovered new skills, talents and capabilities inspired me to continue to learn and grow to be a better teacher. Empowering students to step boldly onto their own path, in turn, inspired me to seek out and pursue my own learning.

At that time, I associated “leadership” with “administration” — as something embodied by a single individual, separate from the essential connection between learning and teaching. As my path has meandered, however, my understanding of leadership has profoundly changed. Continue reading

On the moral obligation of sharing

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I’ve been developing a personal learning network (PLN) through Twitter and online forums for the past few years. I found my initial forays into social media to be a bit disorienting. The flow of information was overwhelming. It was difficult to get my bearings. But, I stuck with it — dipping in, then stepping away, and then returning. I found it to be a process — at first I mainly “lurked”, viewing the contributions of others, then gradually I began to share and engage with others.

Through this process, I have discovered what Lyn Hilt (@L_Hilt) has referred to as “Effort In = Reward Out.” Along the way, I have benefited in real ways from the ideas, practices and insights shared by the amazing and thoughtful educators who are part of my PLN. Engaging with the work of others has nudged me to take risks, pushed me to think more deeply, and opened up new ideas for empowering students in their learning.

In the (tongue-in-cheek) words of George Siemens, these powerful learning experiences led me to conclude that “My Personal Learning Network is the most awesomest thing ever!” Siemens’s piece challenged my thinking about PLN’s, in general, and helped me to think differently about the importance of my network and my place within it. Continue reading

“Learning by heart”

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I believe that schools can become much more than places where there are big people who are learned and little people who are learners. They can become cultures where youngsters are discovering the joy, the difficulty, and the excitement of learning and where adults are continually rediscovering the joy, the difficulty and excitement of learning. Places where we are all in it together — learning by heart. — Roland S. Barth, Learning By Heart (2004), page 29

I first encountered Roland Barth’s book, Learning by Heart, as part of the required reading for my administrative credential program in the days B.T. (Before Twitter). In his book, Barth warned about the tendency among school leaders to become so focused on the “more important matters” of the job that they miss the truly critical work of “lead learning.” Instead, he urged educational leaders to work as co-creators of a “community of learners” committed to lifelong learning, discovering new knowledge, and making their learning visible by sharing openly with colleagues. Throughout my career, I have taken his words to heart.

And, I find that Barth’s wise words still ring true for me as I try to sort out how to apply their meaning for my work today. Recently, I have started to participate an online interactive course, “Educational Leadership in the Digital Age”, facilitated by Lyn Hilt (@l_hilt) of the PLP Network (Powerful Learning Practice). Last week, one of our topics for exploration was what does it mean to be a “lead learner” in a “time of rapid change with ever-evolving digital technologies.” Continue reading

Stepping into the social media landscape

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Getting started with social media can be daunting. I remember when I began exploring Twitter a few years ago. Like many others, when I signed up, I didn’t get it. I was almost instantly overwhelmed with the amount of information and could not make sense of it.

As I stumbled my way through the seemingly strange social media landscape, I’ve met some amazing guides who have paved a path. I began to read and delve into the resources they shared and slowly…I learned more. As I learned, I began to get my bearings a bit. Through their example, they have opened up a whole new world to me.

Here are just a few of the educators who are part of my personal learning network and the resources they have generously shared with those interested in learning more about how to use social media for professional learning and community engagement. Continue reading

Moving forward in the face of fear

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than one’s fear.”  — Ambrose Redmoon

In my work, I frequently hear profound trepidation about the big, wide world of social media. The chorus of voices bemoans the ubiquity of Facebook and issues cautionary tales of how social sites are diminishing our personal connections to others. And on and on…

Underneath this reluctance, I hear a genuine sense of fear — fear of our world spinning out of control. In an effort to regain some semblance of control, there is a tendency to react by wanting to “shut it down.” Instead, I’d like to urge us to be courageous in our leadership and move forward in the face of fear.

As Redmoon’s quote suggests, being courageous does not mean “the absence of fear.” Rather, it is “the judgment that something else is more important that one’s fear.” As educators, I would also add that our ability to prepare our students for their future and to engage with our communities to accomplish that goal, in a world that is growing ever more complex and fast-paced, is more important that our own fear.

open leadership

I recently revisited Open Leadership, by Charlene Li (@charleneli). Li’s book provided me with a bit of a road map to begin grappling with my own uncertainty. While the book is not geared specifically for those of us toiling in the field of education, I think educational leaders will find plenty of resources here to get started.

At the outset, Li assesses the new terrain which has been characterized by the “fundamental shift in power” from institutions (like schools) to customers (such as our students, parents, and community members).  With new social technologies, more people are online, using of social sites and sharing digital resources like never before. Li points out that conversations that used to take place in more private realms of offices, phone calls, and even the parking lot, are now taking place online. While these developments may make us squirm, we are powerless to stop them.

The question, then, is how do we manage our fears as we navigate forward in digital spaces to connect more meaningfully with our communities? Li offers four key take aways for educators. Continue reading