The New Think Tank


creative commons licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by ChrisDag

In my post yesterday, I put forth the idea of educational R&D teams and how they could be an affordable, scaled down way to bring research and development into our educational organizations without the cost and scale of an entire R&D department. In that post I suggested there would be merit in dedicating PD resources to developing knowledge and expertise amongst your own talented educators rather than paying people to come in and direct us with their innovations instead of us developing our own.

George Couros, the Division Principal in my division,  offered this in response:

If you only focus on developing and sharing ideas within, you can quickly see that the same things get done over and over again; it is tough to know any better.

He’s absolutely right, and while I was more speaking about replacing certain types of PD, it is important to keep this idea in mind. Just as important as empowering our own educators and building capacity in our organizations, is being open to the power of learning from others all over the globe.

Last night, I tried to imagine setting up an R&D team and trying to pilot this type of innovation and professional learning, so I started with a topic I am personally interested in learning about – Metacognition. When I thought about assembling a team, I realized that many of the people I would love to work with on this project weren’t in my division, or even living in the area. When I thought about connecting with them a new idea emerged – what about creating virtual think tanks, using all the tools we have available for online connecting now?

I immediately went and typed “virtual think tank” and “online think tank” into google hoping someone had already done this and could provide an easy to follow model. While there were a few similar ideas, I did not find one that involved educators. I think the closest idea I have seen would be the School Admin Virtual Mentor Program (SAVMP) that George ran last year. While that was an online mentorship program, I would see this more as eager, passionate educators who have an area of interest they would like to explore and try to bring to their building or division, connecting in some type of facilitating forum that helps bring together educators with a common interest. From there, using Skype, Google Hangouts, Twitter, Voxer, etc. they could find ways to research, share, develop resources, and push practice forward. A site would have to be set up and maintained, and resources could be curated and uploaded, but it wouldn’t have to be too expansive. Even if it started with just providing a message board or a hashtag on twitter, but doing something to bring the educators together to form these think tanks.

In a lot of ways I feel like I have lived some of this already, as I am sure many of you have. I’ve connected on twitter chats, on hangouts, or organized face to face meetings after first developing a dialogue on twitter. I’ve sought out help from others who have experience in areas I do not, by putting together a blog post or appealing to someone on twitter. I have connected with educators in Denver, Vancouver, Chicago, Philadelphia and London. This really is happening already, but because it feels so informal and easy, no one has named it a “think tank” because it probably felt too pretentious.

In my last post, I talked about how the constraint of a time limit would be important to any project, and when it comes to this idea, I believe even more constraints would need to be there to ensure follow through. Deadlines, scope of the projects, specific windows of time that meetings need to occur within etc. These think tanks would more than likely be projects educators would pursue on their own time and of their own volition, with people from multiple divisions from all over the globe, so some boundaries that pointed us in the right direction would be needed. As the community of innovators grew, accountability to the group and to share ideas would motivate people, but until that culture grew, it would have to start with these constraints in place.

Would people have an interest for this? What kind of support would you assume you would have from your administrator or your division? If the site was developed would you see yourself checking it out? What types of topics would like to see for innovations that should be pursued?

I would love your feedback so please leave a comment with any thoughts on this topic, and whether it is something worth working towards.

 

 

Why I Am An Educator


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Jeff Sandquist

I am very excited to be part of the School Admin Virtual Mentor Program, and this post marks my first participation in the program. I have been lucky enough to be connected with a great mentor, Jason Markey, who I have been a follower of for some time and recently started to connect with. I have appreciated every interaction we have had, and I look forward to having more frequent and more in-depth interactions with Jason. I also look forward to connecting with my two fellow “mentees” Rebecca Kelly and Sue Tonnesen, and I know I will learn a lot from all three of these educators, along with many other participants in the #SAVMP.

We were challenged to write a post with one of two themes: “Why do I lead?” or “Why am I an Educator?”. I kind of feel like I am still developing an answer to the first question so I decided on the second, maybe this program will help me with that.

Why am I an Educator? To put it simply, it is what I am passionate about, and I found that out on the driving range…

I was still in high school, and our local golf club was without someone to run our junior golf program. Along with the help of one of our senior members, I was helping to make sure the program kept running, which meant once in a while I worked with some of our younger members on the driving range. While working with a young golfer, I helped with a fairly simple change he could make to his swing. He was frustrated that the ball was traveling along the ground, and wanted desperately to see the ball fly through the air, the way others were doing all around him. After a hand full of balls, it happened. The ball flew off his club and soared through the air, but it wasn’t that sight I remember, it was the look on his face as he turned to see my reaction.     

It was in that look, and in numerous moments since then that my decision to be an educator has been reinforced. It started with sports, as I coached numerous teams, camps and activities, and then as my teaching career began, it continued with math problems, science labs and daily interactions with my students. I have a passion for helping people discover and learn, and I am a junkie for those looks – those moments where they are surprised by what they are capable of and they can’t wait to see your reaction as well.

In this SAVMP program, myself and all of the other “mentees” get the opportunity to be on that other end, we get to be the ones finding what we are capable of.  We all have our mentors in our schools and divisions, but its so great to get to have the opportunity to connect with others who will bring a different set of experiences and great advice as we develop as school leaders. Many thanks to George Couros for making this happen, another one of his great ideas and a wonderful opportunity for Rebecca, Sue, myself and all of the other “mentees”.