Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wayfinding continued --

The wayfinding continues
Four years in
Looking back
As I look forward

Realizing more fully the tensions, the dualities, the uncertainties, the dissonance, the nuances that accompany the privilege of leading an online community remain constant—
Following year 1, these words described my first experience as a community leader for Powerful Learning Practice:
“On the side, in the middle, questioning, nudging, modeling, holding back sitting on my hands”

“Where I once might have suggested or pushed in a conversation, now others begin to take that lead. As an almost out of body experience, I hear my voice slowly morphing from that of leader as trust builds and the voices of the community grow and mature.” --Powerful Learning Practice
These tensions, this dissonance—only compel my own stretching, my moving out of my comfort zone as I find my way as a community leader. At this point, it's messy, it’s exhilarating, it’s formidable and it’s stupefying – 21st century learning at its best!!! Learning that brings new meaning to being open to new ideas, to flexibility, to being nimble— challenging and demanding.

As I find my way, seeking tone that is most welcoming, and yet again true, I find myself on the side in private emails and comments to walls on the NING encouraging those who continue to find this environment daunting.

… asking questions of clarification, hoping to push folk deeper in thinking or in considering an alternate perspective. Composing these questions—again with attention to tone –does not come easily-- wanting just the right words, just the right phrase, in my own voice—
Most challenging – sensing the right time to be quiet at the computer, just sitting on my hands, letting go -- allowing members of the community the opportunity for their own personal messy learning. I often feel like I’m on a roller coaster as passioned conversations take off and then suddenly few voices are raised-- I’m confident with my choice to step back and then I’m questioning the appropriateness—
Those words, those phrases, those thoughts-- they continue today. 

Two years in
One year ago—passioned, savoring my journey as a PLP community leader— Feeling exhilarated, bungling, practiced, ineffectual, poised, uncertain And finally thinking I was on the cusp of moving beyond the tensions, the dualities I found inherent in the role of community leader—
One year later—perhaps a little wiser Just a touch more widely read—
Arrogant in suggesting a year ago that the “perhaps less need for me to make those difficult choices” as the community evolved-- of what, and when and how to nudge, to cajole and to be silent—
Finding that wayfinding, always is fraught with tensions and dualities – jumping in, sitting on my hands, nudging, holding back, encouraging—
Finding that wayfinding continues to invoke inexplicable, disparate feelings – joy, insecurity, fervor, doubt, excitement, indecision, zeal, awe —
Learning, forever learning-- reveling in the messiness, the tensions, and the day to day need for nuanced silence or responses—

Year 2
Those words, those phrases, those feelings, those thoughts-- they continue today.

And 6 months later:
‘Any serious learning will take you through a dark night of your identity’.
–Etienne Wenger via Jenny Mackness wayfinding has been fruitful, though often fraught with frustration over my perceived inadequacies as I seek to become more competent in supporting sociability and participation in a community. Always asking how can I better help to support and build a sense of community and social relationships and trust, how can I better encourage different levels of participation, and how can I better add value to the community on the side out of the middle, always as a co-learner --for that is how I presently view this role.

Much learned, and so much to yet to learn, from this place in which I now find myself—
Helping build a sense of community
Taking the recommendation of Cothrel & Williams (1999) to heart --that community building is the key to success and developing a sense of community for its members is essential to achieve a high level of participation..

Helping to build social relationships and trust
With the building of relationships, collegiality and trust, members begin to feel a sense of community and with that arises sharing and learning from each other. Nichani & Hung (2002) point out that:
“trust is the glue that binds the members of a community to act in sharing and adapting manner. Without trust, members would hoard their knowledge and experience and would not go through the trouble of sharing with or learning from others”

In my desire to build trust, I’ve used member’s names, met virtually with teams, responded with affirmations and positive statements, attempted to be sure that every member received a response in a timely manner, pointed to responses that evidenced competence, and co created content with digital stories as we became acquainted with each other for I’ve learned that in communities that are perceived as friendly, honest, reliable and competent, members are more willing to participate. (Sharratt & Usoro, 2003) Although my sense is that I’ve been somewhat successful, I believe there is a need for me to model more often and more fully competence through transparency and sharing, making myself more vulnerable to others in order to develop that kind of trust.
Knowing and understanding the normal three levels of participation in community (a small core leadership group of active participants, about 10-15% of the whole community; a small active group (15-20%) that attend regularly participate in community forums occasionally; and large proportions of members are peripheral and rarely participate) (Wenger & his colleagues, 2002) and confidently encouraging the participation of those on the periphery are two very different things. ... it has been argued that with diverse members in terms of knowledge and expertise, allowing novices to the practice to acquire expertise through legitimate peripheral participation is important, as early criticism can lead to inactive community members. (Lave & Wenger, 1998)
On another level, nurturing the growth of others to become leaders and then knowing when to step back and sit on my hands as they emerge to lead others has been a dimension that has been somewhat effective for me and an area I’ll continue to tweak and adjust with the dynamics of a particular community as guides.

Helping to add value
To encourage participation, potential members have to be convinced that it is worth participating in the CoP. (Sharratt & Usoro, 2003). …With my previously stated commitment to model and demonstrate more fully transparency in learning and sharing through blogging, tweeting and more widespread reading, I hope to feel more confident that I do add more value to the community and that that confidence may shine through in the sharing and be a factor in persuading others to also add value to our collective learning.

Cothrel, J. & Williams, R.L. (1999) On-line communities: helping them form and grow. Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol.3, No.1, pp 54-60.
Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity: Cambridge University Press.

End of year2:
 I find growth in that reflection-- feelings and thoughts not changed, yet there is emerging a researched foundation on which to grow my practice.

And now--

A bit more confident--

Nevertheless continuing to sense the tensions, the nuances, the extreme care needed for the emergence and growth of a real community--

Realizing even more fully (did I think that was possible?) how leading a community is an art-- 

In the building of relationships, in the right and powerful questions, in the appreciative inquiry, in the capacity building, in the value adding--

And yet learning more and eagerly anticipating the next opportunity to grow and learn more, to focus on what I've come to know--

I know now that it is when everyone is sharing and everyone is deciding where and what they will read, do, or reflect upon-- that is when the real action and learning takes place. I want to model myself out of a job and make things easy for natural leaders to emerge.

I want to focus on keeping the community together. I need to recognize more fully the community’s need for balance; need for change and a need for stability. Too much newness, and there is a danger of the community losing its sense of identity; too much stability can lead to a loss of intensity and vitality. I'm thinking obtaining more feedback from all members can be helpful in guiding the community. I need to be more open, willing to consider new thinking, to help the community continue to evolve and thrive (Stuckey & Smith, 2004). I need to focus more on nurturing new leadership (Lai et al., 2006). I need to reach out to core members to lead an activity; create occasions that by their organic nature leave opportunities for leaders to emerge. As well, I should be engaging in ongoing efforts to build community especially focusing on social interactions, deepening and extending collegial relationships. As important, if not more, should be my continuous nurturing of and creating conditions in which trust develops -- the trust that comes to underlie collegial relationships where risk taking and stretching are the norm (Rasberry & Mahajan, 2008).

I've come to know that wayfinding as a community leader:

is always fraught with tensions and dualities – jumping in, sitting on my hands, nudging, holding back, encouraging —

will evoke inexplicable, disparate feelings – joy, insecurity, fervor, doubt, excitement, indecision, zeal, awe —

is learning, forever learning-- reveling in the messiness, the tensions, and the day to day need for nuanced silence and responses —

Image: 'London Loop or Beeches Way'

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Archdiocese of Philadelphia educators + Virtual Academies = Collegial Learning

What happens when a community leader for Powerful Learning Practice from NE Ohio and educators from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia come together in virtual sessions with presenters from Kansas, Quebec, Iowa, Illinois, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Manitoba, California, Ontario, New Jersey, Michigan, and Maine? Learning. More learning. And more learning.

For 3 years now, here in NE Ohio on many Tuesday or Thursday afternoons and evenings, I've been facilitating sessions and monitoring chats with passioned educators from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in a myriad of different webinars. My calendar reminders simply say VA-- reminding me of the Virtual Academy sessions. And on those same days, as soon as buses leave the Archdiocese of Philadelphia schools in the afternoon, a number of teachers have hurried back to their classrooms. It's likely time to log into the Virtual Academy webinar sessions sponsored by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia with Powerful Learning Practice. Many times, these dedicated educators have extended their school day by a number of hours and joined the later webinar that evening. Why? In the service of their children, they have aspired to learn more about technology infused learning and become more accomplished connected educators. Following each session, I've had the privilege to engage in discussions with these educators around the topic of the week in our private online community of practice. I've had the opportunity to come to know caring, passionate educators who want the very best for their children and who are willing to step outside of their comfort zone to do just that. My role of community leader in the PLP Virtual Academy is one I've come to cherish.

Together we've explored TPACK in English, Social Studies, Math and Science classrooms as well as digital creativity in each of these disciplines. We've examined digital images and videos in learning. We've gone deep into implementing Common Core Standards and Understanding by Design into personal practice and classroom instruction. You can view some of the sessions here and see descriptions of others here .

And the Virtual Academy impact? Kay and Tina share:
Virtual Academies give me the opportunity to network with, share new ideas for engaging students, and learn how others are using technology in their classroom. The Virtual Academy gives me a an outlet for assisting my peers and discussions about providing effective student collaboration.The sessions gave me a way of talking and sharing with other Archdiocese teachers and educators from different parts of the country in a relaxed atmosphere.

The Virtual Academies are by far a great and powerful way of providing teachers who my be unable to attend a workshop with online professional development. When school was closed because of snow or ice the Virtual Academy still provided professional development for us. If I had missed a session all I needed to do was go online for an archived session to help improve my teaching skills. --Kathleen Burgess, Library/Media Curriculum Chairperson, Conshohocken Catholic School, Kay on Twitter

I thoroughly enjoyed my experiences with the Virtual Academy classes over the last 3 years. There were many times that I learned an exciting new tool and was able to incorporate it the very next day in my classroom. Even if I didn't know all of the ins and outs of the tool, my students and I gave it a try and had fun learning from each other. Not only did the teachers learn some fantastic new Web 2.0 tools, but we also had a place to converse and try out these new skills in the discussion group with Lani there to answer our questions and lend us a hand. Another important aspect was the chat discussions which lead to the exchanging of more great ideas and support from our colleagues. I was thrilled when I was asked to present at a Virtual Academy class this year! I enjoyed sharing my ideas and I hope I was able to encourage others to try something new. Special thanks to the Archdiocese for making this available to us! -- Tina Schmidt, 3rd grade teacher, St. Ignatius of Antioch, Tina on Twitter

Tina's classroom blog and her participation in a Flat Stanley Project with Romania evidence the sharing and collaboration in her classroom. In so many other classrooms, educators proudly share in chat and in discussions how technology is changing learning for their students-- that students are blogging, collaborating on wikis, creating and commenting on Voicethreads, making posters using Glogster, and creating stories on Storybird .

We've explored new learning landscapes. And as a result, the design of students' learning experiences are more authentic, more collaborative and full of sharing. And we, our lives are the richer for the time we have spent sharing, collaborating, laughing, and learning together. Now connected educators, I know these Virtual Academy members will continue to guide both their colleagues and their students deeper into connected, collegial learning.

Cross Posted at PLP Network

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Slide rule--

Photo Credit

I saw this
My heart stopped for a moment

A slide rule
Captured the essence of him
At one point in his life

He carried one everyday
His tie bar was a slide rule

Mechanical engineer
Logarithms, numbers and math

And so much more

Obviously I'm no poet but when Bud Hunt shared this image as a prompt for the NPM it touched my heart in so many ways---

Saturday, April 07, 2012

It happened. Again.

It happened.
After just 9 weeks together.

Just before the last webinar session on Twitter:

And when the "recording is stopped" signaled the end of the last webinar session for participants in the Powerful Learning Practice Connected Coaching eCourse folks hung around, not wanting to leave the room.

And then on Twitter--

Co-creation of content, trustbuilding and developing relationships became the foundation for a community of learners to dig deep, to collaborate meaningfully across vast geographical distances. Educators from China, Australia, Denmark, Norway, Ontario, Alberta, Oregon, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Florida with a common passion came to know and to appreciate the expertise of each other. It's happened before--

In late November, 2011, I delighted in posting about the potential for learning in online spaces when trust and meaningful relationships develop. I quoted then from chapter 4 of our book, The Connected Educator, and it's worth sharing again:
"Connected learners have to work harder to establish trust. In our face to face interactions, we get to know people over time through causal interactions. We see them come in, take off their coats, complain about traffic. We get to know their families through pictures in frames on their desks and through conversations about the baby having a fever and children’s sports events. The steps are all there but shared in covert business as usual ways. We do not have to create intentional acts to share this information. It just happens naturally. In online spaces, we have the same casual interaction if we think through how to make them happen. And these intentional acts have the same trust building effect as those that occur naturally. We upload pictures, type stories about our children, create and share videos of sports events and tweet about traffic jams."
Intentional acts of casual sharing in online spaces can lead to incredible trust building, the development of meaningful relationships and learning not even imagined! We do spend a significant amount of time in the eCourse building trust-- modeling for and immersing participants in the process as that is the first major pathmarker for Connected Coaches in our appreciative inquiry model.

One of the major trustbuilding activities is co creating a collaborative Google presentation around the topic of building trust in online spaces. For we believe that co-creation of content influences the development of collegial relationships that are prerequisites to meaningful collaboration around improving practice. This presentation was one of many opportunities to build trust during the 9 weeks we spent together.

For any naysayers, who would push back on the power of relationship building in online spaces and it's potential to deepen learning, just check in with Jim, Patti, Harry, Sarah, Anne, Ann, Tod, Camilla, David, Shelley, or Shelley (yes, 2 Shelleys) from this section or any of the accomplished educators from previous sections. You don't have to take my word for it--

I am grateful and humbled to have come to know and learned with such smart, dedicated educators -- thank you all.