Thursday, March 28, 2013

A new journey into Connected Coaching

My father was a mechanical engineer, a man of the slide rule, precise and always planning ahead of time (I still have his plan for my garden done to scale). When my sister and I were young, he would call AAA one time each year-- for maps for our 2 week vacation when we'd take a trip-- to New York, to Washington, to Jamestown. All of those trips-- as wonderful as they were, the memories so vivid as if they were yesterday-- were all about the destination.

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I can still picture those AAA maps clearly in my head (I can't find an image) -- they would be in a booklet format with a number of pages and the route we would take was highlighted with a marker. We'd go so many miles and have to flip the page to see the map for the next leg of our journey. When our trip was longer, there would a notation at the motel where we would spend the night. We knew just where we were going and when and eagerly explored those maps prior to our departure.

School, for me, was a planned journey too-- one in which I had no part in planning the destination or the travel. I was simply along for the ride-- usuallyone lacking side trips-- Sure, I had 1 or 2 options of courses I could take-- all which had to fit within the profile needed to gain entrance to college. The one learning journey of my own choosing in high school-- a source of great pride and meaning to me-- was with a group of adults in night school. At the height of the Cold War, and a senior, I had decided I wanted to teach Russian; having no options for doing that in the high school, with my parents blessing I spend a semester learning Russian-- in conversations, listening to stories of the adult learners. Здравствуйте Zdrastvooyte  (Hello) and Спасибо Spaseeba (Thank you) pretty much define my remembering of the language; it was the journey that I carried with me to this day.

Fast forward--

Our trips in this day of Google Maps and GPS are wide open, flexible and at times on the spur of the moment, at least for Gus and I. They are more about the journey- the times we spend together in the car singing with Chicago, Three Dog Night, and Seals and Croft and the stops and sidetrips we make along the way-- rather than the destination.

My learning journeys and the ones I facilitate for others have evolved too, from carefully planned with a specific destination to wide open with room for serendipitous and more personalized learning. As a co learner and facilitator, the possibilities arising from inquiry and following passions capture my imagination-- compelling a quest for deeper understanding.

My most recent trek into Connected Coaching was no different--

I had the privilege in the January to mid March section of the Connected Coaching eCourse to travel with an accomplished group of co learners, many with significant experience in face to face coaching.  Although I hope that everyone in the course will always view the potential for change in our Connected Coaching model and see the possibilities throughout the process, I am never sure how our journey will play out for so many reasons. Since I've requested that each co learner create his/her own learning contract, since I've stressed our time together is about their following their personal interests under the umbrella of coaching in online spaces-- it has been my fervent hope that that request and some possible paths outlined mapped in the MentorMob playlists and
weekly overviews set the stage for organic, messy, linked learning increasing the likelihood of trips characterized by detours, side trips and loop backs.

For this trek, the discussion and angst around the learning contracts which are shared with the entire group and for which many request feedback went deep with serious questions around its purpose and value. Initially, this request (the learning contract and it is a request as are all the learning opportunities) is open with few parameters or introduction. When the questions arose  I added a resource on heutagogy that speaks to the importance of self governed learning, the contracts filled the discussion thread as did comments supporting each others efforts and various paths towards personal goals emerged. We were on our way-- together. And I had my first big aha moment! When I had adapted the learning contract for the eCourse, I had not given thought(and should have) to the connotations of "contract". When Doris  suggested she'd prefer to call her contract a learning pledge-- my brain stopped for a moment-- and then realized the implications and what a difference one word can make and how much more aligned pledge is to the community building of the eCourse and to the Connected Coaching model! Next trip-- learning pledge is it!

What else characterized this journey? Where did we go? What learning landscapes did we explore with each co learner as point person at one time or another?

Exploration of trustbuilding, co creating content was in many ways similar to other journeys-- the collaborative presentation illustrated beautifully the many and varied perspectives on building trust in online spaces.

Appreciative inquiry; listening, paraphrasing and questioning; stories; protocols -- became high points as we uncovered their potential in coaching. Lisa and Carol engaged in a remarkable appreciative inquiry conversation in one webinar; in breakout rooms, coaching pairs spread their AI wings as they responded to each others stories and aspirations. And upon request, they coached each other again and again! Stopping there and exploring-- exciting, exhilarating -- and a first for the cohorts with whom I've traveled. The potential of story to elicit areas of strength and passion captured the attention of co learners and enabled some very personal "aha" moments. Through stories, such as the one below, we came to more fully know and trust each other.

The wayfinding, the inquiry, the strength based approach-- modeled in the course and extolled in the Connected Coaching model compelled Janelle to write:
"What I have come to understand is that coaching online especially connected coaching has the essence of what makes us tick in person as well as online and that it is the embodiment of inquiry that is truly essential. What better way to be coached than through thoughtful questions, exploration in a dynamic environment not pre-packaged or pre-defined. We have the liberty to innovate as we work in partnerships with teachers, coach and learn as we make our way."   

The co learners traveled a formerly unbeaten path deep into protocols in the threaded discussions and in the webinars. As they skillfully led and implemented protocols in the webinars, learning landscapes for everyone widened and expanded. Carol engaging the group in Speed Dating Brainstorming and The Workstyles protocol truly illustrated her exhortation in chat "the power of protocols". Jennifer's brainstorming question around reflection led to a leveraging of technology for unique and meaningful reflections. Eric's thoughtful explanation of Immunity to Change compelled each of us to consider its use more deeply.

The reflections, often a path less traveled, revealed that immersion in an strength based inquiry environment facilitates personal learning rated by Amanda as "profound". For Eileen, our journey was a bit of a surprise:
"As I reflected back on my learning contract I was so focused on the technology piece but what I really got out of this course was a deep understanding of what coaching is and how stories, positive inquiry and coming from strength can really affect change. Very powerful for me."
Eric discovered:
"I’ve known for a long time about the value of careful listening and paraphrasing, but I learned to focus on the positive perspective in the paraphrasing--for the purpose of helping the other recognize strengths they might not see for themselves--and then to build on those strengths moving forward."
Reflections, filled with learning and realizations, demonstrate "our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.”-- Don Williams, Jr.

Fellow travelers define the journey-- more so when they are passioned, smart, eager to travel, always ready to explore a new view, or examine the implications for the bumps in the road/the meaningful detours. This journey was no exception. What an honor and a privilege it was to have Amy Musone as my traveling partner co facilitating and learning with me. She added a new dimension to learning for all of us with her practitioner perspective pointing to new horizons.

It was a trek I'll long remember-- deep into areas often passed by -- all for the love of the journey.

Unlike Dad's- without a clear roadmap-- thinking he might not find that a bad thing--

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

It does!

One of my favorite reads these days is John T. Spencer's edrethink -- so much of what he writes and thinks resonates deeply with me. His post from early February, Age Matters,  has been an open tab on my browser for almost 2 months now and his words ring continue to ring true for me.

This from his final paragraph speaks to me in so many ways and I wanted to share it out loud here:
I believe that children of all ages are capable of deep thinking. I believe that they can shock us with their wisdom and their insight and their knowledge. But I also believe that they are kids. And as kids, they don't think like adults. Not entirely, at least. So, when you ask a fourth grader to identify the key details in a job application or you ask a second grader (who still can't comprehend the size of the sea) to learn longitude and latitude, it's about as absurd as having an open bar in the cafeteria.

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