Connect. Collaborate. Risk. Innovate.

Connect. Collaborate. Risk. Innovate.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

The People in the Room

          I have been privileged to be an educator for the past 16 years in a district that values innovation, risk taking, and ongoing professional growth and learning. The Engaging the Digital Learner series is just one example of an initiative that has been designed to celebrate, support, inspire and challenge educators, and it is one that has been especially impactful and meaningful for me. Having presented my own Ignite last year on Creating a Culture of Collaboration I have first hand knowledge of the exhilarating, and yes, somewhat nerve-wracking, experience that sharing one's passion in front of several hundred colleagues can be.
          This year, I have been fortunate to be able to work alongside Elisa Carlson, Director of Instruction for the Surrey School district, by assisting with the coordination of Ignite presentations. In her recent post, The Sharing Continues, Elisa captures the essence of the evening, noting that the learning extends beyond the room, and that "professional learning, in an era of technology, is now spilling out of its traditional boxes and spreading across organizations through the power of the internet and social media".
          In my role, I begin to connect with Ignite presenters via email and Twitter over the course of several weeks leading up to each subsequent session. In many instances, I've never met these individuals. As the largest school district in BC, Surrey is home to 101 elementary schools and 19 secondary schools. As well, some of our presenters travel from other districts and occasionally from other countries. But gradually, through numerous emails and across time zones and district boundaries, I come to "know" these individuals as they shape and refine their passions into a format that they are then able to share with their colleagues. What a privilege. 
          I finally have the opportunity to meet the Ignite presenters on the day of the session. I share their nervous excitement and anticipation as they move towards the appointed hour. While Elisa's video of the live streamed event provides the perspective of the audience, I have a unique perspective. Stationed at the front of the large banquet room, I am able to watch the audience, as the audience watches the presenters. As each subsequent presenter makes their way through their 20 slide, 5 minute presentation, I see their enthusiasm and passion mirrored in the faces of their audience. 
          Because as impactful and life changing as engaging in online platforms such as Twitter have been for me as I continue my own journey of professional growth and learning, these face to face sharing sessions hold their own power. I watch as individuals who have sometimes only "met" via social media, gather during each session, often playing the game of "match the tiny Twitter profile picture to the person". And I watch as that moment of recognition occurs and as individuals then greet each other like old friends. It's the same feeling that I get when I have the opportunity to meet, and shake the hand of a presenter for the first time. I get to match the passion and excitement conveyed by the numerous conversations via email, with the individual. 
          So while the Engaging the Digital Learner series celebrates and supports the principle of digitally connected educators and students, it also provides the essential opportunity for those irreplaceable face to face connections that form the foundation of a collaborative, trusting and innovative community. Yes, sometimes it's about reaching out, but other times it's just about spending some time with the people in the room. 
Surrey School District SD #36 Engaging the Digital Learner: Learning by Design series.


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