The Way

I’m smiling as I type this in light of the entry from yesterday.  In it, I talked about not reading Top Ten lists and yet ended up reading one and almost got caught up in reading another.

The one I read was one by David Warlick entitled "So Here’s What I’d Do".  He didn’t mention that it was a ten pointed list at the outset and I didn’t realize it until I was in about the third point and had scrolled down.  It was kind of surprising because David doesn’t do big long lists.  His post was in response to Tim Holt’s "10 Bad Trends in Ed Tech 2011".  Fortunately, Tim didn’t have all 10 of his thoughts in one big long list – he had created 10 posts apparently and this was number 6.  He expressed his thoughts about "Ed Tech Gurus" and how they identify the need for change but don’t give answers about how to make it happen.

It was an interesting read but I do disagree with things in Tim’s post.  I should indicate that I’ve been responsible for the engagement of these gurus to speak at the Western RCAC Symposium for a number of years.  During that time, we’ve heard from:

  • David Warlick (twice)
  • Will Richardson
  • Amber McArthur
  • Ian Jukes
  • Angela Maiers
  • David Pogue (twice)
  • Lee LeFever
  • Helen Barrett
  • Marc Prensky
  • Wayne Hulley (twice)
  • and the list goes on…

The format of the Symposium, we like to think, is different from others.  We don’t have a vendor display area at all.  There are no hands-on lab sessions.  All of the presenters and speakers are invited by the organizing committee.  While we don’t direct people to specifics for their presentations, we do let them know that the Symposium is all about ideas.  We want people there to hear, to think, to connect, to network, to share, …  We don’t necessarily want anyone to walk away with a new set of hard skills; we want them to walk away with a new perspective.  We want minds open to the possibilities.  With a dozen different school districts in attendance, we don’t want a "one size fits all, how to" solution.  Each district has its own budgeting process, district improvement plans, staffing, priorities, and collective agreements to consider.  With the collection of superintendents and principals in the audience, the event feeds on itself with new local presenters every year.  We also ensure that the keynote speakers have a breakout session immediately following their keynote so that those that wish to pursue the ideas in a more intimate setting can.

It’s amazing how the messages and ideas shared are taken back to the local districts and shared with others.  Messages and ideas morph into something that works based upon local realities.  Does it make the same change everywhere?  No.  But then again, not all superintendents and principals are in attendance.  If only they were…

The model was based upon the genius of my first superintendent supervisor.  He ran a leadership session called "Find the Way, Show the Way, Get Out of the Way".  I had the honour of being in a car with him for a trip to Toronto where he explained the mechanics behind this and how the model was his way of making change happen in the district.  He had the luxury of having all of the principals in the audience and it worked well. 

I try to imagine significant change in ideas and attitudes without the inspiration of a Mr. Warlick et al, and I just don’t see it happening.  I wouldn’t want to bring in someone from afar to change the whole landscape according to a prescriptive plan but I sure do want a motivating speaking coming in and talking about the possibilities.  Find it, show it, and then get out of the way so that those that will make the change, can.

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