connections

Compliance and the Adjacent Possible #IMBC

In the intro to the Innovator’s Mindset, George Couros writes:

“The structure and type of learning that happens in many schools does not fulfill the needs of the twenty-first-century marketplace. When students graduate, many of them are good at one thing: school. They have mastered rubrics, they know how to ace tests, and they have figured out how to wor with specific parameters. But the world is not a series of rubrics! To succeed, they will need to know how to think for themselves and adapt to constantly changing situations. And although we say we want kids to think for themselves, what we teach them is compliance.”

I think this statement clearly shows the great divide that has opened up between the learning experiences that happen in school (formal educational setting) and the learning experiences that we can engage in if we are self-directed and motivated. Information and knowledge are available on our networks, and the internet has blown up the “learning box.” There is no box, after all. Go find a video tutorial on YouTube, enroll in a MOOC for free, post a question on your Twitter feed and get answers from people who are experts in many fields of knowledge, go to a Maker Space and take a carpentry workshop, you name it. Learn how to navigate the networks of knowledge and people, and in the process you lapidate your lifelong learning skills.

Informal learning prompts the kind of behaviors and actions that help shape lifelong learner mindsets. It pushes you to acquire skills that you will need to solve problems, to pose new questions, to investigate and be able to collaborate to finding or building solutions to complex problems. Schooling or traditional, formal learning experiences prompts compliance. It needs to standardize, control and measure. I don’t mean to say that formal learning experiences are fundamentally bad in all its aspects. There is a lot of value in direct instruction or in a good lecture from a competent teacher or expert. But that’s not all there is to it, to learning. There are a million other ways we can “measure” learning that do not involve a room full of people sitting in rows and silently taking a test which will amount to a numerical score.

How might we approximate the traditional, formal learning experiences to the informal learning experiences? How might we strike a balance there? What does that blend look like in the classrom? What does it do to the traditional school roles that presuppose authority, power and hierarchy?

George cites Steven Johnson on the concept of the “adjacent possible.” I find it very powerful because it means that the collective journey to exploring possible answers to the questions above within one’s community is where the transformation lies – it IS the transformation. Steven Johnson states (as cited by George Couros):

“The strange and beautiful truth about the adjacent possible is that its boundaries grow as you explore them. Each new combination opens up the possibility of other new combinations. Think of it as a house that magically expands with each door you open. You begin in a rom with four doors, each leading to a new room that you haven’t visited yet. Once you open one of those doors and stroll into that room, three new doors appear, each leading to a brand-new room that you couldn’t have reached from your original starting point. Keep opening new doors and eventually you’ll have built a palace.”

There is no recipe for innovation in education. What there should be is a predisposition to listening rather than telling, to working together rather than alone. To being vulnerable and saying “hey, I don’t know where this road will take us but I’m open to finding that out together, as a community, and with a focus on our learners.”

For our book club folks, George Couros poses this question for the introduction read:

Why do you believe that schools need to change, and what are the opportunities that lay in front of us?

Little did I know

I named this post after my blog on purpose. I’d like to do a little retrospective of 2014, the year I began this blog. It will also be a year to remember for many, many other reasons, some of which I’m hoping to share with you on this post. So, here we go.

Little did I know that I would come to find blogging as an inspiring means of expression. I began blogging in January 2014, something which I had been meaning to do for quite a while, but which had always felt like it was not meant for me. What ever would I have to say that other people would even be interested in reading? So it turns out that, hey, some people do. And that’s great. So many inspiring conversations have taken place in this little domain of my own, my digital home.

Little did I know that I would have grown a professional (and personal!) learning network on Twitter. Even though I had joined Twitter in 2009, it was only in 2014 that something clicked and it just felt like the right time to dive in the Twitterverse. And boy am I glad I did. Twitter has enabled me to connect to so many bright, interesting people from all around the globe. I have learned so much from these connections, each of them a whole universe of learning just waiting to happen.

Little did I know that I would find my tribe online. And so I did when I joined Dave Cormier’s Rhizomatic Learning – a.k.a. #rhizo14 – midway. I was the crazy Brazilian who seemed to crash some cool folks’ party, but ended up being an exotic addition to the community/curriculum. It was in #rhizo14 that I made my first Egyptian friend, who would later invite me to join her and other fellow educators to be a part of EdContexts, another cool community of scholars looking to voice Educators from the global south. Also in #rhizo14, I made an Anglo-French friend, a poet, a fellow EFL teacher as myself, who invited me to join the #Clavier Community. Seedlings that are still shooting forth, full of promise and possibility.

Little did I know that I would find so much inspiration in Connected Courses. I would dive in every now and then, and I would always resurface with something new. I learned about Edupunk, for one. I listened to some very bright minds talk about the future of Education. I spent weeks on end reflecting about my why. That was about the time when the seeds of all my messy learning began yielding fruit in my f2f life. A couple of new ideas to foster some sense of community among teachers and among my own group of admins.

My 2014 best books: Drive by Daniel H. Pink and Now You See It by Cathy N. Davidson

My 2014 most inspirirational blog posts: Breaking the Cycle of Oppression by Maha Bali and The Art of Slowing Down Learning by Tania Sheko

My 2014 must-watch videos: the Edupunk Battle Royale (all five parts) by Educoz with Jim Groom and Gardner Campbell and Why we need a “Why”? by Mike Wesch in Connected Courses

My 2014 must-watch TED talks: The Danger of a Single Story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and #OurVoice by George Couros

My 2014 women that rock (bright & beautiful!): Bonnie Stewart, Carla Arena, Maha Bali and Tanya Lau

My 2014 men that rock: Simon Ensor, Keith Hamon, Shyam Sharma and Terry Elliot

 To all the people who made this year memorable, thank you.

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Set sail for finding my Voice (Part 1)

This is the first of three posts in gratitude for the people who are making a difference in my professional and personal development journey.

“If you don’t know you need others, you don’t know much.”  – Dan Rockwell

For the last fifteen years, I have had the privilege of working at an institute that not only greatly values  but also fosters professional development among teachers and administrators. Even before becoming a supervisor, I’d been listening to Carla Arena, our Educational Technology expert, go on about the endless possibilities that technology offers us in order to optimize the learning experiences of our students. I can clearly remember the feeling whenever I walked out of her countless training sessions – a mixture of eagerness to engage, to productively incorporate technology in my lessons, and an awkward perplexity, a sort of ‘overwhelmedness’, which would then result in my ineffectiveness at putting any of those ‘tech’ intentions into practice.

Five years ago, I became a supervisor and I kept on drinking from Carla’s well of vast tech knowledge – via formal training sessions and via informal conversations between cohorts. Little did I know that the tiny seed Carla had planted over a decade ago would finally begin to blossom in me – and indeed it did – fifteen years later. It was another colleague and friend of mine, Ronaldo Lima Jr, who introduced me to the wonders of Twitter. I must say, however, that it did not sink in until about a couple of months ago, when it finally dawned on me that Twitter could actually be a powerful professional (and personal) development tool. It had been over a year since Ronaldo literally sat down with me and showed me the Tweet basics, going as far as even sharing with me a list of his own crème-de-la-crème followees, a handful of Tweeple he read and admired.

Flash forward 15 years… 

Let me add yet another layer to this story. It involves a feedback session on my 2013 self-evaluation as course supervisor, skillfully delivered by my academic superintendent Isabela Villas Boas and head supervisor Katia Falcomer, in which they went on about all of my managerial strengths and skills, thanking me for my dedication and effort, but also proposed a reflection: how active had I been as a teacher trainer? That brought up  questions such as ‘why didn’t I become more engaged in teacher-training projects of my own?’ and ‘what was I waiting to become a presenter in our institute’s annual seminar?’ and even ‘how engaged was I to my own professional development?’

Something’s gotta give…

I went home for my recess holidays with more questions than answers. I didn’t know where to start. I let it all simmer for a couple of days, and as I did so, I felt compelled to give Twitter another go. Little did I know (again!) that I’d be taking the definitive leap right there and then. There would be no going back after that. I was in it for quite a treat! I came across George Couros‘s blog The Principal of Change (part of Ronaldo’s crème de la crème) and after perusing it for a little while, I thought “what an interesting person! Let me watch his TEDx Talk.” It was as if he was talking to me. George Couros had finally helped me determine what was it exactly that I was soul searching for: my VOICE.

Way too many questions to my answers

‘Way too many questions to my answers’ by Németh Szilvia is licensed under CC by 2.0

Thank you Dan, Carla, Ronaldo, Isabela, Katia and George.