Stepping Out of the Horseradish

Remember summer?

How softly it shut!  Now, we find ourselves waking up at the usual time – usual for school – with the sunrise suddenly missing, and it strikes in discord against the light within! I feel better knowing that it’s time to start again with a new team of coaches for another great year of Cohort 21. I couldn’t be more excited!

My year of learning so far as been influenced by a few characters, each representative of an idea that impacts teaching and my work with our teachers. I’ll refer to each idea individually, but know that they all connect to the importance of Community for cohesion, connectedness and learning.

I also want to state, as if something that’s written should be taken as true, that I aspire to stop talking about Technology. It feels lazy. Chairs are technology. Indoor lighting is technology. Pencils are technology, especially the clicky ones or the ones with multiple lead capsules. Paper is also technology, and we are effective at outsourcing (and taking for granted) the arboriculturists, and the pulp and paper processes.

So I want to be clear about what I mean when I talk about integrating technology or digital tools, and make sure we aren’t missing each other; that those who contribute to the conversations about technology & learning are using language that refers to specific things or ideas.  I feel driven to delve into the semantics of discourse on ‘Technology and Teaching’, and help zoom in on the available spaces in the relationship between digital technologies, innovative teaching, skills and content for students, and the best possible attitudes for teachers and school leaders today. There are many opportunities for positive change in these spaces.

If the 21st century was a single school year, we would just be returning from Thanksgiving Break. How appropriate! We’ve had a great start-up, but we are more than a seventh of the way though the century already; if we are not already, it’s time to get moving!

The World is Analog

“We live in a Digital World” – let this be the 88,901th search result on Google for that exact phrase. And you should absolutely watch the first one. But it isn’t true that we do. For all the 0s and 1s tucked into a CD (which aren’t actually 0 and 1, they are carved out, physical divets in plastic), the speakers or earphones that create the actual sound are analog. The World is Analog.

David Sax talking analog at #firesideconf
David Sax is an author, journalist and mensch. He’s one of my oldest friends and we have had over a decade of conversations about the role of technology (here, I mean communication technologies such as social media and other text-based messages) and phatic relationships, including those relationships which are so vital in Education contexts. He is writing his third book, this one about the Revenge of Analog and how certain elements of digital culture giving way to their original, analog counterparts. I am excited to read his book and I know it will be relevant to the important decisions we make as teachers, as we continue to use screen-based devices in ways that enhance teaching and learning, and pay credence to their human impact on transactional communication and positive educational relationships.

A Screen-Free Tech Conference

In September, I attended the first ever #firesideconf – a screen-free tech conference held at the camp where David Sax and I met. The immersive retreat was co-organized by Steven Pulver, another old friend, lawyer/MBA and former camp colleague. When do we start referring to people we work with as ‘colleagues’? Certainly sometime after being teenagers working together at a summer camp! Anyway, he and Daniel Levine wanted to gather people working broadly in Toronto’s Tech Community to a weekend of sharing ideas in the analog context that a camp provides –  communal eating and living, outdoor activities and the creative, open mindset promoted by “musical flutterboards” and the agony and ecstasy of sitting outdoors in cold overcast weather next to a warm raging campfire.

#firesideconf in Bancroft, Ontario
It was a really inspiring thing, to be part of an inaugural event, living the emotions of its organizers and helping actively to contribute as a member of a new community, to its overall success. I came away with a few new ideas worth keeping, in particular one from Steve Tam of Indiegogo articulating a new space that exists between work and life – not a balance carved out of each domain, but an actual third zone. Meeting new people always provides opportunity to gain and share perspectives, and what better place to do it then on the waterski dock.

To A Worm In Horseradish…

To a worm in Horseradish, the world is Horseradish. I am celebrating the 10th anniversary of hearing this old yiddish expression in Malcolm Gladwell’s 2006 Ted Talk about Choice, Happiness and Spaghetti Sauce.  It resonates with me because I know the value of stepping outside our usual zone, adopting new stances to help us perceive challenges (and ourselves) differently, hearing the language that other industries use to approach solving problems in the work we also do, and to open ourselves up to questions we didn’t think to ask and ideas we didn’t know we were missing.

Cohort 21 helps me experience this through Face-to-Face meetings and the relationships that translate into online interaction in between them. I’m excited for my involvement with Cohort 21 (2015-2016) to challenge me, once again, to step out of the horseradish!

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One Reply to “Stepping Out of the Horseradish”

  1. Adam
    Really enjoyed this post. A screen free tech conference is brilliant. I really like your point about the way we talk about technology. We do need to think about our language and how it relates to our pedagogy. Thanks!!! Brent

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