Learning from the rear view mirror…

I want to start where I left off; responding to a comment from @jmedved on my last post:

"I'm happy to share with you how I approach "wayfinding" and the tools I use to ensure that whatever I am pushing is linked to a larger school strategy and is always aligned with current initiatives and being sustained by other people and energy in the school. It really helps the long term sustainability of the innovation but also your own energy and mindset."

With the first term now solidly in the rear view mirror, as I look back I feel as if I was feasting at an 'innovation smorgasbord' for the last 4 months!  I had an amazing opportunity to participate in a Harvard Graduate School of Ed. Course 'Teaching & Learning in the Maker Centered Classroom' with a wonderful team of colleagues, with much encouragement & support from @nblair I launched a '20Time' program in my Grade 10 Geography class, I continued to build on experience with design thinking through partnering with a drama teacher to assist in building a unit that embeds the principles of design, I brought home a 'Makerbot' to learn a bit about robotics with my sons, I learned about circuits through making light up Christmas cards, I sat in on our Gr. 10 computer science class lessons as they prepared to undertake the 'Astro-Pi' challenge, greatly supported by a colleague and mentor I used the new 'Carvey' to make loot-bag favours for my sons birthday … I tried to say "YES!" - A lot.

And now I wish I had paid more attention to Justin's sanguine advice … link to strategy & current initiatives, consider long-term sustainability of your own energy and mindset.  I was way outside my comfort-zone in many of my efforts to evolve my skills for the role of 'innovation support' … or at least what I started the year perceiving my role to be: learn everything!  Reflecting back now, this was not a great approach. As I write, my energy is low, my mindset - still curious, still determined but foggy, if that makes any sense?

The end result is that I'm not sure I'm as far ahead as I had hoped to be at this point; I tried to do too much, spread myself too thin.

So, for the last couple of days, I've focussed on taking a step back, re-grouping.  I reviewed my Cohort placemats - hey, those crowd-sourced ideas were great! I did some good thinking in the last F2F! I should do that! I reviewed my notes from the HGSE maker centered classroom course and 'The Innovators Mindset' that I read over the summer, and I thought deeply about Justin's comments.

One thing that really stood out to me from the first lesson in our HGSE course was the introductory video - it was our instructor explaining / demonstrating how to make pesto sauce.  Initially, I wondered how this could possibly connect to our course? What the instructor was doing, was demonstrating the definition of a 'maker'.  The media seems to emphasize a certain type of maker: hackers, people with skills in robotics, IT, electronics and those working with tools / technologies like 3D printers. This of course, puts constraints on the type of people who identify as makers.  A maker, by definition is anyone who engages in the act of making; professionally or as a hobby.  It had never occurred to me that as someone who LOVES to cook, I fit the definition of a 'maker'.  I had never viewed myself like this before, and it changed my perspective and approach to the rest of the course.

I wonder if the same could be said of 'innovators'?  Are we unconsciously emphasizing a certain (similar to the above) type of 'innovator' in education?  Do teachers see themselves as innovators? How might we help teachers to see themselves as innovators, the way I saw myself as a maker for the very first time?

Innovation is one of our key school strategic directions, building a sense of community is a key values initiative we are looking to embed and I have a hunch that a plan to build community through our approach to innovation could be some really exciting work  … and as @gnichols said in the second F2F: the question is "how might WE" … not "how might I".





7 thoughts on “Learning from the rear view mirror…

  1. @acampbellrogers Such a great reflection. You have to go through all of that to come out the other end now clear on where you want to spend your time going forward. It's by being stretched that we gain clarity on what is important. This f2f will be another great opportunity to refine your focus.

    For this F2F let's

    1) Book a day at York to chat with @mgardnerross and myself
    2) Set some goals for the rest of the year and next.

    1. Post author

      YES! I am going to have calendar in hand! Infact, I think one step I would like to take is to visit a few innovation spaces over the next couple of months to gather insights... thank you as always for your support!

  2. Thanks for sharing @acampbellrogers! I really appreciate how easy it is to spread yourself thin in the pursuit of being open-minded and saying "yes and" to many an opportunity. I also wonder if teachers see themselves as innovators. I hope to think of myself as an innovator and it's always my hope to be viewed as a problem solver. I'm really excited to see that you're refining your work and value your "plan to build community through (y)our approach to innovation". What are current ways teachers are innovating at your school and how is it being shared or the culture fostered?

    1. Post author

      Thanks @lwest for this encouraging and thoughtful response! You raise a good question that I think will be one of my next goals - to collect and share out some of the innovative things that are already happening; @jmedved shared some excellent examples with me at the last F2F of how the York School does this . I like that you touched on the idea of 'culture being fostered' too... I think that as we build community we are also fostering culture. Look forward to seeing you Friday!

  3. I love your definition of maker as brought to light by all the wonderful experiences you have had this past half year. I knit. A lot. Obsessively. It's my outlet and in this part of my life, I consider myself a maker. I make things. If you asked me, I'd say I am a maker. Yet, if you asked me when I did not have knitting needles in my hand, or when I wasn't pulling a newly made sweater over my toddlers head, I would probably say I was not a maker. If you walked into my classroom on a Thursday morning, I would not say I am a maker. I'd probably say something like I'm an educator. How might we make sure our students ee themselves as makers, and doers and generally awesome people who are going to do the things? #enlightning #whatelsecanwemake?

    1. Post author

      Hi Mary Ellen - thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts! As I read your comment I was reminded of something that came up in my Gr. 10 class as we began the 20Time project this fall ... I was really curious to observe how resistant my students were to the idea that they could be content creators - in essence 'makers'. I wonder if we haven't spent so much time training our students to passively accept and digest knowledge that we have unwittingly taken a toll on their creative confidence and ability to view themselves as 'makers'? Great question, thanks for your response!

  4. Allison, despite your efforts spreading you too thin, don't forget to give yourself a pat on the back for being an incredible model of a life-long learner. How else can you know what your limitations are until you reach that point?
    And, I'm curious, how did the makerbot go over with your sons?

    On the topic of teachers' own perspectives of themselves, I completely agree that sometimes it takes some slightly different definition of a word that helps us realize - "Hey! I am an innovator! I have a forward-thinking and open mindset!" Or, "Hey! I am creative - I have to use creative problem-solving in many aspects of my work and life!".

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