Vision, Innovation, and the Beginning of #IMMOOC

A reading for EDCI 325: Leadership and Technology at UVM blew my mind this week. We were talking about vision, and what and how we articulate as our vision for our schools and for education more broadly. Vision is, at its heart, the purpose of education—the future we are working towards. We try to keep that vision up to date and vital, just this month my district released their new Vision and Mission statements:

VISION: The Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union empowers all students with the knowledge, skills and attributes needed to be successful and contributing members of a global society through the development of character, competence, creativity and community.

The vision of most school districts, including the one I work for, is all about the students. How we will prepare our students for the future, who we will help our students become, that they will be empowered, competent, creative, community-minded, etc. This focus on our students has always seemed to me to be right and correct. We are teachers because we are there to help our students.

But then I read this passage by Peter Senge, and I was so, so deeply struck by the truth it represents:

a learning school is not so much a distinct and discrete place (for it may not stay in one building or facility) as a living system for learning—one dedicated to the idea that all those involved with it, individually and together, will be continually enhancing and expanding their awareness and capabilities

 

A school is not just a place for students to learn how to function in the world (and some may argue that that is not their function at all at the moment)! It is a place where EVERYONE involved should be continually growing and evolving, and helping the community grow and evolve. What a radical idea, that is so absent from most visions of  what “ideal” education looks like.

This echoes for me what George Couros said at the very end of this week’s YouTube Live session for #IMMOOC (which is all I caught because I read somewhere that they started at 9pm EST… alas). When talking about what we can do to start innovating tomorrow, Couros said that, “the first thing you do is what you’re doing right now.” That is, investing our time and energy in reflecting and educating ourselves. Growing our thinking as teachers and as leaders before we try to break the mold of education that we ourselves were grown in.

So that’s my first step. Stepping outside my comfort zone, staying up too late writing blog posts that draw connections between all the things I’ve been reading lately, sharing my thoughts and my writing publicly. Because if I’m not willing to take risks, to learn and to grow as an educator, who am I to be guiding my students on their learning journeys?

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Understanding Leadership

As I was reading Leadership Theory: Past, Present and Future, I experimented with taking notes in a more visual style than I have ever used before. I found it extremely helpful, in terms of my ability to stay engaged with the text as well as with my understanding of the text structure. I also found I was able to make connections as I was reading that I definitely would not have made with my normal note-taking strategy. I did have to turn to white-out a couple of times, but I liked the flexibility of being able to write/outline in a way that resonated with me as I was reading.

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However, I didn’t feel that those notes left space for any other perspectives on leadership, and I wanted to slim them down to clarify what I felt were the important takeaways of the article. I downloaded the SimpleMind app on my iPad to give digital mind-mapping a try, and see how it would work to integrate ideas about leadership from several other sources. Here’s the mind map I created, which, unfortunately, I was unable to share as a link (so the links within the document are not live).

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Using this software was almost second nature. I enjoyed the process of boiling down my visual notes to the key points and takeaways about leadership that I wanted to retain. As I explored several other sources I thought it was super fascinating to see where they fit into the framework I had established from the first article on leadership theory, and how I could make connections across the map. I look forward to continuing to work on this document as our conversations and my own knowledge base continue to grow throughout the semester.