Category Archives: to be a learner

To Always Be a Learner

As someone who has blogged for the last six years, I have seen this space to not only share ideas, but to share my learning in progress, and sometimes even write to try and formulate my thoughts. I can honestly say that this blog has been the most powerful space for my learning in my entire education career, as both student and educator. When I have nothing to write, I still write. I used to want every post to get tons of views, but I am more focused on sharing my learning than anything.  I also want to become a better writer. Want to be a better writer? Write more. That simple.

Writing a book in 2015 was also a tremendous process, but I also know that it would have NEVER happened if it wasn’t for this space.  Although I wrote the first draft in a relatively short time, it was because I had six years of writing to draw from. It made a tremendous difference in the process, yet the thinking was somewhat different in my mind.  I always have compared the two in the following; my blog is my formative assessment where my book was my summative assessment.  The book had much more finality in my eyes.

That being said, I did not intend the book to be the “end all, be all” on innovation in education.  If I could neatly lay out what “innovation in education” was and looked liked, it probably wouldn’t have been that innovative.  My goal was to focus more on mindset than anything, to ensure that it was starting conversations as opposed to ending them.  I encouraged people to share thoughts or ideas through the hashtag #InnovatorsMindset, which I have been grateful for so many to do.  Having conversations with people about something you are so passionate about is why I loved the social media space in the first place.

But I have gone away from this idea of the book being “summative” (although there was some finality based on the time it was published, not on my thinking).  I have had great conversations on the book with people all over the world, that have continuously pushed me to think deeper about what I wrote, and my thinking going forward.

What has also been a great opportunity is the unique learning spaces that others have created that I have never used until the book was published.  Jennifer Casa-Todd and others led a Voxer group (which was my first experience with using the medium for talking about more than sports), and Dwight Carter has done this with his group as well. The layout between the two has been different although the medium has been the same, and it has been not only cool to have discussions with readers of the book, but also the thoughtful use of the medium.  Sarah Cooper started a private Facebook Group to discuss the book, and is leading a conversation on the book through that space, amongst others.  Facebook has always been a much more informal space for me, but it has been awesome to see Sarah’s moderation skills through the medium and watch how she has developed community.

When I first started as an administrator, my principal at the time said to me, “If you are willing to go into teacher’s classrooms, you will become a better teacher.”  The access that a principal had to classrooms was much more than teachers in the building, and I had tremendous pride in my daily visits to classrooms, which helped me grow as an educator.  That being said, I could have avoided it and focused on so many other things that needed to be completed in the role of principal, but I saw those visits as the work.

I see a connection here though.  That I can be a better learner, not just writer, if I go into these spaces, some which are uncomfortable for me, to learn more from these conversations.  Sometimes I share my thoughts, and sometimes I just listen, and sometimes I just try to understand how these mediums could be used with students in a powerful way.  It is more important to understand learning than any content as an educator, and we need to be willing to explore how this can create different opportunities for our students.

We do not need to do everything and jump on every medium, but I do think we should always be open to these opportunities.  As I state often, the focus in schools and classrooms should always stem from the question, “What is best for this learner?”, not necessarily what works best for the teacher.

I love this quote from Seymour Papert:

Again, one of my favorite little analogies: If I wanted to become a better carpenter, I’d go find a good carpenter, and I’ll work with this carpenter on doing carpentry or making things. And that’s how I’ll get to be a better carpenter. So if I want to be a better learner, I’ll go find somebody who’s a good learner and with this person do some learning. But this is the opposite of what we do in our schools. We don’t allow the teacher to do any learning. We don’t allow the kids to have the experience of learning with the teacher because that’s incompatible with the concept of the curriculum where what is being taught is what’s already known.

I can be called an author, blogger, educator, speaker, or whatever, but none of these matter if I do not focus on being first and foremost a “learner”.  And I have truly enjoyed the opportunity to continue to learn from so many voices through this process and truly understand that their is no finality to learning.