Thursday, July 1, 2010

Tired of Sitting & Talking? Get Up & Start Doing!

On the CogDogBlog Alan Levine shares an inspirational idea in his post LearnMobs? DoShops? which many innovative educators like myself have been grumbling about for a long time. In his post he sites Adah Frase who squirmed in her seat before deciding to speak up. “I’m tired of sitting in meetings just talking about things. It feels like a waste of my time. Why can’t we go out and work while we meet rather than just sitting around a table?”

Here! Here!!! That’s my mantra at meetings, in classes, at workshops, conferences, etc. etc. etc.

This is a timely topic in light of the recent ISTE10 conference in which many of the #!STE10 tweets shared frustration over the same ol’ same ol’ style of presenting. Over at The Dangerously Irrelevant blog Scott McLeod sums up the issue nicely in his post and readers comments where author and reader share the types of frustrations participants were feeling in the opening keynote.

Interestingly Adah was speaking in a group of 11 young farmers living and working in North Carolina’s Triangle Region who got together to “talk” about issues facing farmers. As with much in life despite the background or professional, we often have the same issues. Whether it’s innovative educators “talking” about educating or passionate farmers “talking” about farming, we often get the best people out there together to “talk” not “do.” Then, when we’re together, we “complain” that we’re “talking” and not “doing” but instead of “fixing” we do nothing about it. Instead, we get stuck in muck of the traditional lip flapping paradigm.

Well Alan Levine shared some compelling ways to address the issue. You can read his blog post for them all, but here’s my favorite:

Likely what I am dreaming of would be a bit more local, like the reach of the University of Mary Washingting’s Faculty Academy. What if people with various skills (graphics, coding, instructional design) descended on a selected institution and focused on one project for a week? Revamp their web site, implement an online portfolio tool, set up a word press multiuser service? I dont know what would be done or how to organize it, but I’d bet, that not just the host location benefits, as people would share ideas, learn from each other.


He then offers this call to action for those readers who are nodding in agreement, yet at the same time… refusing to let go of the old model.

I for one, would be more energized pered on the roof driving nails than sitting in rows listening to talks. C’mon, we’re smart people. We can create a better gathering experience than 50 minute lectures.


I’d like to stretch the idea a little further to include having a conference (or as Levine suggest, Do Shop) around a few specific problems of practice. Participants could sign up for the problem of practice that appealed to them and come on board at the school to support the school leader and his/her school community in making progress along the problem of practice. At the same time the end product would consist of documentation addressing this problem of practice in a smart and flexible format. Perhaps something along the lines of the work I’m doing at http://innovationfieldtrips.org.

Now all we need to do is get some innovative educators like those reading this on board and maybe we can get something started.
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