Artisanal change & the 1 percent-my post-#digped PEI ramble of thoughts

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Harbor view in Charlottetown, PEI

Well, to say that the Digital Pedagogy Lab PEI experience was excellent would be quite
the understatement. Chief amongst the many awesome things was being in the same
physical space as long-time Twitter network folks like @Lawrie, @bonstewart,
@davecormier, @Slamteacher, @Jessifer, @hjarche, @amcollier, @daniellynds,
@sundilu, @edtechinsight @actualham, and most especially @autumm And I met many new friends I’ll be following- here are a few: @MrsLoomis , @holtspeak , @clearerworld

Lawrie and I chatted at one point about how ‘familiar and comfortable’ it was to strike up a chat together – as if we were just carrying on a conversation we had been already having…and really that is precisely what happened – as we have ‘known’ each other online for years. Yes, you CAN in fact start, build, and sustain very real connections by digital means. But that’s not really the point of this post. I’ll continue…

I know I missed some, so my apologies in advance….[if you don’t already follow all of these people – click off to their profiles right now and make that connection. It’s okay. I’ll be here when you get back].

I hope I never lose my awe at what Twitter has done for me in terms of enabling connections with the most excellent colleagues all of whom I would never – ever – connect with otherwise. Heck, in one of the sessions in the digital literacies track we brought in session leaders virtually from  Arizona, Egypt, an Virginia. Let that sink in a bit. And there was the ‘hallway’ conversation I was privileged to join in by way of the beautiful force that is Virtually Connecting. There were folks from all over in here, too. Including Austrailia (Hey Wendy! @wentale), New Zealand, Egypt again, Arizona again, New York, New England, and there is my many awesome colleague from just up the road in Charlotte @donnalanclos. She wrote a very excellent post about her distant-yet-present #digped experience here.

I went to #digped PEI in serious need of a battery charge (and then I hear about colleagues losing their jobs/situations and I am newly grateful for my own current situation). I read the assigned readings for our track with great relish…looking for those sparks. I especially love the post from Kate Bowles, Content, it’s us  specifically the paragraph about artisanal change in higher education. Dictionary.com defines ‘artisanal‘ as:

“…pertaining to or noting a high-quality or distinctive product made in small quantities, usually by hand or using traditional methods.”

I thought about that a lot as I watched #digped session leaders model engaging, supportive strategies to include every participant. They were being the best of what we hope our colleagues will be after they work with US in our various faculty development
opportunities on our own local campus. The whole #digped thing was itself quite ‘artisanal’.

A side bar was feeling overwhelmed with the scale and scope of degradation of ‘personal’ ownership on the web today (heck my own blog right here is not on my own domain, for example) – brought by our keynote speaker, Audrey Watters. I leave that wondering what I can possibly do to deal. (And the answer is, not much). Sure, I worry about our data and its fate a lot. I know that much of what we do with technology is predetermined and shaped by nefarious designs. Most of all I worry that most users of technology (myself included) have little awareness of what is really going on behind those screens. (And I think most ppl just don’t really care to know. The cave an be quite comfortable as long as you see out only in shadows).

Back to the artisanal change and the 1%:

Let me frame the artisanal part with a little bit about our travels around Nova Scotia and PEI leading up to #digped. We decided to avoid the usual obvious accommodation choices this trip in favor of bed & breakfasts. We searched and researched planning out pathways and stopping points  months ahead. We read reviews of others, explored photos and the way innkeepers presented their offerings online. And I must say that in each and every case we were delighted with our experiences. Every innkeeper without exception was warm, generous and very attentive to every detail of our experience. Every space was
immaculately clean. Every stop proffered excellent breakfast provisions. Every
innkeeper was ready with advice on local attractions/eateries for meals we were not
with them. At the same time, every experience and innkeeper was different. Their work
is very artisanal. They did their own work to make their places and services the highest
quality with the resources they have and the spaces they work with. Their work is highly
customized.

I am thinking that artisanal change….is what I work for…and want to understand more
deeply. Rather than ‘scalable’ macro change at ‘systems’ levels (the stuff our #digped
keynote was about)….I see now that I work at the margins…in a quite artisanal way. And
I am okay with that. Lawrie Phipps created some more idea sparks for me when he
talked about the true merits of making small changes – change just 1% – like Sir Dave Brailsford did with British Cycling.  (Here is a very interesting read about the whole idea of ‘marginal gains‘ applied to the cycling context and several others).

“Brailsford believed that if it was possible to make a 1% improvement in a whole host of areas, the cumulative gains would end up being hugely significant.”

Which brings me to some incomplete but important thoughts I take away from #diped
PEI: I have been wondering a lot lately about what happens in the individual teacher (I
use that term to refer to any educator, whatever level their students might be) once
they are sensitized to reflection as a part of their teaching practice. (I’m not sure that what we ground our local work in is full-on ‘critical pedagogy’, but I believe there are
certainly aspects of it). It is my firm belief that nothing is as important as a teacher
knowing him/herself first and then acknowledging the impact they have on students
and the educational encounter. I think this self-awareness really comes before any
design conversation, before any work to learn shiny technology tools, before exploring
instructional strategies, before talking ‘content’ and assessment. It really must come
first. All else blooms from this understanding. It is why I simply cannot/will not EVER go
straight to where to point and click with tools without (sometimes just gentle whiffs of)
provocations to reflections. (It is one reason #vandr mapping so resonates with me as a
point of departure for that self awareness…that’s a whole other post).

Sooooo….this long and rambling flight of ideas brings me to this:

The most important tech tool you will ever have is the one you see when you look in the mirror.

I want to work harder at focusing on helping individuals change their teaching practice. I want to listen to them carefully. I want to help them reflect upon their own practice and influence. I want to help them make small changes in their practice that honor them and who they are at the same time that it might enrich or enhance their work in general, as well as in digital spaces. I want to understand how those small things will coalesce and merge and grow into larger significant changes over time – if I am patient enough.Maybe they will even become institution level change. So let me challenge you too, to #change1%.

This is the first of at least 2 other posts I have in the works with others about shared #digped experiences. So stay tuned for more.

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Sunset in Charlotte, NC when we arrived home from #digped PEI

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