Ask Me.

Have you ever been in a learning situation when a question is asked and all you can think is- don’t ask me. Ask the other guy. Ask anyone else. Don’t ask me ? Then, as the other guy answers the question, the teacher (instructor-presenter-person) gives a quick reply and moves on, and the inner voice in you is screaming What? Nonsense! I SO could have answered that better! What about this-this-and-this?!! 

I’m pretty sure that’s how I spent a great deal of my childhood. And this is why I strive as a teacher, to not ASK single-answer questions. This past weekend, I experienced ConnectEDCa inCalgary,Alberta. There was a notable absence of single-answer questions. To say it was transformational is an understatement. An incredible group of individuals got together to explore the use of technology in education, and as Brian Harrison put it, it was a case of “all the fireflies in the same jar”. The very nature of the event was centred on discussion and like many other participants, I am deep in reconciliation. All are encouraged to share our takeaways from the weekend, and they are plentiful.

Like most pivotal turning points in history (and indeed most a-ha’s in my own life), a memorable moment is related to food. Sharing of food. (All of which was delicious, by the way, and the bacon quota completely commendable.) At lunch one day, at a round table in the gym, a then-stranger lamented “I just wish there was someone I could talk to about coaching. Someone who’s actually done it and I could ask What works?” Without a millisecond of pause, mouth full of food, I blurted out ASK ME. Eyes lit up (including mine. what the ???)  and the buzz of conversation came to a halt at the entire table. Choking down my mouthful of lunch, I struggled to smile to ensure her she’d heard correctly. Ask Me.

I proceeded to explain that this is what I do, I am a technology coach and I support students and teachers and parents with technology in grades k-8 in Ontario. We work with multiple platforms, in real-time, with shoulder-to-shoulder support, in PLCs, and with a multitude of web tools and devices. This is what I do. Ask me. What would you like to know?

The next session of the conference began shortly thereafter, and it, as with all of the sessions, held deep, rich and meaningful discussions. And so the coaching dialogue carried on and will continue to do so, at a later time. Connections were made between people, ideas, and provinces. (Wasn’t it a magnificent surprise to see such vast representation, and so many Ontario peeps way west in Alberta?)

Speaking of which, Tania Sterling  @taniasterling is one of said individuals, Ontarian extraordinaire; she led a discussion on Critical Thinking. I was thrilled to learn she would be there- as with many participants, this would be the first time making a face-to-face connection with someone I feel I know rather well. We share a great deal of common ground and mutual respect, and as she challenged participants with questions like “With critical thinking, does the content really matter? Do you have to already HAVE the information to be able to think critically?”, round-table discussions erupted and the digging deeper took place.

In fact, digging deeper took place everywhere, throughout the classrooms with a tour of the school and in discussions with students, in sessions led by parents, in the parking lot, (actual not virtual), and in the evenings around the city. I always say, educational reform is going to happen at 3 a.m. over street-meat or karaoke, and based on George Couros’s voice this morning, this may very well be the case.

In a classroom with a shelled-back mascot, Preet Dhaliwal (@tweetteacher) shared her experiences from around the world as a innovative teacher, aspiring business person, new mom and ground-breaking educator. She was quick to identify her own takeaway in the session she led, was not shy about sharing her frustrations with putting her expertise to good use, and will absolutely make a successful footprint with her new business venture. It is with certainty that our paths will cross again.

So, as I reflect on my experiences at ConnectEdCA and on my own workshop 1:1 And Beyond, I am inspired to go forth and implement some of the great strategies and best practices of technology in the classroom. The voices of the students of Calgary Science School reverberate in my thoughts, and the out-of-session conversations are as meaningful in my next steps as the incredibly powerful tales of the Friday night speakers.

And there are more questions than answers.

In a quick conversation out the door, I thanked George Couros @gcouros for his time and planning to make the weekend happen, and much like the conversation at the lunch table, I lamented on the amount of work that lies ahead as our school board leaps even further in our work 1:1. He, too, did not miss a beat in replying, Ask Me. (Although there was a noticeable absence of food in his response, what the ??? It was LUNCH TIME!) And it is that connectedness, that is  my greatest takeaway. Many a speaker refers to those moments:

when you feel like the biggest geek in the room, mouth full of food or egg on your face, fearful of failure or not getting it right, putting yourself out there and failing miserably, taking the leap (or NOT taking the leap)…

and it turns out, we’re not only in this together, but that it is far from a secret society. (By the way, HOORAY to all of those who entered Twitterville this weekend, and welcome to those who chose to follow me.)

It takes courage to take that leap. But I’ve been both bungee jumping and skydiving, and the feeling of taking that first step is both incredibly terrifying and thrilling to the core. In my school email inbox there are many unopened emails regarding our technology plan (1:1 for every school k-12 in September!) and right now I feel both exhilarated and terrified in my  responsibility and opportunity to support these students, teachers, families and administrators on this journey.

So for those who are going to ASK ME about this weekend, this post is for you. For those who I had to cut short in our gym/parking lot/ hallway conversations, and want to know more about coaching or working 1:1, Ask Me. Want to know about virtual support in a board spanning 75,000 square kms? (@k8_tech_tips) Ask Me. Want to know why you should consider living in paradise? Ask Me. Making connections in media, digital citizenship, critical thinking, using Twitter, adopting social media in the classroom, where to find a smokin’ deal on purses at YYC or my preference between skydiving and bungee jumping?  Ask Me!


(Note: the birds just began to chirp and the Monday morning sun is coming up. I may not have included the pics in this post that I wanted to, and I may not be awake for my school day, but my grade 5’s are a durable bunch and those open-ended questions should keep them busy for a while.)


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