Just the Beginning
So what have I accomplished over the last 18 months in the Digital Learning and Leading Program? One of my fellow cohort members, Michelle Heckaman, summed it up pretty well when she suggested that the DLL program is about learning how to take ownership of our own learning and to mentor others to take ownership of theirs. We also learned the importance of reflecting on our own learning which is what I hope to accomplish in this post. One of our sherpas in this journey, Dr. Dwayne Harapnuik, wrote a post recently on how to succeed in the DLL program and included a roadmap of the program. This inspired me to come up with my own representation of how I think the program is laid out for its learners.
To me there were 4 major elements to my journey. While each of the classes could easily fall into multiple areas, this is the way I thought about it when I reflected. So instead of reflecting chronologically I wanted to explore my learning thematically.
So I just said this wouldn’t be chronological but the foundation actually encompasses the first three classes we took. Some of my favorite parts about these classes revolved on assessing where I was at the time. I really enjoyed doing the I Believe video at the beginning of the program. Not much has changed in my beliefs, the DLL program has just given me a better way to express those not only in my own words but through the research arm of the program. As I think about it I am hoping in the near future to do another I Believe video to continue to codify my thinking. I also obviously created this website as part of my foundational experience. This is something I have kept up over the last year and a half to reflect my learning and I hope it continues to serve that purpose. Also I hope to use it to highlight the great things going on at All Saints Episcopal School in Tyler, Tx. Sometimes I worry about sharing what is going on as others might see it as self-promotion but I know that’s not what I am in it for and I need to embrace my journey and share with others. Finally as I reflected on in my COVA post, I developed two ideas for my innovation plan, ultimately settling on Entrepreneurial Education.
Obviously the whole program was about my own professional growth and learning but the DLL program also has a couple areas where we investigate the process. Professional learning is one of the things I think is most important in education today. All too often teachers get to a place where they are all consumed by the whirlwind of daily teaching that they can go years without truly thinking deeply about their own growth. As institutions we get caught in thinking that professional development or inservice days are enough for teachers. One of my favorite posts during this time surrounded a challenge that I need to reflect upon more often. We do need to move from explicit to tacit learning, from classroom to learning environments, from teachers to farmers and from complaining about geographic illiteracy to “finding Iraq.” I hope to revisit this post every couple months to continually challenge myself. During this time I also develop a professional growth plan that I am moving towards and am continually tweaking to discover the best way to lead faculty growth. The other class in this area is the one where I felt left the most to be desired. The information on digital citizenship is very important but it allowed me to learn that creating significant learning environments is so important for the learner. I hope one day to convert my knowledge into something like what Providence Day School has done. I just wish that the class had embraced the COVA model so I could have accomplished it during those five weeks.
This section of the DLL program is what most think of when they consider graduate school I bet. However, in the DLL program even these modules were different. I learned a good deal about the differences between action research and traditional research, even developing my own plan for collecting data. While I never implemented that plan the skills learned their have allowed me to investigate the efficacy of programs in a more thoughtful and productive way since then. I also have dived deep into literature reviews working throughout the program on one concerning entrepreneurial education. <rant> I do question however with all we learned about disrupting education, we did spend an inordinate amount of time fussing over APA citations. One day I hope even graduate schools come around to the idea that if something is going to be shared exclusively online, such as the Google Doc of my literature review, that hyperlinks are a more modern approach to scholarly research. Sure, let’s make sure we are embracing the act of crediting our sources but let’s waste less time on whether that comma is in the right place or if it is italicized correctly. If I am going to use the web address and date collected as important pieces of the APA, isn’t that truly enough? </rant> One of my favorite experiences in the whole program was the publication class. While I am comfortable proposing to national conferences and giving presentations, I had never really embraced submitting for publication. This class not only pushed me into an uncomfortable space but it also allowed me to share things I am passionate about. I hope to share more news on this at the beginning of the new year and look forward to pursuing more writing in the future.
The best part of this program by far for me surrounded creating significant learning environments. While I felt like I was on this pathway before beginning the program a year and a half ago, I don’t think I could have picked a better program to explore this further. DLL is about empowering you to go beyond the traditional pedagogies and explore your thoughts on learning. Whether it’s defining your beliefs as a Constructivist or as one of my esteemed colleges, Cindy Schroeder, says “a recovering behaviorist”, the program pushes you to explore more deeply your beliefs. Cindy was very important to my learning throughout this program as she is not a school teacher. Cindy constantly showed us how what we were learning applies in all aspects of industry as she explored her role as a diabetes trainer. We created significant learning environments in many ways during our time.
One of the ways that struck a big chord with me was some of the business and education books we read. If you haven’t read one of the following I encourage you to add it next on your reading list: The Influencer, Crucial Conversations, The 4 Disciplines of Execution, A New Culture of Learning. There were many more but that is where I would start personally.
You can follow my learning of creating these environments most easily through a couple posts. In How Mindsets Fit in with Significant Learning Environments I explore Carol Dweck, backwards design and much more. In Investigating Learning Theories, I reflect on what I missed coming to teaching in a non-traditional manner. In Crucial Conversations and their Implications, I investigate how to influence change in your organization and touch on Simon Sinek’s Why. Simon Sinek’s Why and winning over the heart before the mind, which Chad Flexon does so well, are two of my largest takeaways from my journey. Please take a few minutes to review each.
Final Thoughts and Thanks
Looking back is always great if it allows you to move forward. There is zero doubt that this is just the beginning of my journey in learning and hopefully helping others to reach their full potential. Would I recommend the DLL program? Wholeheartedly to those who want to make a difference in their organization and want to take ownership of their learning and empower others to do the same. If you want to check the boxes then this is not the program for you but to be honest if you simply want to check the boxes then I have no interest in your journey.
I want to be even a small part of people like those I have mentioned above as well as Nancy Watson, Rachelle Wooten, Judy Cornelius and so many others I haven’t mentioned yet, who have gone through the program. I would also like to thank all my mentors who helped guide me but especially Dr. Tilisa Thibodeaux and Dr. Harapnuik. Finally, some people help you to get through the drudgery and hard times more than they know. The largest credit, other than my wife, for completing this program goes to Patrick Reid. Check out the great things he is doing for his school district and students.
Let me close with a quote from inspirational author Shannon Adler that makes me think about my DLL/COVA/CSLE Tribe..
“Don’t waste your time being what someone wants you to become, in order to feed their list of rules, boundaries and insecurities. Find your tribe. They will allow you to be you, while you dance in the rain.”