It is now a month after BLC08 and a recent comment has stirred up some thoughts that sent me back to a blog draft I wrote months ago. On Defragging my brain after BLC08, Angela Kerns mentioned that of my nine ‘take-aways’, #3 and #4 resonated with her:

3. Face-to-face meetings with your network are powerful… very powerful.

4. More learning happens in the halways and at meals/socials than in sessions. Create opportunities for Learning   Conversations.

What is most amazing about BLC08 is that these two points are still resonating with me. Liz B. Davis, Lisa Thumann, and Laura Deisley adopted Dave Sands and I, and took us under their wings. Many of the discussions we had were of a quality that left me wishing that I had recorded them! Thanks to these ladies, I connected with many people that were in my network, but had never met, and I also met amazing people who are now part of my network.

But these learning conversations didn’t happen in the presentations at the conference. It was the conversations we had outside of the sessions that were really incredible.

Liz lived very near our hotel and so a car ride, or a chat walking her home would become an in depth conversation about strategies to promote technology integration or a debate about comfort levels with having students as social networking friends. (O.K., I’ll admit an embarrassing story here just for a laugh… as Dave and I walked Liz home on the second night, I walked into a pole while texting my wife… the rim of my baseball cap saved me from potential head trauma. Mental note: don’t walk and text in the dark!)

The conversations were not all heavy, Lisa and I razzed each other on the issue of ‘to Plurk or not to Plurk’, and Joyce Valenza always made sure everyone was having fun even when sharing our thoughts on education. But it seemed that very often the conversations, whether light, frivolous or funny, always went back to education.

Even at the dinner cruise social, (that Dave, Donna DesRoches and I almost missed after an ‘Amazing Race’ style route), it seemed that the learning continued:

On the boat: Clarence Fisher wanted to know the name of a fort we cruised by, but no-one could help him until Alice Barr handed over her iphone. Clarence used this experience in his presentation the following day to exemplify how information is abundant now and we need to go beyond rote memorization in what we teach.

On the bus ride back to the hotel: I had an in-depth conversation with Pegggy Sheehy about avatar gender. I never considered that I would ever choose a female avatar for myself until this conversation… biases I didn’t even know I had were challenged!

At the hotel restaurant: Darren KuropatwaLaura and I took a little idea I had about a Twitter version of 366 Photos and developed it into what would be a great project. Hopefully we will expand on it in the fall and maybe launch for the month of February.

Everywhere we turned we were having learning conversations. This seems to happen when you surround yourself with amazing people… people who are catalysts and agents of change.

– – – – –

With each person I mentioned above, I linked to their blogs. Each of those blogs are in their own way agents of change… they are inspired by teachers and learners wanting more out of ‘institutional’ education. They are not the works of dreamers dreaming, but rather the work of catalysts reflecting, experimenting, learning, questioning, designing, succeeding and failing, and yes dreaming too.

What makes this so meaningful though, is the connections we make to each other, and the learning we gain from linking, meeting, and creating opportunities for learning conversations to happen.

– – – – –

Are you an agent of change? Are you a catalyst that makes things happen? Do you create opportunities for collaboration? Do you initiate and inspire learning conversations? 

Keeping education meaningful and relevant is an ongoing process of evolution or emergence. The process requires us to learn and to change too.  We need to evolve. We need to learn, encourage learning, and allow learning to emerge.

In Science change occurs through hybridization or mutation… ideas go through this too. Institutional education doesn’t do this on its’ own.

In Science catalysts are often used in tandem. Different agents combine to make a chemical reaction happen faster. Catalysts of change work well together too. We learn from each other and interact more meaningfully from the learning of others. Often we need feedback loops to help us make sure we are making the right things happen… after all, change can be both for the better or the worse.

But if there is one thing I can be certain of, change needs to happen. Students today are interacting and engaging with the world in ways that would have seemed like science fiction to us.

If we are not agents of change then we are agents of boredom and mediocrity, the keepers of the status quo…. static… in stasis. 

Create opportunities for Learning Conversations

Be a catalyst that inspires learning.

Be an agent of change! 

– – – – –

agents of change

Photo of Change Agents, after the BLC08 boat cruise
by Joyce Valenza on flickr


7 comments on “Are You a Catalyst for Change?

  1. Dave,
    Thank you for revisiting what many of us have been trying to express in 140 characters or less. I did ultimately dive into Plurk (looking for the lost Liz) – very recently – and have expressed the need to experience the informal conversations that we all had that week on the bus, in downtown Boston, on the dinner cruise, in the hallways, etc.

    We can revisit the uStreams, the wikis, the blog posts, but it’s difficult to recapture that in-the-moment, in depth, REAL conversation about good teaching and learning. Just before I saw your Tweet about this post, I Tweeted in response to something from @kajarrett that in order for professional development to be successful it needs to be sustained and include in-class coaching and mentoring.

    Well – we’re all sustaining it on Twitter, Plurk, our blogs and Nings and of course on Skype and uStream. How about some in-class coaching and mentoring – Where’s the next conference – Tweetup – or Twitter Dinner?


    BTW – I was walking from the car to my office on campus one day texting on my Blackberry not realizing that I had walked into a construction zone. I had to turn around and backtrack in order to bypass the sectioned-off area. Quite-embarrassing considering there were some construction workers watching me the whole time laughing.
    …I try not to text and walk anymore.

  2. Encouraging interactions among educators is what your Personal Learning Network is all about, and I agree that each of us must

    Whatever way you can interact with your Personal Learning Network is always great.

    Meeting in the World of Matter is something deeply embedded in the human psyche which seems to make it so powerful. While meeting in the World of Electrons may not be the same, it does provide an OPPORTUNITY that never existed before. It is an evolutionary moment, something new in our relationships as people.

  3. Dave,
    Thank you so much for the time to write this. The way you detail the many instances of informal learning makes me wish I had been there. Someday.

    Learning happens in the interstices of face to face meetings at conferences.

  4. Dave,
    I laughed out loud remembering you bumping in to that sign. Your wife should feel good about commanding so much of your attention! It was wonderful to meet you and an honor to show you and Dave around my town. I miss everyone.

    I’ve been reading a lot about change lately and am working on pulling together my ideas and learning on the topic. So far this summer, I’ve read Disrupting Class, How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns, Influencer: The Power to Change Anything, and I am now reading Teaching the the Knowledge Society . They are all good. I am really getting into the last one.

  5. Hi Dave,
    powerful stuff indeed…..mmmm I like to think I am an agent of change but sometimes I think I am its victim…in so much as the relenteless pace of government reform is endemic and all pervasive in England.

    This is where you argue that change does not merely concern policy, nor does it move in a linear fashion…but sometimes when you are at the chalk face of teaching that is exactly how it feels.

    I feel I am constantly trying to fufil government requirements…..then I can really teach…how sad is that? I am in a class that continues to use “high stakes” testing….The government tell me teacher assessment is what is crucial but still make the tests mandatory!!!! Consequently, I find that the time I could spend actually making a difference is spent on ensuring that my children are successful in a test that is reported STILL to government, school management and parents. This has led me to the notion that my role as teacher has been reduced to responsibility for acievement in SATs through short term objectives … sometimes I feel like a curriculum deliverer rather than an enabler…

    After much discourse with management I find I cannot change what the government have mandated …no matter what my beliefs or pedagogy, all I can do is affect the learning that is taking place elsewhere in my classroom.

    I am a firm believer in the most powerful programme any school can run is that of good teaching… is a means to an end and not an end in itself…….change for me is not about fusing the local and global in a communicative space it is reaching the child in my class who hardly speaks….the child who believes they can’t write or read…..self belief is the beginning of learning and the biggest change you can help any learner acquire.
    I do feel I constantly evolve and believe the world we attempt to change in turn changes us.

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