Living on the edge.

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Since much of the most relevant knowledge on the edge is tacit knowledge, edge participants naturally place a heavy emphasis on building diverse networks of relationships that will help them to collaborate more effectively with others in the creation of new knowledge. For this reason, conferences and other gatherings where participants can share stories and experiences, learn from each other, and identify potential collaborators become particularly prominent on edges. The Power of Pull (Brown, Davison, Hagel)

Do you live on the edge? Are you an educator who uses the power of pull to access, attract, and achieve in shared, passionate-filled learning spaces? Having recently attended Edcamp NYCEducon and Pete & C, with ntcamp Burlington to follow next weekend, I can say with a fair amount of certainty that the educators involved in the passion-driven organization of these events harnessed the power of pull to make these learning experiences a reality for attendees. What’s so great about gathering together in these types of learning environments? Why do so many of us count down the days until the next Educon, Edcamp, Ntcamp, ISTE…  what’s in it for us?

As our passions become our professions, we begin to see how social networks can provide us with an unparalleled opportunity to achieve our potential by allowing us to access resources and attract people who can help us while we help them. We construct our own personal ecosystems, an interesting blend of local relationships and global relationships, and a mutual leveraging occurs.

Not long after arriving in Philadelphia for Educon, I was surrounded by familiar faces. How was that possible, considering I had never before met most of those with whom I interact in the Twitterverse? Because we’ve spent the last few months…years… connecting. We’ve reached out to one another in times of need, shared our excitement and successes, and revealed personal tidbits of our lives to help connect with one another. Throughout that weekend, I was able to engage in meaningful discussions about learning (and sometimes nonsense), breaking free of the 140-character limits to really get to start to build relationships with the educators in attendance. There was much laughter, camaraderie, and a little karaoke. Once the connections are made, they require attention. Forming meaningful relationships requires time and a lot of hard work. Those of us in attendance benefited from face-to-face interactions that provided a whole new insight into the hearts and minds of our colleagues. These interactions allowed us to identify those with whom we could exist “on the edge” and continue learning from.

Edges are places that become fertile ground for innovation because they spawn significant new unmet needs and unexploited capabilities and attract people who are risk takers.

Would you describe your school as a “fertile ground for innovation?” Most would not, although I think some of us are starting to see glimpses of what is truly possible! This is because in many organizations, businesses, and schools, push is the preferred mode of operation. Teams of administrators or policy makers forecast needs based on past performance, then design efficient systems using a standardized method to ensure that the right people and resources are available to meet system goals. We push standardized curriculum, lesson plans and strategies, and learning materials onto students and teachers. Push models treat consumers as passive recipients of information, and can lead to boredom and stress among program participants. These conditions are necessary in a push environment because they yield somewhat predictable results that can then feed into the cycle of forecast planning. Push programs are important when explicit knowledge is valued over tacit knowledge. But I do not believe any of us want our students to be passive, bored, and stressed recipients of information that may or may not be relevant to their lives and learning.

Pull differs from push in that it escapes institutional boundaries, seeks to help individuals realize their fullest potentials, and values knowledge flows and experiential knowledge more so than standardized bodies of unwavering factual knowledge. The authors of The Power of Pull examine three powerful levels of pull: access, attract, and achieve:

At the most basic level, pull helps us to find and access people and resources when we need them. At a second level, pull is the ability to attract people and resources to you that are relevant and valuable, even if you were not even aware before that they existed. Think here of serendipity rather than search. Finally, in a world of mounting pressure and unforeseen opportunities, we need to cultivate a third level of pull—the ability to pull from within ourselves the insight and performance required to more effectively achieve our potential.

Pull also requires awareness of trajectory (what’s your vision?), sufficient leverage (how will we best use the passions and abilities of other people?), and the best pace (how fast will we move with these changes?) to make meaningful forward progress a reality in a world that’s constantly changing.

Sometimes it truly amazes me how I managed to assemble such a powerful learning network of educators in such a short period of time. Serendipitous encounters definitely played a role, facilitated by social media, as I know others have also experienced. We can’t be satisfied with the connections we’ve made, however, and not continue to branch out and bring new people to the edge. A comment that has often been made following an Edcamp or Educon is, “Well we’re all just preaching to the choir. Everyone here gets it.” Let’s get new people on board so they, too, can connect, build relationships, and contribute to the tacit knowledge flow that we all seek to learn from. As we increase the number of people we connect with, our ability to pull from that network grows. Doing so will help us all achieve the third level of pull, where we reach within ourselves to achieve our fullest potentials.

The subtitle of this book is How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion. And isn’t that what we’re constantly discussing, debating, and detailing? The educational reform movement is a “big thing” that we are starting to put in motion with each one of our smartly made, small moves. We have to continue to connect, build relationships, share knowledge, and live on the edge to make our collective ideas the new reality for today’s students.

Cross-posted on The Principal’s Posts

20 Comments

  1. Lyn,

    What a wonderful summary of the Power of Pull. Your reflections encourage us all to not just build our own PLN, but to maintain the relationships that are established through use of social media. You remind us to give and receive so that we all can fulfill our passionate purpose.

    Be Great,

    Dwight

    February 20, 2011
    Reply
    • Lyn Hilt said:

      Thanks for commenting, Dwight. The book is a must read and I really only scratched the surface with the ideas shared in my post. The best part for me about sharing is how it always leads to others reciprocating.

      February 20, 2011
      Reply
  2. Ryan Berardi said:

    Well done! It’s amazing how conferences and graduate courses give us the mental and emotional fuel we need to inspire others to join a network of individuals that care about all students, everywhere. We must be “fishers of men” in academia…reel them in to show them what is possible, then set them free to pay it forward. Thanks again for a passionate post.

    February 20, 2011
    Reply
    • Lyn Hilt said:

      Thanks for commenting, Ryan! I agree it’s great to interact with other passionate educators in those settings, and the chances to do so using social media are just as meaningful. I think we owe it to our colleagues to help expose them to this type of learning.

      February 20, 2011
      Reply
  3. John Ebner said:

    Thanks to Lyn, I’m becoming more of a “puller” every day. Her insights into a well connected school and world are models for some or all of us to follow.

    Thanks.

    February 20, 2011
    Reply
    • Lyn Hilt said:

      I appreciate your comments, John! So great seeing you last week. We will need to get our students connected!

      February 20, 2011
      Reply
  4. Michelle Howell-Martin said:

    Thanks for this! I’ll be sharing with administrators at my building and encouraging them to share as well. You have eloquently written what I have been trying to explain for years. Thanks again!

    February 20, 2011
    Reply
    • Lyn Hilt said:

      Michelle, thank you for taking the time to comment on my post! I encounter a lot of administrators who don’t really have the slightest notion about the learning opportunities that are available through social media, not only for them personally but for their teachers and students. Connecting for learning leads to great opportunities for school communities!

      February 20, 2011
      Reply
  5. Great insights, Lyn. I need to read the book asap. It has been on my list but you have shared some ideas that make me want to read it right away. I appreciate your thoughtfulness.

    February 20, 2011
    Reply
    • Lyn Hilt said:

      I enjoyed the ideas shared in this book very much. It also affirmed that the work we’re doing trying to get others connected is meaningful and can help improve learning for our organizations. Thanks for your comments!

      February 20, 2011
      Reply
  6. Rodd Lucier said:

    When the right small move, leads to related and interconnected ‘small moves smartly made’, you have the potential for exponential impact. Which leads me to wonder, how many people read something engaging and challenging, then leave it at that? Sometimes, just taking the time to comment; to share the link; or to craft a post in response, can be enough to keep an idea on the burner.

    I’m all about taking risks and living on the edge, which is why I’m so looking forward to working with teachers this summer at a site called ‘The Edge’. It’s a real physical, and immersive space that I hope will allow us to move closer and closer to taking a significant leap. It’s no coincidence that my twin brother would run such a place. http://northernedgealgonquin.com/

    Thanks for pushing us closer to the chasm Lyn…

    February 20, 2011
    Reply
    • Lyn Hilt said:

      Rodd,, thanks so much for your comments. I agree that a seemingly insignificant act like leaving a comment or simply sharing an idea can be “golden” to someone, as Dean Shareski said in his Moral Imperative piece. Thanks for sharing that site with me… I am now quite tempted to embark on a yoga retreat in Ontario this summer! That also makes me think about the importance of taking care of oneself and developing personal strength to ensure that third level of pull is achieved!

      February 20, 2011
      Reply
  7. Sue said:

    “Would you describe your school as a “fertile ground for innovation?” – not quite yet, but as a leader, it is my responsibility to create a safe environment so that my innovative colleagues feel supported when they take risks. We need our learners to begin taking academic risks, to think out of the box, to create, to articulate, to problem solve. We have a few of the necessary ingredients in place for change – 1. Urgency (we positively have that)?

    Now we need a clear, forward-thinking vision to funnel future decisions through,
    We also need a learning focused environment where it is OK to make mistakes, it is OK for the teacher to admit that he/she doesn’t know all of the answers (but can model how to cleverly can find the answers).
    And we need keep our community (parents) apprised of the changes that are about to occur, so they understand the rationale and can support change.

    Great post Lyn!

    February 21, 2011
    Reply
    • Lyn Hilt said:

      Sue, thanks for the comments! I’m lucky to be able to work side-by-side with you as you continue to lead the way for new innovations at your school and in our district. I definitely don’t know all of the answers, but (I think) I know what’s important for our kids and I hope to be able to create an environment where our teachers and students can feel free to jump headfirst into real learning. You’re my smartest friend 🙂

      February 21, 2011
      Reply
  8. Great post! This book is actually the next one on my to read list. Currently I’m reading Switch: how to change things when change is hard. it’s excellent.

    I wouldn’t describe my school as a fertile ground for innovation, which seems to me somewhat ironic. You would think that education would be all about change and risk-taking, for students and teachers. But I’m doing my best to make it different. And many times I’ve thought that I can’t create big changes as a teacher; the change needs to come from higher up. Maybe. Maybe not. Since I’ve started reading Switch, I’ve begun to think that maybe I can create big changes right where I am. Here’s hoping. Thanks for such an encouraging post!

    February 21, 2011
    Reply
    • Lyn Hilt said:

      Shelly, thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment! So funny, as I read your comment on my phone, I was holding Switch in my hands! Finished about half of the book yesterday, and I’m really eager to finish. I applaud you for the risks you’re taking in your classroom. I have greatly enjoyed reading your posts detailing your journey. Your students are very lucky to have you pushing the envelope, and even if they don’t openly admit it, your actions and shared beliefs are influencing your colleagues as well. Keep doing great things and telling us about them!

      February 21, 2011
      Reply
  9. Excellent post Lyn–your reminder ‘Forming meaningful relationships requires time and a lot of hard work.’ is an important one for me. Managing our learning spaces, replying to comments as you so clearly do here, is something I never seem to do well enough. Your post reminds me that I need to do just that—too often, I neglect to respond to a reader’s comment. Thanks for your thoughts. Very well done.

    February 22, 2011
    Reply
    • Lyn Hilt said:

      Kim, thanks for your comments… the time investment in developing these types of relationships is so important, and mutual give and take is required in order to develop that sense of community that leads to great things. Even just taking the time after reading a post and thinking about what was shared and how it can impact my practice is time well spent, but that reciprocated sharing is what makes “the power of pull” a reality. Thanks again for sharing!

      February 22, 2011
      Reply

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