I had the great fortune to spend this past Friday with a room full of educators at the 2012 Abel Leadership Summit. The day was led by the dynamic trio of Alec Couros, George Couros and Dean Shareski.  They did a great job of facilitating and leading discussions.  There were a few lasting things that stuck with me, and as I went back over my tweets from the day I thought I’d jot a few other things down. I used Twitter as a backchannel as we often do, but I found myself also thinking about how I would access the things I was posting later on, and in my mind it became my note taking for the day as well. 

Digital Literacy VS Digital Fluency
This was an intriguing idea that I hadn’t heard expressed in this way before, and that’s the idea that there is a difference between literacy and fluency in a digital way. And that a person can have a certain amount of competence with digital tools or media, and be ‘literate’ but that to truly be fluent is another level of understanding altogether. The analogy of a carpenter having the basic skills to make a basic structure, but not the indepth skills to make a truly nice house really struck me as effective.

One of the themes that came up several times was the idea of play. And that for educators, it’s a tough one to get our brains around sometimes. But it became clear that all learners, regardless of age, could benefit from some unstructured, and more importantly, un-tested time to play and learn in whatever way suited their learning.

One of the ideas was that planning to do things in cycles of several years is a huge disservice to the students in our clases now. If you have a 5 year plan to make things happen, then the students in Grade 8 will be out the door of Grade 12 before you finish your plan. Kids deserve more than that. Makes for tough decisions, but its something that we must consider.

George spent a bit of time telling stories about how important stories were. And it struck me that we don’t spend enough time doing that. We often hear talk about how important reflection is to us as learners and educators, but it seems to me that doing it as a story telling time might be more valuable. There is an honesty and a simplicity in the telling of a story that doesn’t seem to have much of the same baggage associated with it as the concept of reflection. Imagine if we had 20 minutes at the end of the day to sit in the staff room and just ask each other to tell the stories from the day.

Do They Know They’re Awesome?
Dean talked about the idea of positive deviants, and that there are many of them out in the schools across the country. The teachers who are doing wonderful things with kids, and are unaware that they are, in fact, awesome. It’s important to start to point that out to people in a true rich way. Not with the intent of kissing butt, but to simply point out the amazing and awesome things that teachers are doing everyday. Sharing the stories.

All in all it was a great day of learning and thinking and sharing.  There was much more in the day as well. If you search the hashtag #ABELSummit on Twitter, you’ll find all this and more!

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  1. @WendyGoodman · February 13, 2012

    Well said Colin! Your summary of the key takeaways from the ABEL Summit are spot on. Digital Literacy vs Digital Fluency continues to tug at my gray matter and I hope to delve deeper into this concept. The “Positive Deviant” also resonated with me and it’s something I hope to pursue… sharing Positive Deviant stories is a vital strategy for creating a culture shift.


  2. colin · February 13, 2012

    Thanks Wendy, you’re so right. I’ve been really thinking about how to let people who don’t know they’re awesome know that they are. It was a great, though provoking day all around.


  3. Pingback: This Week in Ontario Edublogs | doug – off the record

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