Communication takes two, a reflection on my goals

A reflection on my inquiry into communication this year and all of the lessons learnt along the way.


It is again that time of year when we stop and reflect. This year I chose ‘communication’ as my one word to focus on throughout. It was a word that stemmed in part from a review in my workplace, with our focus being on working with a wide range of stakeholders to support transformation and change. I therefore identified the following possibilities:

  • Clarity – sometimes messages and meaning can get lost in their delivery, the challenge is when to add more or keep it short.
  • Consistency – whether responding via email or working with someone in person, it is important to be consistent in regards to the way things are done.
  • Collaboration – it can be easy to focus on the job at hand and the person that you maybe working with, however it is important to remember that it often takes a team and think about ways to keep everyone abreast.
  • Context – so much of communication is about adjusting to the moment, it is important to change pitch or approach depending on the circumstance.
  • Transparency – sometimes the key to communication is the culture that it is built upon, this though is often built upon other actions and activities.

My first approach was to focus on the technical side of things. This involved:

What I learnt with each of these initiatives is that even when you work collaboratively in developing and refining a particular approach, if other stakeholders do not feel there is a problem or that there is benefit to be gained then it can all be to no avail. Unlike Mark Zuckerburg, I feel that technology alone will not solve all of our ills. Change involves people

This focus on human element relates to the question of why communicate in the first place. One of the things that became more and more apparent as the year has passed is that it is not necessarily the technology that is lacking, but the intent and understanding behind what is actually being communicated. These dialogues discussions often involves multiple parties. Seth Godin captures this succinctly, explaining that:

It takes two to be understood. Not just speaking clearly, but speaking in a way that you can be understood.

What then is important in regards to support and change is creating the conditions within which people can be heard. Dave Cormier recently reflected on grappling with this situation too:

Technology projects everywhere tend to cross over different departments and responsibilities. Lawrie Phipps told me that this is called “matrix decision making”. Where a project reports up through multiple decision makers who may or may not have similar ideas of how to get a particular problem solved. Imagine 6 people sitting around a table all reporting to six different directors. It’s a common problem, and we had it.

I really related to this. The challenge of being understood is identifying the context at hand and starting there. Something I picked up from coaching. Although the message shared maybe the same in shape and content, the story used to convey it always changes. Everyone and every school has something important to them and I have found it important to tie conversations to that. Although this is not always easy, i guess this is the art of education.


I must admit that when I started in my current position I was frustrated by the processes associated with getting everything checked and signed off. Yet as time has gone by, I recognise how important this is with the complexities associated with stakeholders and communication. Although I still believe in the importance of autonomy and agency, I think that in a large organisation this involves taking initiative to instigate various actions, not in making rash decisions.

So what about you? How have you gone this year? Have you any tips associated with transformation and change? As always, comments and webmentions welcome.


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And the Word Is via @kjinquiry
“And the Word Is via @kjinquiry” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

It is that time of year when people start reflecting on the year that was and begin planning for the one ahead. Some take it as an opportunity to reflect upon the lessons learned. See for example the posts from both Matt Esterman and Deborah Netolicky. Others use it as a time to simply stop and reflect. See for example Andrea Stringer’s post on strengths. As the new year approaches many turn their attention to various resolutions.

Although I like to look back, this is usually either sporadic. See my post on lessons learned as a parent. Or somewhat academic, that is a reflection on life as a connected educator. See both Jon Andrews’ post, Steve Brophy’s look back, as well as my look back on a year curating a monthly newsletter. While looking forward, I prefer to cast a line into the future with an openness to what life may have to bring. I do this by focusing on one word and using this as a reference point throughout.

A few years ago, Kath Murdoch shared a post about focusing on one word. This changed the way I approached the yearly ritual of setting concrete resolutions that were lost by February. My one word last year was capacity. I set this with an eye to how I work with others and the ways in which I support them. I must admit that with the changes that have occurred this year (addition to the family, new roles at school, new job) I felt that I lost sight of this focus. Yet when I looked back recently, I realised that it has been there throughout.

Whether it be:

  • Working with colleagues in setting up a coding club
  • Handing over responsibility for GSuite Admin
  • Developing material to support teachers with the integration of technology
  • Coordinating a trial community of practice

Although I have not done a lot of explicit coaching, where there is a set time with goals and intention, I feel that I have been involved in coaching as a ‘way of being’. To me this is what is meant by leadership with a little L. The area though that I feel is worth developing further is communication.

Whether it be working with schools, guiding teachers with new technology, providing supporting materials or facilitating online learning, I see communication as a central part of what I will be doing this year. This is not necessarily about a problem of practice, but rather about being deliberate and mindful. Some possible focuses include:

  • Clarity – sometimes messages and meaning can get lost in their delivery, the challenge is when to add more or keep it short.
  • Consistency – whether responding via email or working with someone in person, it is important to be consistent in regards to the way things are done.
  • Collaboration – it can be easy to focus on the job at hand and the person that you maybe working with, however it is important to remember that it often takes a team and think about ways to keep everyone abreast.
  • Context – so much of communication is about adjusting to the moment, it is important to change pitch or approach depending on the circumstance.
  • Transparency – sometimes the key to communication is the culture that it is built upon, this though is often built upon other actions and activities.

Some of the preliminary texts and resources that I have come upon so far include:

So that is me, what about you? Do you have any thoughts and suggestions? Are there any resources that you would recommend? Or maybe you have a word of your own? As always, comments welcome.

 


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flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Here is the blurb for my session at Leading a Digital School Conference:

How many fantastic ideas or initiatives have failed not because of the strength of the idea, but because it failed to be heard. Change need not be restricted to the lone nut. This session is about using the power of technology to transform ideas into movements. From sharing a collaborative document to creating an online community, this presentation will be full of possibilities and how they can be used to drive change. Aaron will provide a different way of seeing change and demonstrate how technology is the leverage that every idea needs to go from good to great.

Here are my slides:

Communication, collaboration and creativity exploring the tools of change from Aaron Davis

While here are my notes:

Change, ideas and innovation means many things to many people. For some it is systemic and revolutionary, while for others it is more gradual and occurring each and every day. I feel though that Ewan McIntosh sums up the dilemma best while discussing the concept of the ‘pilot project’, “The ‘beta version’, of our idea is, in fact, an ever-changing final idea. There is no such thing as a pilot.” The reality is change is inevitable. Some ideas take, others are added to the heap. The question then is how do we come up with great ideas and actually make them happen?

One of the enablers of change is technology. As Seth Godin explains in his book Tribes, “The tools are there,  just waiting. All that’s missing is you, and your vision and your passion.” This flourishing potential allows for an amplification of ideas and inspiration. For Simon Sinek states, “There are leaders and there are those who lead. Leaders hold a position of power or influence. Those who lead inspire us.” The question then is: how might we better utilise technology to support change in order to turn ideas into innovations?

It can be hard to make sense of the plethora of applications on offer. To do so, I have divided things up into three categories: communication, collaboration and creativity.

Communication

Social Media: The obvious place for communication online is through various social media platforms. Whether it be Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Nings, Edmodo, LinkedIn or Scootle Community, each offers its own benefits and possibilities. Whether it be using communities in Google+ to share ideas and resources or the power of the hashtag within Twitter to facilitate a world-wide chat, the challenge is to find what works best for you.

Streaming: In recent times, there has been a real rise in streaming applications. Originally, video streaming was limited to programs such as Skype, Google Hangouts and Blackboard Collaborate, but more recently, there has been a rise in different sorts of platforms for streaming content live, including Periscope, Meerkat and Ustream. In addition to that, Voxer, a digital walkie talkie application, has had a dramatic influence on communication. I think that Joe Mazza puts it best when he describes it as his “very own personal podcast”.

Surveys: There are a range of applications which make receiving ideas and feedback so much easier, whether it be Google Forms, Survey Monkey, Verso and Poll Everywhere. Each application has its own intricacies, such as Forms integration with the Google Apps and Poll Everywhere’s real-time engagement.

Splash Page: It is often stated that if you do not tell your story then someone else will tell it for you. One way of telling this story is through a splash page. The most common splash pages are About.Me and Flavors. However, you can just as easily make a splash page using a static blog or as using Mozilla Thimble.

Collaboration

Editors: The most obvious tool for collaboration is via a text editor of some sort. The usual suspects are Google Apps, Microsoft Onenote, Evernote and Hackpad. Each allows for multiple voices in the one space. Although it can be easy to get caught in a debate about which one is best, it can sometimes come down to what the community in question is comfortable with. Another alternative though Padlet. Although limited to texts, images and attachments, sometimes such constraint makes it easier to focus.

Bookmarking: There are many ways to share and collaborate on ideas and information. One answer is through the use of social bookmarking sites, such as Diigo, Delicious, Pearltrees, Pinterest and Educlipper. Each platform allows you to not only add and organise content, but scroll through that which is already there to find information.

Curation: For many social media is too noisy. The challenge then becomes how to manage and curate such streams of information. Curation applications, such as Flipboard, Zite, Feedly, Pocket and Nuzzel, provide a means of benefiting from the room without completely being in the room. These platforms usually require some sort of information from the user, whether it be interactions within the app or connections to other platforms, such as Twitter, in order to provide customised content.

Productivity: A different sort of collaboration is through the management of projects and ideas using productivity applications like Trello and Slack. Another useful tool for managing a hashtag is Tagboard as it allows you to search across different platforms.

Creativity

Video: There are many ways to create video beyond simply recording yourself. Maybe it is screencasting with Snagit, Screencastify or Camtasia. Another option is presentations and animations using Powtoon and Adobe Voice. An alternative to the usual medium is creating a GIF image or a Vine.

Visuals: As the adage goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Although I am not completely sure of that, there are many ways to at least marry both using technology. Maybe it is creating a more visual presentation with Prezi, capturing a moment with Instagram, creating an image with Canva or sketching with Paper53.

Blogging: In his book, Smarter Than You Think, Clive Thompson states that, “Just as we now live in public, so do we think in public. And that is accelerating the creation of new ideas and the advancement of global knowledge.” One medium which has made such public thinking possible is blogging. There are a range of platforms, including Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr and Medium. What is important to remember about blogging is that it does not just have to be ‘text’. There are so many different products that can be embedded, such as Padlets, Soundcloud, Storify and Youtube.

Spaces: In addition to blogs, there are many applications which allow you to create pages on the web. Some options include Glogstar, Google Sites, Weeby, Wix, Wikispaces, Adobe Slate and Smore. Each of these sites offers their own benefits, whether it be the visual nature of Glogstar or the simplicity of Adobe Slate.


Tim Kastelle suggests that, “If there is a gap between where you currently are and where you want to be, the only way to bridge it is by doing something new. Innovating.” Technology can help in bridging this gap, but as Kentora Toyama states, it only ever amplifies whatever capacity is already there. So, what change are you driving and what technology are you using to enable it?


For the backstory, the student code for the Verso provocation is: EE5YVK

The link to Padlet is: http://padlet.com/aarondavis/digital15


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creative commons licensed (BY-NC) flickr photo by mrkrndvs: http://flickr.com/photos/aaron_davis/14425906657

It is only a few weeks until the inaugural DLTV conference. +Steve Brophy and I will be presenting a session on listening to other voices in the classroom. Here is the blurb for those interested:

One of the biggest challenges in education today is how to empower everyone and give a voice to every learner, this means moving beyond listening to those who seek to be heard and finding ways to capture every voice in and out of the classroom. From collaborating on a document to using a learning response system to reflect on a unit of work, this session will look at not only how we can use various web 2.0 tools to capture the different voices in and out of the classroom, but also how these tools can be used to provoke and prompt further ongoing dialogue. Presenting our thoughts and reflections from a wide range of settings and scenarios, both Primary and Secondary, we hope that you leave this session armed with an array of tools and ideas that will help you go and listen to some of those lost and hidden voices today.
 
As it is all about you, we have a quick question to help get the ball rolling:




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