This is an excerpt from the third chapter of More Now: A Message From The Future for The Educators of Today by Mark Wagner, Ph.D., our founder and CEO. These philosophies have inspired his work, and ours at EdTechTeam, for years. You can order his book here.
The Lead Learner Philosophy
Early on in my career in edtech consulting and training, I heard former CUE CEO Mike Lawrence share a Native American proverb that has stuck with me: “He who learns from one who is learning drinks from a flowing river.” I suppose you can take that metaphor a bit further and add that the last thing you want to do is drink from stagnant water—or learn from people who aren’t learning themselves. My philosophy is that it is always a leader’s responsibility to be the lead learner. Whenever and wherever people are learning and are committed to sharing their learning, the ideas and innovation grow. As courageous leaders and empowered teachers propel professional development opportunities, whether they are bringing in experts, attending off-site workshops, or are offering the training themselves, the best learning always occurs when the trainer is the lead learner—someone who knows he or she always has something to learn from others.
The Face-to-Face Philosophy
I believe information transmission cannot replace face-to-face learning—whether it’s in the classroom or a professional development setting. Podcasts, video, social media chats, and webcasts are great; I encourage people to use them. But there is something to be said for the opportunity to tap into the talent, creative energy, and expertise of the people who are in the room with you. For the educator, there is no replacement for being able to see in someone’s eyes when they are frustrated or excited—and being able to look over their shoulder and see why. Connecting and collaborating with people in real life is a powerful way to enhance the learning experience.
The Kindergarten Philosophy
My wife is a kindergarten teacher, and her philosophy on learning is that every positive learning experience is a one-dollar deposit in her students’ “love-of-learning bank.” Every negative experience they have is a ten-dollar withdrawal. This is as true in her class of five-year-olds as it is with a room of adults at a technology conference. When people get frustrated and quit using technology because they can’t figure it out, schools lose. Great training acknowledges the ten-to-one ratio and ensures that although people may feel challenged, they come away with a positive learning experience.
The “And Life” Philosophy
Pets and babies teach people more about technology than training sessions ever will. By that, I mean true learning happens when the content is relevant or meaningful to teachers in some way. Don’t be afraid to allow people to tap into their passions, interests, and personal lives as they learn and explore technology tools. Seeing and sharing cute pictures of pets and babies (or grandbabies) motivates people to learn and try and do. Ultimately, as they explore, they become comfortable using the technology and find the courage to use it in the classroom with their students.
The Race Car Philosophy
Before my boys were born, I dreamed of pursuing race car driving as a hobby once I finished my dissertation. Then our two boys, Clark and Finn, came along, and of course, my plans and hobbies changed. But I still remember what I learned regarding focus from a book called Speed Secrets by race car driver Ross Bentley. He said that when you’re driving a race car, you don’t just focus on where you are—that would be foolish in any vehicle no matter how fast it’s going. Neither do you focus only on the immediate next turn. Instead, you look as far down the road as you can because the way you make a turn affects the way you come out of it, which affects the way you enter the straightaway, which affects your overall lap time. Race car drivers will walk a track and plan the lines they’ll drive before even getting in their cars. Then they’ll drive the track slowly. In education, we don’t have that luxury, but we can still look several turns down the road to where we’d like our practice to be in the future. My challenge to you, as you’re learning new things or introducing new technology to your staff, is this: don’t just think about the skill or tool you’re learning about or training on today. Consider how the tool or practice can help you get where you want to be one year, three years, five years down the road. Start now to plan and move and grow in that direction because that’s how you’ll help students create the future they deserve.
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Mark Wagner, Ph.D.
CEO and founder