Tuesday, March 1, 2011

UnPlug'd: A Canadian Education Summit

Going to the 'edge', and taking the leap to try something that's never been done before, can be both intimidating and energizing at the same time. Taking such a risk with friends is one way to give yourself the guts to attempt even the most challenging of endeavors. I count myself lucky to work with colleagues who share a common dream; one that will breathe life into a potentially transformative teaching and learning experience.

In August of 2010, I found myself immersed in the natural setting of the aptly named Northern Edge Algonquin, a retreat centre near South River, Ontario, and I asked myself:

"What would happen if we could gather together innovative educators who were used to 'learning out loud'? How might Canadian thought leaders interact in a face-to-face environment? What might such teacher-learners create while immersed in a natural setting, 'unplugged' from the online world?"

When the questions refused to fade upon my return home, I made phone calls to a few kindred spirits I'd come to know and trust. After conversations with Zoe and Ben, I sketched out a plan for a meeting that would include Alec and Dean, two distant Canadian colleagues whose vision for collaboration and sharing are well known. And now, six months after our initial meeting, our team includes Tom, Darren and Bill, and we've gone public with "UnPlug'd", the first grass roots Canadian education summit.

UnPlug’d will take place this summer, bringing 40 leaders from classrooms across Canada, to the remote retreat setting of Northern Edge Algonquin. At a carefully orchestrated 3 day summit, teacher-learners will share their most compelling stories, and will refine a shared vision about what really matters most in K-12 education in Canada. In the wake of the summit, we will capture and share our collective wisdom in a mixed media publication: "Why _______ Matters".

Will the thin electronic ties among delegates be thickened through face-to-face familiarity? Will we be able to collectively re-imagine what it means to be a teacher? Can a Positive Deviance approach to social change, lead the transformation of education?

Regardless of the outcome, a number of Canadian educators who are already re-inventing education, are going to have some wonderful stories to tell. In fact, it's a story Ben and Zoe have already begun to tell.

Photo Credit: Rodd Lucier (taken at Northern Edge Algonquin)
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