Thursday, April 17, 2008


Spring break...we look forward to it every year as a time to open the windows and let nature remove the stale winter air from the house replacing it with the fresh, clean air of springtime. While many of my colleagues take this time to travel to southern climates (which are not always all that warm at this time of year), we usually prefer to spend this time at home doing the things that we can't always get to when we're working.

Here are some reasons that I'm really enjoying this particular Spring Break.

1. A change from the work routine.
The work routine and time schedule is well established in our household. With the kids gone, we're thoroughly entrenched in our morning routine - out the door before 7:00 am; me to travel for 25 minutes and my husband to enjoy his coffee, doughnuts, morning paper and chats with friends before going to his school. We're into our work for the entire day then back home again - me to go exercise at a local establishment, my husband to work a little extra beyond the usual day and then we're both home to enjoy dinner and relax for the evening.

But this vacation, my routine has been to start the day with exercise then come home and do a little work at the computer - reading blogs, thinking about the tasks to be accomplished before the end of the school year and doing some writing. I could easily adopt this routine forever!

2. Time to read and actually process the information I'm getting.
I do a lot of reading both in and out of my job. The reading outside my job is mostly related to reading blogs, checking in on what those folks are connecting their readers to and sometimes, tackling a pile of books that I seem to find interesting enough to purchase but hard to read on a continuous basis. It's been very rare lately that I start a book and then read it all the way to the end. I guess I find that I read about half of a book and get the gist of what the author's thesis is then move on to something else. After all, it's going to be sitting on the shelf waiting for me if I ever have the need to go back to it.

But, what happens, no matter what I'm reading during the school year, is that I feel this rush to move on to something else. I log in to my Bloglines account, click on the latest updates, save some for "future" review, sometimes make a comment but, mostly I just skim through for new information that applies to my own work. Under those conditions, there's not really a lot of time to process what I'm reading - to think about it more deeply, respond more clearly, make clear connections to my previous learning.

So, on this vacation, when I come home from the exercise, I get my breakfast ready, fix a nice cup of tea and go to my computer for my reading and thinking time. I can spend all morning here if I want or I can spend a little time now and a little time later. I'm already feeling lots of cobwebs being swept from my brain as I replace them with the freshness of new ideas.

3. Make new connections for creativity and innovation.
I'm reading a book right now that I've vowed to read from cover to cover. It's called Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration by Keith Sawyer. I've kept a notebook at my side while reading this book.

A couple of quotes I've written down from this reading:
"The engine that drives collaboration is conversation." When make connection between this and my own learning, I think about the blog reading that I do on a daily basis. Whether we all know it or not, we're engaged in collaboration all the time with the end goal being to improve our schools and our students' learning. Blogs provide the conversation [no matter how many comments you're getting]. It's a conversation unlike the face to face discussions that we engage in with our work colleagues. This conversation is free for you to engage in or not - but the engagement in the conversation is where the learning really occurs. Comment on a blog, read what other people's reaction are. Frequently, I've written a comment on a blog then wished I'd stated my position a little more clearly or I've read someone else's point of view and a different side of the issue becomes more apparent than before. All of these interactions, whether we know it or not, contribute to our thinking in some way that may not become apparent for a while and, even when they do resurface, we may have no idea where the connection came from originally.

"Today's pervasive and high-bandwidth communication and social networks give us the potential to be far more creative than human beings have been at any time in history."
Both the synchronous and asynchronous contributions that we all make to the "conversation" have an impact on someone else, somewhere whether we know it or not. The tools we have on this day in 2008 are the most powerful we've ever had for communicating with other. It's that ability to communicate our ideas to a wider audience that inspires creative thoughts and new ideas.

The book begins with an explanation about the inner workings of improvisation and groups that perform improvisationally. We've been to see some performances ourselves and are constantly amazed at how these people manage to create something from a single word, song title, or small suggestion. One of the things that Keith Sawyer points out is that these performers frequently use "yes, and..." as they work through the improvisation. "Yes, and..." keeps the performance following and keep conversations evolving. Makes me think about those meetings where someone inevitably begins a sentence with "yes, but..." - stops the conversation from evolving and the creativity from flowing every time doesn't it?

4. Read books that have been stacked up and waiting for a very long time.
My book buying decisions are usually made in at least two ways - by wandering around certain sections of my favorite bookstore or on the recommendations of others. I came across Group Genius via the wandering method. Using this method, I also located The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, From Edison to Google by Nicholas Carr as well as Five Minds for the Future by Howard Gardner. Both of these books are loudly calling out to me, just the titles alone made me buy them and make me want to delve into them - but that would mean I'd have to break my "read it cover to cover" vow. For now, they'll have to wait though because I have to find out how Group Genius ends first.

Image: The Purple Invasion of Spring

1 comment:

EDin08 said...

Dear Education Blogger

I just wanted to make sure that you were invited to our education "Blogger Summit". We hope you can make it and feel free to share this invitation with any other bloggers in the area that might be interested. The invitation is attached below.

ED In '08 Blogger Summit


Strong American Schools is excited to announce the ED in '08 Blogger Summit. Conference details are as follows:

May 14th - 15th
Palomar Hotel, Washington DC
Registration is Free!

An opening reception is scheduled on the evening of Wednesday, May 14th. Cocktails and hors d'oeuvres will be served before the screening of a new documentary film on education, Two Million Minutes. A Q&A session with the filmmakers is set to follow.

Then join us for an all-day conference on May 15th. Nowhere else will you have an opportunity to meet and network with fellow education bloggers, participate in panels, attend workshops, and help tackle some tough questions on the state of education in America.

Space is limited, so be sure to RSVP today!

Register at