In the uLead 2015 Monday afternoon keynote, Andy Hargreaves spent some time exploring the idea of student engagement. He closed by asking us to do some deep thinking about the notion of engagement. What does it mean in our K-12 context? I felt compelled to comment on the challenge and explore this for myself.
This is my second go at writing this blog post. Wait! Maybe I am engaged with this task. Aha!!! Here we go with a clean slate, or whatever you call that in bloggers land – a clean screen or a clean digital writing space perhaps?
I am thinking that perhaps instead of getting stuck on some formal or historic definition of engagement, I am simply going to consider it in this learning context as being “in the active learning & participating zone”. My way of considering this will be to consider a number of factors as they relate to the person I know best — me.
I know I can be engaged when alone or with others. A good example for me is music. I might be practicing a new piece of solo music or perhaps rehearsing with the members of my quintet. I should be totally engaged during a performance situation. Perhaps focus vs distractedness is an element of this too. Level of readiness or willingness also plays into this.
I know that I can be engaged with or without technology. For those of you that know me, I’ll bet the “yah right” thoughts are flowing through your mind. So yes, there a lots of ways I engage with and through technology: learning something new, solving a problem, collaborating, reading, discussing, searching, researching … arranging a piece of music, writing a blog post :) … and on the list goes. It might be the technology itself – learning to use a GoPro camera or a Myo wrist band, or the technology might simply be the means to get to another process such as writing, composing, arranging or creating.
I enjoy a great conversation too: something new, something deep or maybe just a new context. I like variety – these conversations could happen F2F, on a walk, over the phone, or online.
I know the potential level of participation and/or newness plays a role. I am sure we can all think of a scenario or two when you simply want to opt out or not be there … the KMN situations.
Timing is a factor for me. I am in tune with my high and low energy times. I might be more or less engaged depending on my energy level. Balance is in the mix too. I know when I need my introvert time – recharge time. In some ways this is a powerful force within me – a must have. I know that I will not engage well in an extroverted situation when I am in introvert recharge mode. Simple: overruled, not happening.
As I think through this, I am realizing what engagement isn’t. I don’t think engagement is a one size fits all “thing”. There is no magic formula that applies to all people in all situations.
So, put those big paint brushes and cookie cutter ideas away. There are no everyone should do this, stop that, use this, don’t use this etc. solutions. Engagement is a complicated recipe that has many variables.
Perhaps the secret is building our skills as learning chefs by being aware of the ingredients and knowing how to create that perfect recipe with the ingredients on hand.
Develop skills in reading people as individuals and groups, consider readiness and trust in trying something new, sense the energy level, learn to maximize participation, ask great questions, poke at what comes next, what if, I wonder … know your learners.
Clearly, this is a complex topic. I know I have much more to learn about this topic. Help me learn by sharing a comment or insight here, send me a link to your blog post about this or consider connecting on social media. Whatever you do, on your own terms: