Nurturing Your First Followers

During May,  the Waterloo Region District School Board  held a Digital Learning Symposium involving central staff, teachers, students and guests from the Ontario Ministry of Education and community. The intent of the day, was to bring staff and students together to dig deeper into what is working and what is needed as next steps forward. While the day was a huge success with great interaction and discussion within the various stakeholder groups, there is one aspect of this that I have continued to mull over:   Capacity building, and nurturing first followers.

WRDSB teacher, Scott Kemp, selected this “Starting a Movement” video to show as part of the final session discussion kickoff for the day.

On route to ISTE13, I had some great conversations about this idea with Rebecca Rouse  and  Susan Watt .   While the notion of nurturing first followers could be applied to many situations, we were looking at this from a technology enabled learning perspective.

By the numbers: From a strictly numbers point of view, you could think about: one helps another, two help four, four help eight , 8 > 16 > 32 > 64 > 128 > 256 > 512 > 1024 > 2048 … done. Lets say you already have 100 or so “lead nuturers”, then getting to “done” might only be 4 years (or defined time periods). More aggressively, one might start with one helps 3, 3 help 9, 9 > 27 > 27 > 81 > 243 > 729 >  2187 … done. With the same 100 or so “lead nuturers”, then getting to “done” might only be 3 years (or defined time periods).

These kind of progressive numbers are encouraging when thinking about rolling out a change process. But, there is more to it than just the numbers. In our conversations, we identified a number of critical components to consider in the mix.

  • PD should be a graduated continuum just like learning for students
  • professional practice should provide opportunities to align with the plan, act, assess, reflect learning cycle
  • people need varying amounts of time to reach the ‘ready to mentor’ stage
  • at what point could someone properly nuture a “first follower” in a way that produces the desired learnings, results and in turn prepares the first follower to, in  turn, nuture their own first follower with the needed outcome?
  • many of the components identified are all variables in the mix
  • moving along the technology continuum is, at least at this point in time, optional.

While this process is clearly not just amount the numbers, the thought does stimulate some intrigue and excitement about moving things through the system.  Digging deeply into understanding the nurturing of first followers may well be the key to success. To me, there are some key aspects to achieve.

  • Time is needed to shift thinking.
  • The use of technology needs to considered by default in the planning process. We need to arrive at a point where teachers will internalize the asking of the “how might technology support student learning in ‘this’ situation” without external prompting, noting that need will vary.
  • When this answer is ‘yes’, teachers must  know the framework in which technology should be appropriately used to align with and meet Board/District/system goals. In my context, this means technology enabled learning that aligns with our chosen 5 high yield instructional strategies, the C’s (create, communicate, collaborate, critical questioning, citizenship) and TPack.
  • We continue to promote learning of appropriate technology use for all staff
  • Best practices in the area of technology enabled learning are openly shared
  • Recognition that is is NOT about a particular type of device or application. It is about the best way to support learning and engagement.

An invitation:  What do you think is most important to nurturing a first follower of yours?  Share your thoughts!  Please leave a comment, or send a tweet or email.

Related resources
Digital Learning Symposium Tweet Summary
URL to Starting a Movement

Suggested Reading 
Crossing the Chasm

~Mark

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2 thoughts on “Nurturing Your First Followers”

  1. Hi Mark,

    Great post. It got me thinking about our PLP action research and what we were hoping to achieve around our creation of a mentorship program for our colleagues. In many respects what we were trying to do (and still hope to do) is great a culture for nurturing “first followers”.

    http://plpwiki.com/Waterloo+School+Board+Action+Research

    Some of our key learning around nurturing our mentees (first followers) was the need to establish relationships were the mentee felt safe to experiment in their learning. We talk about developing those important relationships with our students but for some reason we forget that we need to do the same with our colleagues. I think it is crucial that we develop a culture where our first followers feel comfortable asking for help, and feel supported as they develop their skills in way that works for them.

    Jeff Pelich, our team leader for our action research does a great job of sharing our learning around creating such a culture that should (and could) be sustainable long term in his blog post:

    http://jpkitchener.wordpress.com/2013/05/25/eataje-reflection/

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