This past week I spent two days at a conference that I normally wouldn’t have attended. It wasn’t in my area of expertise, nor was it in my ‘job description’. It was the Alberta Technology Leaders in Education annual conference.
I was reluctant to go. I’m not the IT person at my school and don’t consider myself all that technologically savvy. Not only that, but as someone more introverted than extroverted, networking and making small talk are not my strong suits. Plus, I had report cards due. But, at the repeated urging of my good friend, Angie Tarasoff, Senior Manager, Technology Planning and Management at Alberta Education, I approached my principal and got approval to go.
It turned out to be a great learning experience. But, then again, I am rarely disappointed when I push myself outside my comfort zone. I come away with a deeper understanding of myself, my talents, and my shortcomings. Here are 3 things I learned from this conference:
1. You learn new ways of looking at things. In one session, I found myself at a table playing with LEGO and discovering a new framework to help leaders make better decisions. This framework, The Cynefin Framework, helps avoid the pitfalls that our default leadership styles can cause us to make when facing challenging problems. This framework for decision-making will be very useful for me as a leader, teacher, and parent.
2. You discover new resources. In another session, I discovered a new collaborative and comprehensive online resource that looks very promising. CORE is being developed by the Calgary Board of Education in conjunction with 4 other boards. Its uniqueness and its beauty is that it will allow for 2-way traffic. Teachers and students can draw from its resources and can contribute to the database. Powerful sharing that will save teachers and students a lot of time.
3. You confirm your existing opinions. In yet another session, I listened to a panel of experts debate whether or not scarce education dollars should be spent on tightening Internet security controls in schools or spent on increasing bandwidth to schools. After listening to the discussion, I became even more convinced that school boards need to increase bandwidth to allow for easier access to the Internet.
I’m glad I pushed myself outside my comfort zone once again. While this adventure may not have been on the scale of some of the other ones, it was still a very valuable learning experience. It will influence my teaching and my leadership and some of the things I will advocate for in education. And I did pretty good with the networking thing, too. I even made a couple of great connections.
Now, to get those report cards done.
When you stepped outside your comfort zone, how did it affect you? What would you add to this list of things learned from stepping outside our comfort zones?
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