As 2011 begins Synergy will be focused on transition – transition from concepts and sharing of ideas to implementing them and reflecting on the implementation process. The Synergy project and its collaborative work will focus on two emphases: Depth and Shift- two of the five dimensions of scale. The incorporation of the Depth will be focused on going more deeply into the adoption of practices Synergy has explored and discussed over the past year. As part of the emphasis on Shift, Synergy is transitioning the project ownership from the project team to the broader Synergy community of practice spanning a significant population of leaders in the ATE community. An explicit goal is to involve the Centers’ project teams more integrally in developing and sustaining a learning community- the Synergy Collaboratory.
As 2011 began the Synergy project shifted its focus to one of transition – transition from learning new concepts and sharing of ideas of scaling to implementing them and reflecting on what we have learned in the implementation process. For the coming year the Synergy project and its collaborative work will focus on two emphases: Depth and Shift – two of the five dimensions of scaling. In focusing on Depth we will go more deeply into the adaptation and adoption of practices Synergy has explored and discussed during its first year. As part of the emphasis on Shift, we are seeking to broaden the project ownership beyond the project team to the broader Synergy community of practice which spans a significant population of leaders in the ATE community. This shift is central to the project’s goal of involving the Centers’ project teams more integrally in developing and sustaining an ongoing professional learning community – the Synergy Collaboratory.
The January workshop sought to integrate the concepts of community of practice, story and the capture and transmission of learning and to challenge participants to think about story in perhaps new ways from the perspectives of community, learning, and scaling. This year’s January workshop opened Wednesday evening with a talk by Native American storyteller, Ty Nolan. His talk entitled Learning to See and Seeing to Learn: Practical Applications of Storytelling captivated the audience and provided both a context and a lens for the remainder of the workshop. Frequent references to his thoughts and examples by workshop participants were much in evidence throughout the remainder of the workshop.
The next morning began with a fishbowl discussion of the implications of this transition year for project participants and their scaling projects and for a growing community of practice among project participants. This was followed by an address entitled The Open Door: Making It Happen in Communities of Practice by Kathleen Fulton from the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future. In her address she shared research findings on collaborative teams and communities of practice and examples of collaborative teams in higher education. She concluded by commending successful practices of collaborative teams to the Synergy project participants. Following her talk a discussion of key points from her address was held among workshop participants along with Ms. Fulton.
Chis Dede, Professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education and adviser to the Synergy project, concluded the morning with an interview with Jim Hyder from the Southwest Center for Microsystems Education (SCME) regarding his center’s project work in scaling and the implications of that work. A second and similar interview was held later that day with Elaine Craft from the South Carolina Advanced Technological Education (SCATE) Center. At the conclusion of the second interview Professor Dede shared his thoughts in selecting the questions for his interviews and commended the process as yet another technique in communicating story and uncovering knowledge.
Thursday afternoon returned to the topic of story and storytelling with a plenary session entitled The Oral Tradition Today: An Introduction to the Art of Storytelling by Liz Warren and Marilyn Torres from the Storytelling Institute at South Mountain Community College. This session included stories from a variety of cultures and how they might apply to Synergy. Following the session Ms. Warren and Ms. Torres engaged participants in an interactive process designed to assist them in crafting and telling narratives of their scaling projects.
The final morning of the conference began with a talk by Mark Weston, Education Strategist for Dell Inc.; his topic was Too Much, Too Little, Too Late: Enabling Communities of Practice with Knowledge. Dr. Weston shared ideas on the role of technology in supporting more timely and more uniformly effective interventions in education and the scaffolding of teaching and learning. The workshop concluded with activities related to essential questions: a fishbowl discussion of three essential question related to next steps for the Synergy community, a group activity building on and amplifying questions related to broad areas of possible action, and breakout groups and sharing in the refinement and amplification of those essential questions.
Materials from the Conference:
Video from the Conference:
Audio from the Conference