Friday, August 19, 2011

Unplug'd - it's a long story...

Earlier this month, I was one of the lucky few who had the privilege of participating in Unplug'd - the inaugural Canadian Education Reform Summit.  Like many of the other participants, I've encountered some difficulty in articulating what this experience has meant to me.  When asked about my experiences 'unplugging', I really don't know where to begin.  I've come to realize that the reason I'm challenged with a response is that I want to tell people EVERYTHING about the experience.

It's not enough to say that I really connected on so many levels with 36 other amazing individuals.  And I can't simply state that I've deepened my relationships with passionate educators from across the country that I've only ever known through my various online networks.  To leave it at this would cheapen the experience.

Telling people that each and every one of the stories I heard and shared have shaped my thinking doesn't even begin to convey the impact these stories have had on me.  These tales were so raw and powerful that they evoked a wide range of emotions in all of the participants.  Whether they were shared in a whole/home group meeting, over a meal, around a campfire or in a canoe, these stories often brought forth either tears of joy or pain.  They struck different chords for all of us, depending on our role within the system and the experiences that we brought with us to Algonquin's Northern Edge.

These stories will stick with me for many years to come.  And they will flow through me - ready to be shared at any given opportunity so that others can benefit from the value of these yarns.

I firmly believe that it's the stories - OUR stories - that made Unplug'd such an overwhelmingly positive experience.  The stories that we've told, the stories that we're telling and the stories that we've yet to tell.

The full impact of our stories can't be grasped when they're told in isolation or without context.  Sure, each and every one of our narratives is powerful and will have a ripple effect when shared with others.  But we'll really make waves by sharing our stories as a collective.

We came together to share our stories and, even after parting ways, our stories continue to be told by us and are beginning to be told more widely through our networks.  We've planted the seeds and now we want to watch them grow.  But we know that it's not enough to sit back and wait for this to happen - we must tend to our seeds and nurture them to ensure that they flourish.

The 'slow release' of our collaborative writing project, "Why _____ Matters", is a fantastic way to keep the conversation flowing.  The anticipation of what's to come will keep all of us coming back and each of us will bring a bunch of friends along to share in these conversations.  

To the organizers of Unplug'd - THANK YOU for your vision, your passion and your guidance in bringing us this far... I can't wait to find out where our efforts will take us :-)

And to the many friends, new & old, that I've met along the way - THANK YOU for sharing your stories... they've shaped me in more ways than I currently know.  I'm deeply humbled by the opportunity to work alongside each and every one of you and I look forward to all of the future collaborations that will stem from our Unplug'd experience...

When I talk to others about my experiences participating in Unplug'd, I share your stories.  Whether your stories come in the form of your personal narratives, the pictures you've shared, the tweets you've sent or posts that you've published, it's your stories that people want to hear. 

Our collective stories need to be heard.


Alana Callan said...

It's a long story and one that will continue to grow and develop through the power of images, stories and technology!

It's also a story that has lots of pictures, images and sound bites that we can go back again and again and again.

And there were lots of moments to go back to - like our conversation on that beautiful Saturday morning, one of the highlights of my weekend! Thanks for sharing your story Andy!

Andy McKiel said...

@Alana - Indeed, our chat over breakfast on Saturday left a deep impression on me as well :-)

Funny how one of the focal points of Unplug'd was to put the technology aside and leave the outside world behind, yet the events that unfolded were 'captured' in so many ways via various forms of technology.

I firmly believe that our pictures, pencasts and videos will go a long way toward telling our stories...