Tuesday, 20 March 2012

A Fabulous Plenary: Food for Thought

I got myself ready in anticipation to view the live streaming of the first Plenary session from IATEFL Glasgow featuring Adrian Underhill. In my great eagerness and excitement, I somehow forgot about the chickens waiting desperately to exit their pen. In the meantime, the cats were going crazy at my obvious neglect, and were all pulling at me, jumping on me and trying desperately to grab my attention. Total mayhem, in a way, almost like what Adrian Underhill's talk was possibly going to be about, with the words "progress" and "mess" both in the title. So when the live streaming experienced a few technical glitches, it was cue for me to pull myself away, literally, from the computer screen to go and "sort them all out", which involved making some progress from the mess that was ensuing. I didn't really have to deal with a "complex situation" - it was an "easy difficulty" to solve. Feed them, and they would be more than happy = a very simple solution!!

However, life is not really always that simple and to make progress you DO need to know where to start when "mess" or disorder, is all around. How to deal with mess is very important, and leads to a kind of "adaptive leadership".

The title of the plenary in itself was intriguing, "Mess and Progress" and it instantly grabbed my attention! What did this all mean exactly? I was about to find out via concise tweets, an intermittent video recording and a welcome slideshow....

I was able to follow this fascinating Plenary partly via the fantastic amount of tweets that were flying through the Twitterspshere and of course by following the livestream video. I immediately got an inkling that I was experiencing a very special presentation indeed, the sort that would get you thinking for days and weeks on end.

You can view Adrian Underhill's Presenter's page on IATEFL Glasgow Online which includes his downloadable Powerpoint presentation slides here. You can also view the actual recording from the Iatefl Glasgow Online site when it becomes available. I have to confess there were a few technical difficulties that were encountered before and during the transmission this morning, and so it was a little bit hard to follow, but I am sure this will all be resolved soon. I would just like to add that it was a lovely feeling to be with so many people (up to 86 at one point) all viewing at the same time, and some lively conversations ensued.

Thanks very much to the Technical Team who did their best to solve the glitches. I am sure it is just a temporary thing and everything is back on track by now as I write.

Back to the Opening Plenary
The key words for me that shone through the excellent talk were the following in this speech caption:

I will now attempt to do my best to include a context for some of these key words as they came up duing the session.

Adrian Underhill explained the difference between the following:
A Difficulty - is clear cut and definable, with a solution in sight.
A Mess - is boundaryless, ambiguous and uncertain. Nobody can fix it.

There has been a shift in "Systems" perception over the past 50 years. "Systemic thinking" has been developed.
Before, Things were seen as Primary, and Relationships were seen as Secondary in scale of importance. Now, however, the quality of relationships between people is of vital importance.

There is a link between control and connection.

The definition of a leader is the following:

Leadership has been obliged to change "because it is not smart enough for today's complexity". The key point is that you need "intelligence dispersed throughout the system".

This question was asked:

The response was: "Leadership is the activity of getting something done via other people."
I quite like this as it means of course, we are all leaders in our own unique way. That is a good feeling to have.

Learning is a "leaderly" activity, this means that learners lead through their learning, and this in turn leads to "leaderly action".

Adrian Underhill said that we are now moving away from the "heroic" model of leadership, where everything relies on one person at the top of the traditional "hierarchy". This system of leadership has to change, because intelligence needs to be dispersed throughout the system, not just concentrated at the top. This does indeed make great sense.

He quoted Pedler and Aspinwal's assertion that a learning organization is one that "facilitates the learning of all its members and continuously transforms itself".

The following quotes are memorable ones for me:


I totally agree with the quote above. I have been lucky enough to have always enjoyed working in every single school I have ever taught in. Each experience was indeed a wonderful adventure for me, full of connectivity, engagement, nurturing and sharing of knowledge.

I hope I have given a little taste of what I learned this morning from the session. I feel as if I haven't really described everything that was included in the Plenary, because I think that the slides themselves and the video recording will provide a more accurate picture!!

What I will take away from this Plenary is the following "Learning Mantra":
  • See what's going on
  • Do something different
  • Learn from it
I will embed the video as soon as it becomes available, and then I think it's definitely worth viewing it to fully understand all the views and opinions that were expressed by the presenter.


elizabeth_anne said...

Thanks again Janet - it's great to have a taste of things to come for those of us who are not able to follow the live stream, but will most certainly find time to watch the recording.

Janet Bianchini said...

Hi Elizabeth Anne

My pleasure once again, and thanks so much for taking the time to view the post. I'm glad I've been able to embed the video now.

I'm going to watch it again as soon as I can.