Thursday, March 31, 2011

My Practice Series

There is an interesting activity that takes place during the first 10 days of each month at CPsquare called My Practice Series. The idea for the series emerged during a conversation between John Smith and Sue Wolff. Sue was chatting with John about some of the interesting challenges in her own practice. They realized that, while there are many conversations and types of events at CPsquare, there really weren't many opportunities to give attention to individual practice and experience.

The series has been running for about 18 months now, and there have been some fascinating conversations. In fact, the practice of sharing a practice has emerged with some guidelines of its own. For example, it's human nature to jump in to offer advice. But that really isn't the point of this activity (unless the person in the hot seat asks for advice). Instead, if participants ask questions and make observations (much like an interview), they articulate what they are curious about, and at the same time this provides an opportunity for the individuals in the hot seat to reflect on their own practice. So it becomes more about discovering what participants are curious about, rather than predicting what they might be interested in.

I was honoured to be invited to share my practice this month April 1 - 10. My hosts, Lotte Krisper-Ullyett and LaDonna Coy, suggested I begin by posting a brief introduction -- "perhaps something about the path that’s brought you where you are or where you contemplate going". They also provided a bit of a template to offer some consistency from one My Practice session to the next. Here's what I wrote:

Sylvia's Practice

Job: I support leaders of several Communities of Practice, steward two communities for educational practitioners: SCoPE and ETUG, and coordinate online and on ground workshops, conferences, and a variety of other events.
Organisation: BCcampus
Location: Lac Le Jeune, British Columbia, Canada
Links: My mish mash profile

To be sharing my practice like this I feel that I should have a good story about how I came to do what I do, like maybe that I stood up in my grade 2 class alongside all the wanna-be nurses and fire fighters and and shouted "I want to be a community steward!" But none of my work life has been very well planned. Quite the opposite. My formula is this: I do what I find interesting and feels right at the time, get energized by people I meet along the way, take risks, and always have faith that if my current situation isn't keeping me on the edge of my seat then there is something new and exciting around the corner. And guess what? There IS always is something around the corner!

I started down the path of working with communities of practice (it's only in hindsight I know what to call them) through software research and development projects at Simon Fraser University. The first was in 1997 working with a group of teachers to integrate project-based learning into the curriculum using an online wiki-like platform called Zebu. As a fresh graduate student, escaping from my job in university administration where I was no longer sitting on the edge of my seat :-), I was handed a project called EEP (empowering educators program). So many of the elements and design principles that emerged through participation in EEP are still priorities in my world today: open sharing and reusing resources, reflective practice, teacher as researcher, participatory design, collaborative professional development, and distributed expertise. I will be forever grateful for the mentorship, trust, and wisdom of the two professors who took me under their wings. It not only resulted in a complete career path change, but also introduced me to new ways of working and what it really means to collaborate.

This story has sort of repeated itself a few times over the past 15 years. Around each corner I encountered new and exciting projects and connected with fantastic people who have had a profound influence on my work life.

Fast forward to today... Someone challenged me to write a bio in twitter-style 140 characters or less. This is what I came up with:

I am client services manager for BCcampus online communities and spend my days working with people who want to learn from other people.

What I like about this description is that it puts me right in the middle of a flurry of activity. Nothing is more rewarding than watching others around you take on a leadership role. I've been working with BCcampus  for 3 years and I have to say, this is my dream job. I support several Communities of Practice, steward two communities for educational practitioners: SCoPE and ETUG, and coordinate online and on ground workshops, conferences, and a variety of events.

My bad habits:
  • Jumping to do something because I know it's faster and easier than explaining, planning, consulting, getting consensus, etc etc
  • Ignoring the dust bunnies (I work from home)
Things that make me squirm:
  • When people seek advice without first investing time themselves to think through the issues and solutions
  • When colleagues give me credit without including the many other people around us who have contributed
Some of the things I'm thinking about these days:
  • Various CoP governance models and ways of communicating
  • Facilitating in the open
  • How to improve conferences and other events
  • Writing more about my practice
  • Slowing down


  1. Amen to three things:

    Your Twitter-style bio

    Writing more about your practice (would love to hear your thoughts over the next 10 days as you digest your experiences)

    Slowing down

  2. @Sandra, I have a habit of starting blog posts but not finishing them. This collection of drafts (about 68 right now) is like keeping a journal. I begin to lose track of what I keep to myself and what I publish. What I'm noticing through the process of sharing my practice is that I have a lot more posts in draft than I thought! I'll probably be pumping out a lot of old posts over the next 10 days! I also promise to write about my experience with the 'My Practice' session. We'll see how long it stays in the draft bin ;-)

  3. You completed several nice points there. I did a search on the issue and found the majority of persons will go along with with your blog.