Tuesday, September 4, 2012

System Conveners in Education

System Conveners in Education

Last week I was invited to participate in the Connected Educators event: Systems Convening in a Complex Landscape. This all came about following the Cutting Edge BEtreat workshop in Grass Valley California. More about the workshop itself when I get to my backlog of draft blog posts!

I offered to prepare a bit of a summary of the session. I thought it would be a good way for me to dig in a little further on this topic because the draft chapter shared by Bev Wenger-Trayner during the workshop completely grabbed my attention.

The above image is my first attempt at graphic recording on an iPad. I've doodled here and there, but never actually created a summary, saved it, then shared it. Any other graphic recording work I've done was with paper, markers and pastels. For this I used Sketchbook Pro. I need lots more practice, but was happy that I managed figure out a few things! Layers are now my friend, and I'm about to purchase a new pen. :-) 


Panelists and Facilitators 


  • 90-minutes, WebEx
  • Conversational style, maximize time for Q&A
  • Open invitation, no cost


  • Overview: learning landscapes of practice 
  • Overview: system conveners in landscapes of practice
  • Panelists: briefly discuss one thing that resonates in own context
  • Concluding summary


There were approximately 19 participants. As with any open web conference the numbers went up and down.

Roles and interests of participants included:
  • Technical Assistance Provider/ Consultant 
  • researchers, consultant, learner …(I'm not entirely sure!) 
  • Technical Assistant provider working with states and national organizations 
  • Learning theorists and learning consultants 
  • Education Marketing Manager with Cisco 
  • director of professional learning - higher ed in BC
  • high school teacher director of a dropout prevention initiative for the Office of Special Education in the Michigan Department of Education 
  • WestEd, working at schoolsmovingup 
  • 21st Century Digital Learning Environments (a design consultancy) - Narrative Design 
  • Curator for the NROC Project's Connected PD 
  • Senior Associate w Natoma Group, consult on Future of Learning, Participatory design 
  • build designs that link Education to Real World participatory designs (Michigan) 
  • developing National Center for Literacy Education
  • convener 
Participants wanted to learn more about:
  • the characteristics of 'boundary spanners' 
  • presenters' and participants' real-life experiences sustaining communities of practice
  • system convening how we might benefit from mutual sharing of our experiences and stories

What popped?

Word used most frequently during session:

Can the open source way help nurture passion in classrooms?

Characteristics of a system convener:
  • strategic
  • upbeat
  • patient
  • W I D E  vision
  • passionate
What is REALLY important to keep in mind?:
  • Find ways to have meaningful encounters across boundaries
  • Trust in what we know
  • Keep message consistent but adaptable
  • Focus on the students (not on the organizations)
  • Honour the work that came before
  • See how to continue to the work TOGETHER
  • The convener is often the only one seeing the vision
  • What is consequential or relevant is open for negotiation
  • Go at other people's pace
  • Never give up!
Our work/challenges
  • Helping people to reframe what they are already doing/ have invested in in terms of the vision you have for how the system could look in the future
  • Negotiating and understanding the different viewpoints
  • Telling the stories - aspirational narratives --  robust and also emergent
  • Reconfiguring spaces across the landscape (rather than creating something new)
  • Developing leadership among different groups (rather than being the leader)


We need a community of systems conveners!