Thought Leading

With Angela Maiers and Eric Sheninger at BETT 2017
I've never been that keen on the term 'thought leaders'. Some might even consider it a little presumptuous to label oneself as a thought leader. It also sounds as though thought leaders have the monopoly on new ideas and great thinking. This is patently untrue. All teachers have the potential to be creative and to arrive at new ideas. Whether they share them with their professional community is another matter. So although this post is called Thought Leading, it's really focused on those individuals among us who think of new ideas, or innovative approaches to teaching, and then share them with the world. I can name a few dozen people who I rate highly in that stratosphere. I was privileged to spend time with two and in one place at the BETT Show in London recently.

I have met Eric Sheninger before, when we were both keynote speakers at one of Australia's largest education events - EduTech, in Brisbane 2015. Eric was already known to me through his books and TED talks, so I naturally felt that I already knew about some of his ideas. But the most interesting thing about Eric is that he was once anti-technology in education, and banned social media and student devices from his school system. Eric became disillusioned with the schools he was working in though, and a Damascus Road moment occurred when he realised that technology in schools might actually provide a solution to some of the problems he was witnessing. The schools were turned around through the introduction of his Bring Your Own Device policies. Eric is now a tech evangelist. He travels the world talking about how teachers can be inspirational and how the power and potential of technology can be leveraged to promote better learning. His keynote at BETT 2017 was well received, as in his own dynamic and energetic style, he regaled the audience with tales of how children use technology to learn in new and agile ways.

I have never met Angela Maiers before, but as she will admit herself, we have 'known' each other for about a decade through our communication and discussions on Twitter and other social media channels. Angela is as dynamic as Eric, a live wire personality who commands the room when she enters. Her ideas are firmly focused on the importance of the child, the learner, the person at the centre of the educational process. Her most recent book perpetuates her mantra of 'You Matter', promoting important characteristics teachers need to pay attention to in their daily practice, including adaptability, self awareness, creativity and imagination, courage, curiosity, passion and drive. Entitled 'Genius Matters' Angela's book is a tour de force of all a teacher needs to know to unlock the potential of just about any child they encounter. When she meets you, it won't be long before she asks you 'What is your genius?' You are then expected to respond with the thing you do best in your life. It is often quite a surprising thought process to arrive at your 'genius' and then recognise that what you are best at has all of the characteristics mentioned above.

BETT Show 2017 was a great experience for many. For me it was made all the richer because of my renewed friendship with two great thinkers and sharers. Thanks Angela and Eric - you are definitely leaders in the field, and you have influenced my thoughts. I hope to work with you again somewhere in the world, and soon.

Photo credit: Steve Wheeler

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Thought Leading by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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