the designership opening weekend reflection

or how i learned to get over buzzwords

Bryson McLachlan
Nov 7, 2016 · 4 min read

Over a month ago I posted on Facebook that I was going to be a part of the Exhibit Change Designership, an inaugural, education-focused, year-long project with a group of five other “shift disturbers.” And…that was about the extent of the information in the post. To be totally honest, that was the extent of the information that I had myself. Over the next few weeks people would ask me about the Designership and I would string together a bunch of vague buzzwords.

“Education innovation, foresight and strategy, design thinking, knowledge integration, collaborative learning.”

Super helpful, right?

I didn’t have a clue what the Designership would look like. I had only met one of the participants before and even after reading everyone’s bios, I still didn’t have a clue as to what us working together would look like. I was excited to get started but to be honest, I didn’t actually have a clue what to be excited about. It was just a general feeling of positive anticipation towards having the chance to at least discuss some of the issues and topics I’m most interested in.

Last weekend, we officially kicked off the project. Two days in downtown Toronto with the six of us: myself, Jen (one “n”), Jenn (two “n’s”), Kate, Lorraine, and Alana. For those keeping track, I’m the only male-identified person in the team (an experience more dudes could probably benefit from, tbh). It turns out I’m also the only millennial. So for all you men and all you millennials, I’ll be speaking on your behalf. Cool? Cool.

I think what struck me the most during the weekend was the sheer diversity of perspectives, opinions, and backgrounds that only six people could bring to the table. As a group, we’ve got people both inside and outside of formal education, connections to primary, secondary, and post-secondary institutions, and a diverse blend of expertise and interests. Of course, no group, no matter how large, can run the full gamut of representation, but I have confidence in our collective self-awareness and ability to solicit feedback from those not currently represented. This will be a highly collaborative and sharing-oriented project and one of the things I’m most excited for (from a team perspective) are the people and organizations we will get to connect with as we move forward.

Personally, the weekend was validating experience. I haven’t had the opportunity to participate too intensely in the education sphere recently, but it is an area that I hope to make a career in one day. I had kind of forgotten that I actually, like, know stuff. The topic I have the most to say about is the importance of collaborative learning in education, i.e. students knowing how to work effectively with one another. I firmly and genuinely believe teaching kids a skill set of collaborative best practices could drastically improve humanity’s ability to tackle the massive, infinitely complex problems facing our world today. So that’s my angle, if you will. I could write a dissertation about this topic (I just might one day) but I’ll hold here for now. I think this will be a topic that comes up quite frequently as this project moves forward.

With that being said, there is no clear direction for where this project will go. And I love that. I am revelling in the ambiguity of it all because the passion and the intelligence of the people working on the Designership leads me to believe that we will have no trouble at all producing something tangible and meaningful in the next year. What will that product be? I have no idea. But rest assured, it will begin to take shape quite soon. At this point, our tasks are ambiguous but our topics of focus are crystallizing quite elegantly.

Together, we are trying to address the gap between education and community. Within that gap are questions and trends around teacher culture, public perception of educators, the role and importance of collaboration in schools, gender, pedagogy, the skills that today’s students need, and even the overall purpose of education in society.

That list gives me chills. The sheer range of opportunities for us to explore and develop are mind-boggling. I have no doubt that the six of us are embarking on a journey that will see us make a positive impact on Ontario’s education system. I have no idea what that impact will look like, let alone the breadth and depth of its influence, but I’m excited as hell to find out.

Chances are that this post hasn’t actually done a ton to clarify what the Designership is. I didn’t really hold back on the buzzwords, it’s a problem I’m working on. I encourage anyone reading to accept the ambiguity of it all and just be comfortable with that. However, let me at least try to summarize my interpretation of this project in as few words as possible:

Six people, a multitude of perspectives, a shared desire to improve education. A timeline of a little less than a year to produce something that will do just that.

Off we go, then.

Bryson McLachlan

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