"The means is dialogue, the end is learning, the purpose is peace." ~ Founder Dr. Jane Vella

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A Day with Less (or No!?!) Technology?

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What if you wrote a letter with paper and pen instead of sending an email?  How would it change the "conversation" if you picked up the phone instead of emailing or texting?  

I recently interviewed a woman for a radio program I host once a month. She is a poet and lifelong activist in her early 70's who does not own a computer or a cell phone.  She has a telephone with no answering machine or voice mail.  She writes letters by hand and writes her poetry in the same way.  

Consider this weeklong challenge, launching February 2nd: WNYC’s New Tech City Launches “Bored And Brilliant”.

We are using technology to connect globally.  I Skype with people in Crimea and the Czech Republic.  My granddaughter stays in touch with her dad via Skype.  I have a Facebook friends from around the world.  

It is good, but is it ALL good?  

What would a day, even an hour, be like in your life and work if you turned off all the technology?

A challenge for Dialogue Education practitioners in honor of Bored and Brilliant week:

Adapt an activity you already use that involves technology to become low or no tech.  Share your ideas and reflections in the comments section below. 

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Fran Weinbaum is a Certified Dialogue Education Practitioner, life coach, and consultant.  You can find out more about her work at http://www.vermontwildernessrites.com/

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5 Tips for Integrating Dialogue Education into Program Culture

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Through our work with World Vision’s domestic programs in Canada, my colleague Clayton Rowe and I have designed (and re-designed, and re-designed) over 45 days’ worth of workshops that are resonant with a Dialogue Education approach.  With our intrepid ‘Canadian Programs’ team, we facilitate these learning events, on topics such as ‘Introduction to Community Assessment’ or ‘Non-Profit Marketing’, across Canada with over 500 grassroots non-profit leaders. 

Our partners have come to celebrate the distinctive approach to learning demonstrated in our workshops. Here are 5 tips for seeing our personal passion for effective Adult Education move toward being an accepted, integral component of our program’s culture and ethos:

  1. Keep Time.  As every emerging practitioner of Dialogue Education learns, too much “what for the when” undercuts the best-laid learning plans.  Dialogue takes time. The spectre of an interminable group discussion, however, can overshadow all learning for some (especially if your kids have a precise after-work pick-up time!).  Articulate an achievable list of learning outcomes then be ruthless in ensuring that your session is wrapped up a few minutes before the advertized close of the day.  Starting and ending on time is critical for building trust (and buy-in) from participants in your program—especially as you invite them to future workshops. 
  2. Acknowledge la différence.  Within a 1-day practical workshop on a topic like “Grant-Writing”, time feels especially precious.  We have learned, however, to briefly acknowledge our approach to learning (and to invite feedback) in every opening task. It is easy to forget that elements such as moving around, limited lecture and PowerPoint, and a variety of groupings can be discombobulating for first time participants.  Briefly naming the differences in your approach to facilitation lowers participant anxiety and resistance, leading to a better learning environment for all.  Consider including a brief, standardized introduction to dialogue in each of your workshops.
  3. Build detailed action plans.  A primary ‘cost’ in using a learning-centred approach is that fewer topics are covered than in a conventional workshop. The ‘value add’ is the ability to go deep into the learning, and that participants start applying new ideas into their own context before they leave the room. We are passionate about ensuring that each learning task rolls up into an overall, step-by-step action plan.  Participants will happily modify a template that they feel is too detailed for their own context.  Participants will be frustrated and struggle to apply action-plan templates that are not detailed enough.
  4. Leverage your pre-workshop survey.  With the volume of workshops our small team delivers, participants are sometimes shocked that we make completing a short pre-workshop survey mandatory for registration, and that we follow-up individually on each one.  The principle of “starting learning before the event begins” is very powerful, and helps prepare first-time participants to engage well.  Addressing participant expectations and acknowledging participant expertise via an online pre-workshop survey is a critical practise in building a culture of dialogue learning.
  5. Push for team participation.  One of the most powerful facilitation tools we have is building and nurturing space for dialogue, about a pressing issue, amongst colleagues. It is rare for sufficient time for this learning to be available ‘back at the office’.  In many of our workshops, attending with a partner from one’s own organization is required. While there are definite challenges in managing this expectation, the pay-off is significant:  action-plans are much more likely to be successfully implemented when the decision-makers initially work through the process together, with facilitator support.

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Hugh Brewster is the National Manager of World Vision’s Canadian Programs department. He first read Jane Vella’s Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach after co-facilitating a teacher training program with GLP Partner Jeanette Romkema in Kyrgyzstan in 2003. 

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Delight, Satisfaction and Disruption: Paths for Significant Learning

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What happens when we experience significant learning? At least three things:

  1. The delight and enchantment of discovery. This is an important dimension of what it means to be human: life beyond simple and predictable existence. It’s what makes life worthwhile at all its stages.
  2. A life of fulfillment that doesn’t narrowly focus on one's own needs and desires. Meaningful living filled with value and worth, and ultimately satisfaction, is related to meeting the needs of others.
  3. Significant learning also carries a call to be and do things differently. Learning impinges on learners by compelling them to take not only a new look at reality, but also consider a new lifestyle. The old normal is no longer adequate or acceptable. It is disrupted. Significant learning thus also implies the discipline to be and live differently.

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Harold Kallemeyn hkallemeyn@crcna.org has lived and worked in the French speaking world for the past 40 years as a pastor, seminary professor and educator. He now lives in Montreal where, during the long winter months, he is experiencing the delight, satisfaction and disruption of regular bread baking.

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Dialogue Education and Love

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“In the end, Dialogue Education is all about love”.

This statement deeply resonated in me when I heard it during the Global Learning Partners course Advanced Learning Design in Toronto with Jeanette Romkema this past November. A few days after the training, I realized that I had experienced the reality behind the above statement and started to wonder about the other participants’ experience.

[A group selfie taken by Toronto public course participants.]

Eight insights emerged from this email discussion with our group that offer a glimpse of what we believe is much deeper and broader:

  1. DE reconnects people with themselves and one another. DE allows people to be present to their truest selves in connection with others' true selves. Consequently, love can emerge because it requires connectedness and presence to oneself and others.
  2. DE values people and relationship. By putting the learners and their learning at the center, DE allows people to recharge emotionally and to feel valued, heard and understood. Visible symptoms of love—such as empathy, openness, gentleness, gladness, or inner and physical peace—quickly radiate from them and infect those around them. Other people can see these symptoms, feel them and be attracted to them. So, DE contributes to putting love back at the center of how people relate to each other.
  3. DE demands an inclusive dialogue. People are always properly welcomed and intentionally included in the process, even when they join the learning event after it has already started. They are actually “won” by an ascending vortex created by the dialogue that is already present in the room, and this includes them quickly into the learning process, dialogue and feeling of connectedness.
  4. DE enables true dialogue. Genuine dialogue is love per definition because dialogue allows what people have best to offer to be shared with others. People share and benefit from each other’s treasures/gifts, which is an act of giving and receiving love. To give the one’s best and to receive the best from others increases love, and creates connectedness and mutual enrichment.
  5. Love is activated by the learning process itself. People study efficiently what they need and love. The more they study what they love, the more they love it. So DE's sequencing reinforces the intensity of love and unites people around their love for the object of study. Love naturally grows when it is shared.  Furthermore, DE offers challenging learning tasks which require people to struggle together and on their own. This often mobilizes their love in creativity. This creates a unique learning experience and love can emerge. The learners’ love for the object of study strengthened by the uniqueness of the vital learning experience is then transferred to their relationship with one another and to those who can benefit from their work and study.
  6. DE's overall process is a catalyst of love. When time frame is large (for example, in a five-day learning event) people can trust, be safe and feel invested in the group learning experience. What DE intentionally encourages before, during and after the learning event also activates hope and diminishes the fear of being isolated.
  7. DE nurtures passion and focus. People remember deeply who and why they want to serve and work for/with. DE reconnects people to the core of their deepest "WHAT" which can be (surprisingly) connected to their life purpose. Passion-purpose-love are easily connected and nourish each other. Thus, one is connected, not only to a profession, but to one's meaning of life, one's calling, and one’s vocation. DE, by being a tool of vocational guidance, is one of the most precious gifts one can give and receive. So DE may be by nature a gift of love in and of itself because it serves the process of discernment of what humans are meant to be and do with respect to each one's singularity.
  8. DE gives back to people their capacity for love. Indeed, DE lifts up people from their daily life problems and (even) traumas. Some problems are overwhelming and some situations so complex that one’s capacity for love is neutralized. DE is powerful enough to lift people higher than their current problems and offers them new perspectives. DE offers an escape from a sense of inner darkness often produced by pain, helplessness, or hopelessness and refreshes people. People can come back renewed, sometimes restored, always newly empowered.

Let me leave you with this final thought from the poem The Winter of Listening by David Whyte:

Inside everyone
is a great shout of joy
waiting to be born.

An invitation:

Jeanette Romkema and I continue to discuss the topic of DE and love, and are both excited and humbled by what we are learning. As we journey further we plan to continue to share thoughts, questions, discoveries and resources on the GLP blog, Facebook, and the website. To continue this important work, we would love to hear from you:

  • What comes to mind when you reflect on the connection between Dialogue Education and love?
  • What is most challenging for about this?
  • How do your cultural background and practices inform or challenge this?

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Frederic Defoy fred.defoy@gmail.com is an ICF certified coach, a consultant and a trainer practicing In France. He graduated from Wheaton College, IL, USA. His passion is to contribute to people’s potential for living out their vocation.

Jeanette Romkema jeanette@globallearningpartners.com is a Senior Partner and Core Consulting Team member with Global Learning Partners. 

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Improve Your Writing – Beware Little Timidities

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The following post is adapted from one of the lessons in IMPROVE YOUR WRITING:  Ten Essential Tools for Streamlining Your Sentences, a self-paced online course facilitated by writer, teacher and former GLP Director Joan Dempsey. Joan employed the 8-Steps of Design in the creation of this course.

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all sentences short, or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.

~ William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White, The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition

We all write.

Reports. E-mails. White papers. Grants. Letters. Blog posts. Articles. Briefs. Stories. Novels. Biographies. Histories. Memoirs …

When we write, we sometimes feel uncertain. One way we cope is to add qualifiers to our sentences.

Like this:

I have a bit of a tendency for adding rather unnecessary qualifiers to my sentences.

Wait. Let me revise:

I have a tendency for adding unnecessary qualifiers to my sentences.

What’s a qualifier?

  • rather
  • very
  • a little
  • pretty
  • sort of
  • somehow
  • somewhat
  • kind of
  • quite
  • too
  • in a sense
  • type of
  • really
  • basically
  • for all intents and purposes
  • definitely
  • actually
  • generally
  • specific
  • particular

“These,” write Strunk & White in The Elements of Style, “are the leeches that infest the pond of prose, sucking the blood of words.”

Prune out the qualifiers to strengthen your prose!

Follow the advice of William Zinsser in On Writing Well:

Don’t say you were a bit confused and sort of tired and a little depressed and somewhat annoyed. Be confused. Be tired. Be depressed. Be annoyed. Don’t hedge your prose with little timidities. Good writing is lean and confident.

Think deeply about the meaning of words.

Don’t write "very first time" or "very last time." It’s either the first time, or it isn’t. It’s either the last time, or it isn’t. Don’t write that the retreat was rather boring or very bland. Words like boring and bland nicely convey their own meaning.

According to Zinsser, by adding qualifiers you “dilute your style and your persuasiveness.”

"The larger point,” he continues, “is one of authority. Every little qualifier whittles away some fraction of the reader’s trust. Readers want a writer who believes in himself and in what he is saying. Don’t diminish that belief. Don’t be kind of bold. Be bold.”

Now it’s your turn.

Don't forget that only by practicing will you grow adept at recognizing when you use unnecessary qualifiers in your own work. To get the most out of what you've just read, try this:

Write 1-2 sentences with too many modifiers in each. Use the list above if you wish, or discover your own modifiers. Post your sentences in the comments section below.

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Joan Dempsey is a Certified Dialogue Education Practitioner, teacher and author.  You can join Joan at IMPROVE YOUR WRITING:  Ten Essential Tools for Streamlining Your Sentences, a self-paced online course, available immediately upon registration. Want to learn more?  Check out this video.

 

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