I've got some homework from my Working Out Loud (WOL) circle this week around people I admire and why. In doing this exercise it's made me think a little about what we do and how for many people making their mark on the world - being famous maybe or inventing something or being a 'thought leader' or any of those modern phrases that means people regard you as a top expert in your field. I've often tried to be this myself, but is this the way to have the biggest effect on learning (let alone life)? Are we almost trying to hard?
I'll get back to that. For now let me talk about who has been part of my learning and why.
It started with my parents who, like most of you I suspect, shaped my early learning and continue to shape my life to this day. My parents were the biggest influence in my formative years of course - very strong moral background and that's had a profound effect on me and my life. If I'm honest I don't see the world in the same black and white way; but without that early influence I don't know if I would have had the same perspectives or abilities to see things so differently.
My family now are really key to my thinking and the one I admire the most is my wife Kim. The biggest thing Kim has taught me and helped me to improve is empathy and how to really take on how other people feel and I've used this more and more over the last few years. I really admire how she seamlessly switches to someone else's perspective and is able to use that to adjust her behaviours - if I could be half as good at that as her I'd be doing fantastic.
Professionally my biggest influencer was my old head of department when I first started teaching - a gentleman by the name of Paul Unstead who was a giant among men (even though he wasn't that tall). Just an amazing leadership style that empowered, showed courage and empathy as well as someone you could truly look up to. Paul was my mentor through until he died a few years back and I've not filled that role and I'm not sure I ever will...
There are people that don't have to have such a big impact as those above but whom I admire nonetheless. I'm a free-thinker (or at least that's how I like to think of myself and what I aspire to be) so I like those that challenge what they see and don't just repeat on what others have said without questioning or looking deeper in to it. In this space I love the work that Richard Branson does. I don't know him on any level beyond his public persona, but someone committed to shaking up a lot of pre-conceptions and one of the very few 'famous' people I follow.
My learning influencers tend to come from the learning technologies world; I see a few faces on Twitter and the rounds that I like because of their perspectives and the shape they have on mine. These include Nick Leffler who has a nicely warped sense of humour and a fun style, Helen Blunden who is razor sharp with a great skill set but again very human, Michelle Ockers who always questions and again has great knowledge, Ryan Tracey who has a wealth of knowledge but great intellectual humility and always willing to listen to a different (yes, often mine) perspective, Con Sotidis because he understands it's about people first and foremost, and Bruno Winck who I frequently and very amiably disagree with but again likes a different perspective. That's not the end of the list, in fact I could go on and on and throw out my lists on Twitter with some other key people I admire, but it's a good start. If you search and follow these people on Twitter you'll be better off for it and I'm sorry for the others I should have mentioned!
So that's my homework, but it takes me back to my original thought. Everyone knows who first came up with the idea of gravity. We know where the origin of quantum mechanics came from and who invented flight and even the computer. Once upon a time it seemed that this was reaching the pinnacle; to be the recognised inventor or creator; but I think in the age of social media and learning this concept is becoming less and less likely. Who invented the internet? Who made the leap from web to web 2.0? 3.0? It won't be one people, it will be a collective so it's key that to move things forward in the future we can't and won't be out there on our own taking forward the next generation of ideas. We'll do it together... and if that's not cool, I don't know what is.