In her book, Messy Maths, Juliet Robertson [@creativeSTAR, creativestarlearning.co.uk ] suggests “rather than overwhelm parents with suggestions, it can work well to drip-feed mathematical opportunities into the ongoing activities in your setting”. When you think about it, drip-feeding feels like a good option for educators and leaders, too.
Why drip-feed? Why not turn the tap on full?
Let's face it. We all move forward one step at a time. Educators often tell me that we (coaches/consultants) give too much information at once. Think about how you feel at the en of a full day workshop. Through the course of the day, you take in idea after idea, making notes, engaging in conversation, gathering handouts, links and book recommendations. As the day progresses, your brain begins to feel full. Often, we describe the feeling as "overwhelming", and we walk away unsure of where to begin. In the end, a common reaction is to place all of the new ideas in a pile - literal or figurative - and return to the safety of familiarity.
What if we were to offer just a drip of information at a time, with the opportunity to ingest, process and connect the idea to our practice? Might we continue to thirst for new learning? Information would sink in slowly. We would fill up over time, rather than overflowing in a rush.
As a facilitator/coach/instructional leader, the tough part is managing the drip. I must admit my tap is happiest when flowing full. I get on a roll, spewing out ideas that even I (the speaker) can't retain. Drip-feeding requires patience, intentionality and active listening to determine what drip might resonate with a particular audience. It’s responsive. Differentiated. Proactive. That’s a tricky blend.
What constitutes a drip?
Perhaps a drip is an idea.
Perhaps a drip is a question.
Perhaps a drip is a link.
Perhaps a drip is a quote or excerpt from an article, book, or knowledgeable other.
Perhaps a drip is an activity or game we engage in together.
Perhaps a drip is a tool, app, routine or strategy.
On the receiving end...
Do you remember standing outside with your head tilted back, trying to catch a raindrop or a snowflake in your mouth? Did you wait calmly for the rain to come to you, tongue outstretched? Or did you shift impatiently from foot to foot, trying to capture each drip as it fell from the sky? Did your strategy vary, depending on the rainfall? Did you ever just duck your head and try to stay dry? If you did catch something, did you savour it or just try to get the next drip as quickly as you could? We are all different. We process differently.
The key is that the drips need to fall such that they can connect, pooling together to make first a puddle, then a lake, then an ocean of knowledge and understanding. As learners become more comfortable with the drip-feed, they may choose to turn the tap on themselves, either by asking for more, or by seeking out further drips on their own. They may also just bottle drips up "for later", because they aren't quite ready to drink just yet.
Earlier this summer, there was a great Twitter thread going on about how to curate learning materials - let's call them "drips" - so that educators could access information without being overwhelmed by the tsunami of information available online. This is an ongoing problem for those of us who support professional learning. We don't want to hold the water jug. We want to figure out how to set up the plumbing so that everyone can use it in a way that works best for them.
"As technology advances, the role of educators and parents to model and guide learners to find information and to learn how to ask better questions has become even more crucial in the development of critical thinkers. Our job is not to provide the answers that can be found in a text book or in a a webpage but to create the conditions that inspire learners to continue to wonder and figure out how to learn and solve problems and seek more questions." (Katie Martin, Learner Centered Innovation, pg.21)