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Ideas that Stick: a leader learns by listening

This past April, I coordinated an all-volunteer TypeWell conference which took place on the Sylvania campus of Portland Community College. The theme of the 1½ day professional development event was Listen, Learn, and Lead.

Building on the model of previous conferences like the Text-Interpreting Professionals Seminar (TIPS) and the Western Network of Communication Access Providers (WNCAP), we invited members of the TypeWell community to present workshops and facilitate roundtable discussions on topics of interest to communication access/speech-to-text professionals.

2013 Conference1

Laura Paulsen and Janet Fedorchuk facilitate a workshop called "Building a Favorable Transcriber-Instructor Alliance."

Through generous contributions of travel, time, facilities, and food, our community pulled together a tremendous event. Over 70 service providers, coordinators, and support staff attended from schools and agencies across the United States and Canada.

2013 Conference Map

Map of states and provinces represented at the 2013 conference in Portland, Oregon.

During the closing session of the conference, I facilitated a group activity in which I asked every participant to write down something really important.

"Look over the schedule of workshops you attended this weekend," I said, "and think about the conversations you had with your colleagues and friends. Think about what you learned from the panel of students who use TypeWell services in their classes. Reflect on your best experiences as a transcriber — when you were able to really shine. Also, think about your worst experience and what you learned from it."

Then each participant responded to this prompt on a piece of paper:

"What needs to happen for you to do an even better job as a TypeWell transcriber or coordinator? How can you raise the quality of service that you provide, or the overall quality of services at your site?"

A professional conference seems ideal for such an activity, especially if the process helps distill myriad ideas and opinions into a "bigger picture." After a weekend of workshops and networking in Portland, the shared enthusiasm that had built up was tangible, and all the fresh ideas were just begging to be harnessed!

2013 Conference2

Kristi Falconer (center left) and Jean Campbell (center) network with colleagues over lunch.

We posted all of the ideas on a big "Sticky Wall." (Many thanks to Partners in Participation for this great resource.) Then the co-facilitators spent some time combining duplicates and grouping ideas into whatever categories naturally emerged. 

The three primary categories on the wall signified the community's top priorities at that moment in time:

  • new software features
  • continuing education
  • Math Mode skill development

Finally, everyone received a set of colored sticky dots so they could approach the wall and vote on the categories and ideas that mattered most. The results are pictured below.

Conference participants wrote down their ideas, posted them on the "Sticky Wall", and then voted on their favorite ideas using colored dots. Slideshow created with flickrSLiDR.

Some really wonderful ideas surfaced during that group activity in Portland last April.  You can see from the slideshow that the leaders in the TypeWell community have our work cut out for us! (According to one source, that expression is borrowed from tailoring and dates back to the early 1600s: The expression "to have all one’s work cut out" referred to how a good tailor would prepare, plan, and get organized before setting to work.)

In future posts, I look forward to sharing more about our work at TypeWell, and how we're following through on many of these ideas to make sure they "stick."

Happy holidays, everyone!


Kate Ervin

Kate has been a transcriber since 2004, a TypeWell teacher since 2009, and TypeWell's Director of Education & Operations since 2011. She currently lives in beautiful southern Arizona.

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