Saturday, January 4, was quite a day. I did lots of stuff out in the real world, then I spent some time – also in the REAL world – participating in EdcampHOME 2.0 from my computer (at home – duh). The awesome Sean Ziebarth facilitated a very thought-provoking session on how we Show Our Work. My big regret on the day was not being able to participate in MORE of the many great sessions on the day.
Here are some thoughts following the session. Like any powerful learning experience, the immediate aftermath produces a sustained flood of ideas and connections – and sometimes some profound dissonance as we run up against the limitations of our own caves. (To extend the analogy – we all participated in this experience from our physical “caves”…)
I. We need to break out of our echo chambers
Sean made a keen observation during session 1 of “Share Your Work:” those of us in the session were in a snug, comfy echo-chamber (coincidentally, I’ve written about this recently). We’re like-minded in many ways. So this led us to the REAL question: how to engage/invite/inspire/politely cajole our colleagues that are turning the other cheek when it comes to new educational practice (technology integration being merely ONE of those)?
II. Inspiring our reluctant colleagues to get into the spirit of SHOWING
How can we help those that resist/refuse even trying something new – like using social media in their classrooms and/or for their own professional growth? Melissa Lim captured one terrific strategy we can employ (and which I do frequently at my own school):
One big question: why is it so hard to create/sustain cultures of shared, public practices in schools? No easy answers. One deep insight comes in a post from Brad Ovenell-Carter:
III. Include parents (e.g., SHOW them what we do – maybe even ask for some feedback on it…)
The old construct holds that we are the experts and parents need to leave the business of teaching/learning to us. The mindset we all need to adopt (administrators, teachers, students, parents!) is that we are all partners in learning. When it comes to working in a high school, as I do, we meet students as 14 year-olds. So, it’s a 14:0 parent-to-school ratio of “Years of knowing the student as a person/learner” on Day One of 9th grade; at graduation, the ratio favors parents slightly less: 18:4. Yep – parents know stuff about their kids that will help us help THEM find their way.
Still skeptical about this? Consider this fact: MANY teachers are themselves parents, often of students that come through their school. Are we willing to tell our own colleagues – even if it’s in the form of an unspoken attitude – that they don’t have anything to offer us when it comes to better understanding how to help a child grow/learn/flourish?
IV. How we help adults and students find their audience
The idea of “authentic audience” has been around for a while – it’s been pillar of project-based learning from its inception. The problem with the “my classroom, my world” mindset is that the only audience the teacher has is the “captive audience” of their students and an administrator for their once-every-few-years evaluation. Melissa’s tweet above shows one way we can help colleagues find an audience beyond the four walls. I brought up an example of how a few teachers at my school (Rod Milstead, Chizzie Brown, Dan Freeman) stole Sean and David’s [Re]Framed Blog project with their 9th graders.
We see how audience has exponential power: David/Sean have shared their ideas via Web 2.0 and other people out there now have access to it (I met both these guys through Twitter). Those people then share the work with their buds and now we have 110 freshmen creating their own blogs and exploring issues and text (in our case, The Catcher in the Rye) with the spark coming from two guys we would have never, ever met if we didn’t jump into the collective pool of social media.
V. School Culture – the ultimate Temple of the Possible
We all (most all) have heard the expression “Culture eats strategy for breakfast” or some such thing. I think that’s too gentle; culture is either the periodic fire that helps clear out the underbrush (some ideas I’ve had on healthy conflict here), or it’s the once-every-700-years Rim Fire (recently in the California Sierra) that makes a lush landscape look like the moon (I’ve spent LOTS of time in that very landscape, including the first backpacking trip I took with my daughter). The point is that our work in moving education forward depends on much more than simply focusing on the technical (how to use this tool, which device to choose, how to send a tweet…). The first battle lines are defined by the parameters of our 30-minute chat on Saturday:
What does it take for us to live and breathe a CULTURE of showing our work as a part of a bigger community?