Over the past little bit, I read three different blog posts about being a connected educator. They’re all good for a thoughtful read.
The last article by Mark Barnes is definitely the bluntest of the bunch. The common thread through the three of them though is the message that being connected is good. I find it difficult to argue against that. The counter argument is often that “I’ve been teaching for ## years and I’m doing fine, thank you. I get my news from the newspaper and I know how to Google stuff.”
When it comes time for a job interview, these folks will walk in with their paper portfolio and lay out their learning experiences and accomplishments. They’ll walk away scratching their heads when they lose the competition to someone with a digital portfolio and powerful online presence.
This past weekend, I was in two shopping malls in Windsor just looking around and my observations really were startling. If you know Windsor, I went through the Tecumseh Mall and the Devonshire Mall. As a people watcher, I always get a kick from walking through the food courts to see what’s popular and how many people just naturally gravitate there. Once a place to eat, it’s now more of a place to meet.
But not necessarily with the people at your table.
Phones are constantly out and people doing whatever they might be doing. I looked around and didn’t see a newspaper in site. I took a peek into the local Chapters store at the lounge area there. Again, no newspapers but lots of devices.
I would hazard a guess that most of the activity involved social media. I was one of them for a few minutes while I had a coffee. Even for those 10-15 minutes, I can’t help but reflect on the fact that I actually did a bit of learning with some of the content my friends were sharing.
Such is the beast of the connected educator, at whatever level you may be connected. But it’s important to recognize that we’re not all the same.
On the drive home, I was also thinking of how learning used to be.
We had a professional learning fund and were allowed to apply once every two years to a maximum of ### dollars. We had a professional library in my department and our school library had a section devoted to staff development. I used to buy my own books and chose to afford one or two a year. The board put on a PD Day once or twice a year to lay out their vision of the laid on initiatives from the Ministry of Education. That was pretty much it.
Flip forward to today.
Connected to the right sources gives me all kinds of diverse reading in the morning with coffee in hand. When needed at any time, I can get a learning fix by sitting down at a computer and seeing what’s going on in my network. If I have a problem or want some input, I can toss out the query via blog post or just into the Twitter Tsunami and people far more insightful than me will have the answer. Every now and again, I think I might have an answer for someone else and pay the network back with my thoughts.
In the manufacturing industry, they call it “Just in Time Production”. Why not look at it as “Just in Time Learning”? How often do you truly learn how your students learn topics in the classroom afterward the lesson. If you get to teach the topic again next year, you’re good to go. Provided nothing else has changed. Wouldn’t it be nice to be proactive and get some advice or background in advance of the lesson?
Those that know me know that I’ve always felt that the group is far smarter, more nimble and richly innovative than the single person. It’s also the premise of the traditional PD session. Once a year, gather the right people and magic happens. There might have been a time when that was a good plan.
In my opinion, it’s such a dated concept.
Why can’t that be at least “daily (or regularly) gather the right people and magic happens”?
Educators around the world can be so much more resourceful than a single teacher noodling out how to teach a new concept in her/his home office at night.
The premise of the traditional PD is that you need to be all-in for that day of learning. The premise of the connected educator is that you can participate at whatever level you need or what your comfort level is. In the past, this might be a really degrading comment when I say be selfish about your personal learning. Being connected means never having to apologize for being selfish about your learning. Go for it.
The reality is – I’ve never seen anyone stay very selfish for long. Once you realize that your learning community is struggling to learn and share just as much as you are, you’ll dive in with enthusiasm.
Public Service Reminder – Today is World Backup Day. Are you participating?