One of the reasons I blog is to try to give form to some nascent ideas that feel like they need to connect but just haven’t made the leap yet. I’m going to try to do that here around the idea of this process of change as it applies to us as practitioners but, more how it applies in terms of changing the culture in schools and districts. I’m still thinking here, specifically, about the striking, almost unique culture I felt at SLA during EduCon, but also about the work that Sheryl and I are doing in terms of building and modeling community and, in the process, shifting culture. And I’m considering a number of blog posts and Tweets and UStreamed presentations and more that I’ve read or watched of late that attempt to provide hints or roadmaps at how to get started down this path of new learning and teaching for individuals who might be so inclined. And, again, I’m thinking about the relative ineffectiveness that I feel about the way we do professional development around these tools, the drive by trainings that can motivate some in the short term but really provide very little in terms of support or guidance in the way we embed these practices into our personal learning and, subsequently, into our cultures over the long term.
There are lots of good things happening in the education space around these technologies, no doubt. Lots of teachers and students doing creative, imaginative, connective things, most of which bubble up into my Twitter or RSS readers with more and more regularity. We’re not there yet, but it’s feeling like more people in the room are coming to understand that this isn’t about tools but about networks and learning and leveraging connections, at least the educators I talk to in the various places I visit. There are lots of silos on the landscape, some of them connecting into burgeoning global communities of teachers that are sharing ideas and collaborating. And there is more of a shift in pedagogy that’s happening, not a tidal wave, mind you, but more ripples that illustrate an understanding of the contexts around using these tools, that it’s not just publishing but much, much more.
There is some irony, however, in the fact that teachers are connecting more and more outside their spaces but, it appears at least, not so much inside their own districts and communities. And that may be a misreading on my part; obviously, local connections are less transparent to the outside world. On some level, it’s not surprising; early adopters in their districts most likely have to turn outside to find kindred spirits or collaborators. But one thing (again) that has really been sticky from EduConn was the idea that local connections support local culture (as well as a few other things, such as leadership, of course) and vice versa. That effective local culture is created when we look at teachers as professional learners and encourage them to collaborate and co-create. And that if we can build a culture of learning and care that is supported by the connections we can make with technology, we can in many ways prepare our students for whatever global connections they might require or avail themselves as they pursue their life’s work.
So, it comes back to what is to me at least, the big question these days. Not how do we help teachers get their brains around these tools in terms of their own personal learning practice (which is still hugely important), but how do we help schools and districts to begin to reshape their culture around learning in more collaborative, connected environments? How do we get to the point where we’re not just seeing individual teachers and classrooms make the shift, but where we are seeing schools as a whole beginning to shift as well?