That quote from a teacher at one of the schools Sheryl and I are working with pretty much sums up the scale of the shift that a lot of educators (and others) are facing these days. And since I heard it last week in one of our sessions, it’s stuck with me as a testament to how isolated and how local teaching as a profession still is. At various times, some of us have called these network connections we’ve created something akin to a virtual staff lounge or pd on demand, and I think most of us ensconced here know the real power is the ability to find others who are equally as passionate about learning and doing in schools and with kids as we are no matter what we teach, no matter what our role. My ongoing awakening to the possibilities of networked learning continues to be one of the most transformative experiences of my life (nothing tops parenting, however) and I simply can’t imagine functioning in the world without it.
But I would still venture to guess that 75% (maybe more) of educators in this country still don’t know that they can have a network. While most of our kids are hacking away at building their own connections outside of their physical space, most of their teachers still don’t have a firm grasp of what any of it means or what he potentials are. And even for many that do know it, there are still legitimate fears and obstacles to creating professional connections online, time and technology at the forefront. If we really come to the point where we want our teachers to learn and teach with technology, we need to do as my old school did and provide them with technology that works, and what Carolyn‘s school has done in terms of beginning to give them the time to learn it and use it well. And, beyond all that, we need an environment that supports real teaching, not simply curriculum delivery. Unfortunately, very little of that is happening in any systemic ways.
We’re in the “Networking as a Second Language” point in teaching, this messy transition phase that is slowly gaining traction where we are beginning to understand what this means but not quite sure yet what to do about it. It’s becoming more visible by the day, but it’s still hard for most people to wrap their brains around it. It’s different; in many ways it flies in the face of what we’ve come to believe about learning and relationships. The other day, Clarence pointed to Ulises Mejias‘ dissertation at Columbia “Networked Proximity: ICT and the Mediation of Nearness” that defines nearness not as something that is dependent on physical proximity but can now be constructed and defined in social, not physical terms. Nearness is inclusion; farness is exclusion. And I like this line especially:
A more positive interpretation would argue that networked proximity facilitates new kinds of spatially unbound community, and that these emerging forms of sociality are equally or more meaningful than the older ones. Community is thus â€œliberated,â€ unhinged from space, and can be maintained regardless of distance.
I find that to be true, that in many ways, these connections and more meaningful than the older ones. The passionate learning network of which I am a part is an amazing and important part of my life. The fact that most teachers still have no idea that is possible is distressing on one hand, motivating on the other.