Had a great conversation with my friend and former colleague Rob Mancabelli the other day about the challenges that individual teachers face in understanding and, more importantly, practicing learning in these online spaces. Rob started a blog for a bit a few years ago, one that I thought was exceptional, but he dropped it in short order. He’s mulling over a return, thankfully, because he’s continuing the work we started at my old stomping grounds by rolling out a student 1-1 pilot this fall, one that will hopefully move teachers and students to more self-directed, inquiry-based curricula and classrooms. Personally, I keep begging him to share that process in a blog; I think I may be breaking him down. ;0)
Anyway, we were talking about the pilot group of teachers that had been selected for the work, and at one point the talk turned to the reasons why this is such a hard shift for many. It’s not the technology, we both agreed, as much as it is the shifts in transparency and privacy, and the emphasis on writing and creating that go along with putting yourself out there online. “It’s not about blogs,” he said “so much as it’s about human development.” I totally agree, but since our conversation I’ve been thinking about what the implications of that are, exactly. The Web and the social connections and learning it affords is moving us, I think, to a different type of consciousness, a different way of being in the world. While the way we interact with people in our personal spaces will always be crucial to our personal development and well being, we are in many ways being asked to recreate ourselves in virtual spaces, sometimes multiple spaces. And we’re being asked to do that work in public with others. I happened upon this old Doc Searles quote this morning, and it made even more sense than it did two years ago when I first read it:
â€œWe are all authors of each other. What we call authority is the right we give others to author us, to make us who we are… That right is one we no longer give only to our newspapers, our magazines, our TV and radio stations. We give it to anybody who helps us learn and understand Whatâ€™s Going On in the world.”
The comfort zone required to live in that “author-ity” space is pretty difficult for many of us, educators and non-educators alike, to find. And while our kids may seem to exist more comfortably in these online, social spaces, I still question whether they completely comprehend the potentials of their work there.
Clay Burell says
This might or might not be relevant to your point, but:
One hurdle I’ve seen in many teachers is that fear of transparency, particularly of exposing themselves online as writers. Some of the best teachers I’ve known were fair-to-embarrassing writers, and they knew it. And they didn’t want others to.
Side note: Arne Duncan’s ed.gov blog, I can only suspect, had posts in its early days written by Duncan (the voice of the writing was very similar to the voice of the Duncan we’ve all seen talking about “incenting” this for “dramatic” thats on video interviews). The grammar and usage errors, on this federal Department of Education ed blog, were just short of staggering. That transparent glimpse of Duncan-the-writer, if I’m right that it was him, was very short-lived. Now the blog reads like that of an intern striving for bureaucratese (with depressing success).
Tangent: Last week I had a beverage with an old colleague still teaching at my old school who drank the koolaid with me there, and has gone on to do some great stuff with wikis, to become an Apple Distinguished Educator, to become a teacher-leader in that 1-to-1 school. He mentioned a math teacher who hated the pressure to embed tech in his teaching because he couldn’t see how it improved on teaching math the old way. It made me wonder if/wish that there was a resource of exemplary teachers, by subject matter, for n00bs to explore. I told him to send the guy to Dan Meyer, but a fuller resource for all cases like that would be a good thing.
I have a backache.
Lora Cowell says
As I began reading this, Parker Palmer’s “The Courage to Teach” came to mind. If you aren’t familiar with the work, Palmer looks at the teacher’s move away from the social nature of our work (isolated classroom teaching, not socializing with collegues) as a shift towards anonymity/safety. He encourages young teachers (the book is often used in pre-service training) to re-engage in the community…to put heart into the classroom as well as mind…to effect change through connection with student and colleague.
It may be a bit ironic that in a time when online society is expanding, our physical worlds may becoming more insular (sitting in my kitchen, on my computer, rather than interacting with my neighbor). Teachers, who, in responding to the increasing stress in schools may be withdrawing both physically and online. I know many who avoid social media as diligently as they avoid staff school extra-curricular functions. Does this place teachers in a particularly vulnerable place…unwittingly contributing to their own irrelevance, both in the communities where they work and in the online spaces where their students roam?
Stephanie Richardson says
I, too, find it interesting that teachers seem to be the last to seek out social media. Yet at the same time, I don’t. There are a lot of expectations concerning teachers’ conduct both inside and outside of school, and while social media are an exciting way to connect with others, there’s always a little part of a teacher that’s wanting to make sure the private life stays private.
Couple that personal reluctance to use social media with the feeling of responsibility for all of “your” students using the media, and it’s no wonder there is some reluctance to use these collaborative tools in teaching.
That said, I think as society begins to expect everyone to use these tools (as in, “What?! You don’t have a Facebook account?!) teachers will begin to see the use in their classrooms.
Michael Walker says
I too am starting a 1:1 pilot this fall, and spent the past year working with the staff who will be piloting, exploring how they will teach differently. I set up a wiki to chronical our experience, showed them social bookmarking with Diigo, and asked them to explore and share their thoughts in discussion boards. I got a tremendous ammount of push-back, and a desire for more “direct instruction.” They were very reluctant to construct their own learning, despite the fact that they embraced doing that with their students next year!
I hope I can connect with Rob and learn along with him as we head down the path toward 1:1 learning!
I think one problem may be, an educator may feel they don’t have enough to share or that it’s not anything new. I am interested in trying any new technolgy. I am a new teacher. But when I heard about blogging, I have thought of trying it; but just feel I have nothing to offer anyone in a blog. It’s like I would question, “who would want to follow me or my discussions?” This is also how I feel about twitter. I think this may ring true for anyone, even if you have been teaching for years. You may feel intimidated like what I have experience in it is nothing new, others probably already know it.
I also agree with how it can also expose your vulnerabilities in your writing, theory, or philosophy. It can put you in a position to really have others judge you. In our class, we are in our bubbles.
I really would like to blog…but about what 🙁
Dereck Rhoads says
Fear, plain and simple. Fear is what keeps us from totally putting ourselves out in public. Fear that our private life will not longer be private. And maybe that is a healthy fear to have.