Tag Archives: networks

Sharing – #saskedchat – Week 4 Summer Blogging Challenge

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As parents, one thing that we have tried to impress upon on children is the importance of sharing, whether it is with siblings, friends, or other people, we have tried to help our children understand the importance of sharing while at the same time helping them to understand that they must be careful with what they are sharing through their social networks, the different social apps that they use, the people with whom they engage and the relationships they have with others.

It’s Not That Simple

Being a “modern” educator, for some, means having a PLN, integrating technology, and, through various means, “sharing”. However, too often educators who aren’t integrating, twittering or blogging or aren’t seen as embracing technological advancements are often described as somehow being “less” as teachers, as being not as worthy,

“And, sadly, some people write off technology as a chore or passing fad”

This attitude, unfortunately, continues to reinforce the binary of the “good/bad” teacher which does little to explore the strengths of people but, instead, serves to limit people and continue traditional power structures that have dominated educational discourses throughout history where certain groups are described as “less worthy” because of their lack of knowledge or talent or whatever can be used to create the power binary. We have to remember throughout time, “good/bad” teachers has meant things very different from the present.

The idea that it is right to be a student-centered and caring teacher rather than a self-centered teacher is one that, while strongly held at this point in time, is contingent as any other idea about good teaching in any other historical period. McWilliam, 2004

Sharing, as an educator, has now become what “relevant teachers” do because it is now “right and proper” to do so. But the definition of “sharing” continues to change and morph as can be seen in the continual changes found in the Terms of Service of apps like Facebook and Twitter and the use of various social networks for various types of sharing.

In fact, there are numerous examples of people who have made poor decisions when sharing online, examples of how sharing and privacy have become issues and the harmful effects that happen when things are shared without people’s knowledge or their consent such as the numerous examples of phishing scams where people have had their information used by scammers and the harmful and destructive consequences of people who have pictures stolen and shared against their consent.

Sharing is Important

Learning to be generous with time and resources is something I want my children to develop and appreciate. However, it’s also not quite as simple as Mark Zuckeburg makes it out

“Facebook’s mission and what we really focus on giving everyone the power to share all of the things that they care about,”

Yes, sharing is important and something that needs to continue, especially for teachers. However, it’s not as simple as “just sharing”. There are many instances when, although I wanted to share, doing so would have been unethical or might have had negative consequences. Like many others, I’ve been on the receiving end of nasty trolling from taking a particular point of view. It’s not always possible or positive to share one’s experiences.

In a world dominated by the digital, sharing online seems to be the ONLY way that some people consider to be real sharing. Yet, in many instances, the intimate conversations that take place between two people, or in a small group, can be what really cements and binds our socially mediated relationships.

As educators, relationships are so important and, although having digital relationships and learning to live in a world where digital discourse, literacy, citizenship, and relationship are important, there is a place for people who are more comfortable with the  less-digital, less-technological. If we believe that each person’s development is important, then genuinely respecting and honouring them should allow us to feel anything but “sad”.  In fact

Good teachers will one day feel differently about progressive teaching, just as they have done in other times and places. McWilliam, 2004

What do You Share? How do You Share?

How do you share? What do you share? How does sharing fit in your lifestyle as a teacher? Parent? Partner? Individual?

#saskedchat Summer Blogging Challenge


Week 2 of the #saskedchat Summer Blogging Challenge

Our topic this week is Supporting. Tribe, a post by Jana Scott Lindsay, has me pondering how do we support ourselves and, just as importantly, be part of a support system for others. Jana starts her post off with a great quote from Seth Godin – go check it out. I’ll wait.

Pretty great quote isn’t it? Great post too!

Seth Godin constantly reminds me that I don’t have to write a short story to get a point across. In fact, sometimes less is more. In his post today, The Top of The Pile  he asks

We need an empathy of attention. Attention is something that can’t be refunded or recalled. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

So, what have you done to earn it?

In his latest book What to do When It’s Your Turn (and it’s always your turn) Godin reminds us that

Now, more than ever, more of us have freedom to care,

the freedom to connect,

the freedom to choose

the freedom to initiate

the freedom to do what matters,

If we choose.

It’s that choice part that I need to pay attention to and remind myself about. As Jana discusses in her post – you read it right? – being conscious of others is a choice, being part of a tribe is a choice, being involved is a choice

for most of us.

There are others, however, that don’t get to have those choices.

How do we support them? How do we make others aware of this fact? How do we get to the top of their pile?

And not just because it’s part of being an educator but because we have the freedom to care, connect, choose, initiate –

we have privilege.

Support – what does it mean to you?


And this is why…..

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I’ve seen this a few time over the past week or so. I realize that we’re two decades or more into the technology integration phase in education. I know that we need to integrate technology and that, by now, this shouldn’t even be a discussion. But it is. And it will continue to be for some time to come.

Please Pick up Your …..

For the past two plus decades I’ve been saying those words to one or more of my children. My oldest, is now into her 20’s while my youngest is five which means that for the next number of years I will continue to repeat the same phrase…… because it is all part of the process of learning.

In a recent post at TeachThought entitled Putting Technology At the Centre of Learning , the article highlights that technology needs to be a focus in schools. Indeed “ For all the promotion and obvious benefits that edtech encourages, edtech remains a tokenistic endeavor” is a fair statement when one looks at the case of where many schools technology adoption currently sits. Technology doesn’t always get the focus that is needed to change the policies in the districts/divisions/schools and much of the infrastructure is not able to handle what is needed. And, yes, technology can improve the educational opportunities  – in some cases. 

The Focus Needs to Be Relationships First

This is my starting place as an educator. Why? Because if we don’t focus on relationships and build culture and capacity within classrooms, schools and communities, no amount of technology will bring changes that will solve the issues our students face – today. Without developing relationships that build the foundation to tackle questions related to the environment, race, gender, ability, class and other divisive issues, schools will continue on the merry-go-round of the next “educational fad” whatever that might be. Yes, schools need to focus on curriculum. Yes, there needs to be technology integration. But, as we explored during our last #saskedchat, a shift in focus brings to light that we can do all of this but still not provide students the skills to delve into issues of equity and privilege or how they relate to current issues at a local or global level.

Reminders Are Okay 

I could look at continuing to remind my sons they need to pick up their ….. as a, well, I’ve done it enough already. But, they still need the direction – just like new teachers and people who are shifting how they teach  – it’s a reminder that we have new people who are trying and learning and need some guidance. Which is exciting, isn’t it?

So, when will we learn? When can this stop? Actually, I hope that it continues for a bit longer – it means we are continuing to evolve and grow, with teachers, new and old, trying new things and exploring. Someday, maybe, we won’t have to have this discussion –

But wait…..

I still need reminders…… which aren’t a bad thing. In fact, I sometimes need reminders from my five year old that I need to spend time with him…. which I’m off to do. It helps to build relationships, these reminders – to make human what can sometimes become narrowly focused and somewhat out of focus.

Remember – What’s best for students? isn’t always a straight forward question – it depends on many different factors and sometimes we need to remind ourselves – what do we really mean when we ask this question? What is our motivation? Why are we asking the question?

#saskedchat – Feb 19th, 2015


Topic – Professionalism – teacher well being

We had a great chat tonight with a number of new participants. Our focus was to discuss well being and ways that we, as professionals, can support ourselves and each other to be the best we can be each day.

The topic was prompted by a blog post by @stangea – Burning Out which then became our #saskedchat blogging challenge topic for the week. There have been a number of post that deal with teacher burn out and a number of response posts that discuss why teachers are not leaving teaching and staying. I won’t discuss either of these. Instead, I will refer you to my own experience, my last experience, with being at a cross-roads – Free Falling

Thanks to everyone who joined the chat and took part – we appreciate your sharing and the time you take to come together each week. Thank you!


School Change – Breaking Free

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Despite the massive amount of changes taking place in society, schools continue to resist. However a small number break free of the traditional classrooms, halls and desks to embrace different designs that permit students to engage and embrace learning and allow creativity, imagination, and collaboration to gain an equal footing with the traditional reading writing and arithmetic. The article by Matthew Jenkins Inside the Schools that Dare to Break with Traditional Teaching explores how some schools are breaking free and choosing to build their own paths – something that is so often quoted but seldom truly encouraged in children at school. As Jenkins states

Just as we are still waiting for someone to market hoverboards and self-tying shoelaces, we have yet to see a radical shift in teaching models, despite the ebb and flow of education reforms.

Which is true in so many instances. Although there is great discussion of reform, what type of reform is the question. Too often, reform, especially any reform that deviates from the traditional, is slow and hampered by the skeptics cries of rigour and relevance. A recent article in the National Post “public-school-spending-up-dramatically-in-canada-despite-falling-enrolment-fraser-institute” explores why spending on education is up despite dropping numbers. Too often, it’s the statistics of rank and sort testing that determines if the returns on investment are worth it for education instead of looking at the needs for the future from a progressive lens. In this same way, Elyse Watkins article on ending the grading game, points to the need to move away from archaic modes of assessment and embrace creativity, life-long learning,  personal development and collaboration through new methods of reporting. As Watkins explains

While some would argue that higher grades are a reflection of ambition and hard work, they are more so a distraction from a deeper learning process. If we want to create a truly equitable education system with excellent learners, we need to stop this futile metric.

Our system of grading has changed little since schools began yet our society has progressed and developed, almost like schools and their policies were left in a systemic time-warp. Moves to change these systems are often met with extreme resistance with cries to “return to the basics” and “more rigour” being hailed as necessary in schools where “no one fails”. Schools are seen to be the ranking and weeding ground for the rest of society, a place where students learn what the real world is like and the gifted are separated from the rest through their excellent grades. Yet, time and again, we see that not only is school not anything like the real world, but the rigour of the testing machine isn’t found outside schools! Instead, as Grace Rubinstein points out, some schools are seeking ways to shift to portfolios and other assessments.

Typically, these assessments come in the form of portfolios and presentations — tasks that bear something in common with the kind of work students may ultimately do in college or in a job.

Yet, as is often the case, these changes are making slow progress. As Marc Tucker explores in What Teachers Hear When You Say ‘Accountability’, the testing regime that has been implemented, especially in the United States hasn’t produced any major gains.

There is little doubt—whether test-based accountability is being used to hold schools accountable or individual teachers—that it has failed to improve student performance. That should be reason enough to abandon it. But it is not. The damage that test-based accountability has done goes far deeper than a missed opportunity to improve student achievement.  It is doing untold damage to the profession of teaching.

Teachers, as professionals, have been undermined by policies and policy-makers who continue to add to the growing demands for accountability through increased tracking, form-filling and other data-gathering methods which do little to develop the foundational relationships between students, teachers and parents that are essential to the learning environment in schools. Instead, continued focus on grades and testing ignores the social changes that are developing outside schools.

As I mentioned in my last post, a recent study The Future of Work – Jobs and Skills in 2030 outlines that by 2030 employees with need an increasing agility and hybridization of skills

  • Portfolio careers, whereby people combine several different paid activities at the same time, become mainstream. Personal agility, such as the ability to adapt to or embrace change and acquire new skills and competencies, becomes more important.

This is a trend that is growing as people seek new and different ways to strike a balance between career and home life, searching for ways to develop and maximize their talents, no longer satisfied with careers or working for managers that do not allow them to grow and develop their own talents.

It’s one of the oldest jokes in the business world: Two managers are talking about training their employees. The first one asks, “Yeah, but what if we train them, and they just leave?” The second responds, “What if we don’t train them, and they stay?” The Week

Changing Mindsets

There are some schools working to break the traditional mould of schools and there is a growing movement of teachers who are working through grassroots movements such as edcamps to change professional development to meet their needs and the needs of their students not fulfill a PD requirement or implement a new program or strategy. Teachers are developing Personal Learning Networks (PLN’s) via social media networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Plurk, Instagram, tumblr and other platforms in order to connect and share their ideas about teaching, learning, digital literacies, collaboration, assessment and other topics that are essential for shifting the current status quo paradigm found in most schools. In my experience as a teachers and an administrator, once teachers begin to experience the power of connecting and sharing, other aspects of their teaching also begin to shift and change. As I’ve seen over and over again, teachers who connect and develop a PLN experience a shift and change that can be career changing. 

Change takes Time
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Although many early adopters saw twitter as being the tool for connection, instead there is a growing number of tools that allow people to connect and learn together. Too often, the association is that if teachers aren’t on twitter, they aren’t growing – they lack a growth mindset – which couldn’t be farther from the truth. If we all did the same thing and thought the same way the world sure would be dull! Remembering this, one needs to look to see that many teachers are in fact embracing the use of technology and shifting. Continuing to support them and tell their stories is, as far as I can see, the best way to continue to help teachers as they shift and go through various stages of change. In my experience in a few different schools, it take about 3 years to make a shift in the culture and see large scale changes in classrooms and the school.

What about you?

What are you doing to support those around you make a shift? How do you lead through example? How can I help you as you these shifts yourself or lead others?

Let’s meet them at the door

I’ve been really busy of late with all the things that go on in the life of a parent, principal, coach and community member. My senior boys basketball team is showing signs of becoming a real contender – which means that we have to play more – with more nights away. I’ve also been working very hard on getting some of the policies for our school ready – reworking areas that just don’t seem to fit. I’ve been expanding my use of various web2.0 tools including such things as Jing, VoiceThread, Animoto and other tools. Now this is because I’m hoping to do a session at the upcoming Tlt Conference in Saskatoon in May. I am focusing on tools that can help administrators to become more familiar with what is available and begin to use the tools in their own lives. I’m hoping to use Jing to create a Jingcast of some of the tools I hope to use plus add to my admin wiki some of the things that I am learning and working on during this time.

Tonight, after reffing and coaching a bball game, I was able to sit in on Alec Couros university class using Ustream. During this time, one of the participants, nnoakes, asked a really good question about the whole networking idea. George Siemens, who was guest presenting on Connectivism, had just mentioned some of the major educational bloggers in his presentation. The question posed was something like:

How does the network open up for new people as most of the people mentioned refer to one another in their writing and their own network includes one another.

I also wonder this. I recall a commment that once directed me to some advice on becoming more widely read. It included commenting on other bogs, writing regularly, keeping the topics current, referring to what you’ve read and so on. Well, I must say that it’s a lie, as far as I’m concerned. Many of the big names were there at the start and continue to grow their readerships because they were there at the start – and rightly so. Some have done some great work with connecting classrooms and including technology in their teaching and this has grown their readership. Some have interesting comments and make controversial comments which brings them readership. The rest, well, we write on, sometimes having a good post that draws attention from readers or we manage to be noticed by a blogger with a large reader list which brings in readers.

As the number of teachers who enter different networks grows, it will be interesting to see how things pan out. I know that I’ve seen the frustration in a number of bloggers who find it very disappointing that it is so hard to get comments or interaction. Having commented on a number of blogs, I know that it takes a great deal of time to do this. Some say it pays off in attracting readers. I’m not convinced. I’m not convinced that, like all other areas of our society, there won’t be just a few major players whose writing is followed by many while many of rest will continue with a very small readership, occasionally attracting readers because of this or that.

My reasons vary but mostly come down to this:  most of the big name bloggers are not full-time teachers or school building administrators and are outside looking in. There, I said it. There is only so much time in a day, there is only so much time to do reading and commenting and many are finding that to be committed to a network requires time that many teachers do not have. So, if you are a well known figure, you can pop in and out of twitter and leave a few posts and then not appear for a day or two and people will respond to you. The rest need to build and nuture our networks – commenting and building, building and discussing, discussing and sharing. Any time away and our network moves on – not really leaving us but not allowing us to just drop in.

Now, we do make some personal connections, especially if we can meet f2f with people from our network. This really adds to the relationships, strengthening the bonds but, like most teachers, the chance of attending a major national conference and meeting these people is, well, not that likely. Those who do get this chance, appear to build and strengthen their network in ways that are different than others. With many of well known names, they meet one another at these conferences to get reaquainted and reconnected. Their conversations have references and such that those not attending cannot share. It may not create an exclusive network but it does affect those who are involved. So for others trying to get involved, it becomes even more difficult as they try to make sense of it all.

Maybe we need to really go out of our way to help those just joining the community and network. Mentor them and introduce them to different educators. Really share ourselves with them instead of allowing them to find their own way. The idea similar to what happens with new teachers. Those who have mentors tend to develop in a much different way than those who learn by trial-by-fire. Education, unfortunately, is know for the latter and not the former. For so long, we have not opened the doors to new people but instead allowed them to make it on their own. Maybe, as we explore these new venues and tools, we need to toss open the doors and do more than just invite them in. We need to meet them at the door and help them find their way. We need to check in on them and see how they are doing and share cool ideas or tools with them. Those of us who have some experience, need to share that with others and maybe go beyond just our blog sharing. Maybe we need to meet them at the door, welcome them and help them with what they are doing. It’s one thing that does work in school.

Who you gonna call?

The other night I was working on converting a video from flv to mov format but couldn’t remember the online site that did that. I went to the twitter page and asked if anyone knew of the name of the site. In less than 5 minutes I had 3 responses of sites I could use. Now I was trying to remember zamzar, which is a name one should not forget, but it took no time for someone to help me.

In educational technology circles, we’ve been discussing and talking about using new tools and leveraging these new tools for the benefit of students learning. At various times it has been lamented that teachers are basically unwilling to change how they do things despite the availability of different tools that might enhance the learning opportunities for their students.

Just recently, there has been a growing discussion about how important networks are becoming for individuals as they experience the power of being able to connect and share with other professionals. Educators are beginning to build a variety of networks, discussing the ways that these types of things might be used in education. One such discussion is actually an online debate, Oxford style, between Ewan McIntosh and Michael Bugeja. This is Ewan’s promo:

This week you can take part in the Economist.com debate I will start today with Michael Bugeja, Director of Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State University. We’re arguing our corners in an Oxford-style online debate, he against the motion that social networking will have a positive impact on education, and I’m arguing for the motion.

Now Ewan used the power of his network to put together his opening statement.

Incidentally, my first 1000 words were effectively co-written in a 25 minute Twitter conversation across the web and mobile phones. My thanks to Lucy, John, Nick, Lisa, Adam, Judy, Sue, David… and many more who jumped onto Twitter. Who can say social networking is not having a postive impact on the way teachers, at least, are learning?

This is a great demonstration of how a network can help individuals in their own learning and in problem solving.

Over at Change Agency, guest blogger Nick Pernisco is discussing this same theme in the context of news and keeping informed.

I have to relinquish some of my own thinking to a trusted third party… I simply can’t keep up myself, so someone else needs to. Instead of checking 100 sources of information per day, I’ll only check 10 that will hopefully contain the best of the 100 sources. That means I can shift my brain from seeking out 100 sources to critically analyzing the compiled information from the 10 sources. We do this everyday when we watch a newscast instead of going to each place there is news happening, or read a newspaper instead of calling local and national governments ourselves for the scoop.

His final thought, though, gets at the real core of the matter when dealing with education and teachers.

This is why media literacy is more important than ever in today’s information glut world.

Media literacy, and for teachers, technology literacy, is so important. People in education must be able to discern what will serve them the best in a given situation. This is where the discussion about technology becomes a bit difficult. Advocates of technology use in schools see the use of technology by teachers as a natural progression of teaching as the teachers learn new things and use them to help build student’s learning. However, we do have a bit of a problem. How do we get a bulk of the educators to begin using and adopting?

Pete Reilly at Ed Tech Journeys continues the discussion that started at Scott Macleod’s Dangerously Irrelevant about mandating teachers. His thoughts are, as usual, insightful and make one question the actual validity of something like that.

It’s a great question and it provoked some good discussion; however is mandating technology use enough? Will it create the pedagogical changes we want, if put in the hands of educators whose personalities are not conducive to the classroom transformation we’d like to see?

Read Pete’s post. It really does highlight the problem that mandating has in education. We can control the program or tool but not the people or how they will use the them. We’ve seen that in so many different programs that have come and gone through the schools. What compounds this problem is the fact that there are so many different tools that one can choose to use and there is no real agreement on what are basic tools that teachers should begin using. People like Vicki Davis and Jane Hart do a great job of giving their suggestions, as do others. The point here is that there are so many tools that are out there and it is hard to know where to start. And this could be the problem, with so much happening so quickly, there seems to be something new and improved coming out every week. It is a bit overwhelming at first look.

Perhaps the teachers who are not jumping on-board are not aware is available to them? I think the biggest problem is that perhaps there are too many possibilities for “jumping in”. This actually makes it scarier then it really is. Paul Williams

This is where many of us who are already working with many of these tools have an edge that other educator do not. Our networks. We have been working through problems, trying out software and sharing ideas as quickly as something comes out. How? Well someone on the network seems to have or use whatever comes out and shares it with the rest. These early adopters (where do they get the $ ) help to bring the rest along. But where does one start? There are literally hundreds of networks that educators can join.

I agree with the social networking comments. Two people on twitter took time and great care to introduce me to some twitter friends whom I could follow and whom they knew would follow me and allow valuable interaction. Otherwise I was following some, unable to interact, unable to learn much and about to nearly give up. murcha

For those who are trying to get going, it can be a very daunting thing. That’s when, sifting through my RSS feeds in Google Reader, I came across an post by mscofino in which she states:

I know it’s frustrating to see something so close yet so far, and I know it seems like if we could just get the technology authentically embedded (and we don’t need the teachers on board for that, do we?) into the curriculum in one fell swoop, we’d be done before we started. But teachers are special folk. If they don’t want to change, they won’t. We have to show them, we have to prove why they should. And there’s no better way to do that than with other classroom teachers sharing their success. And those successes aren’t going to happen with a technology facilitator forcing a teacher to change (as if they could, given that they’re never going to be a supervisor to other teachers). It’s going to happen when a teacher wants to change and asks for help.

It would be easier if we could just mandate things but that isn’t going to work. We now that social networks, whether technological or f2f, are very powerful and impact all of us. These networks, for the most part, have not been well used in education. Teachers, usually in isolation, have worked away at subject or grade levels, implementing curriculum with a PD day here and there. Every now and then, something new comes along, usually with a new administrator at some level, but it passes. Not this time. Technology isn’t just a fad that will pass with the next hiring. Why? Because it is becoming part of the culture.

I like the idea of “Change One Thing”, and relate it to technology. Make one technological change, whether its a Google Reader account or a Wiki, the important thing is to change something. Paul Williams

This is where, I believe, we need to begin. We need to work with teachers and use one tool. Show them how to use it and manage it while at the same time introducing them to a network where they can lurk for awhile, seeing what others are doing and understanding that frustration and problems are part of the whole learning equation. In fact, today I made my first inroad with one of my other administrators who is taking an online class. She has asked me to help her with setting up some things and working with some of the tools. She wanted to know if I had the time? Of course I do. I know that if I can get her started and then encourage her, she will grow and some of these tools will be adopted. As she told me “I know I have to do this but I just haven’t had the right push to do them. Well, now I do.” She’s worried she’ll do something wrong or things will be too complicated. For those of us using the tools we need to let other teachers know that no one has all the answers and we’re all on a learning continuum. It’s the sharing that helps us grow in ways we never could have dreamed of.

To my network out there, thanks for your input!

It’s about the other person

Recently I’ve been involved in some discussions about how teachers might become better users of technology. It began with a post over at Dangerously Irrelevant where Scott McLeod posted

In many industries, knowledge of relevant technologies is a necessary prerequisite for either getting or keeping one’s job. Sometimes the organization provides training; sometimes the employee is expected to get it on her own. Either way, the expectation is that use of the relevant technologies is a core condition of employment.
Why aren’t our school organizations expecting more of their employees? Are we that desperate for workers?

The discussion that follows is worth reading just to see the complexity of the issue. Now, I don’t think that we are desperate for workers or anything like that but it made me wonder why it is that there are many teachers who are not taking advantage of these tools in their teaching.

Now Scott pointed me in the direction of Greg Farr, an administrator in Texas, who has some great posts about technology and its use in the classroom. I suggest that you take a look at what he has to say about technology use in education plus a whole lot of other things.

One of Greg’s posts deals with the use of technology and it being a tool that should be used just like all the other tools a teacher has at their disposal. He describes, very well, the whole idea that teaching is not about the tools but

True teaching and learning MUST allow for subtleties and nuance, for opinions expressed in tone of voice, for emphasis via a small hand gesture, or doubt cast with the slightest raising of an eyebrow.

He goes on to say

I maintain that TO THIS DAY the best way to assess a teachers ability is to take them outside, give them a group of 20 students, no pencils, no paper, no electricity, nothing but a pleasant day and a tree to sit under. And tell them to teach. A true TEACHER would take this opportunity and run with it.

I have to concur 100% with this. Teaching concerns human relationships. It is anchored in assisting students to add to their knowledge, seeking ways to scaffold learning to push them into places where they will need to stretch and question, examine, accept or reject and search for more. It is sometimes uncomfortable and challenging, frustrating and rewarding the whole while being centered around relationships.

A similar thing was happening over at Teaching Generation Z where Graham Wegner’s Parable2.0 provided for a great discussion about how teachers who are wanting to share their passion for the use of web2.0 tools often find it frustrating. The parable looks at how, in their desire to bring other teachers on board, often end up in a frustrating situation. The discussion that followed explored how many teachers identify with the parable and how it unfolded. One such contributor was Clay Burell from Beyond School, his blog looking at teaching, technology and a few other things. Clay’s comment

As a classroom teacher who does drive his own geeky projects, I know how overwhelming it can get – and I have the skills to survive and troubleshoot and tolerate frustrations and “Crosbian Messiness.” To expect others to be able to handle the strain of things too ambitious, or too time-consuming relative to the rest of the teaching load on the teacher’s plate, is dangerous.

is right on the mark. Those of us who are using the tools and doing various projects are able to do so because we have advantages that others don’t. Now, some of these advantages include what Clay points out:

skills to survive and troubleshoot and tolerate frustrations and “Crosbian Messiness.”

However, the one thing that isn’t stated is that many of us have created networks of other users and “techno geeks” with whom we can discuss, question, collaborate and bounce ideas off of. Many of us twitter, pounce, Facebook, Ning, …. sharing our discussions, thoughts and, now that we have developed relationships, parts of our lives. We have adopted the interconnectedness of the networks and built relationships which are now leading to people planning meetings at conferences (like NECC where I WON’T be going!) and personal rendezvous for such things as golf.

Relationships – this is what brings, and binds us, together. Whether it is Sharon Peters looking for feedback on a post, Alec Corous looking for assistance with web conferencing, Vickie Davis and Julie Lindsay discussing their Horizon Project, Will Richardson and his discussions of learning or Dan Meyers, who questions and challenges, helping to stretch the discussion, helping us to reflect on our ideas and thoughts while providing some great tools and insights into using web2.0 tools in teaching, these relationships help us connect and develop, grow and learn, keep our perspective and motivate us These relationships have become a large part of how we are growing and developing our teaching and understanding. These are the relationships that those teachers not engaged DO NOT have.

Showing other teachers all the tools isn’t what is needed. Helping them develop relationships and make connections is. We can show and demonstrate, rave and mandate; it will not bring others to question, grow and adopt. We have many examples of educators who are beginning to delve into using these tools. Overwhelming them with the possibilities just pushes them away. Helping them to build their own networks, seeking out teachers who, like themselves, are testing the water and encouraging them to continue in their own lifelong learning will empower them to develop even more. Not all of them will see the benefits of all the tools they encounter but the relationships they develop during this process will go further, I believe, to bringing about powerful change than any tech person can hope to do by themselves. Maybe that’s the lesson we need to take with us as we continue to approach those around us, showing them the power of our networks and the learning that these networks encourage. As was posted tonight on twitter

kolson29 finished watching really bad movie, off to bed. Twitterverse very different from even a week ago…….more “conversations”, less telling.

Let’s invite others to start their own conversations, starting where they are and moving forward instead of where we want them to be.

Is networking the answer?

How do you get other teachers started and dedicated building and participating in a network. How do we encourage teachers to be life long learners, to invest time in these technologies as they relate to the classroom. How do we show them what they are missing out on?

These were questions that Kyle left on my last post. Kyle is an intern and, I’m assuming, soon to be a teacher entering the profession with all the enthusiasm of someone new. Kyle’s full comment was very insightful as he wondered about the state of teaching and learning as it is buffeted by the changing winds of technology and 21st century learners.

As an administrator, these questions really made me sit back and ponder what it is that is needed to help teachers venture out and into some of the different networks that I and others are participating in regularly. So, like all good administrators, I asked a few teachers.

Their first response across the board was that the equipment had to work when they went to try it and there had to be someone close who could lend a hand it needed. Without this, they would get frustrated and stop. As one pointed out “I don’t have the time to wait for something that might or might not work. With all the demands I have, it is either working or I’m on to something else.” With all that is going on at the school things need to be working. As I stated earlier, some days teachers don’t have time to go to the washroom.

The other side of the coin is that there needs to be someone who can help them along WITHOUT making them feel like they’re unintelligent. In my younger years, my wife often accused me of this. Instead of patiently working through things with her, I’d get frustrated and finally just do it, usually right after a huge sigh. Not cool. Teachers often are made to feel inadequate because they don’t know how to do some of the simple things, like understand what URL stands for. As another reader commented

Increasingly, education has become more compartmentalized, the work load is more than ever before, and the support is not there.

Each area has its own set of acronyms for different things. It’s got to the point where, as an administrator, I’m not sure if my PGP needs an IEP or a PPP or if I should  just CRY because I forgotten where my CAR is parked today. Really. Some days, with the different meetings that take place, it’s a wonder that teachers don’t start an acronym wall in the staffroom so that they can learn the new vocabulary that is being tossed at them. Now, we toss in a bunch of other things like URL and IP address and UN and wonder why people are backing off going “NO WAY”. Especially when they hear me talk about the twits with whom I tweet to get insights and information. Now that sounds like a place to go for good information!

As for dedicated and participating in the networks I think that they need to be shown that it’s not an add on or something else to do besides what they are already doing. That it is an extension of their lives in a new context. I’ve introduced some teachers to some of the less intimidating networks but they still don’t see them as being really relevant to the day to day things that go on. So, I guess I’d have to say, to question 1, we have to make them less intimidating and more welcoming. Using Twitter might not be the best thing to start with because of the limiting 140 characters. That would be very hard for someone to handle right out of the gate. Something like Pownce, on the other hand, might just be the ticket. A slow introduction to a network where teachers can ease into discussions.

The next question is something that those of us using the tools really have to watch because these teachers are lifelong learners. I watch them as they try new things, read books and articles, discuss new strategies with people in the building and seek out conferences and workshops. They are trying new things and extending themselves. They’re learning, just not like we are. I have teachers who subscribe to Educational Leadership and read the magazine and books when they get them. Others are presenters at conferences while others work within the division on different committees. The teachers with whom I work have been willing to be pilot teachers for a whole host of things, from math to ELA and have taken part in benchmarking and test creating.

So, How do we encourage teachers to be life long learners, to invest time in these technologies as they relate to the classroom? We validate what they are doing and then we take the time to show them how they might be able to replace one thing they are doing with something else. Instead of ordering a magazine, they can read online. It saves them money and they can search out articles they want. But to make this replace the other, we need to show them how to search for articles, bookmark online using delicious or Magnolia. We have to take the time to demonstrate that we think it’s important enough that we’ll give our time to help them and then check in on them. Suggest an article and then discuss it with them. Get them to show someone else a great article or website. But give them the time. Heck, show them a site that will make them flashcards so they don’t have to do it themselves.

How do we show them what they are missing out on? I don’t think we can. See, it’s like the poor man that was happy with his life because he had all he needed and was content with it. When asked by a rich neighbour why he didn’t work harder or do more to get more money, the poor man replied that he didn’t need anymore. The rich neighbour, wanting to show the man what he was missing, asked the poor man to come with him the next day to see what he was missing. The poor man agreed.

The next day, the poor man was picked up by a servant who drove him to the mansion. Another servant answered the door and showed him into a very luxurious drawing room where the man waited and listened as his neighbour conducted business with all different kinds of people, arguing about prices and costs, threatening people who owed him money and making deals for lending out more money. At noon, the two had a quick lunch together as the rich man had to rush off to another business meeting. He told his neighbour to make himself at home and enjoy the day. That afternoon, while the poor man walked around, he noted that there was a huge library with beautiful padded chairs and a fireplace but not a book was open. He walked out into a garden in which two servants worked and when he tried to help they would have nothing of it as they didn’t want him to make a mistake with what was being done. All day long he wandered about, seeing people working and hurrying off to tasks but no one smiled or stopped to talk. Of course, there was no family, the man didn’t have time for one. So when the owner arrived home, the poor neighbour thanked him for the day and started off toward home. The rich man was puzzled. Didn’t he want to stay longer? What had happened? The poor man answered that he had seen enough and was sure he liked his life just the way it was. He may not have had servants in his home but when guests came, they would always find a comfortable chair and great conversation. He might not have a beautiful garden but he was allowed to touch and work with his. He could plant and grow and bring forth life without worrying if he displeased someone. He might not have a great library but his one book, the Bible, was worn from being read each day. When people passed by, they would stop and talk, exchange news and gossip with him, not rushing away from him. And truly, he didn’t have the money but what he did have was earned without arguing and meetings and he enjoyed the few things it afforded him. No, he figured that he’d seen enough and was content with what he had. And with a smile, he turned and headed home.

Take a look at how people see you? What do they see? Is trading what they have for what you’re offering going to bring them what they want? Are we offering something that looks inviting? If not, what needs to happen to make it inviting? How can we entice people when we looked tired or stressed or …. ? We can be excited about what we are doing but if we don’t take them along and infect them with the excitement, what will they see?

Now, I just have to practice what I blog;)