What Can Educators Learn?
A couple of days ago, I retweeted a link to “Developing a 2010 Social Media Strategy,” an entry in Venessa Miemis’ blog Emergent by Design. : A Twitter buddy of mine, @GLAnderson, was kind enough to click thru to the post and respond to me.
OK, Gary, here’s my attempt.
I’ve been fascinated by the business world’s response to social media. By many accounts, so has the rest of the world. If I read these materials as a series of metaphors, I see interesting applications to the field of education, and I emerge with loads of new questions to ask. Questions always seem to be the beginning of seeing things new. Who am I thinking of?
Clay Shirky, “producer, programmer, writer,” as well as an adjunct in the New York University Interactive Telecommunications Program. the New York University. Clay Christensen, professor if business, Michael Horn, MBA, & Curtis Johnson, writer & consultant, and authors of Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns. Sir Ken Robinson, creativity expert. Seth Godin, marketeer, whose ideas so often apply to arenas beyond business.
Venessa Miemis is a new and compelling voice for me.
Let’s start at the end. Take these quotes from Venessa’s conclusion and substitute the word “education. ”
Our Western culture is in transition, are we’re just on the front end of realizing that business doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. Perhaps my idea of transforming an industry is a lofty goal, but accomplishing it is more feasible than ever. We now have the social technology tools to communicate and connect outside of the established system; the next step is facilitating a new social agreement in how we choose to do business think about teaching, learning, and what’s important to know [new text inserted]….
The idea is to highlight the problem and spark a conversation of how to change it. If a critical mass of people agree to sidestep the system, we can begin to construct something new.
Now let’s go back to her specific plans. She’s talking about using marketing strategies to examine the efficacy of social networking tools (e.g., Ning, Twitter, and a blog) to ‘disrupt’ the status quo in the real estate industry.
While she gets some pushback from business colleagues in the comments, these force me back to her text. I’m struck by her comment, “I think the tools are in place for building new models, but we need to collectively agree to do so.” She’s talking about vision, communication, collaboration, and ultimately, the creation of a ‘team’ of people — in her case, probably a business or group of thought leaders– who are committed to working together to do it [fill in the blank] differently. (Smart mobs, anyone?)
Here’s what I am wondering about vis a vis education.
- What’s our vision?
- Venessa isn’t trying to revolutionize the entire business world, just her little corner of it. I’m an English educator with an interest in possibilities that digital and web-based tools afford for transformation in my field/academic area. (Now there’s a reasonable goal. 😉 ) Naturally, I’m poking around in areas (primarily social networking sites) where people are talking about technology in the broad area of education, so you’ll need to keep that in mind as you read. But no matter what the field, I don’t think we’re talking enough about what we envision for kids, teachers, society when it comes to school & schooling. Maybe we’re too exhausted from high-stakes testing. Maybe we’re looking for one solution that will apply to every state, town, school, teacher, student. Maybe the situation is so overwhelming that we just want to go home from school and forget about it all.
- Is the vision big enough?
- A very wise administrator once told me that in times of change, what people buy into is the vision. I’m wondering if we spend so much energy talking about, arguing for, persuading educators about the value of technology that the message about technology existing in the service of pedagogy slips away. What I care about is, pedagogy to what end?
- What do we mean by reform? Is there one way to see it?
- Where’s the team? How do we find each other? What are the tools for dialogue?
- What are the strategies, tools for action?
So much of what I see as I graze the web seems to focus on talking about the problem(s). Why won’t they [fill in the blank with your own group– administrators, policy makers, parents, etc.] ______________ [fill in the blank: e.g., get us computers, unblock social media sites, let us use cell phones for instruction, etc.] And then there’s the matter of specificity. Discussions about change or reform seem to revolve around big ideas, like innovation. What does that mean?
We live and work in a rapidly globalizing world, where barriers and boundaries of all kinds are fading, yet we teach in academic silos. English, History, Math…. Where are the discussions about interdisciplinarity? Cross-school or district or state or world collaborations? I think about projects like iEarn, or the amazing and creative teacher-to-teacher connections and collaborations that are happening without much fanfare.
What would happen if little cohorts of teachers came together, physically or virtually, to create experiments similar to the one Venessa describes in her blog? Identify a shared issue or problem, devise some strategies they’ll use to inquire into the problem (& possible solutions), and, once they have some results, articulate a vision, find or make a team, communicate/dialogue, commit together to shared action toward a larger vision?
I don’t think large-scale solutions are possible or realistic right now. I believe that we are at the point where teachers must propel change, and we need all the ideas we can get.
So, Gary, that’s the thinking behind my tweet. I hope it makes some sense.