Sep 17 2013

Collaboration Can Transform Education. We Just Need to Commit to It

Many educators talk about the power of connectivity, but how many actually practice what they preach?

It’s 2013. More than 4 million tweets are sent per day, and the first ARPANET email was sent back in 1971.

So why do so many of us still communicate like it’s 1993 and exclude the broader eyes and ears from the ideas being exchanged in our schools?

Tim Holt, a longtime instructional-technology specialist and an EdTech Must-Read IT Blogger, wrote on his Holt Think Tumblr about an experience he had that left him wondering why we don’t take advantage of the collaboration tools in front of us.

Yesterday I was in a meeting of elementary school principals. This was a regular meeting held on a monthly basis. I have not attended those meetings for the most part in the past, and sort of just invited myself to this one.

During part of the meeting, two of them were asked to present on some best practice that they had instituted at their campuses. The presentations went pretty well, and for the most part the content was usable (although I didn’t agree with one of the REASONS that they were doing one of the techniques: raise test scores vs. actual learning content). So, a room of 50 people got to see these two presentations.

What I thought about later was not so much about the content of the presentation, but more about why this very shareable information was not posted online for everyone to see? That information was limited to the 50 or so people in that room. If someone was missing, or had to step out, then they missed the information. If someone wanted to revisit the presentation, they would have to ask the presenter.

You would think that in an age where social media is the norm, information sharing would be second nature by now. But it’s not. And it’s something that educators and administrators have to work at constantly to overcome.

When an educator presents or puts content together for the classroom, it should also go online. That lesson plan or blog post could be the spark that another educator across the country needs to kick-start an innovative project in his or her classroom.

Considering the broader shift toward on-demand media consumption, educators owe it to themselves, their peers and their students to regularly extend in-person experiences to the online world.

When 24 hours a day, 7 days a week Netflix reigns supreme, why are so many educators expecting the crowds to show up on Friday nights at Blockbuster?

The people interested in your thoughts are not just the ones who can make it at the allotted time in the allotted place.

In his post about the elementary school principals’ presentation, Holt knocks through many of the excuses that he encounters when he questions educators on why they aren't actively fostering collaboration in education. Holt particularly doesn’t buy that educators “don’t have time” to write, share or post content online.

Sharing should be something that you value, and sharing with a wide audience takes as much time as sharing with your faculty and staff. I know of a few connected educators that make a 15-30 minute a day commitment, usually in the morning, to write. They tell me that this allows them to get their mental juices flowing for the day (not unlike doing morning exercise). If you find that your plate is full, then remove some of the junk food from it.

The walls of the school are inconsequential today. The web connects every classroom to the world, and conversations should flow in and out of the school as freely as its students do. We have the tools, so what are we waiting for?


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