I’m excited about all the new things going on with sharing, especially as it relates to personal learning for teachers. There are a lot of new groups forming around the idea of open professional development, connected learning for teachers, and online communities of practice.
I recently took part in a panel on “Building a Culture of Sharing” at SXSWedu and am also involved in a P2PU School of Ed group about “Empower Your Personal Learning,” both of which have gotten me thinking deeply about this.
Here’s my big concern — those of us involved in this are a very small minority of teachers. I could venture to say that well over 95% of teachers are not involved in using the power of social networks to advance their own personal learning.
When I raised this point, someone said to me (paraphrasing), “Well, what’s the problem? Sharing is as easy as breathing.”
I don’t think that’s true. There are many barriers to sharing and engaging in self-directed personal learning. Some relate to time constraints, priorities, and personality characteristics. Some are rooted in fear or lack of agency. More troubling are those based in institutional barriers to sharing.
I would hate to see this movement go down the road of ed tech, where there is a small minority of folks engaged and benefiting, while the vast majority of teachers continue in the way that they have done for decades. Our students are the ones who pay the ultimate price for this.
So what is to be done? How do we involve the other 99% of mainstream teachers in this?
3 thoughts on “We are the 1%”
Teachers learn their place in the educational system because of the expectations their own teachers placed on them.
All through the years of education, children are asked to parrot instead of being particularly creative. There are “right” answers galore. You have to read the textbook so you can answer the questions that come at the end of the chapter. Reading an alternate source might let you succeed, but maybe not. Another source might not be done in the same order. The ultimate goal of preparation is to get enough properly ordered information to be able to pass a test. The goal is to pass the test. The goal is to avoid failing the test. In spite of all the system’s protests to the contrary, unless you pass the test, you are judged deficient. It does not really matter that you understood the connections between the science and the geography and the psychology of the people in the textbook. Those connections went beyond the text. Those connections were not found in questions on the test.
Teachers are “successful” products of the testing system. They passed enough tests to impress the teachers who wrote their college recommendations. They passed enough tests to graduate from college with a BA in education. They liked school enough to want to guide the next generation. If a person hated or even just “didn’t like” education they probably wouldn’t go back to the school environment willingly…with the exception of the inspired reformer.
That reformer might even emerge later when the things which worked for her, a successful school learner, do not work for her classes of 30 different kids. Only a few really shine. Maybe a bigger group move steadily along, but there are those who have trouble staying focused. What does she do with them? If she gets really creative and meets them on their ground, will the broader success of the students translate to success on the standardized tests?
If it does not, how will she be judged, “a failed reformer”?
That reformer might not stay in the classroom. That reformer might be recognized for “leadership” and climb up the ladder to administration. Then the job changes. It isn’t pliable, forming minds which need to be engaged as it was with her students. It is adults, secure in their habits, whose attitudes she now must meet head on. If she’s successful, she will guide her staff to be engaging teachers with classrooms full of eager learners…as long as the eager learners also pass the standardized tests.
If she’s not successful, there’s always a chance to try another school system, one looking for reformers.
If you’ve read this far, you probably have decided that this is a negative post/comment. To this point it is…cautionary.
Taking the place of an outlier is a struggle. Change is slow to propagate from the outliers to the early adopters and even slower to engage the habit-bound majority.
Yet, the good news is: dedication to reform does work.
Ghandi – moving a people into a nation and even he wasn’t 100% successful…two nations instead of one.
M.L.King – removing barriers of segregation
Stepping out from the crowd requires persistence, not letting the crowd draw you back. A reformer must work to get part of a crowd to follow her lead. Then those followers need to attract some more from the crowd, and then some more. The important thing is to keep moving ahead, just maybe not trying to outrace the followers.
“What gets measured, gets managed.”
— Peter Drucker
Let’s explore these questions:
1) What are the measurable outcomes of sharing and engaging in self-directed personal learning?
2) How can we start measuring those?
You don’t even have to create quotas or minimum standards or any kind of formal stick around the metrics… people love to overcome problems, figure out new solutions, and kick-ass. Figure out how to make visible the data that counts, and human nature and spirit will take care of the rest.
Okay, I guess I should be clear: Make *really* visible the data that counts… not a small chart on a personal profile somewhere behind a password; I’m taking big, public, parents-can-see, government-agencies-use-for-reference kinds of visibility. Again, not as a stick, but as a declaration and rally around what is important to us in educational outcomes and as a guide to teachers.