This is a guest post from Harry Brake, an Assistant Librarian and Media Specialist at the American School Foundation in Mexico City. Harry participated in two P2PU courses this year. He is also a NaNoWriMo winner for 2011.
Spending more time with students out of the classroom in Delaware as an educator was an investment not many teachers are willing to make. However, here I am, six years later, after teaching in Delaware for those six, and seeing the very first student I had in those six years getting married, being successful, and being able to use some of the time I provided to help her achieve success. It is true you do not hear the successes, or sometimes see the successes until years later. I remember clearly the teachers that were out the door at the bell. Funny, I remember the students I spent those long hours with after the bell putting together the yearbook, creating a community garden, helping fill out scholarship applications, writing grants for projects we would attend, and that was just a few projects that began the – teaching student how to write grants.
Moving to Mexico started out as a rebellion against all the things I disagree with in education. I sacrificed the very students that helped motivate me to go into the classroom day after day, for the opportunity to be free from state testing, administration rigor that added to the course load, and be more free to help struggling students. When I came across P2PU, I did not think this would be something students could be a part of, let alone would be. However, as I sat there, now an Assistant Librarian in the Upper School Library at the American School Foundation in Mexico City, I was surrounded by student aides (cadets as they are called in Mexico), asking me what I needed them to do. They watched me respond to various articles on line, and often experimenting with programs such as Todaysmeet.com, wikis and other ventures into 2.0 tools I was unsure of, yet they knew. As we collaborated on the “Using Web 2.0 and Social Media to Encourage Deeper Learning” class together, since several members had to drop out, the new students in Mexico became my support group, and became interested in helping me answer from a teacher’s perspective, as well as from a student’s.
One specific example became the Nano site. I found that students in my school were doing Nano too, and when they found out I posted in an area on P2PU encouraging others, they all of a sudden thought I was a “cool” teacher for doing Nano too! On a deeper level, creating a toolkit as a final project for the P2PU course on 2.0 tools, I had the idea of students creating videos out of the library, representing the library, as a project using tools under 2.0 that would instruct others. All of a sudden, students were looking over my shoulders in P2PU encouraged that I was involving them in a project, an “adult project” that they could also help advise and be a part of. When I gave them credit in the toolkit part of the wiki, you would have thought they won Publisher’s Clearing House. It was empowering students to empower the educator. Students created a video on how to check out laptops from a portable cart, for teachers and students, in three days, and it is top notch quality made. The motivation? To be represented in my Wiki project and to receive credit from individuals on a larger plane. It was easy to see I was getting more out of my free P2PU course than similar teachers that were enrolled in Master’s courses. They often questioned what I was working on that involved the students. Was I getting paid? Let me say this, the best internships, jobs, and educational resources I have received have been free, providing priceless relationships with educators from all over the world, communication with some of the most creative students that reminded me why I wanted to be involved in education, while opening my mind to possibilities that existed beyond the initial course or activity I was involved in.
P2PU does not rely on the value of credit, monetary awards, or lauding your efforts in front of a stadium.Finding a way to provide information that YOU can give others in the form of conventions, presentations, and involvement for other educators makes P2PU NOT a one stop educational fix. One course in P2PU allows you to create other ideas, other plans, other projects that build on the first. This is worth so much more when students can be a part of the process. Never in P2PU has it stated or implied students could not help active educators out in thought, planning, or projects. In doing so, I found I had the strongest motivation to participate in more classes, create more classes, and work with students in their medium, technology, in forming classes in P2PU that strengthen education with the very students that are needy for something different. P2PU is certainly about peers among other peers, just don’t be surprised if some of those peers represent a younger generation than yourself. :)