I’m not sure if you have had this experience, but the last thing I expected while travelling in Greece on a pilgrimage with Catholic Education colleagues was to be approached by two fellow Australians who recognised me from my Twitter profile.
A 21st century encounter with my colleagues developed through social networking.
It was a powerful moment to connect ‘face to face’ with people who had become my professional colleagues in a very 21st century kind of way. Social media is a phenomenon that’s here to stay and one that has made it possible to connect with people outside your physical sphere on a daily basis to share thinking, learning and ideas. This chance encounter helped me realise that the professional learning community we are a part of via Twitter or other online tools might feel mostly ‘virtual’ but it is real. It’s not just a world of ideas, it is a community of educators who share a common interest to improve learning and teaching. What we share online has the potential to encourage, inspire and stretch us to improve the work we do and the way we go about it.
Recently George Couros (@gcouros) wrote about the importance of using Twitter to not only share information, but to listen and to engage. He made the point that it’s not good enough for schools, organisations and businesses to just ‘be online’ and share information alone. They must listen to those they serve. If we don’t use the tools effectively to engage, to collaborate and participate in the conversation, we risk using a ‘Web 2.0 tool in a Web 1.0 way’ and never take full advantage of its capabilities. Online tools shouldn’t be used as a monologue stream, because the technology is designed for dialogue.
For myself, tools like Twitter and Bluyonder allow me to be part of a global professional learning community and is an opportunity to share my own ideas and engage with the ideas of others for my own professional improvement in the work I do as a system leader.
Bumping into my colleagues in Greece demonstrates the power of this online community and is a good reminder that what we share and do in the virtual world does have an impact in the physical world.
I’ve just returned from presenting at the iNet Conference in Melbourne where I had the opportunity to do a little show and tell…..the iPad. I brought an iPad to demonstrate the point that learners control the device in the learning and not the reverse.
This will excite some and unsettle many educators but we cannot deny what is happening before us – technology that is mobile, content rich and multi-sensory.
The Digital Education Revolution has taught us a valuable lesson – no learning gain is made from giving every student a laptop computer. The real learning happens beforehand when teachers engage in a discussion around the appropriate pedagogies for teaching in an online world.
How do students develop the skills of discernment, research and collaboration using these tools? And can teachers help students make meaning and contextualise information if they are not themselves using the tools?
ACER released its snapshot of digital literacy last month. The results show that disadvantaged students especially in rural and remote areas have not improved over three years and metropolitan students who have, have only marginally improved.
I believe we also need a snapshot of the digital literacy of teachers because only then will we see what impact it is having on student learning, skills and understanding.
One of the must-reads for all schools is the Horizon report K-12 edition 2010, which identifies five trends that will drive the adoption of technology in schools within the next five years:
- Technology is increasingly a means for empowering students, a method for communication and socialising
- Technology continues to profoundly affect the way we work, collaborate, communicate and succeed
- The perceived value of innovation and creativity is increasing
- There is increasing interest in just-in-time, alternate, or non-formal avenues of education, such as online learning, mentoring and independent study
- The way we think of learning environments is changing
The challenge for all schools and systems is how do we build a sustainable narrative about learning in today’s world that rejects the outmoded narrative of an industrial age? How do we ensure schools are ready to deliver the new pedagogies?
Bruce Dixon is the Director of IdeasLab in Victoria. Bruce and his colleagues already see that the where, what, when and how of teaching must change and they’re working to challenge teachers, principals and policy makers. Click here to listen to Bruce.
As a system, we are looking into new ways of utilising technology to support teacher learning in situ. One of the common complaints I hear from leaders is that in leading their schools they are often required to leave their school in order to share and learn from one another.
There is an explosion in the virtual world on sites like TeacherTube, YouTube of teachers sharing their work. I think one of the real benefits is that it encourages teachers who were once reticent to open the doors of their classrooms to now share with a global audience. Wouldn’t it be great if teachers shared practice locally and spread it globally! As a system, the impetus is to find new ways of connecting and building on local experience.
One of my Scottish colleagues Frank Crawford recently reminded me of the educational conference TeachMeet. TM began in Scotland in the 1990s and offer teachers everywhere the chance to tap in to a conversation on learning and teaching. There’s a few happening over the coming months.
I was fortunate to attend one of these conferences last year at an impromptu GregMeet – a great experience and another powerful example of the virtual open classroom.
It’s interesting to watch Twitter move from just another social networking tool to a powerful tool for professional conversations, social commentary and in some cases social change.
I started using Twitter this year and am amazed by the number of educators who are reflecting on their practice, expounding ideas and seeking answers to challenging questions.
Clif Mims recently shared a link in his tweet: letters page from the NY Times on “What Makes a Good Teacher”. It was a great piece that I would have missed and which may have only ever reached a handful of readers if not for the universal reach of Twitter.