As I was reading Jennifer Jones' post on viral PD today I found myself thinking how cool it is that in a community we all have a piece of the puzzle. One of the challenges we face in the 21st Century though is how we collectively connect ideas in such a way that the big picture becomes clear and everyone can benefit.
I know what you are thinking- ever heard of RSS Sheryl? (Actually, I have been thinking about RSS a lot lately in the work we are doing with PLP). But more my concern is around *managing* successful viral PD. With all the feeds, Google Alerts, and other information being pulled to each of us, combined with all the responses from each participant in an active, engaged CoP and the viral spin offs of each community as it grows and becomes more successful through the planned scaling - - how does one manage all the information without missing critical pieces?
I am a community organizer by trade. I spend most of my day reading, writing, thinking, and developing community across the nation and around the world. So how do I decide what to keep and what to toss? As we begin to feel the results of successful viral PD opportunities like what happened in Alabama, how will staff developers keep up with it all? For that matter how will *any * of us keep up with it all- with information doubling every two years now and predicted to double every 72 hours by the year 2010?
As I continue to work within the communities with which I am involved, it is wildly gratifying to see the deep and consequential changes in practice taking place over time with the educators who are participating. I know the job embedded model works. What I question is how to maintain these changes in practice over substantial periods of time (sustainability) as the viral impact causes diffusion of the innovation to large numbers of users (spread).
Knowing the role of the community organizer is critical in terms of champion building in the beginning when trust and norms are being developed among members, I question how staff developers who oversee multiple communities of practice in addition to maintaining their own learning through their personal learning networks will keep up?
In Alabama, (which is one of the Microsoft mid-tier Partners in Learning projects) the community is strong and participants have taken ownership in ways that deepen and sustain the original work via adaptation (shift) as they are innovating and revising the outcomes of what we (the designers) originally intended. It is exciting to find my thinking continually challenged and to be pushed to reshape and recreate the model in new and different ways. (evolution) However, I am finding less and less time for sharing what I am thinking, doing and the evidence I am collecting that points to what is working.
How do we find/make time for reflection? I do believe it is critically important to reflect and be transparent as possible about the processes we are using. Why? Because it helps us all move away from a place of privacy and isolation to one of collaboration and innovation. But lately, I find myself so busy with design and implementation that I neglect reflection, even as critical as I believe it is to have your comments inform my thinking.
In Schmoker's "Results Now" he says, Isolation -- 'professional privacy' as Little called it -- explains why exemplary practices never take root in more than a small proportion of classrooms and school. Judith Little found that, "When teachers engage regularly in authentic "joint work" focused on explicit learning goals, ...their collaboration pays off in increased teacher confidence and remarkable gains in achievement."
As more and more teachers reject isolation and seek collaboration, teaching will become more transparent with teams of teachers excited and willing to learn from each other. The idea of sharing and reflecting on 21st Century lesson planning in a virtual community where it can be accessed and reviewed on the Web is one way to help schools move more quickly toward a culture of collaboration and improved teaching and learning!
The Reflective Change Agent
Donald Schon suggests that the best professionals know more than they can put into words. To meet the challenges of their work, they rely less on established models and more on improvisation learned in practice. Basically, we test out our theories and ideas via our blogs and through other participatory media and this allows us to collectively develop and design further. Significantly, to do this we do not closely follow established ideas and techniques - textbook schemes. Rather, we draw on what has gone before (shift and evolution mentioned above) and we can link this process of thinking on our feet with reflection-on-action.
I think this way of thinking about reflection and leading is going to become more important as knowledge creation picks up an even faster pace. There simply will not be time to formally test each change idea so others can review the findings and determine value before implementation. Rather reflection in action, transparency in our process via conversations with experts on the Web will enables us to spend time exploring why we acted as we did, what was happening in a group and so on and inform our practice as we move forward. In so doing we develop sets of questions/answers and this informs our ideas about our activities and practice.
Through our blogs, videos and recordings we should engage the network in our process, not having to have a full understanding of things before we act. With communities of global, experienced professionals pushing our thinking along the way, we will be influenced by, and use, what has gone before, what might come, our repertoire, and the repertoire of the community. As we work collaboratively we will bring collective fragments of memories into play and begin to build theories and responses that fit each new situation. Through this reflective process the change in schools will become more emergent, organic, and viral in nature.
So I invite my readers to continually comment and push my thinking further. I appreciate your voice in my work.