There is a price to be paid for community driven learning- TIME. There are only so many hours in a day to invest in reading, learning, writing, and all that goes with being part of a community of learners. The benefits far outweigh the cost, so I am not complaining, however, it is beginning to impact the time I had previously devoted to blogging.
I was reading a post on Our Virtual Class Blog called 2.0 Riptide. He quotes Konrad Glogowski who after finishing his dissertation establishes research questions that he hopes to be able to work on in the near future:
- How do we prepare teachers to teach 21st century learners whose lives are based on rich interactions in multiple online environments?
- How do we help new teachers move away from what Marshall McLuhan once called the “imposing of stencils” and adopt a practice of probing and exploration?
- How do we help new teachers acquire the courage to transform their classrooms into communities of learners and transform themselves into participants who can embed themselves in those communities?
These questions are near and dear to my heart because they are the very questions I have found myself grappling with for the last four years. As I have shared before, years of experience working in several large projects that look directly at these very issues (ENDAPT, TLN, ABPC 21st Century Learners, ASSETOnline and now Powerful Learning Practice) it seems I keep coming full circle to networking, community of practice, true collaboration and what my friend John Norton terms "mutual accountability" among teachers.
John asked recently on TLN, "What's the difference between "negative competitiveness" and a willingness to trade narrow accountability measures from the outside for collaborative accountability -- where teachers hold one another accountable for teaching quality? He suggests that until teachers seize that ground, they will always be on the defensive and easy targets for top-down reform.
One teacher's response caught my attention-
Teachers need to be seen as professional leaders in their districts and communities, leaders able to work together to improve student learning... Teachers are either working as silos, not interested in collaboration, or scared to show their areas of vulnerability for fear of ridicule or reprisal.
To "[seize] that ground", convincing administrators, public opinion, media, etc. that collaborative accountability is the best method for improvement, I believe we must expand our playing field. We need to seize the grounds of media and public opinion regarding education, testing, school and community partnerships, and the nature of improvement and change. This requires organization. Where is the teacher voice?
Then it hit me, this is exactly where participatory media can make its biggest impact. Allowing teachers to network together online first - forming personal learning networks around areas of passion and interest and gaining comfort and trust in the nonthreatening use of the medium helps to give teachers the confidence they need to use these tools to hold each other accountable for learning. Using tools like Twitter, Tapped In, NING, Blogs, wikis, Ustream, Diigo, Elluminate, etc, teachers who understand how to "seize the ground" can apprentice teachers who are emergent in their understanding of such concepts. Conversing and working at it together in spaces that are somewhat separate from the local context, educators can learn within the safety net of the community and develop the self-efficacy skills and boldness needed to generalize what they are learning to their local context.
WHY IS IT EASIER TO COLLABORATE TOGETHER ONLINE THAN IN OUR SCHOOLS?
One of my consulting projects this year has been CTQ's ASSETOnline project. I have had the wonderful experience of working with Anne Jolly, a professional learning community expert. In a recent conversation online she asked teachers if they liked collaboration and if not, why not. In her true researcher form she compiled the results.
Frustrations that lead to a preference for working alone in some cases.
These include . . .
1. Not knowing what collaboration really means
2. Not knowing what is actually expected from those collaborating
3. Insufficient implementation support
4. Not finding real value in collaboration
5. Different teaching philosophies among participants/ little to share
6. Doesn't spring from teacher's needs
7. Dictates and limits from administrators about content for collaborative meetings
8. Teachers left out of decision-making
9. Lack of modeling/understanding of collaboration by administrators
10. Need space to be creative - tricky to do this in teams
11. Lack of training for collaboration
12. Lack of trust and comfort in sharing with other teachers - feeling threatened
13. Not enough time
14. Getting everyone on the team on the same page is hard
15. "I don't like meetings!" :-) - a waste of time that could be spent grading and preparing
16. Need more time for self-reflection rather than group reflection
17. Others on the team pass off other's work as their own
18. Too much talk and not enough action
19. Not enough clout - except in the classroom
20. One person does all the work
21. Merit pay breeds competitiveness rather than sharing
22. The education system is designed for isolation - and the status quo is strong
23. The atmosphere can be punitive
24. The school setting doesn't support collaboration
25. Teachers are overwhelmed and trying to survive difficult situations
26. Lack of communication about changes and the reason for changes
Feeling that collaboration works at times too, such as when . . .
1. Teachers see value in the collaboration
2. Teachers have similar teaching philosophies and complementary skills
3. Collaboration is more natural and spontaneous than structured
4. Collaboration springs from teachers' needs
5. Collaboration is not mandated
6. Teachers make decisions about what they collaborate on
7. Administrators practice what they preach
8. The atmosphere is trusting, respectful, and comforting
9. The school is successful at supporting collaboration
10. Teachers have time to think through together what they want for their kids
11. There is time for introspection as well as collaboration
I am curious-
How do you feel about collaboration? Do you feel safe enough in your school to "seize the ground" or do you hesitate to share for fear of ridicule or reprisal. Do you feel collaboration online is easier than it is locally in your own schools or organizations? Or do you feel the same hesitancy to publish and as a result become "clickable?" Do walled gardens (private online communities of practice) make you feel safer in terms of being transparent enough to hold each other accountable for what kids are learning in our schools?
What is your take?