Monday, February 09, 2015

Discover, Dream, and Design

creative commons licensed (BY-NC-ND) flickr photo by ChimpLearnGood:
Sunday afternoon I saw the title of this post. The connected educator movement is failing and we're all to blame. That caught my attention-- alot. And I did something I rarely do, I jumped into the comments mainly because the judgment for failure is based on metrics from Twitter and I've strong feelings about....

Very honestly -- I don't know Daniel, the author, and I don't think I've ever been an "edtech" person (whatever that is). Even as a "resource teacher" in the instructional technology office of a very large urban district, I was the one with a Masters degree in curriculum; I was the least "tech" person in the office.  How did I get the job?-- I recognized the power and potential of technology for learning and connecting- opening new windows onto a world for so many. And in all the professional development I have designed and facilitated --learning, collaboration and connecting was the focus. So I guess that was the reason I jumped in, and perhaps not very cogently, as the contents of that post touched the core of my passion.

Here's my comment:

I guess I'm surprised that a focus on Twitter is the metric for determining the failure of educators connecting. What about educators connected through online communities of practice, those connected through the ongoing K12Online conference, and those connected through Connected Educator month, not to mention those connected in ongoing projects with colleagues and classrooms around the world? 
From one who sees connecting as all about connecting with people (see the intro quote in chapter one about human networks in The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in the Digital Age), connecting with context made possible through the affordances of technology-- the possibilities for systemic change we'd like to see happens when we can engage in deep, meaningful and messy collegial conversations. In my humble opinion, a prerequisite for that to happen is a relationship built on trust. Although growing and nurturing trust occurs on Twitter, I think more than 140 characters are needed to immerse in the kinds of discussions that deepen relationships that in turn enable those conversations necessary for change. 
I'm likely one of those you've mentioned who you see as positive to a fault. The angst I feel about certain named "reform" efforts hurts my soul yet I know that our words create our reality and we grow towards that on which we focus and so I'll continue to maintain that positive focus. I'm old; I've been blessed to see and experience the power of connectedness made possible only by the affordances of technology. And I've a deep belief in the importance of relationships in teaching and learning (Barth). Without them (face to face and in online spaces) and without context, how can we even think of engaging in conversations with others?
I'm wondering if an "us" vs "we" mentality contributes to the creation of a wall of resistance? What if all our efforts were about "we". What if our "we" efforts focused on what's working, what's the best of learning in everyone's classroom? And then together, we ask how can "we" grow our collective practice to improve learning for all of our students? And as all voices contribute, we leverage what we've learned from others across the globe into the conversation?

I guess I was hoping that perhaps I was articulating an inclusive approach, an avenue to develop a more collective accomplished connected practice. And I guess I'm advocating for this from a lens not often taken in the "edtech" community, that of appreciative inquiry.

Daniel was generous to reply
Twitter is simply a metric, but I see it as helpful. Tom's insights also are helpful, but again are also just a signal. They obviously don't show the whole picture, but they're a helpful insight. The Twitter numbers are kind of shocking because of the promise that Twitter held for the rest of education in the past few years. Last year it made this Top 100 Tools for education. Clearly, the folks responding to that survey have their own bias. 
Others have reached out to me over the past 24 hours. I have questions like this: "What about all the connections that go on in Schoology and Edmodo: that's "connected education," correct?" 
Sure, there's also places like K12 Online Conference, which is probably a microcosm even compared to the Twitter numbers. We can't judge this by looking through our own glasses, or we get it wrong. Schoology certainly doesn't have a million teachers on it. Looking through Edmodo's communities, they're connecting going on there, but how does that compare to 6.9 million other educators? Microcosms.
We keep looking at things from our own experience, our own schools perspective. What is working for you, is most likely not working for the school down the street. In order to bring the other 6.9 million along, we need to start communicating in a way that empathizes with the non-connected educator.
If a tech tool can eventually bring a physical connection (or a virtual connection that goes beyond Skype or Hangouts)- that's more powerful. How do we make that happen?
Obviously I did a very poor job of sharing my perspective-- at least that's how it feels to me--

Perhaps I've tunnel vision--- yet there is an incredible amount of research around appreciative inquiry as an effective approach to systemic change.

I just so wish I was better able to articulate it's potential--