Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Learning Culture We Need but Don't Want or Will we move the School Improvement Conversation to the Next Level?

Here is my comment on the comment Patrick Higgins left in response to my December 23, 2007 post.

[This is my attempt to walk the talk. Online engagement in conversations about our practice. Can we get better at our student learning? I really think so, but we are going to have to stop doing some things and start doing other things if we hope to succeed.]

Hi Patrick,

Glad you dropped by and shared some thoughts.

I do think the ideas I presented in the December 23rd post are replicable in any school or district. If I can elaborate, feel free to get in touch. You can direct message me on Twitter at dennisar.

I think the come-on-along-and-blog with me challenge is much more daunting than you let on. My little experience with it (my web 2.0 birthday - July 2007) tells me that initially it has nothing to do with PD. This is going to seem like a radical notion, but, face it, in education, we don't read and we certainly don't write about the art and science of our practice. I'd go so far as to say that even though we are the learning profession, we do not truly invest in self-directed learning for ourselves. The culture of our profession is more prone to build walls than bridges. For example, I have my degree. Now leave me alone so I can teach.

I make these comments with affection for my colleagues because I count myself a member of this class. I certainly did read about our practice and did write occasionally, but nothing like I have done since creating my wiki in August 2007 (now I have a second one) and this blog. It takes a lot of intellectual scaffolding to gear up to engage in this effort. Learning every day is hard work.

I try to post at least once a week, if not more. I read twitter comments and investigate leads about new ideas , tools, resources, blog posts, articles, and books, and meet people who have similar interests as I do and develop important professional relationships. It is a very stimulating environment that few in our profession want to participate in for a whole variety of reasons. In ten minutes I'm sure you and I could brainstorm a top ten list of reasons teachers and administrators would give for not engaging in reflecting, reading, writing, thinking, and communicating with others about their practice on an ongoing basis, even if it is off line! Isn't that a learning environment? Until that issue is confronted, I do not believe teachers and administrators, in general, will
  • significantly improve schools for students and ourselves,
  • experience the exhilaration of efficacy, regularly,
  • actively participate in online networks,
  • create blogs.
The later two actions, as you and I know, have a synergistic impact on the first two. First, we have to find teachers and administrators willing to our schools into learning cultures.

It is also worth pointing out that although we want students to be life-long learners, we never confront the fact that we may be modeling just the opposite for students. How much richer would our schools be for students if we expected the Framework for 21st Century Skills of ourselves ~ all teachers and administrators, even unions negotiating for learning cultures in all our grades, teams, department, schools, and districts.

I'm not really sure who to blame (I'll take my share) or what all the answers are (I strive for answers in my face to face work and through my online professional network). We need the critical mass of teachers and administrators involved to get beyond blame so we can think critically and creatively so innovative solutions can be owned by all of us for the profession that cherishes student learning above all else.

As a former English teacher, I agree with your comments about the writing process. Writing within the online environment of blogging is similar to other writing. I think it is very intense if presented correctly to students. Others are much more skillful doing that and writing and speaking about that than I am. I think blogging can help students learn a lot and develop net literacies that will serve them well in the future as the world becomes more and more digitally oriented.

Thanks again for stopping by; your comments got me thinking. Without them I would not have posted this morning. That is one reason I blog: the commitment to post causes me to think and write; the comment by someone about my post causes me to think and write in a way that extends my thinking. Well, Patrick, let's see if anyone else offer us their insights on our exchange.

Patrick Higgins left the following comment in response to my December 23, 2007 post.


I figured I would come here and drop my comment off and continue the conversation a little bit.

You lay out a great plan for implementation as a thought and planned process, and I must admit, since reading Kim's post initially, I have had visions of how to organize this meeting with our ed tech and curriculum staff. We need plans like this for addressing exactly how an why we ask our teachers to introduce technology, or better, to embed it into their planning.

As you probably can tell, I am a blog "evangelist" among our district's teachers; There is so much power right at the fingertips of students when you give them space, guidance, and freedom to choose their voice. But that is not to say that we put them there and let them go, yet. We've got much scaffolding to do in order for our students to understand the parameters of writing online and for a relatively unknown audience.

Does blogging or any form of connective writing differ from traditional paper and pen writing? Absolutely; however, there are so many things about it that easily translate: drafting before you publish, proofreading, prompt writing, process writing, relevant topics, finding voice, bringing in expert sources, etc. My biggest stumbling block has been to pull teachers on board to show them how similar the two can be and that the shift, while significant, is not much of a change for them or their students.

December 25, 2007 7:12 AM


Charlene Chausis said...

Ok Dennis, I'm in...

I think you should start the top 10 list by inviting others to either your wiki, or possibly a NING, such as Sharon Betts' "Professional Development 2.0" at http://newlearning.ning.com/ -- and then let's demonstrate ways to overcome the obstacles!! I love that you have offered to walk the talk!! Keep walking!!

Teaching, and any occupation for that matter, should involve reflection. Goals should be set, monitored, and evaluated. Teaching is no different. Technology provides tools to enable collaboration in the reflection... such as in a blog. However, this, I think, is very difficult. Not everyone wants to be a transparent thinker, and I am grateful for educators, like yourself, who realize that it is not showing a weakness, but that there are opportunities to learn because of it.

However, I also believe it is possible to "significantly improve schools for students and ourselves" without technology -- although, the technology is key to providing the means for charting progress, and providing authentic analysis of data with minimal effort. It would be just plain silly to ignore that.

Dennis Richards said...

Great comment, Charlene. How about this: innovation3.ning.com?

Angela Maiers said...

Dennis-great post. As a teacher or teachers, I wholeheartedly agree that even though we are the learning profession, we do not truly invest in self-directed learning for ourselves. The "leave me alone-shut my door" mentality is still pervasive in our profession. I just joined Ning and look forward to great conversations in 2008!

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