Tools vs. networks

Posted: February 13, 2008 in education, SMiELT2008

Reading the feeds in my Bloglines account this morning, I was interested to see this post by Will Richardson. He is talking about the need to change the culture of education. He says

There are lots of good things happening in the education space around these technologies, no doubt. Lots of teachers and students doing creative, imaginative, connective things, most of which bubble up into my Twitter or RSS readers with more and more regularity. We’re not there yet, but it’s feeling like more people in the room are coming to understand that this isn’t about tools but about networks and learning and leveraging connections…

What Will wants to see, and I don’t think many of us would disagree, are not isolated teachers getting students to intereact and connect with technology but whole schools that promote learning and collaboration and creativity. He acknowledges that many teachers are connected to others around the world (like we are in SMiELT), but that isn’t enough for him. He wants us to connect with the other teachers and with the administration where we work each day. He says

That effective local culture is created when we look at teachers as professional learners and encourage them to collaborate and co-create. And that if we can build a culture of learning and care that is supported by the connections we can make with technology, we can in many ways prepare our students for whatever global connections they might require or avail themselves as they pursue their life’s work.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? We don’t really want to prepare students to use tools that may be gone in 10 months or even ten years; we want to prepare them for whatever tools they choose to use throughout their lives. There is a subtle difference. And that difference, I think, grows out of our approach to the tools we use with our students. It also grows out of this culture that Richardson is talking about. He concludes the post with this:

So, it comes back to what is to me at least, the big question these days. Not how do we help teachers get their brains around these tools in terms of their own personal learning practice (which is still hugely important), but how do we help schools and districts to begin to reshape their culture around learning in more collaborative, connected environments? How do we get to the point where we’re not just seeing individual teachers and classrooms make the shift, but where we are seeing schools as a whole beginning to shift as well?

This is how we change education. Using Twitter won’t do it. Neither will blogging or wikis. Changing education requires a shift in both personal and institutional thinking. It probably requires lots of shifts in thinking. But it isn’t going to happen until we take the interactions we have here, the community we have here in SMiELT and elsewhere online and move it into our schools. That’s one thing I want to think about these last two weeks of this session. How can I do that?  How can I at least help to begin to do that?

  1. Gabriela Sellart says:

    When I started interacting with other teachers online I realized that I really knew more about them and even about their students than I knew about the teachers I work with f2f. A whole year has passed since I started, and now I know that I’m not just interacting, i’m reshaping my thoughts, I’m rethinking my practice, I’m overcoming my personal limitations, all this together with many teacher I’ll probably never meet f2f. So what about the ones I do meet face to face?

    I work in a language institute and in a secondary school. At the language institute I’ve felt a more open attitude but at school… Schools are conservative institutions they don’t run risks, and most of all they are afraid of losing control.

    Next year I’ll have the chance of working with another teacher at school, at least that was promised in the last Department meeting. This gives me some hope. I think that if she gets engaged at least I’ll stop being the only one and maybe others will join in until, finally, the school authorities will have to admit that we’re living in the 21st century. As you can see this is some sort of “guerrilla tactics”, which perhaps just works to make me think I’m doing something.

  2. […] level, not just a personal one. This is what Will was talking about a couple weeks ago and what I wrote about after reading his post. I am not sure, of course, how this will turn out, but I am ready to […]

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