I have spent the last couple of days in Atlanta for IB training and met some incredible educators from the Atlanta area as well as from Chile, Tortola, and Israel. One of the hallmarks of IB, is International Mindedness.
And yet, although there were some great face to face connections made a the conference, there was very little reference to how we might connect each other virtually. I was very much aware of the few educators who were connected on social media, and how few of them connected their classrooms to experts and other classrooms. Unlike most of the conferences I typically attend, there was no hashtag so I could connect with others. In my own workshop, we had an email list.
This fact was evident to me at the onset. The keynote was extremely good, and showcased an inquiry project in which students became invested in better understanding the Zika virus and yet when it came to the “take action” piece (part of the IB framework), there was no move into the community, no connection with experts. The learning, though very rich, stayed in the classroom with the students. The speaker acknowledged that for next year, the “take action” part will be expanded because a student asked to share the learning with others.
When we had the opportunity to “turn and talk”, I shared how frustrated I was that the “take action” part of the assignment being showcased did not allow students to connect with an authentic audience; to take true action in their community and beyond. The learning literally stayed in the classroom with the students. Before long I connected this math teacher who had never used Twitter for learning with greats like Dan Meyer, Jo Boaeler, Alice Keeler, and my own colleague, Diana Santos. He shared that it never occurred to him to use twitter like that.
This made me ponder the statement, “Isolation is now a choice educators make.” which I have heard George Couros say often. And it’s true. it is a choice. Sort of…
In the following Twitter exchange initiated by Cliff Kraeker referring to a post by David Truss, there was a question as to why some teachers are not open to connecting (by entering into each other’s classes both face to face and virtually). The consensus seemed to be fear.
— Cliff Kraeker (@kraekerc) July 13, 2017
But I am going to propose an alternative reason. That in many cases, people don’t know what they don’t know. This was certainly true for the math teacher.
In my workshop session in particular were teacher-librarians who felt very isolated because they are the only people in their role. And every time I showed someone how they might use Twitter or Facebook for professional learning or to connect a class around an idea, or culminating activity, the teachers I spoke to were very much open to it; it just hadn’t occurred to them to do that. At one point, we were sharing resources and alternatives to databases and I offered to pose the question on Twitter. Within minutes, teacher-librarians from my PLN responded with a plethora of suggestions. Check them out here. You could tell that the teachers in my session were quite surprised.
One moment in particular stood out to me. The Teacher-Librarian from Jerusalem, Israel was drawn to a book called Jerusalem and as she looked through it, she was shocked at the many stereotypes it perpetuated. She shared her concern with me and I suggested she mention it to the Teacher–Librarian (it would be impossible to know the contents of every book in the Library connection). In our conversation, Michelle made a very significant observation. She said, as teachers and teacher-librarians we seek to buy books from diverse perspectives so as to ensure we are being internationally minded and honouring the diversity of our school population. The question is how do we know if there is an inherent bias? We have no real way of knowing because we have a limited understanding of other cultures and places.
So what would stop us from sharing a book title with a class from another culture to have them look through the perspective and biases and share their ideas with one another? I suggested having students create alternative passages, sharing them with each other and affixing a QR code or URL link to the alternative perspective created by the students. We both got so excited about the idea and how easily we could actually accomplish that using technology and social media. What an incredible learning experience for everyone!
People aren’t necessarily afraid of doing that, they just don’t think of doing things like that.
I hope that my book, Social LEADia will help to provide ideas, but I also think it requires all of us who are connected to passionately share how transformational that experience can be for both ourselves and our students, to explore what is possible today that was difficult to accomplish before, and not necessarily assume that teachers are too afraid to do this.