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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Way back in the 20th century when a collaborative-spirited administrator would come across a helpful article in an education journal about some new methodology or pedagogy, he or she would share it with the faculty -- if possible. The methods of collaboration were not as sophisticated or convenient as today. Often the replication of an article fell to a typist who could type on a mimeo sheet for the purpose of reproducing copies for the members of the faculty. Later in the century, the thermo fax enabled copying the document directly to a duplicating sheet. Distribution of the article then relied on someone placing a copy in each faculty member's mailbox in the main office. It was a time-consuming project not practiced by many and used sparingly by those who did.

Sharing Their Voices

Technology through the years has made the entire process much easier. The idea of sharing an article is second nature to most educators today. Three words have transformed the world of collaboration: copy, paste, and send. Any article including pictures, graphs, audio recordings and even videos can be copied and distributed through email to an entire faculty in a matter of minutes. Many administrators can even do this anywhere at any time without the aid of a skilled assistant.

Today's technology has taken us even further. We have the ability to go beyond the simple forms of consuming and distributing information. We are now able to interact with that information and the people who provide it. With the evolution of websites into weblogs, educators can easily consume blog posts, respond, interact, share, and even create their own reflective post in response. All of this is done in the view of other educators, who may also weigh in on any topic of their own choosing. This all offers a level of transparency on all topics of education that could not otherwise be experienced on this scale.

Blogs are giving voice to educators who have often been closed out of the discussions of education taking place around the country. For decades, the print media decided what was read-worthy. Education journals focused on determining what the focus in education should be. Today, blog posts written most often by practicing educators are leading the way to deep discussion. In a culture driven by technology, change is rapid and ongoing. If we are standing still, we are really falling behind. Relevance is important in what we do as educators. In order to maintain that relevance, blogs become an important tool for all of us.

A World of Ongoing Dialogue

Blogs offer a level of interactivity in real time that was never present in the print media form of education journals. Readers may comment directly to the author with questions, critiques, or reflections on the post. They can also refer the author to other posts which share views that strengthen or question the post's position. All of this makes any post an interactive exercise as opposed to a stagnant presentation of a single writer's view.

Access to education blogs is fairly easy. On Twitter, recommendations of blog posts are a constant source for tweets. Apps like Flipboard and Zite present posts in an easy-to-view magazine format. Sites like Teach 100 do a daily list of hundreds of the most influential education blogs that can be accessed by a click. For the more tech-savvy educators, RSS feeds deliver favorite blogs directly to the desktop every day. All of this offers the educators of today a clear path to maintaining relevance. It also permits them the ability to participate in influencing and creating ideas for methodology and pedagogy.

With the technology at hand today, the computer has become the publisher. Any educator may share his or her thoughts and ideas with the profession. Those very ideas will be held up and scrutinized by other educators who may have opposing views, enthusiastic support, or just a willing compliance. Whatever the result, educators have an opportunity to speak out and involve themselves openly and transparently in the discussion.

Blogs have become a great tool for educators and the profession of education. We need to utilize this potential to share, collaborate, and move forward in a fast-paced, ever-changing world that we have been assigned to prepare generations of kids to live in. If educators cannot remain relevant, they will not remain influential with the very people who should be feeling the effect of their teaching -- their students.

Comments (9)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Aaron Davis's picture
Aaron Davis
Middle Years Teacher from Melbourne, Australia

Great post Tom. I think that vlogging and podcasts could also be added to this list. I was left wondering though why there seems to be a decline in posts from some. Do you HAVE to blog to stay relevant or is it more about engaging with a wider audience to develop the best possible practise for your students and your situation? I think this comes back to my big question 'do you have to share to be connected'? http://readingwritingresponding.blogspot.com.au/2014/04/are-you-really-c...

Robert Schuetz's picture
Robert Schuetz
NBCT - Technology Coordinator, Innovation Coach

Yes Tom, I think all learners need a blog, or at least some digitally supported method of archiving and and sharing evidence of personal learning and growth. The fireplace mantle, the refrigerator door, and three ring binders used to be included as repositories for our learning exemplars. But now in a digital age, what becomes of these ideas and artifacts? To me, a blog is an ideal place to share our learning legacies. Thank you for providing this discussion forum Tom. I am interested in seeing the conversation that follows. Bob

Tom Panarese's picture

And yet I stopped blogging about teaching because I came to the conclusion that my voice wasn't being heard and didn't really matter. The idea of blogging is a good one and it seems democratic, yet there is still a sense that certain voices are more important than others because they are the "thought leaders" or whatever the current buzzword is.

I like the idea of collaborating, especially with people outside my immediate vicinity; however, I refuse to believe that everyone's getting together and happily listening to everyone else when we all know that's not true.

Michael Boezi's picture
Michael Boezi
Writer and Content Strategist

Sharing is good for you! I contend that as an educator, you are writing anyway--so why not share it so that more people can benefit? It can do you some good, too--from a "personal brand" standpoint. Everyone wins!

Here's my case, in an article for EdTech Times: Why Do You Share What You Write? http://bit.ly/ETT-080713

Michael Alderman's picture
Michael Alderman
Content Manager | TEAM Schools

Hi Tom,

Blogs certainly create a space for educators to share their expertise and knowledge, but they also really help new teachers who may be in under-resourced schools.

When I was a new teacher I spent way too much time looking through books at my college library. Eventually I learned to find what I needed online, both on blogs and other teacher resource sites, since new teachers are a little strapped for time.

Learning to find what you need online certainly made life easier.

Thanks for sharing!

Michael

sam's picture

You illuminate an important point. When teachers were sharing interesting articles by leaving copies for their colleagues, there was an expectation that, even if the article went unread, the person who received the piece had some interaction with the text - even if it was simply to acknowledge receipt by making the effort to recycle it. I am relatively new to the blogging world but it seems your experience could be quite widespread. Educators are busy people and free time to surf blogs is scarce.
I would like to use my time to interact with other educators directly - unless I am seeking dialogue on a specific topic or question. Writing to ruminate is a personal luxury for me.
It must be summer.

C.S. Stone's picture
C.S. Stone
8th grade Science, Hammond, Indiana

I blog, trying to reflect and put my thoughts out there at least once a week. I find it a great way to gather my thoughts and to share things I've learned. I will admit, its harder to do during the school year than the summer, but because I love to write anyway, its a great outlet for me. Sometimes, all I do is share something I've read or a video I've seen. Other times, I rant or vent or review. My blog is about 18 months old now with about 80 followers (shocking, right?) Its a way to share. I like it. come visit sometime http://solve4why.org

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal
Facilitator

I blog- but I don't make every post public. I think people reflect in different ways and sometimes it's valuable to make that internal process public. Sometimes not. The reflection is what matters. Blog, vlog, tweet, pin...whatever floats your boat. It all adds to the larger knowledge base and it's all google-able.

christik's picture

I believe the best benefit of having a blog is that every individual has the opportunity to expand and express themselves in a meaningful learning experience. I find the most important part of blogging is the knowledge acquired through the discussions and sharing of ideas. This sharing will add to the diversity and quality of the interactions, and is a valuable classroom enrichment tool. One of the positive effects of having a blog is that it gives the writer the ability to influence personal and professional learning.

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