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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.

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