Today I drove nearly four hours (round-trip) in order to talk with 8 teachers from rural school districts in Colorado about blogging in the classroom. The meeting was in one of the most out of the way (and beautiful) places imaginable, Leadville. I tell you this not to rouse your sympathies for a long and hard drive or to lull you into a state of wonderment at my dedication to teaching others about school 2.0, but rather to tell you about the realization I had in Leadville about how Living Examples of collaboration start and continue to grow.
The social network that many of us have come to love, Classroom 2.0, is a space for teachers to come together and share ideas for and stories about teaching in the 21st century. Yet, so far, it has not been an avenue for turning on “would-be advocates” to social media. It has basically been a way of aggregating all of the great minds that are already engaged in the authentic use of technology. Although we may be able to see Classroom 2.0 as a living example of collaboration, most other people won’t. They will see it as a teacher-based myspace, a place where work and play blend into this muddy mixture that can not possibly pay attention to the details of an individual classroom.
So, if Classroom 2.0 isn’t it, then what are the Living Examples of collaboration that The Ripe Environment requires?
Well, I don’t have to look to much further than the hour and half I spent with these eight teachers. In fact, I don’t have to much further than the first few minutes I spent with them. In those beginning moments of our time together, I asked the following question: “How would your writing (and writing instruction) change if the form and content of your writing were separable?” Now, there is nothing very special about this question except in that it demands an answer. Most teachers cannot resist a question about how they will or will not change their teaching in light of a new idea. Better yet, this question does not ask for a generic answer that could have come from anyone, but a real answer that only the individual teacher can provide.
I realized, perhaps too late to make my presentation as good as it could be, that the only thing Living Examples require is action on the part of the newly initiated. If the example of collaboration can go on existing without the new teacher, it isn’t Living in the way that it should. If the type of collaboration is revolutionary but requires no revolutionary step on the part of the person seeing it for the first time, then it is just another piece of noise that can be filtered out.
There are too many collaborations going on in our edublogosphere that require only minimal thought and effort on the part of the observer. Classroom 2.0, for all of its merits, will continue to be an edubloggers’ paradise until new users are made to feel challenged by the very notion of collaboration. Where are the engaging questions that will bring new bloggers into our spaces? Where are the wonderful memes that grab a hold of our attentions? Why aren’t we reaching out with inquiry rather than answers?
We seem to simply accept that everyone should want to use blogs, podcasts, wikis, social networks and all of our other wonderful tools, but we really don’t ask other people if they agree. We need to let others poke holes in our logic/pedagogy. We need to ask others to contribute, not just to the periphery of the conversation, but to the hearty core. We need to let them change our spaces, to create the Living Examples for a new group of teachers, teachers that can get along fine without technology in their classrooms (or at least think they can).
So, those are the things I learned today. Throughout my presentation, the most engaging moments were when I was asking my fellow teachers to think about how they saw blogging working in their classrooms or how they envisioned a shift in their instruction.
The Living Examples, therefore, are time sensitive. They only exist for the moments in which a teacher feels challenged enough to act and collaborate with either the challenger or others who feel the same way. If they do not take advantage of the opportunity they have been confronted with, the same question or line of thinking will never engage them in the same way. They will need another Living Example of collaboration in order to get them into the Ripe Environment, and we need to create it for them.
So, I guess my challenge to anyone who reads this is as follows: What are the questions, ideas for inquiry, or memes that will get teachers and students to create Living Examples for one another?