Connection is Just a Phone Line
I spent last week in Edmonton marking Social Studies 30-1 Diploma Exams. I am not a fan of the exam in any format. However, since my students must write it, I feel it is important for them that I understand what the province is looking for. As well, I find it to be a great opportunity for PD. It has been a while since I last marked the exam. In the time between my marking sessions I have become far more connected than ever before. But, being in a room with 117 other high school teachers demonstrated to me that connected educators are the minority.
I like to think of myself as a connected educator. I try to maintain an active digital and face to face professional learning network. I keep a blog and read a wide variety of blogs. I try to incorporate ideas and feedback into my classroom and utilize my connections in a constructive way. In doing so, however, I think I insulate myself. I created a network of like-minded professionals who think in a similar way as I do. As such, I am surrounded by views which often reflect my own ideas. In many ways, this is a very positive thing. I am challenged to continue to push my thinking by those I speak with and gain more insight into incorporating concepts and processes, which I value, into my classroom. But is there a downside to this insulated network? By surrounding myself with people who think in a similar way to me, am I challenged enough?
My experience marking diploma exams and speaking with a large number of Social Studies teachers opened my eyes to the number of teachers who are not connected or who are not utilizing tech resources in their classroom. As I write this, I realize how egotistical and entitled it sounds. I am fortunate enough to work in a school which has allocated a great amount of financial resources to developing an environment where technology integration is both encouraged and available. As such, I am left thinking about the heart of the issue. Is the problem that teachers are scared or lack the knowledge necessary to incorporate technology into their classrooms or is the issue a lack of funding and financial resources? I would really like some insight from other teachers about this issue. Maybe it really isn’t an issue at all. I guess it is distinctly possible that connected teaching and learning is not essential to the development of engaged students. I don’t believe that but maybe I’m wrong.
Clayton Christensen, in his book Disrupting Class, wrote about an impending technology disruption in education. His premise was that the development of high speed internet access and access to distributed models of teaching and learning would revolutionize how students access both education and information. Much of what Christensen hypothesized about is taking place. In addition, the changing nature of employment and the skills necessary for individuals to be successful as learners in the 21st Century have changed a great deal. Finally, for teachers in Alberta, the provincial government mandated the use of connected teaching and learning in all classrooms. With all this in mind, is it not our responsibility to make the necessary changes in our classrooms to reflect these realities? Or is that just the view of a privileged, white, male teacher? Do we need to be connected in order to effectively help our students?
The title for this post came from my friend D’Arcy Norman. I asked “what are the benefits of being a connected educator.” D’Arcy responded by saying: “connection is just a phone line – you need to do something with it.” I think he is right. What do you think?