As I was reading Bradley Shoebottom’s thought-provoking post about “the only constant in life is change – the changing roles of educators” I noticed the possibly related post link below it. I was hooked once again to follow a lead. The post was “The Business of blogging”. The author was Greg Whitby. He had read an article by Ian Grayson in the Australian on blogging in the corporate environment. I read that and then returned to Greg’s site. I mention all this to let you know my habits and how I learn from wandering here and there. I just feel compelled to follow these leads, and the pay-offs are usually great! Anyway, Greg was blogging about how the education sector can learn a lot from industries who are using blogs in productive and creative ways. He went on to state how these tools are no longer fads, but proven technologies that help organizations improve the way they work. Greg asked

“Why is the education sector lagging behind? Why isn’t our industry leading the thinking and application of such capabilities? Surely we must be on about questioning, challenging and innovation, isn’t this part of our core business? Aren’t things like communication, collaboration, personalisation central to the work we do in schools?”

He followed with this:

I am beginning to suspect it’s because educators rarely venture out of their own networks or jump into this world themselves. I don’t think you can effectively engage in this agenda in the abstract, you have to be an active participant. This means that educators have to blog, use wikis, have a facebook page, use del.icio.ous and the like.

I think a big part of why educators are not out of their own networks is that their day is filled with other priorities that the teacher has to accomplish. I wish schools would make reflection and learning time for teachers a priority that nothing could interrupt. Students need the same. I agree that educators need to blog, use wikis, del.icio.ous and the like but until the educators’ learning and growth is truly made a priority within our schools , I don’t think we will make the progress we need to achieve. We need leaders that make this happen. A reflective culture of learning and growing must be nurtured in our schools. Bob Garmston and Bill Powell have written on how it needs to be a cornerstone of our schools’ culture. I could not locate their articles online so if someone has links to them, please share. I have found that using blogs with students to reflect about what they are learning and how they learn lets them write their way into their own understandings. It lets them discover answers to the questions they need to ask. A blogging class of students can work together, reflect, pass ideas back and forth and have the ability to reach out to a larger audience to share and learn from one another. We need to encourage our students to tell the story of what they are learning – not just a regurgitation of the facts but one where they explore how they might use these facts or share how they have applied those learning of facts to something that is going on in their lives. Students need help putting their experiences into words, especially at the elementary level. They are very capable of this but we need to give them lots of opportunities to write about their learning. Blogging is a perfect space for that to happen. That’s one of the ways I’d like to see students using blogging in their classrooms.

My interest was next captured by the 20 or so comments that followed Greg’s post.

Judy O’Connell shared how her professional learning would be practically non-existent if it weren’t for blogging, sharing delicious links, twitter, etc. I know it has been life-changing for me, too. Finding others who share your concerns, your hopes, and especially connecting with those who want shifts in our current education is awesome. We really need education to be leading in this area. It seems insane that we are not.

Another commenter, Roger Pryor pointed out that the internet has provided him with access to other communities of leaders, and the opportunity to learn a plethora of ways which actually enhance, rather than diminish our ability to build human capital. Again, why are our students blocked from this learning? It makes no sense.

And yet another commenter, FManning talks about the culture in her school where all of them, staff and students alike are recognizing that they each have a voice that is worth being heard. She said her Principal has always maintained that reflection and evaluation of their work is of utmost importance in effective learning. Her school’s work with Web2 tools is based on this and this is what she feels is the basis of their success with social networking tools. We need more schools of this nature. I think this is one of the most important things we need to do in our schools – make time for reflection and conversations about the learning, both for teachers and students. We spend so little time on how we learn and way too much time on what we learn. We need to rethink all this.

paint by Yevy Photography, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  Yevy Photography 

The changing roles of educators – all this led me back to the original post I read on Bradleyshoebottom’s Weblog. I thought about his metaphor for his world. He talked of wayfinding and how it can be a useful term for the information domain. He relates that wayfinding was originally used to describe how people find their way around in the physical world. He thinks wayfinding is a useful term for the information domain, because ultimately learners must navigate the confusing number of competing ideas out in the world around any particular subject. He asks the question,

“Can we teach wayfinding? Or is wayfinding incredibly personal?”

He feels it is both and says we can teach the elements of wayfinding and use many of these internet tools in the process. I like the way he is thinking about this and it’s given me lots of food for thought. I think we should be teaching it and then having conversations about the journeys so that we can learn from each other. And I wonder how might we get change to move a little faster in our educational world?

Flickr photo paint from buenosaurus photostream