It is clear that education is going through an evolution/revolution due to technology and open sourcing. Our students have opportunities to do, make and discover things that we couldn’t have dreamed of 20 years ago. For some educators, though, this shift can be felt most keenly in the realm of sharing and consuming knowledge and resources online.
Before, many teachers had to rely solely on their administration for updates on professional development opportunities, and sharing was limited to colleagues at a staff meeting or at an occasional conference. Now, sharing is ever-present and democratized, since educators can easily build personal learning networks on forums like Twitter. To share knowledge online, an educator doesn’t need anything more than ideas and a desire to share. The voices of the people in the classrooms are being heard as much as the voices of the administration — this results in some significant, if subtle, changes in educational discourse.
Teachers can now be more empowered to find their own way pedagogically. They can share their experiences more easily and talk more freely with experts — and more easily share what they are expert in.
What are the implications of this shift on school structure? With groups like CTQ’s Teacher Leaders Network, teachers are becoming more aware of this role as leaders of not just students, but other teachers they haven’t ever met — just by virtue of sharing information.
So on one hand, we have an imperative as educators to share our experiences and information. But we also have to deal with some of the possibly unintended repercussions of all this information and open-sourced knowledge; there’s a lot to sift through.
The two of us find ourselves coping with this overwhelming amount of input in different ways. Shara has a tendency to tune it out, potentially missing some pedagogy insights that would really help her in her teaching practice. Jody takes it all in, and tries to apply it all to her teaching, having a hard time discerning what to bring, and what NOT to bring, back into the classroom.
While no one can really make these choices besides you and your administration, there are ways to streamline and categorize all the awesome information that is shared on Twitter, specifically:
- TweetDeck and HootSuite can help you to organize all of your Twitter information in one place.
- Hashtags are helpful to triangulate interest and focus. We specifically follow #caedchat, #sschat and #slowchated
- Lists on Twitter can group users by subject, grade level and geography. This can help narrow your focus if you are looking for just fifth-grade classroom ideas. Thanks to Kory Graham @tritonkory.
- Create Evernote folders for specific topics that you are planning on implementing. For example, when Edudemic comes out with a list of 10 new technologies to use in the classroom, save the link in an Evernote folder to return to when needed.
But this doesn’t completely answer the question of what to do with all this information. How does an educator then discern what to bring back to the classroom or to bring to the attention of their administration? When we were pursuing our teaching credentials, there was a clearer imperative of who we were and how to teach. Now, with all of the voices, it can be easier to lose your voice as a teacher. On one hand, this opens up the silos — all of these amazing ideas are free for the taking. But on the other hand, how does a teacher decide what will be best?
We posed this question to the PLN that we have built on Twitter, and got some worthwhile responses. Brian (@btcostello05) says that he takes one or two ideas that he knows will help his students and cautions to not try too many things at once. Art Laflamme (@artlaflamme) likened it to a Milky Way of ideas that you need to look through to see the constellations. This is wise and poetic advice, but sometimes we feel a nagging guilt each time we pass on a pedagogy, skill or tool that sounds amazing, but doesn’t seem to fit purposefully in our classrooms.
But we wouldn’t give up the ability to consume or create all this content for anything.
So, we put this question to you: How do you sort through the abundance of resources online? Who are your trusted sources of information? What modes have you found that will allow you to make the most out of the endless opportunities we find ourselves presented with today?
Jody Passanisi and Shara Peters are eighth-grade educators in the Los Angeles area. Follow them on Twitter @21centuryteachr. Jody and Shara were named a SmartBlog on Education Editor’s Choice Content Award winner in February.