This is a difficult subject to write about without being labeled smug, arrogant, conceited or all three, but that is a risk I take. The Bammy Awards took place recently. If you have never heard of The Bammy Awards for educators, there is good reason. They were invented this year.
From the Bammy Awards website, we have this: “The Bammy Awards acknowledge that teachers can’t do it alone and don’t do it alone. The Awards aim to foster cross-discipline recognition of excellence in education, encourage collaboration and respect in and across the various domains, elevate education and education successes in the public eye, and raise the profile and voices of the many undervalued and unrecognized people who are making a difference in the field.”
“The Bammy Awards is organized by BAM Radio Network, which produces education programming for the nation’s leading education associations. BAM Radio is the largest education radio network in the world with 21 channels of education programming available on demand and hosted by the nation’s leading educators and advocates.”
I was doubly honored at the awards in its first year. I was asked to present an award in the Most Outstanding Education Blogger category, and I was recognized along with 19 other bloggers as Outstanding Education Bloggers to be recognized by the Bammy Awards. The stage was filled with educator bloggers who I read, respect and from whom I try to recruit as guest bloggers for SmartBlog on Education, and a great number of those recognized already are regular contributors.
Connected educators from around the world would recognize the Twitter names of those honored. These are their real-world names: Adam Bellow, Angela Maiers, Chris Lehmann, Deven Black, Erin Klein, George Couros, Joyce Valenza, Kelly Tenkley, Joan Young, Kyle Pace, Lisa Nielsen, Mary Beth Hertz, Nicholas Provenzano, Patrick Larkin, Shannon Miller, Shelly Blake-Plock, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, Shelly Terrell, Steven Anderson and Tom Whitby. I know and respect each of these people as individual educators. They each continually contribute and share ideas to move education forward.
And now to the point. I asked most of them a single question that has plagued me ever since I became “connected.” Do the people in your own district know who you are in the connected world? With few exceptions the answer is, “No, they have no idea.” The very people who connected educators look to as the contributors of ideas to the global discussion on education are not recognized by their own peers. They have to fight in their own districts for the same things we all fight for.
Their notoriety and celebrity in the connected world carries no weight whatsoever in the unconnected. They struggle to get permission to attend the very education conferences that they power with their presentations. They are looked up to by connected superintendents, yet may go unrecognized and undervalued by their own principals. How did we get here? What is it about being an unconnected educator that sets out a different set of values than those for connected educators? What makes a person valued in one education setting and unrecognized in another? What makes the connected world of educators so different from the unconnected?
I also recognize that the conversations are different between connected and unconnected individuals. Often, the unconnected need to be brought up to date on many things, which usually cannot be accomplished in one conversation. I was stunned that at a recent faculty meeting where people (unconnected) were intrigued by this new idea of a flipped classroom. “What’s that?”
It is upsetting to me that there are two conversations going on in education. There are two sets of values now in education. Of course, I am counting on the readers of this post to be connected and understanding and appreciating all that I have said. The sad truth is that a majority of our colleagues don’t get it and never will until they become connected.
Being connected is an opportunity for educators to learn and maintain relevance. It is not arrogance or conceit to think this way, but rather the result of a technology-driven world where collaboration through social media can be a tool for the common good. We need to work harder at getting people to connect if we want to move forward at a faster pace to reform. I also like the celebrity sometimes.
Tom Whitby (@tomwhitby) is an adjunct professor of education at St. Joseph’s College in New York. He came to that position after 34 years as a secondary English teacher in the public school system. He was recognized with an Edublog Award for the Most Influential Educational Twitter Series, #Edchat, which he co-founded. Whitby also created The Educator’s PLN and two LinkedIn groups, Technology-Using Professors and Twitter-Using Educators.