Wednesday, March 28, 2007

When We are Ready, and No Sooner

A few of the administrators I work with are really beginning to struggle with what their schools will have to look like in a few years, and much like I spoke about a while ago, it's the wrestling with limitations that makes for vigorous creativity. Brad is struggling to gain traction blogging with his faculty, yet he knows that there is real pedagogical benefit for his staff in this type of participation. Thinking about this as I have some time on my hands at the moment, I came across George Siemens' (who always seems to do this to me) post Learning with Networks. In it, he reflects on Terry Anderson's post of the same name. Anderson's conclusion is what Siemens looks at in his post, but I was more interested in Siemens' response:
I can't think of any model other than networks that is capable of
adjusting and reacting at the required pace and manner. But the real
problem is not identifying the solution to our current challenges. The
real problem rests in implementation. When we move to networks, we need to change pretty much everything else. It's like a software program
that has been written in one language, and we are now trying to write
it in another. We can't simply add on and tweak. In education, we
basically have to start over...rethinking curriculum, teaching,
learning, the role of technology, and so on. I don't think we are under
enough pressure yet to make changes of that scale.

What pressure do educators/administrators feel to move away from traditional methods towards blogging as professional practice? It's the whole horse and water thing here. We have to find something to make our staff not want, but need to buy into this. Right now, there is no tipping point in sight, but I think Siemens, and Stephen Downes, as well as a host of others, are spreading the word about the value of learning networks that include blogging and other forms of informal learning mixed with formal classrooms.

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Scott said...

Right on, Patrick. I suspect there'll always be that constituency that demands quantifiable evidence and won't give blogging as professional practice a second look---until someone does a study demonstrating teacher change with positive impact on student learning. In the meantime, it's tough not to engage in full-blown blogvangelism.

George Siemens says the move to networks will have to be radical---sort of a punctuated equilibrium model where the overhaul will be sudden (and hopefully not catastrophic) rather than gradual. Coming at it from a higher ed perspective, working with practicing teachers on their professional development, I hope that's not how it plays out. There ARE valuable professional development models out there that harmonize nicely with this notion of personal learning networks. Maybe if enough pioneering horses start drinking the water, a gentle culture shift will happen.

Anyway. It's late, and coherence is slipping away fast. Enjoying your blog immensely.

Patrick Higgins said...


Here is what I love about using this blog as professional development: the constant push for better understanding that it encourages. Whether or not I get an entire staff to come to this format, if I can get a handful, that just might be the tipping point.

I agree with the point you make about the change not being radical. My experience with radical changes in school policy on the local level have almost always been negative. Teachers, educators, and administrators rarely seem to do well with across the board shifts in anything, let alone the backbone of their profession: curriculum. And as well they shouldn't--I think we learn better by assimilating information into our current practices until the new information proves itself better at serving us. This idea of the PLN is one that I wholeheartedly believe will do just that.