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Sunday, 26 April 2015

Left behind.

Today I want to comment on those people in our schools, even whole schools, that are being left behind. Chances are that by blogging about this, I am preaching to the converted. However dear converted, if you agree with what I say here, consider printing a copy and leaving it strewn across the staff room, in someone's (or everyone's) pigeon hole or wrapped in a bow with a chocolate attached on a someone's desk. 

The last 15 years has seen the introduction of NCEA, a new curriculum and national standards in New Zealand. As well as this, there has been more schools that have introduced bring your own device and other technology related changes including email taking on a central role in teacher's lives. We have also seen the introduction of more and more modern learning environments and the arrival of MOOCs (massive open online courses, often free courses that allow anyone from any part of the world free/cheap access to courses from Stanford, Harvard, Oxford, Yale and more). There is no question about it, change is non stop (for more about this read my post about the role of 'change' in the future of education).  For some, all these changes might feel like a passing fad, and that there is no need for them to invest too much time or energy into considering the effect of these. There is however one change that I hope that fewer educators might stop ignoring, the increasing need to be connected. Let me explain.
  • Being a connected educator means that you are part of learning conversations with those inside and outside of your organisation. Or as the study by Forte et al. puts it ".... through Twitter, teachers forge and maintain professional ties outside their local schools and, in doing so, become conduits for new practices and ideas to move in and out of their local communities ...  teachers are using Twitter as a place to share resources and to make and respond to others’ requests for information." Hence, if you are not part of these conversations, it is likely that you are missing out on the distribution of effort that happens through being connected. It means you are less likely to know about international trends and influences that are or should be impacting the day to day in your classroom and school.
  • As well as not being part of the sharing, curating, discussion that happens when you are connected, it is likely that you are relying on those people in your office or your school to challenge and develop you as a professional. Chances are that you are stuck in an echo chamber, rarely having your views challenged by those outside of your organisation. Chances are, your whole organisation might be stuck in an echo chamber, reinforcing its own misconceptions. Chances are, that you are in a bubble, unaware of how the world outside education has fundamentally shifted, unaware that the job market, the value of a university degree, society, has changed more than any one person can possibly hope to know. Examining change in today's world is like "when we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else".
  • Chances are, that if you are not connected, you are likely to fall behind in both the conversations that discuss and consider new practices and ideas, but also that you are likely to constantly feel the agitation and stress from always being reactive, always being on the back foot. It is Lewis Caroll's Red Queen in education, you have to keep running just to keep up. When you stop running, you are left behind. 

"Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. 
If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!" - Lewis Caroll
Image Source or E-Book 

  • You might argue that you read professionally and that is enough for your learning. However, as Margaret Wheatley puts it, "real power and energy is generated through relationships. The patterns of relationships and the capacities to form them are more important than tasks, functions, roles and positions." Power and energy in our profession comes from the relationships that we build, and these need to extend beyond our organisations. Or as social network theorists have explained, "social network theory suspends or challenges assumptions about the meaningfulness of organisational boundaries ... social network theory eliminates the organisation as objects of interest." Hence, educators who are not connected, may not be contributing to the power and energy of our profession. 
  • Research has also identified that connected teachers are more likely to be part of, and driving reform efforts "Our findings portray teachers on Twitter as progressive thinkers who are in a position to build the trust and support networks necessary to strengthen leadership in educational communities and increase the effectiveness of reform efforts" (Fort et al, 2012). Guy Claxton quotes Geoff Mulgan about this in his great book, What's the point of school?, "One of the optical illusions of government is that those inside of it think of themselves as drivers of change ... Yet most far-reaching ideas and changes come from outside ... Most radical change has to start outside government, usually from the bottom [up] rather than the top [down]." If you are not a connected educator, how are you likely to be part of driving the positive changes that our learners need? This idea is further iterated in a report from the OECD when it says that "The complex nature of educational governance, involving myriad layers and actors, can be an overwhelming problem with no clear entry point for policy makers. Traditional approaches, which often focus on questions of top-down versus bottom-up initiatives or levels of decentralisation, are too narrow to effectively address the rapidly evolving and sprawling ecosystems that are modern educational systems. If educational governance is recast as the building of effective networks of strong independent schools collaborating continuously, and sharing knowledge both horizontally and vertically, there is no contradiction between the ideas of devolved power and effective national networks. It may not be that the devolution of power is increasing complexity in the system at all. In fact, increased curricular diversity, broader professional support, and the shared purpose this approach enables create a stronger and more reactive holistic system."

You see, being a connected educator is absolutely critical.

If you are not yet connected. Make sure you join your country's education Twitter chat. Join the great Google+ communities, attend the range of free EdCamps on offer across the world.  Whatever you do, get connected. If you are in New Zealand, join #edchatNZ (see and the range of other great Twitter chats we have. Join the Pond.  Educate yourself dear educator about what it means living successfully in a connected society, leveraging the network for your and your colleague's benefit. 

Daly, A. J. (2010). Social Network Theory and Educational Change. Harvard Education Press. 8 Story Street First Floor, Cambridge, MA 02138.
Forte, A., Humphreys, M., & Park, T. H. (2012, June). Grassroots Professional Development: How Teachers Use Twitter. In ICWSM.
Snyder, S. (2013). The simple, the complicated, and the complex: educational reform through the lens of complexity theory.
Claxton, G. (2013). What's the point of school?: Rediscovering the heart of education. Oneworld Publications.

Cross post from @MissDtheTeacher's blog.


  1. This is my first time reading Edchatnz, quite a compelling argument. I feel encouraged to up my connectedness.

  2. Yet another reason to jump onboard with #edchatNZ... exciting stuff!

  3. Twitter lets you connect with people, express yourself, and discover more about all the things you love.For those who don’t know what a Twitter chat is, it is a way to bring together people from across the globe.
    chat with twitter friends
    Video call with twitter friends



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