Over the past few weeks of organizing and hosting K12Online LAN parties, reading about Seth Godin’s new book Tribes, and following the various blog posts from the Connectivism & Connecting Knowledge course offered by George Siemens and Stephen Downes, I have made a bit of a realization:
As much as I love working with students and teachers, and being at the center of 21st century learning at ISB, what would be most useful for our teachers is actually being connected to other teachers at school that share their interests, and can help them learn and grow in the direction they want.
It’s not that I can’t do this with and for our teachers, but if I want this growth to be sustainable it can’t be about me (or about any individual at the school). It has to be something that teachers can do themselves. They have to know who they can reach out to, who has the knowledge or information they need, and who can help them move to the next step.
So, really what I need to be doing is figuring out how to connect our teachers to each other. As odd as this may sound, considering that we all work in the same physical structure every day, many of us don’t know teachers in other divisions (I hardly know any high school teachers, even though this is my second year at ISB) and we most certainly don’t know who is interested in which aspects of teaching and learning in a digital world. Because our days are so jam-packed and busy, we actually need a way to connect asynchronously – even though we are in physical proximity most of the day.
I’ve known for many years just how powerful a network can be, but I seemed to always focus on making those connections with individuals outside my day-to-day work environment, the benefits of being able to find a like-minded colleague without having the fortune of physically sharing a teaching space. But, over the last few years, we’ve planted enough seeds around the school, spread out throughout each division, that we actually may have a network of learners right here, working together every day, and we just haven’t realized it yet.
At our last ISB21 Team meeting, we talked about this and Jeff and I came up with an idea: start a social network at school using our Elgg install. We can create a group, Jeff and I will populate it with relevant information, videos, images, etc before inviting other teachers, and then share it with our dedicated early adopters so they can add even more. Eventually we can share the group with the whole school to see where it goes. Even if we only connect a small group of teachers that wouldn’t otherwise be connected, it will be worth it!
Here are the benefits we’ve thought of:
- It’s hosted at school, so it’s fast and we don’t have to rely on an outside connection (often tenuous at best in Bangkok) – a better choice for us than something like Ning.
- It’s private, just for ISB staff, which may help teachers feel safer sharing and learning in a new environment.
- We’re planning to run a survey using ProfilerPro in January (Chad’s brilliant idea) which will graphically represent areas (and individuals) where the school is strong in their use and understanding of technology. This survey would allow teachers to find other individuals in the school that have the skill set their looking for and the social network would provide a place for them to connect outside of their extremely busy school-day schedules.
- By allowing teachers to learn from each other we’re enabling them to be self-directed and independent, while still providing a basic structure for how to get started. This could be a gateway to developing a more international personal learning network once they see the value of connecting this way.
- By connecting our various seedlings around the school, we’re hoping more will grow. The “look what she’s doing – I want to do that too” mentality.
- By using this tool for their own learning, teachers will be more likely to see how relevant appropriate it can be for classroom use.
- By connecting peers to each other, we’re taking away some of the dependence on us, allowing individuals to continue to sustain their learning beyond our tenure at the school.
- We could invite incoming teachers into the group before they arrive, allowing them to get a first-hand look at what teachers are learning about at ISB.
What do you think? Are we onto something? Is something important missing? Has anyone else tried this at their school? What were the results?