Sharing in Education- Is it Changing?

I recently attended a conference of independent schools here in Florida/USA. Administrators gather on one day to attend sessions, mingle at lunches and dinners, schmooze with each other in the hallway and talk about what is going on in their schools and jobs. Classroom teachers are invited on the second day to do the same.  Clearly the organizers and attendees see the value in networking as they gather at special interest breakfasts, lunches, cocktails or dinners. Some also must see the value in sharing as there are several concurrent sessions offered and well attended.

The question is though how much of the “attending” at these events account for the simple act of”showing up” and not because they are convinced of the power of network and sharing in education. How many do come to make connections and offer their expertize and not only want to show their school or position off in front of their competitors?

One attendee “shared” with me that he was surprised that I invested all this time in sharing presentations, blog posts, resources, thoughts, projects, etc . He can go online and google everything he needed, why would he take the time to share?

How much is the idea of sharing experiences, tips and tricks, downfalls, successes, and anecdotes being valued? Who attends such conferences and consciously seeks opportunities to share?

If we are truly working towards 21st century skills, isn’t collaboration one of them? Isn’t the word “Collaboration” defined as working towards a common goal by sharing knowledge?

The image above is that of a Mate (pronounced Maahteeeh with the “e” like you would pronounce the word elephant). Drinking Mate is a very social event in countries like Argentina and Uruguay and is intended to be shared among good friends and family. The act of drinking mate is in itself social, since there are different roles assigned to the server and drinkers.

My observation at the physical conference and comparing these with the sharing going on in my online Personal Learning Network is striking.

Is there a shift in the way we share and the way we perceive sharing going on? Are we in the process of redefining the importance of sharing?

I hope so.

I remember being told in my first year of teaching by a colleague, that I should be a little bit more careful when offering to share lesson plans, successes or project ideas. She told me that would make me look like a “bragger” and would make others look bad, which they would not be appreciating. I was completely blown away by seeing my genuine interest in sharing taken that way.

Is sharing with colleagues who are in the same building too threatening for some people? Is the physical distance of our online network “safer” for some in order to accept or share?

Will the change in the attitude regarding sharing spill over from the online network to the local/in-house network at one point?

I am not the only one starting to wonder about the Power 2.0, The Power of Sharing. Martha Thornburgh writes in Opening Doors to Digital Learning:

This idea of hoarding knowledge is part of our culture. It sounds very counter intuitive that teachers would be hoarders of knowledge. But there is perceived power in having exclusive knowledge. An idea that if everyone has the resources and access to the knowledge that they might not be needed.

She linked to Will Richardson and his post “The Less You Share, The Less Power You Have” who points out:

it just seems amazing to me that at this point there is no real shift towards publishing more of what we do, more of what our kids do, not only to expand our own knowledge base but to model for our students that potentials of sharing.

Will Richardson also posted Writing to Connect that relates to my thoughts on the change occurring in sharing among educators. He says:

We write to communicate. But now that we are writing in hypertext, in social spaces, in “networked publics,” there’s a whole ‘nother side of it. For as much as I am writing this right now to articulate my thoughts clearly and cogently to anyone who chooses to read it, what I am also attempting to do is connect these ideas to others’ ideas, both in support and in opposition, around this topic. Without rehashing all of those posts about Donald Murray and Jay David Bolter, I’m trying to engage you in some way other than just a nod of the head or a sigh of exasperation. I’m trying to connect you to other ideas, other minds. I want a conversation, and that changes the way I write. And it changes the way we think about teaching writing. This is not simply about publishing, about taking what we did on paper and throwing it up on a blog and patting ourselves on the back.

That is yet another dimension to sharing. Sharing in order to connect your ideas and thoughts to others. In order to make them available to be linked to others, for others to link to you. Richardson links to Planning to Share versus Just Sharing from EdTechPost. He quotes the following passage

Now I contrast that with the learning networks which I inhabit, and in which every single day I share my learning and have knowledge and learning shared back with me. I know it works. I literally don’t think I could do my job any longer without it – the pace of change is too rapid, the number of developments I need to follow and master too great, and without my network I would drown. But I am not drowning, indeed I feel regularly that I am enjoying surfing these waves and glance over to see other surfers right there beside me, silly grins on all of our faces. So it feels to me like it’s working, like we ARE sharing, and thriving because of it.

There is no doubt, that we are in the process of changing the culture of sharing in education. The online version of sharing among educators seems to be at the fore front. We are learning about the power as more and more people are joining the network to take but also to give. Can and will the “analog” version of sharing amongst educators undergo a change too as a result of this?