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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?

Currently there are "5 comments" on this Article:

  1. Tracie Weisz says:

    I think that there have always been teachers who wanted to share for the same reasons they want to share now – not only to put something out there, but knowing that putting it out there made it belong to everyone. Once it’s out there and belongs to everyone you want to follow it, see what it links up with, how it evolves and changes, and how it relates to what others are thinking/doing. You put it out there because you want something new to come back. There have always been teachers who wanted that, but before the technology was there it was a crap shoot. You might get something back or have a collaborative opportunity, or you might not. Getting a receptive audience was difficult. Now, your receptive audience only needs to be one person – they are astonishingly easy to find, and through technology they are astonishingly well connected.
    There have also always been those insular educators who believe that sharing is a form of “showing off”. For these folks, information only flows in one direction – from administrator to staff, from teacher to student. The “receptive” audience is not important. To those people, an audience is a receptacle, whether it is they themselves as audience members, or their own students.
    I have recently been reading that it takes about 2 years on average for a shared space platform to really take off. This is encouraging to me, as I hear of our administrators wanting to take down our moodle site because “no one is using it”. There are a very small core of us who are using it, for the very reasons you have outlined in your post and I feel in my gut that it is important we continue.

    Thanks for giving me another aspect of this to think about…

  2. When I began teaching, it was the “analog” sharing of fellow teachers that got me through my first years. Without their willingness to share ideas, strategies, materials and experience, I couldn’t have made it. That experience made me want to do the same for other teachers as I learned and grew. I never thought of it as “giving away the goods.” To me, the goal was always to learn and improve my own skillset and the best way to do that was always to put my ideas out there for others to use and improve upon.
    It’s only been in the last several years that I’ve become a “digital” sharer and I realize the impact it’s had on my own professional growth. In fact, the ability to share digitally has added another dimension to the analog sharing I do at conferences. The ability to begin a conversation in a digital medium and then continue it when we meet at a conference adds a depth to my learning that I wouldn’t have a chance to gain otherwise.
    I think there’s a need for both digital experiences to extend learning when budgets and time are limited and a need share learning face to face. It shouldn’t be an either-or, but a both-and because by combining the two, the opportunities for learning grow exponentially.

  3. It is interesting that you discuss sharing today. In a recent blog post (Deliciousness from 11/21/08) I talked about how wonderful it is for me to work in a department that has a strong culture of sharing. We collaborate using common network folders, a shared Delicious account, old-fashioned binders and as much common planning time as we can scrape together (usually on our own time during lunch or after school). In fact, I returned to my current school district after several years away largely because of the relationships with colleagues that I had not been able to find anywhere else. Students benefit when teachers share and collaborate. Teachers benefit when they work together toward a common goal. Technology opens the doors more than ever before to collaboration on a global scale. Teaching (and learning) is too difficult to go it alone.

  4. I am a middle aged woman, but a new teacher, and I am sometimes overwhelmed by the complexity of methods, styles, and goals that I must attend to each day. Thank goodness for the other teachers with whom I beg borrow and steal on a daily basis. I love it! I am using new technology in different ways for my various classes and levels of ability, but I must admit that sometimes I miss the connection between students and teacher that I understood as a student. There are so many choices now–I cannot multitask 24 hours a day-it does not make for good teaching. I am not sure it always makes for good learning either. Sometimes it is not about sharing, it is about moving down deep into layers of reading and writing and thinking–and they can’t all operate like my ADHD students, nor should they. I absolutely love every new bit of technology i add to my repertoire, but sometimes I just need to stop and think and remember what they need, not what I just learned. Sharing is good, but it is not all we should do.

  5. [...] wrote in a  post last year , Sharing in Education- Is it Changing?,  about an experience I had with a colleague: I remember being told in my first year of teaching [...]

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