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What Do You Have to Lose?

December 7, 2010 21st Century Learning, 21st Century Skills, Education 9 Comments

It is a new idea for many classroom teachers/students to move from writing, reading and “doing” work, not only for themselves, supervisors/parents or for a monetary compensation/grade, to share their work openly and freely with others. The idea of putting oneself “out there on the internet” (on a larger scale than the teacher lounge) and publicly “brag” about successes, admit failures, ask for help or document one’s learning and teaching process, feels unnatural and even scares many of them.

It is not the first time I am thinking about this “sharing thing”. You can read about my train of thought by looking at previous posts about the topic:

In the last few months I am reading and hearing more and more about sharing from others. Starting with Dean Shareski‘s keynote at the K12Online Conference 2010 “Sharing, the Moral Imperative“.

Dean starts out his presentation with a strong quote by Ewan Mcintosh.

Dean says that we are in the early stages of a sharing revolution that includes so much more sharing than previous generations would have ever considered. Dean makes us think about how we share so much nowadays, our “immediate presence, location, photos, thoughts, videos, reading lists and more”. He continues to ask: Is sharing an obligation in education? All the “sharing” that was required of teachers before was an occasional presentation at a conference, a faculty meeting or with a colleague down the hall. Sharing was “rare, hard and a luxury”. Now that these obstacles seem to have evaporated due to technology tools and social network platforms, they have been replaced by the “who, where and the how” part of sharing.

What is your reaction to that statement?

You have a moral obligation to share as an educator!

What are your reasons to share or not to share as a teacher?

Alan November in his book “Empowering Students with Technology” says:

Collaboration and sharing knowledge are the highly prized skills. This expectation of collaboration will eventually reach the teaching profession. Teachers will be valued for their ability to share their knowledge and solve problems about teaching and learning than an individual teacher could not solve alone.

Sharing seen as a valued skill for educators? Wow! What a divergence to the concept of teaching behind closed doors and holding on to all the resources, lesson plans and expertise a teacher has developed and reserved for the students they have in front of them. Not only does November predict that sharing will be valued, but he also designates sharing as a “skill”, which is defined as the:

Capacity to do something well; technique, ability. Skills are usually acquired or learned, as opposed to abilities, which are often thought of as innate

If sharing is a skill and a skill is “usually acquired or learned”, then we might have to re-think start thinking about sharing as something we need to point out, incorporate, teach, model and coach others in.

Clay Shirkey also talks about sharing in his book “Cognitive Surplus”. He makes the point, like Shareski, that “sharing” is changing. It has changed because of social media and networking tools, that allow anyone to produce and publish. He is very clear about the effect large quantities of people who share are having on media and society. They share for free, simply because they can and because they enjoy being able to connect with each other. We have not grasped the potential sharing might have on society and more particular on learning and education, due to the vast (and growing) number of people who share and aggregate an infinite number of topics.

Expanding our focus to include producing and sharing doesn’t even require making big shifts in individual behavior to create enormous changes in outcome. The world’s cognitive surplus is so large that small changes can have huge ramifications in aggregate.

We are increasingly becoming one another’s infrastructure. This may be a cold-blooded way of looking at sharing- that we increasingly learn about the world through stranger’s random choices about what to share- but even that has some human benefits.

Our ability to balance consumption with production and sharing, our ability to connect with one another, is transforming the sense of media from a particular sector of the economy to a cheap and globally available tool for organized sharing.

Once we understand the moral imperative  of sharing (Dean Shareski)…once we buy into our part in the cognitive surplus to solve universal problems too big to solve on an individual basis (Clay Shirkey)… once we acknowledge that  sharing knowledge is a valued skill nowadays (Alan November), then we NEED to make “sharing” a vital component of our professional planning, collaboration, curriculum mapping, unit plans,  lesson plans and daily interaction with students.

What do you have to lose?

  • Look at the fifth grade teacher who shared her Christopher Columbus unit with the world by producing a video newscast and is receiving requests for her students to be “experts” to teach others about what they have learned.
  • Look at the fourth grade teacher who uploaded her students’ book trailer videos to her classroom blog only to be contacted by one of the book’s author. They are arranging a Skype call by the author into the classroom.
  • Look at the Middle School Language Arts teacher who shared her student’s essay on the classroom blog only to have the family and friends of the fallen soldier  she wrote about contact them to express a thank you.
  • Look at what happens when I created a blogging unit and someone from St. Petersburg, Russia chose to translate the work into Russian for teachers and students, who most likely I will never meet, to benefit from.
  • Look what happens when a college professor, Alec Couros, creates and shares a diagram of “The Networked Teacher”.
  • Watch more “Amazing Stories” (of sharing) collected by Alan Levine (2009)(2010)

How do you, as an educator, share your wisdom, your experience, your knowledge? How do you enable and encourage your students to share for the sake of sharing? How do you share to contribute to a larger goal of solving a problem or teaching others who you might never meet or hear from?

What are some of the kickbacks you have gotten from sharing on a larger scale?

Take a few minutes to watch Dean’s excellent video and his view on the moral imperative of sharing and… well…share your thoughts!

Currently there are "9 comments" on this Article:

  1. Silvia,
    After reading many incredible blogs from educators who generously share (yours included) I started sharing a year ago by starting my own blog. Yes I was incredibly nervous, after all, I wasn’t an expert – just a teacher writing about some different projects I did with my kids.
    As a result, I’ve met some really great educators from other parts of the world and our students have connected on various projects.
    I will quite often read my posts to my students (since they’re usually about them), hoping to model sharing. My students now blog and connect with other students. As my students and I share via our blogs, the world has opened up. That has been a great, unforeseen kickback.

  2. Chris Hyde says:

    Hi, Silivia.
    I have been a regular reader of your blog for quite some time now and I truly appreciate everything you share! I was also inspired by Dean’s keynote about sharing as a moral imperative, and as a result, I have started asking teachers in my district to provide me with a write-up of different ways they use technology in their classrooms. In a district of our size, there is no way I can know about all the great stuff our teachers are doing, so I enlisted their help. I’ve been using this as a “guest blog” format, and I’m hopeful that even though I’m a little fish in a big pond that it will have some impact. :)
    Thanks again for everything you do and thanks to your post, it looks like I have some new reading material.

    http://baconbytes.wordpress.com/

    Chris

  3. Hi Sylvia,

    Firstly thank you for sharing as always. You’re absolutely right the time is now for sharing and collaborating, there are so many messages and drivers for success when considering sharing.

    I know here in the UK the government is finally recognising the importance of shared expertise and communities of practice and actually experiencing best practice in action, not from just reading a text book.

    I really loved reading your blog and watching Dean’s presentation, for me heathers response clearly sums it all up fabulously. Just be taking small steps in sharing opens up huge potential and models positive practice to the most important elements of education the students!

    I will highlight your blog and Dean’s presentation on our CPD network (http://irisconnecteducatio.ning.com/) as I hope as many educators as possible can get to read and view the above.

    I have recently come across a few teachers who don’t recognise the value in sharing best practice, to give credit to their concerns I feel they have not been shown or taught the skill, and their inhibitions as Heather highlighted about being nervous and not feeling like an expert. I think your right about teaching people how to share, it is a skill and quite often it’s just our own perceptions that inhibit us.

    We are in the age of social media, reducing the implications of cost location and how to share! This is such an exciting time for everyone not just education as we have experts 2 feet in front of our face each and every day just by the click of the button. It’s a simple matter of spending 2 minutes searching or simply asking on somewhere like twitter.

  4. Fantastic post – great info. We agree that educators have a responsibility to share. It is invaluable to not only the teacher community to learn from each other’s successes and ‘failures’, but also to the student community. At http://www.Learning.com we offer several resources and products around this subject. Our new digital learning environment, Sky, enables teachers to integrate any Web resource into their curriculum – and share these with other teachers!

  5. We agree that Educators have a responsibility to share and think it is invaluable to not only the teacher community to learn from each other’s successes and ‘failures’, but also to the student community. At http://www.learning.com we offer several resources and products around this subject. Our new digital learning environment, Sky, allows districts to integrate any Web resources into their curriculum – and share these with other teachers!

  6. [...] the full story, CLICK HERE If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it! Tagged with: [...]

  7. Andrea Mail says:

    My husband and I are extremely grateful to be the parents of 3 students who are benefiting from what Silvia and other faculty members at our school are doing with regard to integrating technology into the classroom. Thank you, Silvia!
    On a daily basis as parents, we encourage our children to share, to be kind and empathetic toward people they encounter physically. Along those lines, we also believe it is critical that children learn how to share/communicate safely, effectively and responsibly in the virtual world of which we are global citizens. How many schools out there are like ours which are teaching these important skills? I hope there are many!
    Our daughters come home each day from school energized by what they are learning and sharing with other children across the world. As our kids attend a Jewish school, technology such as skype and blogs has helped them to better define and appreciate their own religious heritage by learning how to explain and demonstrate it to others. It also has given them an extraordinary opportunity to observe how children in other countries learn, speak and pray.

  8. [...] RevolutionJohn Suter on Wanted: Collaboration Partner for American RevolutionAndrea Mail on What Do You Have to Lose?What do you have to lose? by Langwitches on What Do You Have to [...]

  9. [...] have been thinking about this post since reading Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano’s blog post on what do you have to lose on her Langwitches Blog. The post came to my attention after I clicked on a link that one of the [...]

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