What kinds of changes could we make during the next two years?
The most important change to make in education, which is completely doable during the next two years, is to connect many more educators and schools to each other. So many of our schools are isolated silos with people working diligently to recreate the wheel (or involved in educational practices which, while well-intentioned, are harmful to children).
Social media is one way to connect schools, and in the vast expanse of Canada, it may be the best way. Local conferences on an affordable budget, such as Edcamps, are another way. Collaborative blogs, such as this one, are yet another way. The key is, we need to share more of what works (and especially more of what doesn’t work) in Canadian Education, and the landscape is becoming such that this fundamental change (our interconnectedness as schools) is more likely to happen than ever before.
Given the rate of adoption of social media, it seems likely that many more teachers will be involved in using it to connect. We must make sure that we do not forget the social in social media, and that we spend time helping out people new to social media as professional development so they can get through the adoption curve. Too many of us are guilty of sending out endless links through our various social media networks, and not engaging in enough meaningful conversation. I’ve found Twitter to be an incredibly valuable tool for social media, but I remember how lonely it was before I started connecting to other educators through the service.
One area that is especially missing in social media is the voice of the more traditional teacher. While many progressive educators will disagree with their methods and ideas, they provide good questions that we should ask ourselves when implementing change. Finding the answers to these questions will either lead us to a better implementation of a program; or in some cases, the answers we find may require us to abandon a practice.
We also need more voices from aboriginal education. We need to watch out for making lists of people to follow on Twitter which exclude important voices; the best list of people to follow on Twitter is one that includes a variety of perspectives and ideologies. We need to spend less time sharing links to our own blogs, and spend more time commenting on other people’s blogs.
We also need to remember that the digital connections we have formed are not substitutes for our existing connections; they are in addition to these connections. We still need to meet and see each other in person to build lasting relationships. However, our digital connections can be long-lasting and sustained if we remember that there are people on the other end of those digital connections, and that those people have stories, thoughts, and emotions. Through those connections, we will strengthen our education system.