Weekly Reflection: Crowd sourcing education

This week has been the week of the essay. One big huge 5,000 worder, a portfolio on my teaching philosophy. Considering that this blog is a living, breathing artefact of my teaching philosophy the assignment in theory should have been cinch. After all I churn out 1,000 words posts several times a week.

But this assignment put up a fight. Things weren’t going well and at some point I’m sure we got into a ‘you shut up, no you shut up’ fight in my head.  Part of this drama undoubtedly came down to me being well over my studies and in need of a well-earned holiday.

The other part was  that all through the marking criteria I was reminded that I needed to justify my ramblings with ‘the research.’

When I looked at my paper, and I had hardly used any of the readings put on  course reserve in my paper. Instead I found myself mentioning members of my PLN, used classroom blogs, teacher’s blogs, or the authors of works that were recommended via social media.

None of this seemed to fit with the model we are all so familiar with education. We go to school to learn because that’s where the books are and the books have the information. What if the information we are being given is so out of date it almost seems dangerously irrelevant?

One of the readings on the reserve talked about the importance of fostering professional learning communities within schools. Now don’t get me wrong learning is good and I think the more people you have contributing to your learning, the better. However the authors were still conceptualizing learning need to take place within this institutionalized framework. You go somewhere to learn something from somewhere. You need to be at the right place and the right time to learn.

As an almost-teacher this makes sense. I’ll be given a group of kids for a year and we’ll be learning together for the next year in a classroom during school hours and I have colleagues to learn from.

But as an online student this seemed so counter-intuitive. All I need is internet connection and I’m immediately plugged in not just to information, though information is important, but I’m plugged into a network of people who can contribute to my learning, my Personal  Learning Network.

When I look through my twitter feed I start to realize how diverse a group is plugged into my learning. Although the majority are teachers from New Zealand, there’s university professors from Canada, other student teachers from Australia, the UK, the United States and even friends who will challenge my ramblings on the blog. But what is missing is the linkages from my university. I don’t think anyone from the University on the Hill uses social media professionally while all the content and students are locked up behind digital gates. Of course University on the Hill is no different from most institutions, we keeping students and thoughts hidden well hidden from the outside world.

What if instead of viewing institutions as the place you go to learn, they were hubs in a giant network of learning. What if instead of viewing teachers as merely ideas masters they are also there to connect students with people who will help shape their learning.

I guess to some teachers this is a rather scary proposition. If students can get information from somewhere else, what purpose do teachers have in their life? The simple answer is relationships. We are there, amongst other things, to help students develop relationships with ideas, concepts and most importantly people.

Far from being scary letting go of the idea that teachers are in charge of only content knowledge is hugely liberating. Even with my eclectic range of hobbies, there’s no way I could even begin to cover the breadth of interests that the 30 kids in my class next year will bring into the classroom. But what I can help them to do is learn how to crowd source their education, look for people and ideas which will help them to discover and nurture their talents.

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