Friday, May 28, 2010

Open Doors and Echo Chambers

Today I came across a post from Mary-Beth Hertz on Jason T. Bedell's blog. Mary-Beth mentions that she is in the fortunate position of being "surrounded by people who are smart, dedicated and who challenge [her] to think deeply and reflect". Personally I would love to be in this position, however the reality of teaching in many international schools in countries where you don't speak the language, is that most of the time, even if you are surrounded by these people out there in the local community, you are probably not able to contact or communicate with them. It is precisely because of this that my PLN, built up through Twitter and Google Reader, is a real lifeline to me. These people are a daily inspiration to me and have enabled me to have the sorts of conversations and dialogues I wish I could have with local teachers here in Switzerland.

Mary-Beth talks about being in an echo chamber and comments on how it is important to open up to other teachers who are not yet on the same path as you are. This year I have tried my best in my new school to be that open door, to suggest some new ways of doing things and new ways of thinking about things. I'm currently working on a vision for IT and a plan for the next 3 years and I'm asking myself: how accepting will my colleagues be of these changes? Is this vision one that they also have, or may come to share? Are we moving forward fast enough? and even Are we moving forward too fast, and not getting everyone on board with the changes?

Mary-Beth offers the following suggestions for opening doors and encouraging dialogue. I think I need to keep all these in mind, not just in working on a plan for technology for the coming years, but also in giving ongoing support to all of us who are on this learning journey together:

  • Find a colleague who seems open to new things: Even if it’s only one colleague, you can open someone’s mind to new ideas and strike up a conversation.
  • Share: Not only share links, articles, ideas and viewpoints, but share lessons, resources and feedback. Model the “what’s mine is yours” mantra and give, give, give.
  • Don’t keep quiet: When you have an idea, say it. When you see a problem, mention it. When you see something amazing, praise it. When you think you’ve got something really exciting going on in your classroom, drag an administrator in to see it.
  • Be a model for what you believe teaching and learning should look and sound like: The best way to share what you have learned or show a new method or approach is to model it in your own classroom and share it with your colleagues by inviting them in or discussing it with them.
  • Keep the conversation going in the Echo Chamber: You need this conversation for support and to hash out your ideas with people who understand your perspective.
    Photo taken in Hue, Vietnam

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