Sharing of learning or sharing as learning?

This year I have jumped on board the social media train. Previously I was fairly ambivalent towards twitter, blogging, personal websites, instagram and other social media forums (and quite frankly negative about facebook). It’s fair to say that I had an epiphany and have become something of a social media evangelist. It started with a solid 6 months of lurking on twitter, a few forays into instagramming and reading the occasional blog. Gradually, almost without me making a conscious decision to do so, lurking became the occasional retweet, then the odd response to a question, question of my own, and before I knew it I was setting up a rotation curation account for educators in Australia (if you don’t already follow it it’s called @EduTweetOz, just hit 2000 followers, we’re very excited) and writing my own blog.

How did this happen? Or perhaps more importantly why?

The short answer is learning. I am by nature a learner, for me social media is like an enormous classroom in the best possible sense. I choose what I want to learn by who I follow and what links I open. I choose how to learn: reading articles, asking questions, engaging in conversations and I choose when I learn; a time and pace that suits me. The biggest shift for me has been realising the importance of sharing. Sharing my opinion, my ideas and my own learning has been an incredibly powerful learning experience. It helps me to clarify my ideas, 140 characters is a great motivator for succinctness. It is an opportunity to reflect in the context of a real question, issue or someone else’s ideas. At times it forces me to defend my beliefs and even, at times, change them. I’m not just sharing what I learn but the very act of sharing helps me to learn.

Watching the Grade 1and 2 students in my class draft, refine and redraft a tweet about their learning for our class twitter account reinforces this even further. There’s no shortage of volunteers to tweet about what they learnt in a lesson and they rise admirably to the challenge of getting the main points across in 140 characters. Sharing this tweet with the rest of the class provokes further discussion as other students have different ideas about what happened in the lesson and, in sharing them, the understanding of the class is refined and improved.

There are the obvious benefits of social media: connecting with learners around the word, access to information, ideas and viewpoints and then there’s the value of sharing. Sharing as part of the learning process, not as an end result in itself of some finished product but as an opportunity to reflect, to challenge and to change.

In the spirit of this, I would really appreciate your thoughts. Does sharing help you learn or is it sending out your thoughts into the universe? What does social media bring to your practice and learning? What else do you do for yourself and your students that uses sharing as learning not of learning?

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Spreading the word

Seeing how quickly @EduTweetOz has grown got me thinking. Yes, building a community of educators is great but what we really need to do is let the rest of our community in on what educators are doing. I think one of the struggles educators face is respect, not from students but from the community. We posted a picture from one of the @EduTweetOz community members to our Facebook page a couple of weeks ago. It was a cute little graphic showing all the things that teachers do outside the face-to-face teaching hours. I was amazed by how many people responded negatively to it. Bringing up the time-honoured ‘but you get so many holidays’ or ‘everyone works hard’ and generally completely missing the point. We weren’t having a go, or suggesting that teachers work harder than anyone else, merely sharing the work we do that goes unseen, the depth of our profession, the extent of the job. Because everyone’s experienced education they think they know what being an educator is about, teaching is so much more than the classroom, the lecture theatre, the face-to-face contact.

When the government talks about raising teacher entry requirements or linking pay to performance in order to attract ‘high calibre’ students into teaching we need to start a conversation about how education as a profession is perceived. It’s not a job you go into (or you should go into) for the holidays or for the short hours, or a job you leave behind when you walk out the school gates. It’s a job that takes passion and commitment and drive. A job that leaves you lying awake at night worrying about the student who didn’t have enough lunch or a clean uniform, or who made a worrying comment to his friend walking to class or the university student who’s started missing classes or how you’re going to get students engaged in writing or chemistry the next day. It’s a job that is about transforming people’s lives.

Here’s my question, while this community is already amazing for educators, is our next step to share this with the non-education professionals? Maybe by raising our profile, by letting people in on the work that we do outside face-to-face teaching, the conversations we engage in to improve ourselves, the drive we have to improve our student’s chances in life, maybe this will help people recognise, value and respect this work.

What if the conversation wasn’t about how to attract the brightest and the best to education? What if the conversations we as educators already have meant people, people with a passion for education, were beating down the doors of schools and universities to get a chance to be part of this incredible profession?

What if we could harness social media, our existing networks and any other means possible to spread the word about educators? This isn’t an issue that separates us into our fields or sectors, this is one that unites us, from long day care educators through to university educators and those of us working outside traditional classroom structures. We need to let the community in on our core business. Everyone’s involved in education, let’s show them what that means.

 

What do you do to share your passion for education?