In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists. Eric Hoffer, Quoted by Will Richardson and Rob Mancabelli in Personal Learning Networks: Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education
cc licensed image shared by flicker user Rosaura Ochoa
This Friday, February 3rd, marked the one year anniversary of my signing up for twitter. An engaging keynote speech by educational technology leader Alan November at a conference I attended had piqued my curiosity. And still, I tarried. A full year from that thought-provoking keynote address came and went. During that year, I gently waded into the waters of social media, starting a blog for parents in my school and reading a few educational blog posts I received via Facebook.
I was struggling; charged with implementing an ambitious educational strategic plan, the magnitude of which none of us who had been involved in its design had initially understood. We were grappling with questions of the early twenty-first century, primarily how to prepare students in this rapidly changing world for a future we cannot imagine. The learning and leadership tasks, which were in and of themselves daunting, together presented significant new perspectives on schooling. I recognized the need to stretch my thinking beyond the training I had received in the doctoral program in education I completed in 1998 and beyond my decade plus worth of experience as a principal.
Although decidedly skeptical about how much could be expressed in 140 characters, I embraced the possibilities of a medium utterly new to me, hoping to find insight and support in leading a process of change in my school. What I didn’t bargain for was the change and transformation that would occur within me.
I embarked on a journey I lovingly refer to as “twitter travel”.
Twitter travel is not an expression I’d ever heard before. It’s my own terminology for a journey that has changed the way I learn. On a daily basis I travel the world from my computer, ipad or phone, conversing with inspiring educators around the globe. I not only travel geographically, but even humbly broach movement through time, gaining small glimpses into the future of schooling and learning with colleagues who have pushed the boundaries of education. I reflect, question, find resources, collaborate and wonder with educators who share my passions and interests in an informal, yet potent, professional learning network that is fluid, flexible, creative and profoundly meaningful.
So, how am I different as a result of my twitter travel?
Through my participation in organizing international #NoOfficeDay on which educational leaders close their offices and engage all day with students and teachers, I have come to understand the importance as an educational leader not only of “doing” but of “being”; of presence. I now spend dramatically more time not only observing, but actively participating in learning experiences throughout our school; two hours daily in classrooms along with a full day from arrival to dismissal with each of our grades K-5.
Co-moderating the weekly twitter chat #educoach on instructional coaching with Kathy Perret (@kathyperret) and Jessica Johnson (@PrincipalJ), has assisted me to redefine the role of educational leader, finding greater opportunities for teacher leaders and transforming my own job definition to emphasize coaching for professional growth more than evaluation.
Participating on podcasts with the dynamic Jeffrey Bradbury (@TeacherCast) and numerous talented TeacherCast guests has informed my thinking on the role of educational technology, supporting our school to consider how to shift learning with technology from a lab based experience to far greater integration into the classrooms where daily learning occurs.
Actively participating in the weekly #jedchat on Jewish education with wise moderators Rabbi Akevy Greenblatt (@akevy613), Dov Emerson (@dovemerson) and Rabbi Meir Wexler (@RabbiWex) has enabled me to share with Jewish educators serious about the connection between innovative contemporary learning grounded in our ancient, enduring tradition and values. Attending a #140edu conference last summer organized by the energetic super-connector Jeff Pulver (@jeffpulver) opened up imaginative thinking I previously hadn’t had the opportunity to consider. Skype conversations and Google + hangouts with some of the people in my professional learning network on whom I rely has enabled us to extend conversations beyond 140 characters or links to resources. Making a daily habit of reading numerous blog posts by educational thinkers inspires and helps me reflect. And finally, I have taken what for me is a significant step of engagement, beginning my own professional blog.
Perhaps the most substantive change in me is the courage I have gained to acknowledge unabashedly that as an educational leader I can’t offer all the answers, nor even pose all the questions. Instead, it is my task to nurture an environment of creative collaboration focused on student learning and growth. That is a far more complex task than I ever could have recognized at the beginning of my twitter travel.
And so, I end with my personal connection to the Eric Hoffer quote with which I began. These are times of change. It is our responsibility as educators to support our students to be learners who will inherit the earth. It is also our task to help them escape the very real danger of becoming the learned and finding themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.
I am grateful to my twitter travel for helping me to become one of the learners. I’d love for you to share ways in which you are among the learners rather than the learned and look forward to our continued learning journey together. Happy traveling!