June 15, 2006

Joining the Conversation

On Tuesday, I spoke to some 70 school administrators in our school division on the changing classroom. The idea was to continue to create an awareness of many of the new ways we can do school as a result of the Read/Write web. Will was gracious enough to pop by for a few minutes via Skype and talk about his experience. One question that was asked was, “how do we go about influencing teachers to explore these new technologies and new ways of teaching and learning?” Will’s response was to the begin by reading blogs. Find out what others are saying and doing and then decide how to jump in. (Will you can rephrase if you like)

I remember Alan talking about this over a year ago and wondering if he should be having teachers create blogs during his introductory workshops or have them spend time reading first. I responded at the time saying I didn’t think order was important. I think I was wrong. If learning really is a conversation let’s talk about how we join conversations. It seems to me that more and more people are becoming aware that there is a great conversation happening. They’ve heard about it and are starting to peer into the window.

But like we’ve all been taught, when you want to join a conversation, it’s usually best you listen for a while and find out which conversations you’d like to join. Standing in the corner of the room and just talking usually doesn’t attract much of a crowd although it can get you some strange looks. The problem is the existing conversations are so engaging, most don’t notice if outsiders are trying to start new ones. So the best way for others to join and contribute is to be invited in by others, introduce them to a few people they think they’ll connect with and participate with them.

I’ve done this with a few people somewhat successfully. Thinking ahead to my goals for next year, I know I need to focus more on getting them to listen for a while. If they are adminstrators and school leaders I’ll introduce them to Will, David, Miguel, Wes, Ewan and Tim. I’ll encourage teachers to spend time listening to Clarence, Darren, Cheryl, Bob, Bud, Barbara, Anne, and Konrad.

I know at first it’s always a bit awkward. But there’s more interest in spending time in these conversations. Clarence is talking about doing this with his students. That’s the real important conversation. But if we as educators have never entered into a global conversation, it’s not likely we’ll ever create that opportunity for our students. But as we all know and I told the administrators, kids are already having them so when will we?