Lesson #1 Share

One presentation I’m working on is called “Lesson#1 Share everything”. It’s based on Robert Fulgham’s book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. His first lesson is share everything. Of course my presentation will center around publishing and sharing ideas. I could write a book called All I Really Need to Know I Learned From My Network.  Maybe not everything but obviously those who are part of my learning network and others can attest to its power and importance. This is the basis of the network, people’s desire and ability to share their learning.

I get really frustrated when someone tells me about an outstanding teacher and I can’t find hide nor hair of their work online. What a waste. If they are as good as others say they are, why not share that with others?  They’ll tell me their kids made a great video, learned something great from an experiment or gave a great presentation but it means very little to me unless I can be part of it too. But even those who have the means and understanding aren’t sharing like they ought to. Some even offline don’t share much. Part of it is culture. I remember the first conference I attended as a young teacher. In order to be reimbursed for my expenses, I had to complete not only an expense form but a form asking what I had learned and if I would be willing to share it with other teachers. I anxiously filled out all the neat stuff I had learned and happily checked the box indicating I would love to share. Never heard from it again. There was no mechanism in place that allowed for sharing other than the informal discussions in staff rooms. Most schools do not have expectations that sharing is part of our job. I don’t think we’ve always done this as some feel. This has to change. I’ve built it into my classes for pre-service teachers. Part of their grade is based on their contribution to others’ learning.  Our ideas about what we share has to change as well.

Claire Thompson writes,

I know that I am struggling to come up with a meaningful way to incorporate blogs into my science classes. If what I’m planning could just as easily be done as a traditional assignment, then why do it using blogs? An added challenge is that my classes consist of small groups of student’s working asynchronously. If we’re going to blog, it is going to have to be about big ideas in science, not the specific details of, say, the cell cycle.

But Claire, it’s not about you…it’s about sharing. Someone is interesting in the cell cycle. Read this if you don’t believe me. While I know that folks like Clarence, Darren, Chris and Kathy are awesome teachers, part of what makes them awesome is that we can see what they’re doing. There are other teachers doing good work, we just don’t see it.

So if you’re doing good work:share. If you’re doing a lousy job:keep it to yourself.

Image:Sharing by furiousgeorge81

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  • Yo…

    I didn’t quite mean that we, personally, have been sharing things for a long time… more that we have always, for the most part, learned by being part of a community, not by studying books in a basement somewhere. Learning is usually, by it’s nature, a social event.

  • Yeah, I kinda figured that’s what you meant but again you and I have likely experienced learning communities more so than your average educator.

  • I agree. I mentioned as a response that the conversations wins hands down over other works. This makes me think. I need to share more though swamped with time (my wiki though has everything). For some time, if you had great ideas you then wrote a book. I think people want credit for spending all that time. But, one can make these activities even better through conversations with other educators.

    Vicki Davis says in her blog that “I also have a lifelong dream of writing to inspire people to be encouraged. I feel so alone and like an island and there are so many “fussy” people out there who just really are discouraging.” It motivates, inspires, clarifies, and values. I am sure students feel that way too. Our education can be a lonely path but it doesn’t need to be.

  • Dean, I agree completely, whole-heartedly with your post. It is that same sentiment that caused me to name my wiki “Share More!” (http://mguhlin.net/share).

    Sharing is the one thing we must do, no matter what. When someone says, “But they’ll steal the ideas!” You have to share. Share in defiance of the small-mindedness that sometimes dominates schools. I won’t list examples–tuckered out after two marathon meetings in steel folding chairs–but I just wanted to share.

    Take care,
    Miguel Guhlin
    Around the Corner-MGuhlin.net

  • Is it all right if you do a lousy job and share?
    Math Presentations – http://gesdmath.wikispaces.com (Some of these are lousy. Chapter 9 is getting better though.)
    Every 3 Minutes in my classroom – http://mrwilliams.edublogs.org/desktop/

    Hopefully I’m kidding about doing a lousy job. No one has ever told me that I am though.
    I’ve given my wiki of math lesson to just about every 6th grade teacher in my district, and asked them to contribute. I haven’t had anyone want to yet though.

  • J.D.
    Actually there are examples of lousy work but usually it’s because they post stuff but don’t continue to post. If teachers, students are making an effort to post and share, it’s highly unlikely their work will remain lousy. Possible but not likely.

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  • Dean, you know I love you, man, but I want to defend Claire’s position a bit.

    The Factors:

    1. Time: If students can learn more quickly w/out the digital (a big “if,” and not always true, but important to consider when it is true), then time is learning money. Why spend it on clicking through creating a cell cycle diagram that you could more quickly draw by hand? You could be spending that time learning more science.

    2. “Cheating”: I hope you know I’m clued in on the value of collaboration, peer-learning, and all that. But I’m also a high school classroom teacher who does this stuff all the time, and can tell you that it is often a way students can use the work of the students who do an assignment as “Cliff’s Notes 2.0” to avoid doing it themselves. I’m struggling with that, and know there are work-arounds and good practices in lesson design to avoid it in the first place – eg, do the cell cycle traditionally – independently – then discuss it in some higher-order way in a forum framed with questions requiring your own original thinking. But still – it seems to me we have to be careful when choosing what to share, and when.

    3. “Meaningful” v. “Traditional” Blogging: Here’s where I think Claire is actually brilliant. How many cell cycle objects does even the Long Tail need? I’d love to see science teachers using blogs to focus instead on the creativity of science and scientists in general, its wonders and powers, and above all, WTF it’s actually used for in the real world. Relevance. That’s what’s even the best science textbooks cannot do so well as a networked conversation – one the Long Tail could surely use – about the WHY’s of science, what Claire calls the “big ideas,” instead of the “so what” details of the cell cycle.

    I’m not interested in the cell cycle enough to look for student work on it. I’d be very interested to read students’ thoughts on the big ideas of science, though.

    Great post, Dean. Curious to hear your reply (and Claire’s).

  • Dean,

    I absolutely love this post. This concept seems like one of the hardest things to convey to teachers, and I think the idea of building the sharing piece into a workshop or session is a very important one. Setting an expectation like that is part of the follow through that many workshops lack, and an expectation that will make the learning experience richer.

    (I would also venture to say that many of us who blog know way more than we are ever asked to share/do within our own campuses, and it’s validating to be able to fulfill our own desire to share!)

    I read a recent post on women bloggers and one blogger wrote of her lack of confidence that her ideas would be of interest. I think this thought dogs many teachers, who wonder why the world would be interested in their views. Teachers aren’t used to thinking of themselves as “interesting” in terms of the general public. But when I talk to people at parties, on planes, etc., about my passion for education–they are very interested. I think that everyone can relate to education(obviously).
    All the more reason for us to share our ideas.

    How will change happen if people don’t see what’s going on “on the ground level” so to speak? And I also think–how differently will our students view us and our classrooms (and libraries) if they know we are part of a global network?

    Such a great post. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Great post, Dean. I appreciate the passion for sharing that you demonstrate in action, and which comes through loud and clear here. There are many factors that mitigate against teachers sharing–time constraints, insecurity, misplaced priorities, lack of resources, ignorance about how to share effectively–to mention just a few. Today, we have so many easily accessible tools that facilitate effective sharing. It is discouraging to encounter significant numbers of teachers who are still unwilling to consider even learning about new communication tools, let alone learning how to use them. I’ve concluded that it’s painfully futile to beat my head against this immovable wall. I think the only way to make a positive difference is to persist in sharing with teachers who show some openness to being shared with. These are exciting times precisely because there is so much that is worth sharing!

  • Paul,

    Fully understand the barriers and in many posts, like the one previous to this, I lament those and try and deal with that as well.

    Certainly this does come across as a rant, (thus the tag), and usually means I’m narrow in my focus and certainly don’t cover all aspects of the argument but I will respond to a couple of your points:
    1. Agreed….but that does not account for the tons of other occasions when sharing would be of value. I only referred to Claire as an example of things many teachers see as unimportant often are of value to others.
    2. Again, perhaps some occasions. Specifically, I’ve had conversations with teachers who aren’t sure how to handle a wiki when one year they have a group of students compile the course, then aren’t sure what to do with a new crop of students. Do they rebuild from scratch? Simply add to it? I realize that’s difficult but in terms of cheating, doesn’t that exist whether or not you post it yourself?
    3. The most challenging point. I do think though that this comes with time. The more you get comfortable with publishing, the more you begin to understand what’s valuable and what isn’t. It’s really the same in offline situations. Most teachers realize what to share in terms of what others would be interested in and find value. We filter our thoughts and ideas for the most part, although we all know of non-examples.

    Overall, I think there’s way more examples of good teachers not sharing that bad ones who are or good ones sharing less than stellar work. When that happens, I guess will address it as well.

  • Hi Dean, good feedback and really we were less disagreeing than combing out some related issues. Sorry I took your lunch from you 😉 And I agree above all with your point about time and process being the ultimate teachers in how to use this stuff effectively for learning. We learn by trying and trying again.

  • Dave

    Sharing is great, but I agree a little with Claire “If what I’m planning could just as easily be done as a traditional assignment, then why do it using blogs?” Using technology as appropriate seems correct. Sometimes I take notes on a computer, sometimes I take notes on paper – whichever best fits the situation. You should do what will help your students learn the most, but keep in mind that sometimes technology is a great way to engage students. Best wishes either way, of course. : )

  • Dave,

    I’m not talking about choosing appropriate technologies, I’m talking about teachers sharing success, failure, ideas and concerns and connecting with others in the same setting. If you’re familiar with Professional Learning Communities, the idea is to share the load of teaching and working together is better than working alone for the hard questions. Developing a culture of sharing in public, transparent ways is how this happens. It’s not about engaging kids in this instance, it’s about sharing professionally and building communities.

  • Great post Dean! Flattered to be included as an example. After reading your post and the comments I feel this need to add my voice to yours about a few things:

    About Claire: Without meaning to sound arrogant or be offensive, she’s missed the point. It’s not about the big ideas (exclusively). How do you know what your students know or understand if they don’t tell you? What I’d really like to do is have every single kid summarize their learning each day in their own words so I can get some insight into what they do and do not understand and help them learn. Of course with about 75 students passing through my class each day that’s not practical, so I ask one kid, from every class, each day to share with all of us what they learned. The insight I get into their thinking is invaluable to me but the best part of doing this was something I didn’t anticipate originally; the conversation the kids have with each other on the blog.

    @Clay: (1) Time is pressure we all feel, always. If it’s important, we make time for it. I think this is important.

    (2) If the assessments we make are susceptible to cheating because the content of previous semesters/years is publicly available then the onus is on us to redesign our assessments. IMHO this kind of push back from the kids is a good thing. It makes us better teachers.

    (3) Again, don’t mean to offend, but, it’s not about you. It’s about the kids and the community of learners in that classroom who are wrestling with these new ideas and trying to accommodate them to what they’ve learned before. Better yet, it can also be about two classes learning the same content in places far separated by time and geography. Not everything published by every student/class everywhere will be of interest to a wide audience. I think Dean nailed it when he connected this idea to The Long Tail. You’re in The Long Tail for the big ideas. Fair enough. There are a bunch of kids in The Long Tail for the details … and they might not be taking the class this year … or on this continent.

    I guess I just went on a bit of a rant too. Must be something in the blogwater. 😉

  • Dean,

    Ya but….

    What if I don’t know what I am doing is really good or not? Plus, what if I am always wondering if the “teaching police” are right outside my door waiting to nab me for doing something that might not be 100% curricular? It takes a fair bit of confidence to show your work to the world, to let it be critiqued by peers you do not know. An author at least gets his/her manuscript read by an editor before it hits the printer. It requires a “leap of faith” for many to become their own publishers.

    My best stuff is in ROUGH draft all the time, waiting to be shaped for each class or student as it suits their needs. My very best stuff is so simple I don’t even have to teach…I just let the kids explore and learn. And that is the stuff that is hard to share!

  • Angus,

    I’m not sure who the “teaching police” but when you’re showcasing good work of kids and ideas of yourself, you quickly find that by far the majority of those interested are doing the exact same thing and are overwhelming supportive. What would we say to kids? Take risks. We need to model the things we tell our kids.
    I”m not saying you have to share everything all the time but you’d be surprised at the repsonse and meaning you get if you’d move your stuff from DRAFT to PUBLISH.

  • Hi Darren,

    No worries, dissent extends! 🙂

    1. I’m talking about student time, and how much we might take from them by forcing them to do digital (and thus take longer to do) what could be done more quickly – and arguably with the same amount of learning – with pencil and paper. Was I unclear on that first point? Re-reading it, it doesn’t seem awfully unclear to me.

    2. I think your reception of my second point might be a math teacher unfamiliar with the types of discussion used by humanities teachers. I never ask the same question from year to year (honestly, I don’t even like to teach the same works from year to year). But any reader-response question of any work in a forum gets pretty easy to bluff your ways through after the first few posts. As I said in my original comment, it’s a danger for which there are preventive measure, but still a concern. (And again, go to my Ning – it’s open – and you’ll see endless forum discussions. I’m just sayin’.)

    3. It can be about students wanting details, or it can be about students wanting metacognition, big pictures, relevance, and real-world audiences of more than others wanting an online textbook. It can be both. Again, I think this may just be a humanities disconnect. Audience – consciousness of audience and the writer’s relationship with and responsibilities to the audience – is key to a writing teacher. But we use blogs and wikis and such for different reasons. You have your students attain mastery (ideally) by teaching the content of your classes, and I agree, that’s a wonderful way to get them to learn. But I have my students attempt to develop their writing – their real writing skills, not their homework-writing ones – in my classes by writing about whatever interests them. It really boils down, I think, to us teaching from two different disciplines and with two different visions of the possibilities in these tools. Maybe that’s why I put value in students writing about the why and wow of science, as a reader, more than about the what of it (the details). Differences b/w us w/o either of us being wrong, though your tone suggests that you think I’m wrong by saying “it’s not about [me]” (which is fine, srsly – I’m a big boy and like a good debate, and totally, totally respect you for your early adoption pioneering 🙂 )

    Anyway, you can probably tell it’s an hour after school ended, I’m still in my classroom, and overdue some sleep.

    I don’t think we understood each other very well, but maybe this helped?

    Take care 🙂

  • Hi Clay!

    Point (1) You’re right I’m wrong. I completely misread your comment (even though I read it twice) . 😉

    Point 2. No, it not a subject specific thing, I have the same problem in math. Post a problem and have them all comment on it. After the first few comments it’s all “Cindy’s right.” I still think this is a bit of a push back on us as teachers. One idea I’ve tried with a little success was having groups publish the results to a similar set of 3-5 questions. The other students are graded on the comments the leave on posts of people not in their group. Something like: 5 groups means each kid has to leave 4 comments, one on each of the other groups posts. I found this a little more dynamic than having them all comment on one post but the comments still quickly degenerate … still puzzling this one out. 😉

    Point 3. My apologies for the aggressive tone. There’s room enough in th4e blogosphere for both perspectives. I found myself nodding along in agreement as I read you last comment. Thanks for the clarification. 😉


  • Hi Darren (and isn’t it funny, if I’m right, that this is the first time we’ve ever communicated directly, and it’s on Dean’s blog of all places? There’s something cool about that!),

    It’s all good. It also seems to point to how difficult all this can be, how varied, and how difficult, too, the whole composition process on blog threads can be.

    And I like that “comment on the other four groups” approach. I”ve done s.th. similar in the past, but doesn’t the management of giving the freaking grade for that kill you? Grading and assessing, in general, kill me.

    Thanks for the response, and keep trailblazing and teaching us all.


  • It is kind of cool that Dean’s hosting our coffee talk. (Thanks for the coffee Dean, uh, if you don’t mind, I could use another cup.) 😉

    You’re bang on about the assessment bit. More and more I find assessment and teaching/learning at odds with each other. On the blog I try to stay away from granular assessment and (you’ll like this) focus on the “big ideas”. What that means here is that if they leave a comment that is relevant and to the point the get a mark, no comment, no mark.

    I recently read an interesting research article by Dylan Williams (of Black and Williams fame; Inside the Black Box) called Keeping Learning on Track: Formative assessment and the regulation of learning, Williams (2007). Williams showed that, in math, students assessed using comments pointing to the steps required for improvement can result in improved standards test results of up to 30%. Students assessed using traditional grades see no such improvement, and perhaps, a decline in their learning.

    I’m still thinking about how I’m going to put these results into practice next semester.

  • Clay and Darren,

    If you guys are going to continue to loiter here, I’m going to have to start charging rent. 😉

  • Dean, if you don’t bring us some coffee and behave like a good maid, Darren and I might turn our combined snark-cannons on you.

    I’ll have a latte, actually. No foam. Now move it.

    (Darren, do you think the math teachers in my school will hate me if I fwd them that pdf? I downloaded it…. But waitaminnit – education ain’t about being popular.)

    Off topic: Dean, that blog-book of yours: there’s no way for it to be published to _include_ comments? If so, somebody needs to tell those folks that they need to add it, else they look like they don’t understand where the heart of a blog often resides. Seriously! And does it at least include link URLs?

  • Clay,

    I’ll get right on that latte.

    There was no option for comments or links but I wonder if there’s some way for them to include at some point…those are some major oversights.

  • Tammy

    Sheesh Dean…you sound a bit grumpy at the end of this!! I agree we need to get our teachers sharing…we just need to figure out what are the best tools to be managing it!! We used Elluminate tonight in our class…I liked it much better than Adobe Connect. Maybe we can do some more work with that???

  • Tammy,

    All in good fun, although Darren and I have met, I only know Clay through blogging and twitter and had a brief conversation with him on Skype. And yet it doesn’t take all that long to establish a fairly comfortable report …all a result of sharing.

    Elluminate is a good product but very expensive. I’ve had conversations with the U of S on using it occasionally.

  • Feel free to share it with anyone you like Clay. And thanks for the coffee Dean. 😉

    @Tammy: You should hear us f2f. We were once chased out of two rooms and three hallways because we kept getting louder and louder. 😉

  • This is one of the quirkiest comment threads I’ve ever “shared” in weaving 😉

    Is it the infection of the Twitter banter into the blog thread?

    Who knows?

    One thing is for sure, though – that comfortable rapport is indeed an amazing thing, coming as it does – and as you point out, Dean – from simply reading each other, sharing ideas one-way or two-way or multi-way in comment threads, twitter, skype calls, what have you.

    I was thinking about the old, hopefully dying, objection that online interaction robs us of valuable social time. I have never socialized so constantly in my entire life, and all of it willingly, since getting networked. And I’ve never had more thoughtful social time in random bodily space-sharings either.

    It makes me dream of a day when we look back on the forced incarceration of strangers in schools on the strange bases of age and physical location – and nothing more – as the invitation to boredom and torment it so often seems to me to be.

    Can I have a refill?

  • Got tired of waiting. Brought coffee for everyone. Clay, I figured after writing “thoughtful social time in random bodily space-sharings” you needed a cup. Here ya go … [click for coffee].

  • This random bodily space-sharing called a faculty meeting I’m currently cringing through makes that coffee just in time. Gah! (This is my last comment. Can you imagine how many ppl are cursing us for the email notifications?)

  • Dean,

    I’m thinking I should (jokingly) reassure Angus that probably no one in his own district will read what he’s writing anyway, at least not until he gets “discovered” and by then, he’ll have had time to hone his writing and sharing. (hm, maybe I need more coffee since I’m sounding a tiny bit cynical!)

    But seriously–I think this is a major obstacle for teachers–the idea that people might like to share our ideas or know what we are doing just doesn’t seem to register. The idea that we can even go watch other teachers in our own buildings and learn from them often doesn’t happen either!

    I sometimes wonder if it is partly the whole cultural thing with teachers perceiving that education isn’t really a respected profession in the “outside world” so why would anyone want to see what they are doing?

    In any case, watching this conversation evolve, you know what I’m thinking–that it’s like the comments you see “within a class” of students who know each other and how they tease one another within their own discussion boards or class blogs, and the fact is, you’ve all developed that via Twitter, blogs, and networking, not through seeing one another face to face.

    Do we as educators forget how to have fun–forget how the idea of camaraderie can lift and support us and inform us? Our students very much know how to learn in a community. What happens in schools that makes that so difficult for teachers and why do educators get so isolated?

    Ok, I must need a refill…. 🙂

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  • Hello to Dean and the rest of the coffee club ;-),

    When I first read this post 3 weeks ago, I have to admit that my first thought was, “Cool, I’ve been quoted on Dean’s blog!” I then thought about your call for teachers to share, but must have been bleary eyed from the first week back at school and not commented. Seeing this same quote on Louise Maine’s recent post led me back here to take a look.

    I just want to clarify; I enjoy sharing what I do as a teacher. I love networking with other teachers and seeing what they do. For me, deciding whether or not to have my students use blogs for their science work is not about whether I want to share. Here’s the thing, though. When I got the blogging bug my first impulse was “how can I get my students to blog!”. Not too different from when my son got his first hammer and all he saw were nails! I’m glad I didn’t act on that initial impulse, because at that point in time I just had a surface understanding of what blogs were all about. Had I come up with a blog assignment then, it wouldn’t have looked too different from a traditional assignment, just that it would have been posted on the www.

    Right now I see blogs as tools for communication and exploration of ideas. A student blog post on the cell cycle, to use my initial example, could be worthwhile if it took advantage of the blog medium. I’d want the final product from the students to elicit thoughtful comments that spark conversations about science, not just “great cell cycle guys!” And I think that this might get at what Darren is referring to when he says “How do you know what your students know or understand if they don’t tell you? What I’d really like to do is have every single kid summarize their learning each day in their own words so I can get some insight into what they do and do not understand and help them learn.”

    Another concern for me at the time was who was going to read the blogs? I have small groups of students in each grade working asynchronously. Now, a whole 3 weeks later :-), I feel that I can tap into the network of educators that I have met on-line to get the word out and have students from all over check my students’ work, comment on it and start those science conversations that I so love to hear.

    Clay, thanks for your early and eloquent defense!

    Darren, thanks for stretching my thinking on this topic.

    And finally Dean, thanks for starting this particular conversation. It’s definitely helped my thinking on student blogs, and teacher sharing, evolve.

  • Thanks for sharing

  • Claire,

    You made great comments and am in complete agreement with you. I struggle with what to have my student’s blog and am trying not to just replace my traditional assignment with a www assignment. Instead I am replacing many of my assignments in favor of PBL or authentic activities. These will be easier to blog about though my students prefer the wiki.

    On my post, I discuss the need to change the way we teach science. I need to learn to blog my own experiences in crafting these activities and hopefully get feedback to strengthen what I do and also share. As we educators circle around and comment on blogs, my students circle around each others to comment too. They are encouraged to ask a question that the blog author can go back and address.

    Thanks to Dean for bringing the point of sharing out front. Even if our lessons aren’t brilliant, there is a lot of learning opportunities for the author and others.

  • I’d prefer reading in my native language, because my knowledge of your languange is no so well. But it was interesting! Look for some my links:

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