Monday, June 23, 2014

Did I Hear You Correctly?

The words people use, or don't use, can say a lot about their priorities. I am finding that one of the side-effects, or fringe benefits of connecting with other educators through social media is that I am becoming a better listener. Specifically, I am more in-tune to the words that educators are using to describe achievement and success in their school or classroom. I am also observing, with a critical eye, my own children as they move from one educational level to the next. What are they learning? Are they enthusiastic about school? What are they working on? Are they prepared for the next step?

ISTE-2014 in Atlanta is right around the corner. 
I am recalling the powerful experience that I had connecting with many influential educators at ISTE-2013. The emphasis during last year's conference, in San Antonio, was on learning. 
I am confident learning will remain at the forefront this conference season. I also hope that more educators will make the effort to become better connected to personal learning networks.


While trying not to come across as ultra-judgmental, it is becoming easier to identify connected educators vs. disconnected educators during casual conversation and professional correspondence. This can be difficult to describe, but here are three recent examples of what my more-experienced ears picked up from respected, intelligent, yet essentially disconnected colleagues.

  1. "Our test scores are among the highest in the state. Your achievements put our school near the very top of state, and national rankings." This statement was made by a respected Principal speaking to graduates during a high school commencement ceremony. The word learning was not used once during the five minute speech, which elicited several loud ovations from the audience.
  2. "If you are paying your hard-earned money to get Cs in college, then you are wasting your time!" "If you are satisfied with Cs in high school, then you are wasting your time!" These exclamations came from a respected language arts teacher during a summer school class designed to help acclimate incoming freshmen to high school. Homework completion became the focus of the conversation, but the word learning was not used a single time by anyone in the classroom during the forty-five minute discussion.
  3. "Take a look in this classroom. This is one of our new hires. Look at the control she has, all of the students are sitting up and paying attention. Classroom management has definitely become a strength of our staff." This compliment came from a respected department chair taking me on a tour of his academic area. During our conversation about his department, and seeing several other similar classrooms with nearly identical rows of students listening quietly while their masterful teachers took center-stage, I did not hear the word learning uttered once.

Again, a point of emphasis, I respect each of the educators mentioned in these scenes for their caring professionalism and dedication to kids. However, the fact that they are disconnected is limiting their perspective, and hampering the relevance of their messages. Conversations between PLN members rarely focus on test scores, homework, grades, and compliance as these terms relate to academic achievement. Why? These concepts still hold meaning when discussing 20th century schools, and 20th century education, but in this age of informational abundance and social networking, the word learning is emphasized frequently by connected educators. I think this is because socially networked learners view education differently than many of our respected traditionalists. Do you agree?

Please turn this post into a conversation by sharing your comments.

  • Are socially networked learners more effective teachers?
  • Is being a connected educator changing your perspective on schools, education, and learning?
  • What is your POA (plan of action) for becoming better connected to other learners?


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photo credit: ocean.flynn via photopin cc

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