I step outside the ed tech echo chamber and wander around Philadelphia with Javi the Hippie. We stop at random locations, breathing in the art, letting it cleanse us from the buzzing white noise of a techno-conference. Some cities keep their art in air-conditioned cages. Philly explodes with murals, transforming the very structure that separates us into a shared artistic experience.
Want to reform schools? Take a lesson from Philadelphia. Release the art from the cages. Allow creativity to redefine our spaces.
“Ed tech echo chamber,” is a familiar phrase from John Spencer but there is an aptness to it. There is a difference between gathering for professional development and professional validation. I think both activities have value. We need to grow and change, we need to believe this growth and change is positive. I need to know others share my beliefs.
This has not been as smooth a year as I hoped. “I have an interest in integrating technology into the learning environment to support collaborative and differentiated learning within a flexible classroom design.” This is my Twitter profile statement. It packs many expectations into twenty-two words. I felt more successful last year. This year I felt aspects of integrating technology worked better but generally I failed to move social networking for learning forward. I Skyped considerably less and none of the on-line collaborative projects I attempted worked. There are other reasons.
My twenty-four students collaborated about as well as the previous year’s group. I focussed on collaborative work flow routines and I think I made progress there. I did not make nearly enough progress differentiating learning. I perceive it this way because I believe differentiation will only be viable if teachers actually shift a share of the responsibility for learning design onto their students. I find I cannot anticipate twenty-four people’s differentiation needs. I need them to problem solve and offer directions for their own learning. Some people will never be able to do that and I will have to micro-manage them. I struggled with that familiar micro-management because it often deafened me to the voices of those young people ready to assume control of their own learning.
Some colleagues praised my efforts to create a flexible studio design in my classroom. I am not sure administration shared their confidence. I’m ending the year without my tables and in the fall I’ll be confronted by rows of desks. That feels like a huge step back simply because it creates the impression that teacher-centred, solitary learning is the default setting in my classroom. The tables proclaimed the reverse.
I had troubles this year and ending it with a conference of like minded educators might have been just what I needed. But I sympathise with John Spencer’s remark because conventions have mostly become redundant to my learning and growth. The discourse should move me out of my comfortable paradigm, not simply reverberate with accepted beliefs. I want my own learning to be transformative.