Plans for 2006–Action

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I’ve been dipping this morning into the edublogosphere for the first time since semester’s end to catch up with the year-end reflections and year-ahead aspirations.

As Will points out, we are reinventing ourselves in many ways right now:

It all still feels glacial, this unlearning, reinvention stage that we’re in. I still wish there were more voices engaging in the conversation. And I’m not sure that 2006 or 2007 or even 2008 will bring us to the point where the system itself will be undergoing a similar transformation. But there’s no doubt there is an energy around all of this right now, an urgency even. I’m feeling it in my own life, not just in the education sense but in a more global sense. What difference do I really want to make? What contribution?

I feel much the same way, casting about in the fog as we try to move our thinking and our practice forward while not getting lost in the maelstrom, blitzed by the speed, or delighted by our own thinking. In fact, I see many of us (myself definitely included) spiralling back again and again to make the same observations as we did at the beginning of 2005 in hopes that we now can perhaps gain some sort of clarity and direction as we try to adapt to the changes, as we try to ready our classrooms for what’s to come, as we try to move our schools and colleagues towards the new learning opportunities and realities. Yes, it’s dizzying and electrifying and terrifying–and maddenly slow. And as my colleague, Hector Vila, keeps telling me impatiently, for years and years people have been saying everything about the world of technology that we’re saying now, and how it will affect education.

But there is value in hammering away at the issues collaboratively across blogs way beyond what exactly it is we are saying–using blogs and wikis and multimedia work and webcasting helps us to understand what our students are experiencing in their connected worlds. Learning by doing. We’re the students here, sitting in our teacherless, wall-less, Web 2.0 classroom, and sometimes that means we pretty much all write variations on the same theme until someone breaks through with truly original insights or applications. And sometimes that means we just mess around. And sometimes we’ve got to get out of the classroom altogether.

Prompted by watching my daughters try to make sense of their education (one a sophomore in college taking spring semester off to explore other ways of learning and one about to graduate from high school and head to India for the spring to study Buddhism and Hinduism in the field), and a recent post by Dave Warlick (and really Marco Polo’s comment profiled there), I ‘ve been thinking a good deal about how to pick my way through the smorgasbord of technologies and applications and communities and opportunities for collaboration. I’m looking for balance and connections between this virtual work and the physical world. I’ve even said no recently to some of the most interesting Web collaboration projects that have come my way — I have to pull back a little in order to move forward.

For me the next step is two-fold:

First, getting together as much as possible with edubloggers across grades, disciplines and cultures in an edublogtalk kind of unconference so we can engage directly and over the course of a few days about what we’re all blogging and webcasting and podcasting about in tiny clusters. Next week, I’ll get a chance to do that with other liberal arts folks: first working with some thirty faculty members at Juniata College for a one-day workshop in which I will explore with them the connections between social software and their teaching, and then heading to a three-day meeting with some twenty other NITLE social software users to compare notes, and plan new collaborations.

Second, I want to pay more attention to the explorations and experiments of my students and artists/cyber-thinkers like Oliver Luker. I want to learn from my brave and adventurous daughters as they move outside the “expected” paths into the world and out of the tower. I want to keep in mind the remarkable post of my student Megan’s, the last before she left her teaching semester in South Dakota to return to the tower. Not only does she give us a searing view into her experience on the reservation, she even takes me to task a bit, and rightfully so, saying, in response to my previous post:

My addition to Barbara’s comments would be that we need action combined with our blogging. We are now finding that ownership and that community, but now–how can we share that collaborative reflection within a larger community, acting with our passions, our words alongside our blogs?

Indeed.

I’m going to try out more class-to-class, school-to-school collaborations for my students via blogs, wikis and webcasts; I’m going to encourage more students to take their blogs & wikis & cameras & microphones out into the world in independent projects, such as Remy, bound for Southeast Asia; I’m going to watch Emily closely this month, the remarkable blogging student of Hector’s, who is breaking new ground with the way she is writing about her hometown new Orleans as it tries to stagger to its feet. Action.

I see 2006 as a year of experimentation and action and talk–if anyone has a class wanting to do some online work with college creative writers this spring, let me know. If anyone has students doing work I should look at. let me know. If anyone has ideas about organizing an edublogtalk, let me know!

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