One really useful benefit of being plugged into my personally customised edublogosphere network is being able to read and think about the really ''big picture" perspective of education and learning. I read about the very real issues that this system called school throws at the people who choose to be part of it (the teachers and administrators) and those who are mandated (the students) to be involved. There are educators who want to tear down the whole idea of school and start the concept anew. There are others who doubt that anyone within the system can actually make any type of substantial change and attempts to do so are futile and detract from the terms of their employment.
I think that I'm still trying to work out what I personally sit in all of the debate. I sense - no, I know that there is plenty wrong with the system of school as we know it today. I'm talking about what I see here locally here in Australia and the experiences I read in other parts of the world. But I'm not sure that I've read and understood any model that would be a viable replacement for public education as I work in currently. I read Chris Lehmann's recent post and much of what he had to say really rang true for me. I do believe public education is vital for equitable learning in this world - and it must change a lot quicker than it's done in the past but the reality is that we all must work within the constraints of our current situation. Having said that, I believe it is vital for teachers (and educators in leadership positions) to lift their eyes up regularly from their day-to-day focus and look at the big picture. What do buzz phrases like "21st Century Learning" actually mean? Am I part of a classroom / school / system that is moving forward for the betterment of my students or merely playing a game of catching up?
But for the sake of my job (and the fact that this clothes, feeds and provides financial security for my family) I need to hone in substantially on the smaller picture and the questions that need to be addressed there. How will I set up my 2008 classroom? How will I work with my co-planning partner next door to cover our school priorities? (Hi, Maria, if you're reading!) How do I balance system expectations and requirements with the informal classroom action research and online collaboration ideas that have come from my "big picture" professionally networked personal learning?
But you and I have an advantage that only a handful of our colleagues are fully aware of. Being connected to classroom best practice, boundary pushing pioneers and expertise for the full spectrum of people interested and invested in learning is a really big opportunity. I spoke to Doug for a while on Skype after our recent participation in the Teachers Teaching Teachers webcast (link to the podcast plus reflections coming soon after I hear back what I actually said) and he shared with me the idea that in stage acting, (he has a family member involved in this aspect of the arts) one of the biggest compliments that can be given about your efforts is it can be termed a "generous performance". Most online educators are generous by default. It's that generousity that allows viewpoints to be exchanged, honest reflections to be evaluated, resources to be shared. It's the whole open educator philosophy that I've pontificated about in the past.
So while "big picture" perspective is vital, as I get ready for my 2008 Year Six class, I'll be cherry-picking the "smaller picture" stuff from my network to make sure that my practice is the best it can be.
Under the circumstances, of course.