It's starting to become a mantra of my mind - "How Do We Get All Teachers Online?" and I've been conscious of references that back up this point of view when I see them. Via James Farmer, is a great danah boyd article from the Knowledge Tree on social networking and its impact on students today. danah points what she thinks educators' role should be:
Mediated publics are here to stay; yet they are complicating many aspects of daily life. The role of an educator is not to condemn or dismiss youth practices, but to help youth understand how their practices fit into a broader societal context. These are exciting times; embracing societal change and influencing the norms can only help everyone involved.
This is a really good read - and how can teachers take on this role without some form of online experience? So keeping in touch with our students' world is a powerful reason - it will empower us to be able to affect and promote positive student choices. But there's another powerful reason, as Ewan McIntosh explains:
...the importance of sharing great work and ideas online (in amongst the naturally less great ones we all have) is gathering pace.
This was also pointed out at my recent conference by the presenter, Jay McTighe, that educators can leverage the internet as a medium for sharing practice and resources and reduce the isolation and constant re-invention of curriculum planning and implementation. He offered his own site as a place for UbD sharing, our school's Interactive Whiteboard program has the Promethean Planet site for uploading of flipchart resources, and there are new wiki based repositories and open content creation ventures like Wikieducator. And although Ewan wasn't specifically writing about teachers, his ideas are easily transferred:
If you work for the public sector it seems normal that the public expertise be shared in a manageable fashion for colleagues and other public servants, too. A blog is a great way to do that. Manageable from the perspective of writing it (I'm doing this in ten minutes at the end of a day when this thought is fresh in my mind) and manageable for the person wanting to learn (they don't have to go anywhere to get the information or pay for a consultant to show it to them).
When I spoke with Jo McLeay the other day, I broached the subject of getting more educators to engage with the online world and become contributors, not just consumers. I asked her how she thought this might happen. Her paraphrased response that educators like us just need to keep sharing more of our stuff (ideas, resources, opinions) and others will continue to steadily join in until it becomes the way things are done. So that's what I'll continue to do. There are more online educational contributors now than was a year ago - and once an online presence is developed, very few committed people drop off the map.