Conversation And Circumstance

Doug Belshaw wrote an interesting post about the changes he's seeing in the edublogosphere and laments the effect of many more, less revolutionary voices.

Whilst it's great that there's more educators than ever blogging, tweeting, etc. the focus has shifted. Those that were formerly in the classroom and relating the changing world and tools available to everyday educational experience are no longer in those positions; educators who have no desire to transform education are blogging. The edublogosphere has changed from being about 'the conversation' to being part of 'the network'.

As often happens, the gold is in the comments where a few "old hands" (and a newer one as well) lend their perspective. Wesley Fryer agrees with Doug that "we all need to maintain a focus on school change" while Chris Craft voiced the opinion that " the conversations we've been having for years now have served to enact zero change". Doug Noon also made a very valid point for me when he wrote that while it was "interesting to attempt an analysis.... the read/write web phenomenon is very complex, and it's bound to change, like everything else."

I'll certainly noticed the changes Doug Belshaw refers to but I'm not so quick to characterise it as being a negative or positive evolution. It's true - there are many more edubloggers around and writing regularly compared to when I started my blog in mid 2005. I could fill my aggregator with double the number of feeds if I decided to read everyone I ''know" via the various Web 2 channels that I connect to. It's also a much quicker journey in 2008 to become noticed and included in the ''conversation" as I've written about before.

This talk about effecting school change is very interesting as well and in some ways is tied very tightly to local and national contexts. The classroom that our new Student Wellbeing Coordinator described to me from her year of exchange teaching in Colorado, USA was totally foreign to my experiences in twenty plus years of teaching in South Australia. She laughingly referred to it as a "working holiday" but confessed boredom with the scripted curriculum and use of prescribed textbooks to deliver that curriculum. I also had an enlightening exchange with Clay Burell the other day on Twitter when he made a reference to student athlete letter jackets which I had thought was an American high school movie fiction. (Hidden curriculum. indeed!) So when Ewan McIntosh points out that what some education cultures see as revolutionary practice and something to aspire to can already be commonplace and well established in other systems, I tend to concur and wonder if we (the edublogosphere) are even talking about the same future change.

It's also why the second part of Chris' comment tends to explain the expansion of classroom based bloggers that Doug refers to:

The conversation changes us, not our circumstance.

It's also neatly summarised by a catchphrase I've seen on Kevin Honeycutt's twitter bio that says, "I'm out to change the world.. one classroom at a time!" A lot of teachers are flat out trying to effect change within their own faculty or learning team, let alone talking up major change of one of the cornerstones of modern society. Being part of the network is an important step forward for many affording them contact with others in similar situations, teaching the same subjects or year levels with the simple goal of becoming better at what they do with their learners. I think that's a positive development - and helps break down that perception that reflective blogging is the exclusive domain of the edtech crowd.

So, no, not everyone is out to change the face of education. Some are even openly skeptical about this movement characterised as Classroom 2.0. They just appreciate the opportunity to look over someone else's shoulder, work out effective use of digital tools to improve their teaching and to make links for collaborative projects. Some teachers feel like they are the only ones pushing the limits within their school environment, the only ones striving to continually improve the learning programs they offer to their students and finding via the internet that they are not alone and that someone else shares their perspective. Maybe they figure that changing the future of education is not their call - it takes time, energy and commitment that they may not have.

I used to think that blogging had the potential to have a huge influence on how education could unfold in this country, and by extension in other systems around the world. The recent events surrounding the closure of Al Upton's class blog tell me that decision makers are not tuned into our particular conversation. But I think that Doug is still interested in that bigger conversation - the one that did dominate the edublogosphere a year or so back. Maybe it has evolved into new forums and that discussion will have more power over on a Ning like Classroom 2.0, although I see a lot of the classroom teacher connection stuff happening there too. But there's a lot of conversation out there - one can choose to connect to the visionaries and push for meaningful change or extend one's global staffroom to gain support, inspiration and resources in equal measure. I tend to dabble in all camps on this blog anyway - no issue's too big for me to have an uninformed go at and I want to improve what I take into the classroom tomorrow as well.

It's a big edublogosphere.

There's room for all of us, to be as involved or as detached as we want.

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9 thoughts on “Conversation And Circumstance

  1. Pingback:

    Doug Belshaw speaks my language

  2. Ann Oro

    Thanks for your thoughts. I’ve been around about a year and things are changing, but change doesn’t always have to be for the worse. I’ve added my thoughts at my blog tonight.

  3. Mike

    A few years ago now, I went to watch the (no longer with us) Football Kingz play out Mount Smart stadium. I wanted a bit of the action, so sat behind the “Block 5” crowd – usually the only source of any singing and chanting. I was having a good time, joining in on a few chants, and was pleased when another group across the (rather sparse) crowd started chiming in with “Living in a Wynton Wonderland.” I was quickly snapped out of the warm glow when a few of the Block 5 crowd started the abuse. “That’s our chant – find your own”. Who do you think you are?” “Go home to mummy” etc. etc. (insert plenty of !$%£* in the middle of that lot and you’ll get the idea.)
    Following the line of conversations around this one, particularly Doug’s post, I get the same uneasy feeling I had then. I’m new to this. I’m following. I’m learning. I’m trying new things. I kind of know why, but I won’t be able to discuss it eloquently until I’m comfortable with the how.
    What’s a little bit sad is that I’m posting this here, and not on Doug’s original post. It’s just too scary.

  4. Graham Wegner

    Mike, at least here you won’t get lost amongst 30+ comments! I understand what you’re saying and it would look awfully elitist or intimidating to be expected to launch into “systemic school change” early in one’s blogging exploits. Exploring new tools is a valid use of a blog and is a handy way to connect to others. I’m not sure where or how because I’ve never been really big on self confidence, but I decided that some of these “experts” discussing what was wrong with schools and how the symptoms of technology were signposts for change were no wiser or gifted with greater insight than me (well, not as much I would have thought originally) and that I had nothing to lose by pitching my own ideas out into cyberspace. Some people are born with a well developed sense of opinion and others like us really doubt our own ability to match ideas with these confident writers until we consciously throw caution to the wind and lock horns with the bigger ideas.

  5. Mathew

    I agree that blogging has the potential to have an influence on education but a huge influence I’m not sure.

    How many teachers at a typical school even read blogs? There are certainly different circles of educators blogging but on some level it always feels like we’re talking to ourselves and preaching to the choir.

    Reflecting on my own teaching via blogging and hearing from others has certainly changed my own teaching but it’s far harder to promote change via a blog than at an actual school site.

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