As I begin to read Leading for Learning by Phillip Schlechty, I am finding myself thinking of and writing more notes in the margins than actually reading. I was stopped in my tracks when I read Schlechty’s argument for transformation, something which Will Richardson wrote about in his blog, and literally wrote the word “WOW” next to Schlechty’s comments about twenty-first-century realities. More specifically, Schlechty wrote about the importance of leaders and their ability to transform practices beyond the “digitization of past practices”.
In making is case, Schlechty quoted a “struggling” Texas educator which referred to a classroom empowered by students as “shared space”.
Huh. Shared Space? Unfortunately, I cannot say that I ever thought about my classroom as shared space. When I think of a classroom as “shared space”, I think of it as a classroom that everyone can access, everyone can add to, everyone can “take” from. How many classrooms offer that kind of give and take and exchange of ideas? How many classrooms encourage students to participate in the collection of items in the “shared space” and how many classrooms are designed to ensure that students can create a “shared space” worthy of consideration? How many teachers teach their students to create and recreate each other’s work so that the “share space” grows, evolves, and matures as the thinking of its creators do as well?
Instead, I see classrooms that are much more like password protected hard drives, with a system administrator controlling access. I see more teachers release information systemically at a pace that meets their needs, than teachers that release information individually to meets the needs of each student individually. I see more classrooms that are designed for one-way flow of new information (regardless of its quality), from teacher to student, with little acknowledgment that students can produce high quality new information, but demand that they memorize and recite the information with a Gregorian Chant type quality.
Students are participating everyday in the production of new information. Their prodigious work on YouTube, blogposts, and other social networking sites shows not only their interest in being participants, but their relative expertise and massive growth potential. As with many other modern day practices, it is imperative that we begin to create classrooms in which information is available, challenged, remixed and redeveloped (“shared space”) and move away from classrooms where information is delivered and parroted back without challenging students to challenge and recreate given information to produce new ideas.