Gerald Aungst is a school administrator, musician and author. He is also the lead designer and webmaster for AllAboutExplorers.com, a website developed to educate students about being intelligent users of the Internet. Over the past year, I have had the pleasure of learning from and befriending Gerald through twitter and his blog, and I am honored to have him be the first guest blogger of Transleadership. (tb)
I have a most annoying habit. If I’m reading an article or a book and I come across something particularly thought-provoking or funny, I’ll read it out loud to you. More often than not, the only response is rolling eyes.
Despite the near certainty that I will now never be invited to your house for a barbecue, I make this confession to highlight an interesting point about learning. It is a natural instinct that when we learn something we want to share it. Why? The act of sharing the freshly formed thought crystallizes it. In fact, more often than not, I don’t feel I’ve really learned something well until I’m successfully able to pass it on to someone else.
This is even more important in my role as a leader. In my classroom, I had a small group of students whose learning I was responsible for. Now that my office is in the administration building, I have a larger group of students, teachers, administrators, and parents whose learning I need to facilitate, often indirectly.
We live in a connected world; I’m hardly the first to say that. Those connections have profoundly changed the way I learn and the way I teach. Consider this: because of the relationships I have developed through Twitter alone, I have all of these learning opportunities:
- I am presenting a session at ISTE 2010 in June with Julie LaChance (@ejulez), a colleague who I’ve met only once…and that was a month after we agreed to present together.
- I attended Educon 2.2, a spectacular weekend of intense learning which I would probably never have known about despite its being held nearly in my back yard
- Earlier this week I needed recommendations for a world-class presenter on a specific topic, and within a few minutes had the names of two people I’d never heard of but who were perfectly suited to my need
- I am guest-posting on this blog today
To be a school leader in this connected world means three things:
- Share. First, we need to model what we want to see teachers doing: sharing. We need to have a public face, and we need to keep it fresh. Write blogs. Tweet. Create public, sharable content. Connect other educators to each other. (In the interests of transparency, I include those links not to promote my work, but as evidence that I practice what I’m preaching.)
- Share. Next we need to give our teachers the tools, skills and time they need to do their own sharing. Professional development time is incredibly limited. By advocating for our teachers to build connections with other educators, we can multiply the effect of that time. I am continually amazed that, through platforms like Twitter and ISTE Island on Second Life, I can communicate and collaborate on an equal footing with the “rock stars” of the field. Ideas stand on their own merit, not just on the reputation of the speaker. I believe it would be unprofessional for me not to share this opportunity with the teachers I lead, and to encourage them to share by blogging, tweeting, and participating in online communities.
- Share. Finally, we need to give our students the same options. How often does a student get to share something new she’s learned? “Turn and talk” with another student who sat through the same lesson isn’t the same as passing along a fascinating new idea or debating a tough topic with someone who hasn’t encountered it before. Bringing an author or an expert into a school for a day is an expensive proposition. Bringing students to that same author’s or expert’s blog to comment and interact not only with the creator but with others from around the world is free. And it lasts longer.
Here’s one last example of the value of connecting and sharing. As I was typing the last sentence, Milton Ramirez (@tonnet) posted this on Twitter:
The post, and the article to which it links, offer some interesting insights about related issues such as how we use technology in education, and the underlying thinking that we use when we attempt to integrate it into our existing structures. What’s particularly interesting, in light of my main point, is that Milt wasn’t aware of that article until he read another article. So now–entirely because a series of people chose to share–the chain continues: Derek Morrison to Steven Downes to Milton Ramirez to me to you and whoever you choose to pass this on to.
I know Tony Baldasaro gets this. Even his son has a blog (which I subscribe to, even if he is a Bruins fan–GO FLYERS!).
Sharing in my online community, in essence, gives me a way to indulge my habit of sharing really cool stuff that I learn by reading aloud. What I love about this process–and what I want to bring to my colleagues and our students–is that it can and does cause people to share, both backwards and forwards. Without the rolling eyes.