If you think a personal learning network is an echo chamber you’ve missed the point.

11/26/2012 12:00:00 AM
High school math teacher Crystal Kirch used her blog to ask for help with her biggest struggle this year:


"My students don't know how to learn.  They don't know how to succeed.  And, it doesn't seem like they care to change any of that. "

After reading about her struggle, some innovative educators and parents disagreed with her view toward students and took the time to respectfully disagree with Ms. Kirch. Unfortunately, Ms. Kirch censored all those who did not see things her way. On Twitter she thanked everyone for all their love in reaction to her post...even though she knew the truth was that there were people who did not love what she shared.  

Ms. Kirch was directly confronted about her practice of silencing those who didn’t share her views on Twitter and in the blogosphere. She ignored that. As she published comments that expressed the sentiment “Way to go”! “Atta girl!” and “Chin up!” it became clear that her views were to be loved, not pushed or challenged. When they were, she reacted by hiding and disabling ALL comments and added a disclaimer to her post admonishing those with comments that did not support her position calling them “intense attacks.” 
She then wrote a post praising herself as someone who among other things cares more than she should (Yikes!). She also explained that her public blog was solely for her Personal Learning Network (PLN) and she decided for her readers (rather than letting them be the judge) that her direct quote about her biggest challenge (above) was taken out of context.


But here’s the thing...

When you write a public blog you can not expect to hide and disable the voices of others.  Blogging is about the exchange of ideas, not just speaking with those who agree with your ideas.  When it comes to Personal LEARNING Networks the purpose is to LEARN. Innovative educators know that being willing to interact only with an echo chamber of sycophants is not the most effective way to accomplish this. Furthermore, discussion and debate are not attacks.  If educators put their ideas out there for help and feedback, then they should have the courage to be open to new ways of thinking. When they do, they often see the light peaking through the darkness. PLNs solve problems by helping you stretch your thinking. This is not possible when you only allow in those who validate your ideas.

So, you may be wondering what that comment was to Ms. Kirch that resulted in her hiding and disabling further discussion on her blog. I asked the primary commenter at which Kirch focused her attention in her disclaimer to share what she wrote to the best of her recollection.  Here it is:

"I am fascinated by the fact that so many teachers seem to believe that a large number of children don't know how to learn & don't care to learn. Learning is an innate part of all children - all human beings.

Perhaps a more accurate statement is that the children don't know how to learn the way you want them to learn. Perhaps a more effective approach, rather than 'learning and success strategies' which, even from my very removed point of view, sounds condescending' would be to ask the kids what they love. What are they interested in? What ARE they learning? It doesn't matter that it isn't related to the subject you are teaching. It might give some insight and persuade you to amend your statement that some children "don't know how to learn".

This commenter did not give Ms. Kirch the love she expressed praise for on Twitter. She did however add to the conversation and even shared something that Ms. Kirch's PLN and she could “learn” from if only she “cared to change any of that” thinking that is so ingrained.

What’s the point of developing a network of people who share our concerns and care about our issues if a differing opinion gets a level of push-back akin to sticking fingers in our ears and singing the Flintstones’ theme song? 

Makes you wonder who it really is that doesn’t want to learn.

Lisa Nielsen writes for and speaks to audiences across the globe about learning innovatively and is frequently covered by local and national media for her views on “Passion (not data) Driven Learning,” "Thinking Outside the Ban" to harness the power of technology for learning, and using the power of social media to provide a voice to educators and students. Ms. Nielsen has worked for more than a decade in various capacities to support learning in real and innovative ways that will prepare students for success. In addition to her award-winning blog, The Innovative Educator, Ms. Nielsen’s writing is featured in places such as Huffington Post, Tech & Learning, ISTE Connects, ASCD Wholechild, MindShift, Leading & Learning, The Unplugged Mom, and is the author the book Teaching Generation Text.

Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of her employer.

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