A Slightly Different Approach by Dean Shareski

The readers of this blog likely get it. You're reading this because you understand not only how to access online resources via tools like RSS or were linked here from another blog, but you subscribe to a variety or sources and people. You're connected and you know how to connect. You recognize the shifts happening in education and you use a number of tools and technology that are changing how you view teaching and learning.

You likely have a blog or a twitter account or a delicious account and regularly share ideas, resources and opinions with others.

That's the problem. I'm talking to the wrong crowd. Preaching to the choir. I have no problem with spending time in the echo chamber. We all need spaces where we can safely share things and for the most part build upon the ideas of each other and even be challenged occasionally. The problem I see is that many of the conversations that folks have in these spaces appear to be targeted at the teachers who aren't aware of the shifts and certainly aren't hanging out where the conversations are taking place.

I don't know about where you teach but there is a very small percentage of teachers in my district that have made significant strides to adapt their classrooms to meet the changing needs of our students. I don't say that as a slam against teachers either. It's a reality that exists mostly because of an outdated educational system and lack of leadership and political will to make meaningful change. In addition I think our district has a higher proportion of teachers moving in new directions than most. But it's still small.

So in thinking about this I've tried a number of approaches that I believe might begin to be a better use of my time and help in small ways to move the conversations around change forward. Here are 4 things I've done to try and make a difference locally.

Create a Local Blog. While many of us have personal blogs and use it to discuss a variety of issues, a local blog can be more focused and directed towards your local audience. I've set up a local blog called Conversations on Learning. Many of the posts get upwards of 300+ views. Given our entire teaching population barely exceeds 500, that's a good percentage. In addition I've created a local podcast to target specific tools and resources directly related to teachers in my district.

Pass along specific content. Using my Google Reader, I target people in the district:administrators,math teachers, language teachers, etc with articles and resources I think might help them. I'm careful not to flood their inboxes but hopefully give them ideas for fodder or materials that help them do their job better.

Model appropriate use. Rather than doing a presentation on technology or tool, simply incorporate those tools within everyday discussions. I've sat in meetings when challenging topics arise and sent out a twitter poll and then in minutes share the results in the meeting. The point is not to wow them with the technology but in this case, illicit feedback from a diverse, knowledgeable audience in a timely fashion.

Celebrate local successes. Your role as a leader is to be a cheerleader. As classroom teachers we want to highlight the successes of our students no matter how small. We need to be doing the same with our teachers. Even if we recognize they don't have it all together we need to find ways to share their good work because chances are they aren't. Pointing to great work of others around the world is valuable but it's too easy for teachers to dismiss that as being something out of reach. It's harder to dismiss when the teacher across the hall or on the other side of town is doing it in their classroom.

This is a small list and but perhaps can stimulate ideas for you as leaders. In addition you might have other ideas that you're already doing or are considering that might help address your local constituents. If so, leave a comment and help us all find ways to build bridges.