I’m on my way to Burlington, Vermont, leaving the balmy climes of North Carolina, where it is 20 (-7C). First thing this morning, it was -1 (-18C) in Burlington. I have my furry Russian hat, which I bought about 10 years ago and have only worn three or four times.
I worked with the same Vermont group last fall, talking about contemporary literacy, and left feeling far less than successful. Vermont has some fantastic things going on, and has given more freedom than most to educators who are exploring emerging opportunities. What I remember fondly was the early days of Web 2.0, when there were only a handful of educators who were coming to understand it, and for the rest, it was brand new. It was a sweet spot, where virtually everyone was learning something brand new from you, and they were all learning the same thing.
The sweet spot’s gone. When I worked with that autumn audience in Vermont, a significant number of the participants were already familiar with the concepts and many were already using them. I added very little that they didn’t already know. There were more who were just beginning their journey toward rethinking their schools and classrooms. But I felt really bad about those savvy souls — until I read their back channel discussions.
It amazed me, and deeply impressed me how they had turned the event into an extremely valuable experience. I know that I learned a lot from their conversation, and was able, I hope, to contribute more through my insertions — after the transcript was converted over to a wiki page.
I was just reminded of a back channeling event I facilitated many months ago, that got hijacked by three teachers who filled the channel with their favorite ’80s wreslers. Regardless, the conversation continued as some of the more savvy educators skipped out onto Twitter and even Ustream, inviting even more participants into the room.
It all makes me wonder what this might mean to future, more porous classrooms. As we stop resisting the networks, shielding our classrooms as sealed containers, designed to hold and protect both learners and that which is required to be learned — I wonder how porous classrooms might reshape themselves by the actions of the students. Might, in such classrooms, active differentiated instruction techniques become practically obsolete. Might free learners, engaged in a lifestyle of curiosity, inquiry, experimentation, and construction; supported by professional master learners, make education less an ordeal and more a habit.
All that said, tomorrow will see much more challenging ideas from me … and even more opportunities for back channeling.
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