YOU can make a difference, just maybe not in your life time.The course was Developing Educational Programs and Practices for Diverse Educational Settings and we were talking about educational reform. After spending some time sharing stories about our own experiences in school, we were feeling that change was quite urgent. I remember scanning my grade 1 report card and watching the looks of horror when everyone saw the talks too much comment made by my teacher. They were also amused that the need for improvement was consistently checked for most of the school year. Unfortunately, I finally did "improve" by the 4th quarter. The report card didn't seem quite as alarming as I went on to share stories about Anthony, the unhappy, large, black boy who only occasionally showed up for school, getting hit over the head with a yard stick for not answering the teacher's question about what he ate for breakfast. I had my wrists tapped with that same yardstick for not singing the national anthem. I didn't know the words to the U.S. national anthem. My family moved to Kentucky from Quebec. Why would I know the national anthem?
Peter Grimmitt's statement was both motivating and depressing. My first questions for this group of mostly practicing teachers were about the opportunities for educators to talk about their experiences, their curriculum, their questions and dilemmas. It seemed that most "professional development" days were filled with workshops and other events that could be described as “contrived collegiality” (Hargreaves, 1994). Creating more opportunities for educators to connect online was an obvious solution. I can trace my interest in online communities to those conversations facilitated by Peter. As a final project for the course I developed an action research proposal called Supporting Communities of Teachers: Networked Technology as a Catalyst for Change. It was a start!
I thought about Peter's statement a lot during the past week as I travelled with a group of people on the Future of Learning in a Networked World pacific northwest tour. You see, these people don't seem very interested in waiting for somebody else's lifetime. The conversations were occasionally about current educational dilemmas, but more often we were leaping ahead, imagining a very different world -- earning a PhD without an institutional affiliation, doing away with copyright altogether, a day when schools no longer exist. It's useful and refreshing to think about extremes and design new possibilities without grinding through the issues we have with the current system.
I imagine the FLNW group -- Nancy White, Leigh Blackall, Derek Chirnside, Sunshine Connelly, and Michael Coghlan -- will get a chuckle out of this grade 1 report card. Sylvia talks too much?? Mostly on this trip I did some good listening, and the experience left me with a lot to think about. I'm now wondering how to engage others in these conversations about the future of education. We need more events like University of Manitoba's Future of Education online conference, but involve more practicing educators from a variety of disciplines. We need more opportunities for educators to find out for themselves that there are better ways.