Thursday, 17 January 2013

The Human Network

This week Dean Shareski { @shareski, Ideas and Thoughts, Community Manager for Discovery Education Canada, UofR Education Professor } talked to our class via skype.
He shared a lot of good ideas, like:
  • Teaching isn't rocket science, it's more complex and demanding!
  • We can never find THE solution/method for being the perfect teacher.
  • Describe not prescribe. Do over telling.
  • We are in the middle of a media explosion, akin to the printing press - we need to be the ones to figure out etiquette, appropriate use and teach it.
Dean had 3 Lessons for us as teachers entering a new and changing educational landscape.

1. Think Differently About Literacy
Normal distribution of Language Arts in class.
Literacy is more than reading and writing now. There are so many ways to communicate with others and so many ways messages come to us, that we need to teach students to how to be informed (read/listen/view)ers and effective (write/speak/represent)ers.
Storytelling is an important part of this. We have so many facts available to us that sharing lists of facts means nothing, we need to deliver them in context and with emotional impact.
This video is an excellent example of this. It shares a lot of facts, but is memorable and engaging because of the story. I've only watched it once, when Dean shared it, but I don't think I'll ever forget the penguin thief, especially if at some point in the future I'm building a nest of "hand"-picked rocks in the Antarctic to try and secure a mate.
Dean addressed the common complaint that internet content is primarily inane, profane or just plain bad. He thinks, and I agree, that creation is a continuum. Practice and training make us better. Most of us will start off terrible, but even making a lolcat is MAKING something!
The question is not "Why is this so bad?", but "How do I help my students get better?"

2. Teachers are everywhere!
The best thing about the internet isn't that content is digital, but that our learning culture is participatory. Most schools still think of the internet as a giant, unreliable and dangerous encyclopaedia. It definitely can be, but we need to teach kids to be resourceful and responsible.
Expertise works differently now. Credentials aren't what they used to be. Excellent tutorial videos for nearly everything are available on Youtube and quite often they are made by children still in elementary school. Dean shared a personal story where through the magic of twitter he connected with a class of teenagers who taught him how to play the guitar through a series of videos they made for him. I learned how to replace a leaky radiator hose online. I didn't to see if the video was posted by a qualified mechanic and my car runs fine!
He also mentioned how teachers continually harp on Wikipedia. Telling students not to go to Wikipedia,  but to go to people for primary resources. Wikipedia is made by people! It is a different kind of encyclopaedia, but it is an incredible work of shared knowledge. {aside: I love that there is a Wikipedia article on the reliability of Wikipedia.} Dean brought our attention to the commentary/discussion section of Wikipedia and the fact that it is completely transparent. We have no idea how what gets into a textbook, or other credible resource, gets in there. Should we have more trust for what an academic's peers reviewed or what our peers have created?
To sum it up, individual connection is still important, it just happens in new ways on the web and a person's small contributions can have a big impact.

3. You are What You Share.
The thought that really stuck with me is that great ideas seem obvious to the people who come up with them. We encounter ideas we think are amazing and beyond our abilities, but our ideas are the same to someone else. So, let's share! If everyone pools their unique ideas and talents together we accomplish more than the smartest individual can ever do alone.
This blog is one of the places I share. Here are a few more:

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that Dean is not as interested in curating information and resources as some, instead he curates people. He explained it like this:


  1. Very nice reflection, Tyler - I like the Remember point - it is so true!

  2. This is a great review of our skype presentation with Dean! I really like the point that we need to connect facts to emotions. It is a difficult thing to do, especially when you are trying to teach the students about such things as derivatives, but it is very important. Personally I remember things when they mean something to me. The ability to make any topic relevant is a true measure of a great teacher. With all the technology surrounding us, making learning relevant is much easier. The era of teaching that we are coming into is so exciting!

  3. This is very true Tyler! I like the point about us being way smarter when collaborating ideas. We have SO many resources out there to use, we would be silly not to!! And, you are right. You are what you share! I like this idea and am way more on board with this now that we've been in this class. Great post!