Home > 21st Century Learning > Teacher/Designer/Collaborator


Photo Credit- Peter Harrison

“…knowledge is becoming inextricable from — literally unthinkable without — the network that enables it.”   ~David Weinberger

On a cold, snowy and windy Canadian evening, Royan Lee (@royanlee) and I braved the elements and met up for a chat in a cozy pub. Like all such chats our goal was to catch up on things, enjoy a pint and change the world. We chatted about our kids, our jobs, our short and long term goals and the challenges we face in each of these areas~great stuff.

We shared some excitement about Apple’s pending announcement and the prediction that they would be ‘entering’ the text book market in a significant way through the iPad platform. We both agreed, based upon the past evidence from Cupertino, that this could be a game changer for our profession; with a proviso, that is captured with this question:

How will our systems adapt to embrace innovation and are we open to the idea of ‘teachers as designers’? 

Networks, as David Weinberger’s quote stresses, have mashed and flattened knowledge (what we have called content) to the point where it is  fluid as it is spread out in the minds and experiences of those who dwell in networks. We put in, we take out in a manner that is alarming is it’s ease and rapidity.

Many school systems are only now understanding this fluidity, as they struggle with the transition from a fixed, block and control  mindset~where information flows out  from the center (or top) of the organization in a controlled manner and the avenues that teachers, students and parents have to put information ‘into’ the system are strictly controlled and regulated.

Controls and regulations are not bad things, they are actually essential for the operation of any network. The idea that  Royan and I wrestled with was how Apple’s foray into content would alter our work as teachers. The use of content apps and the creative tools present in the ‘cloud’ creates an opportunity for teachers (and students) to collaborate (on a huge scale) to interpret,design and create ‘content’ for learning. All of this in a well-managed and strictly regulated network. One thing we know about Apple is they have the whole hardware/software and network integration/regulation thing figured out.

You see, one of the things that educators struggle with in the area of social networking and collaboration is trust~we don’t trust the openness of these platforms and we don’t really trust, in a deep way, their professional knowledge and judgement. This why we tend rely upon centrally produced text books as the carriers of content and shy away from using blogs and SM tools, too few of us are using these tools.

In a world where content is created by the members of the network, and the capacity to connect to create content texts is available in a seamless, all be it messy, manner teachers will need to be designers. And school systems will need to adapt in ways that will allow these networks to function.

If we do, it would be a remarkable evolution and provide the impetus for a radical, necessary shift in how the teaching profession views itself and is viewed by others.

Cross posted at http://www.connectedprincipals.com/

Categories: 21st Century Learning
  1. Royan Lee
    January 18, 2012 at 6:42 pm

    I want to see text/media resources curated and created by educators and students themselves. The resources would be open source, available in an rss feed, and have embedded, secure, social networking capabilities in them. It would be a global resource. Users could comment, reblog, share, remix in an instant. Is this too much to ask?

    Also, I love the redesign. Crisp, modern.

  2. January 18, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    Hi Brian,

    Great post! I am also keen to see what Apple’s big announcement will bring. The last thing we want, though, is for the ipad to simply become another textbook. I agree with you and Royan that applications that facilitate teacher and student created resources are #1 on my wish list.

    In terms of the issue of trust – that is such a huge one. Apple has historically not been a company known for its’ trust — either of employee or of end user. Something I encounter all the time is teachers who do not trust themselves. I don’t know why this is — likely a variety of factors, both internal and external. A goal for me is to encourage teachers to trust themselves. When they trust themselves is when they will take more risks and move outside the textbook.

    Thanks for getting me thinking!


    • January 18, 2012 at 8:13 pm

      Hi Shannon,

      Thanks for the reply- as well-entrenched as the Apple mythology is around mistrust, the beginning to end nature of their systems – from the Mac back in 1984 to iCloud now offers a modicum of assurance for those of us who will want to provide a degree of security when teachers and students are online.

      It reminds me of the the point Roger Martin makes about integrative systms in The Opposable Mind, the Apple OS system is both closed and open at the same time. This is where the trust would be evident. I think of app or iTunes downloads as an example; no one worries about any virus or spyware coming into their system when they use the service, it just doesn’t occur.

      If we can create an adaptation of the app development model with teachers and students back and forthing ideas and content within learning apps, we should at least address the queasy feelings that some senior administrators & IT folks about this brave new world.

      As for teacher trusting themselves- one of the points I’ve stressed with our staff is that we have the best trained and most knowledgable teaching co-hort in history- we can only benefit from this if we actually trust, share and use our knowledge.

  1. January 18, 2012 at 4:41 pm

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