In my 7th September blog I finished off saying that, “we need to encourage sharing among learners and sharing among educators, as sharing means that you are not alone and it makes life real.” I would like to take this up again, as this morning during our second training session, an issue was raised about teacher collaboration or the lack of it. Being someone who experienced lack of collaboration and who fought against it by sharing my notes and preparation work sometimes unilaterally, I was really worried and somewhat saddened when my colleagues claimed that this lack of collaboration is still very prevalent in our schools.
The way the mobile device management system of the tablets is set up in a school, the year four teachers in that school only will have the possibility to view each other’s preparation work if they wished to. Thus the environment provides the potential of collaboration on a particular topic or project. This great potential and advantage was given a thumbs down this morning. The main reason being that certain teachers prefer to grab other teachers’ work rather than go through the hard work, effort and laborious preparation themselves. Thus the diligent and industrious teachers would be reluctant and resistant to share. Allow me to address you, the professional teacher, rather than the colleague who unfortunately opts to copy and paste other people’s work. I will not ask you to share your work unconditionally; that will have to be your own decision. However, I will share with you some of my thoughts about sharing or not and what you can do to encourage good practices in your environment.
For me the most important thing about a lesson is not having it, but writing it. The Internet came about halfway through my teaching career and at the time there were very little resources that I could remix. However, I had other resources of well prepared lessons plans. In spite of such material the greatest thing was the writing of the lesson itself. This gave me the chance to figure out what I thought about the topic, how I would break down the content into small chunks, how I would scaffold the content, how different learners would react to the topic, what type of class management would give the best results, and so on. So it did not really matter if my neighbour copied my work. It would have been great and ethical if my colleagues would have asked or at least acknowledged my work. I did receive such recognition once, at other times it came to my knowledge that someone was using photocopies of my book in their private lessons and I must say that it did bother me a bit at the time however, it did not stop me from preparing good lesson plans. If your colleagues are truly and really professional in what they do, they would have to adapt any work to fit their particular class. Putting your work in a place where others can consume it as is would still make you the better teacher. It would have been you who thought out the process. The difference would certainly show during class time.
Another observation that I would like to make is that while we might not share, we do remix: finding other people’s materials online or in textbooks and reworking them is common practice. Is not that what we do when we look for YouTube videos to use in our lessons? So let us not hesitate to put back some of our energy onto the Net, even if our neighbour is still waiting for us.
So much for the neighbour who is more inclined to “borrow” other teachers’ lesson preparation. On the other hand what are the benefits of collaboration? A recent small survey showed that 87% of teachers trust the opinions of other teachers when it comes to curriculum selection. Teachers generally like to trust and learn from each other which is not such a newsflash. I would love to see teachers tell each other what has worked for them. I particularly loved watching the interviews we had with teachers who were involved in the tablets’ pilot project. These experiences are definitely much better than any knowledge I might have in spite of my experience in the classroom where I would talk to you about what might work. I want to see what’s actually working on the ground.
The tablet environment is going to give you the chance to just sit down with your peers and learn from one another. I encourage you to look at the potential of the shared environment as a positive way of avoiding teacher isolation, build relationships with your neighbours, share and ask questions while observing good practice.